CEH scientist claims gamekeepers “protect” hen harriers & mountain hares

BBC radio 4 logoThere was a fascinating discussion on the BBC’s Shared Planet programme this morning. It was all about conflict resolution, with a particular focus on the hen harrier ‘problem’.

We were told that to achieve conflict resolution, trust was needed on all sides. That’s a complete non-starter then, when those with a vested interest in killing harriers (and other protected raptor species such as golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, red kites, buzzards, goshawks, peregrines etc) consistently deny the extent of illegal killing and claim not to know who’s doing it. It’s quite hard to trust a liar.

Interviewees included Dr Juliette Young (CEH Edinburgh), who spoke about how the media often portrays ‘actors’ (stakeholders) in a negative light. She said:

Gamekeepers do sometimes feel like they’re the bad guys in all this when actually, it’s often thanks to their management of moorlands that we do have these absolutely fantastic species on moorlands, like hen harriers, like mountain hares; these species that are iconic, and that their [gamekeepers] management helps to protect“.

Wow, did she actually just say that? Perhaps she should read this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this as taster articles on how well gamekeepers are “protecting” hen harriers, and  this, this and this as taster articles on how well gamekeepers are “protecting” mountain hares.

Also interviewed was Simon Lester, Head Gamekeeper at Langholm. When asked how he would like to see the hen harrier ‘problem’ resolved, he said:

The real key to solving this problem is to endorse the quota brood management system. I wouldn’t like to see a countryside devoid of raptors but I think there has to be a level of when is enough enough?

So, with only four pairs of nesting hen harriers in England this year (when there should be 300+), and a 20% decline in the Scottish hen harrier population, with an almost complete absence of breeding harriers on Scottish grouse moors, Mr Lester thinks that ‘removing’ hen harriers (from grouse moors) is the solution. How about gamekeepers stop illegally killing them? Why not use diversionary feeding, which has proven successful at Langholm? Why is that not the solution?

Lester also went on to trot out his old blind prejudice about buzzards. He said, when asked about how to get a conflict resolution:

The first big thing is to put in mechanisms where you can use different management tools to get there. So diversionary feeding would be one, quota system for harriers, but possibly with buzzards a lethal option“.

Interesting that his Victorian attitude towards buzzards hasn’t changed over the years, despite the results of a recent three-year study, at Langholm, that suggested buzzards aren’t really that fussed about taking grouse (see here).

You can listen to the programme here.

22 Responses to “CEH scientist claims gamekeepers “protect” hen harriers & mountain hares”

  1. 1 nirofo
    October 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    It’s about time the public funded hierarchy at the BBC stopped pandering to the whimpering of hard done to gamekeepers and their lords and masters on the shooting estates. It’s high time they presented the real facts regarding the state of our so-called protected, but in reality very criminally persecuted Raptors at the hands of the gamekeepers, most of whom are fully endorsed by their employers on the shooting estates regardless of what they would like you to believe. The real data is out there in copious amounts if the BBC cared to do their homework and get their facts straight before broadcasting biased rubbish, but then I suppose the BBC is well known for being biased, why broadcast the truth when a twisted story will do.

  2. 2 Arnie Fisher
    October 21, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I haven’t had time to listen to this broadcast yet but have heard similar comments about Dr Young’s views from several sources. I’m not advocating any troll-like behaviour but perhaps it might be worth bringing this informtation to her attention. Her contact details are in the public domain and readily found.

  3. 3 Arnie Fisher
    October 21, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Alternatively how about contacting Radio 4’s Feedback programme about the inaccuracies peddled in this programme:

  4. 4 Bonxie
    October 21, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    As well as the tick argument…Many estates advertise shooting mountain hares, odd way to protect them:


  5. 5 Marco McGinty
    October 21, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    The BBC is a corrupt, establishment mouthpiece, and they do not care what you think. Their performance during the Scottish Independence referendum was an absolute disgrace, but despite many people sending in complaints about blatant anti-independence propaganda, the BBC still considered themselves as impartial. It is no different when it comes to the illegal methods used by the shooting industry. The landowners of these estates are all establishment figures, so do you honestly believe that the BBC will target them? If anyone watched Landward on 10th October, and heard the shite that was uttered by Hopetoun Estate gamekeeper Paul Mottram, all of which went unchallenged, then it is clear that the BBC’s only interest in countryside matters is the promotion of gamekeeping, farming, and all of their activities. With the exception of wildlife persecution, and other poor practices, of course!

    You have to remember that the BBC, along with successive unionist governments, have protected paedophiles for decades, they have covered up their long lists of crimes, and it could even be argued that these organisations actively promoted such practices.

    They, and the entire UK mainstream media, with the exception of the Sunday Herald, cannot be trusted to provide the truth. That is the main reason why blogs such as this exist, along with many pro-Scottish independence sites, because if you want to know the truth, you have to actively seek it out. You will not get it from the liars and deceivers of the UK mainstream media.

    So what to do? Well, you could send them letters of complaint, but they will be used to mop up spillages, or you could email them, only to receive a generic response that does not address any of your issues (seem familiar?), or you could hit them where it hurts, and do what many pro-independence supporters have done – stop paying your licence fee!

    There are many ways to achieve this without breaking any laws, and it would be the most successful of protests.

  6. 8 Pat Wilders
    October 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    I shall definitely be contacting Radio 4’s feedback programme. I’ve only lived here for 7 years and already have seen the rapid decline in the hares here. I’ve never seen a hen harrier on our estate. The only reason there have been buzzards here this year is because there was no shooting this season and only 2 gamekeepers!!

  7. 9 Claire Barker
    October 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    This was the first Shared Planet that I was really disappointed with.

  8. 10 kevin moore
    October 21, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Where exactly in the United Kingdom does this protection of Hen Harrier by gamekeepers happen ? certainly not on grouse moors, the figures speak for themselves so how anyone could be so stupid to come out with comments like that is beyond me.

  9. 11 John Taylor
    October 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Marco McGinty is hitting the nail on the head with his assessment as to where the BBC sits in this country. I’ve just finished reading “The Establishment And how they get away with it” by Owen Jones; the book doesn’t deal with our specific problem but it does shed a lot of light on where the power lies and how our form of democracy is not working.

  10. 12 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    October 22, 2014 at 2:00 am

    May I ask Scottish Raptor Persecution to cease allowing political comment being made, as with Marco McGinty’s comment, when he obviously was a YES voter in the Referendum. If SRP allows such fog horning for an independent Scotland, then I will not be having it on my email receiving list. My friends and I own land, and we have had Hen Harriers nesting there for the thirty years of our ownership. We were all NO voters, and
    I am sure many people like us, find it grossly offensive to be classed along with the amorphous “Establishment”. Moreover, we have had the SNP running the show for enough time to have hammered the killers of our Birds of Prey. In fact, the linkage with paedophiles and their alleged protection by the BBC, obviously referring to the Savile scandal, is not a fair association to make. Many people were duped by that person.

    It is glaringly obvious that there is a strong hold over what is allowed to live on the Scottish landscape, and that has to involve many people from the various powers that are essential for governing our country. No matter whether we are part of the UK or not, will have nothing to do with the enforcement of the laws supposedly protecting our wildlife. Every country has the comfortable co-existence of the current political regime and those who have a grip on the natural environment from which they extract an income. In Scotland, that overlordship has fish farms, the trawling industry, unsuitable forestry, shooting estates, wind farms, blood sports, slaughterhouses, waste disposal etc., all have their lobbies and friendly politicians who ensure that laws that can affect their interests, are weakened, and thereby all things remain the same.

    If all those with a beef about how impotent the system is in protecting wildlife, then let them join forces and form a strong and influential group that will take on those who have outrageously dominated the conservation and animal welfare scenes in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Care has to be taken, as this would take on the equivalent of a mafia, and few political parties would be reluctant to oppose them. Meanwhile, our concerns will be contained within our own comment shop, and not get much further.

    • 13 Chris Roberts
      October 22, 2014 at 11:12 am

      As a fellow NO voter I have to agree with Mr Greer Hart with regard to the political comments, we on here are all against wildlife crime, it is not the prerogative of pro- independence voters.

    • 14 nirofo
      October 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I have to agree, bringing referendum politics onto this forum is not on, whether people voted no or yes is irrelevant to the topic of this discussion and should be kept out of it altogether. The fact is the Scottish government minister responsible has had ample time to do something serious to put a stop to Raptor persecution, but just like the rest of those in ministerial office regardless of which party they represent, they pontificate, make useless promises and when it all boils down they actually do nothing meaningful.

    • 15 Pete Hoffmann
      October 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      But he has a valid point… The BBC could be seen to be biased to the economic advantage of the English. How many Scottish are owners of these grouse moors.. If there are lairds then they are part of the elite that is trampling across legal and moral ground! And the Voting in Scotland also has to do with that..

    • 16 Marco McGinty
      October 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      I think the No voters are being a tad sensitive here. Whether you choose to believe it or not, politics plays a big part in the persecution issue, and it is only through politics that we will ever change it. How many people on here have sent in emails or letters to Paul Wheelhouse, highlighting persecution incidents, or complaining that he, or the Scottish Government, isn’t doing enough? Isn’t that being political?

      The issue is about politics. Was it not Richard Benyon, a senior political figure in a government post, that tried to push through Buzzardgate? Did we complain at the time? Wasn’t that a political issue? If we are to refrain from any political comment, then we would be as well forgetting all about this site, and just allow the status quo to go on killing protected species.

      Again, oversensitivity has come to the fore when Mr Greer Hart’s complains about being classed with the establishment. Exactly where in my comment did I do such a thing?

      And as for the SNP, it doesn’t come as a surprise that a pro-union supporter would automatically target them. I have criticised the Scottish Government’s lack of action in relation to persecution, but in the short period that the SNP has been in control, they have achieved more in relation to stopping persecution, than successive unionist governments have in more than a century. It’s nowhere near enough, but exactly what have the unionist parties ever achieved? Oh aye, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I must state that I am not in the SNP, and have no desire to ever join them.

      But if people were prepared to digest my comments, they would have realised that my point centred on the fact that the BBC is a corrupt, establishment organisation. They are incapable of telling the truth, or of being impartial, whether it be politics or raptor persecution. They, and the unionist governments have been, or still are, the protectors of paedophiles and sex criminals. They are the protectors of perhaps the most corrupt and dysfunctional system that mankind has ever known. If you want the truth, you won’t get it from the BBC. It’s as simple as that. That was the crux of my comment, and I used the independence referendum as an example of the BBC impartiality. There wasn’t a pro-independence message in my comment – that was all in your heads!

      However, if people want to believe that the BBC and Westminster to be fair, representative organisations, then they are perfectly entitled to their beliefs.

  11. 17 Red
    October 22, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Lester still peddling out the same odd crap. How can the Langholm project be taken seriously when the head keeper is so anti raptor and so out spoken about it. He blames everything on raptors and ravens, to the point of xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx licenses to cull and putting it down to agricultural needs. The question has to be asked, why weren’t all the young harriers sat tagged at Langholm this year? It would have been the perfect opportunity to do some proper science rather than the fictitious rubbish being produced. Their “head” scientist proclaimed high grouse densities, but then they all perished over the winter!? WTF! Utter waste of money, but there is the small fact that Lester’s father is a retired Conservative MP!

    [Ed: Had to delete part of this…you’ll understand why]

  12. October 22, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Let’s turn it all on its head and make these grouse estates for wildlife and conservation teaching for the world

  13. October 22, 2014 at 11:29 am

    I’ve just sent this message to the BBC for their blatant bias in the programme:

    I was dismayed by the biased view presented on the Shared Planet. It allowed the scientist and gamekeeper to show their support for the killing of predators and especially hen harriers because of the damage to grouse populations.
    The impressive 80% reduction (by diversionary feeding) in taking of grouse by hen harriers was not backed up by, “how many grouse does a hen harrier take?” when their normal prey is voles and small birds.
    Conservation by gamekeepers seemed to be praised as wonderful. The truth is very different when the illegal killing of protected birds of prey is looked at.
    The scarcity of birds of prey over the shooting estates and their continuous call for culling is testament to the Victorian attitudes that remain within these estates.
    Will the BBC readdress this matter with a programme showing the level of wildlife crime on and around the shooting industry?

    I wonder will the BBC respond?

    I’ll keep you posted

  14. 20 Pete Hoffmann
    October 22, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Just because you have a degree and have found employment with the CEH , DOSN’T mean you are right..I know many jumped up so-called scientist that follow agendas that have nothing to do with science!

  15. October 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Whether you were a No or Yes, or didn’t bother or didn’t have one, the fact remains the present Scottish Government has had at ample time to deal with the serious raptor persecution that they have presided over and have obviously been useless.

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