RSPB Investigations Team: 1; Countryside Alliance: 0

Last October, the Countryside Alliance launched a scathing attack on the RSPB’s latest annual Birdcrime Report (Birdcrime 2013). The link to their article has mysteriously ‘disappeared’ from their website, so here’s a copy we took:

Thursday, 30 October 2014, Countryside Alliance website:

Countryside Alliance Director for Shooting Adrian Blackmore writes: The RSPB’s Birdcrime Report for 2013, which was published on Thursday 30th October 2014, provides a summary of the offences against wildlife legislation that were reported to the RSPB in 2013. It should be noted that in 2009, the RSPB took the decision to focus on bird crime that affected species of high conservation concern, and crime that it regarded as serious and organized. The figures supplied do not therefore give a total figure for wild bird crime in the UK in 2013, and they are not comparable with figures provided for years prior to 2009.

As is becoming increasingly the case, the report makes sweeping allegations against the shooting community, and grouse shooting in particular – allegations that are not consistent with the evidence provided. It claims that activity on grouse moors is having a serious impact on some of our most charismatic upland birds, and that current measures have failed to find a solution. The report claims that “over the years, a steady stream of grouse moor gamekeepers have been prosecuted for raptor persecution crimes”, and lists each of the offences for which those gamekeepers have been found guilty between 2001 and 2013. Over that 13 year period, 20 gamekeepers employed on grouse moors (an average of 1.5 per year) are shown as having been prosecuted, but according to the RSPB’s birdcrime reports for each of those years, the total number of individual prosecutions involving wild birds totalled 526 individuals. Given that grouse moor keepers therefore represent a mere 4% of those prosecuted in the courts, one can only wonder why the RSPB should choose not to focus on the occupations of the other 96%.

The RSPB also states in the report that “it believes it is the shooting industry as a whole, not individual gamekeepers, that is primarily responsible for raptor persecution in the UK”. It has therefore repeated its call for: political parties to introduce licensing of driven grouse shooting after the election; the introduction of an offence of vicarious liability in England; increasing the penalties available to courts for wildlife offences; and for game shooting to be regulated with an option to withdraw the ‘right’ of an individual to shoot game or businesses to supply shooting services for a fixed period following conviction for a wildlife or environmental offence.

For the third year running, the RSPB has included a piece of research in its Birdcrime Report that is intentionally misleading. Both the 2011 and 2012 reports covered in detail a research paper which claimed that peregrines on or close to intensive grouse moor areas bred much less successfully than those in other habitats, and that persecution was the reason for this. That same research paper is covered again in the 2013 Birdcrime report. The research in question used data from 1990 – 2006 and at the time it was published a representation was made to the National Wildlife Crime Unit which resulted in a caveat being circulated to all Police Wildlife Crime Officers in the UK explaining that the data used in the paper was out of date, and that in using such information there was danger that the research paper suggested a current situation. For the RSPB is well aware of that caveat, and to include this once again makes a complete mockery of its previously stated belief that reliable data are essential to monitoring the extent of wildlife crime.

Summary of statistics

341 reported incidents of illegal persecution in 2013 – a reduction of 24% since 2012 when there were 446 reported incidents, and well below the previous 4 year average of 573.

164 reported incidents of the shooting and destruction of Birds of Prey which included the confirmed shooting of 49 individual birds of which only 7 took place in counties associated with grouse shooting in the North of England.

74 reports of poisoning incidents involving the confirmed poisoning of 58 Birds of Prey of which only 2 occurred in counties in the North of England where grouse shooting occurs.

In total, there were 125 confirmed incidents of illegal persecution against Birds of Prey in 2013. Just 18 of those occurred in counties in the North of England where grouse shooting takes place, and none of those have been linked to grouse shooting.

Of the 32 individual prosecutions involving wild birds in 2013, only 6 individuals were game keepers, and one of those was found not guilty. Therefore, of those prosecuted, only 16% were gamekeepers and only 6% of the 32 cases involved birds (buzzards) that had been killed. Only one of the cases concerned an upland keeper employed by an estate with grouse shooting interests, and that case did not involve the destruction of a bird of prey.

Of the 14 incidents of nest robberies reported in 2013, only 3 were confirmed, one of which involved the robbery of at least 50 little tern nests.

There is no evidence to support the RSPB’s allegation of persecution of birds of prey by those involved in grouse shooting. The RSPB’s Birdcrime Reports show that between 2001 and 2013 there were 526 individual prosecutions involving wild birds, and according to its 2013 report only 20 of those individuals (4%) were actually gamekeepers employed on grouse moors.

Land managed for grouse shooting accounts for just 1/5th of the uplands of England and Wales.

The populations of almost all our birds of prey are at their highest levels since record began, and only the hen harrier and the white-tailed eagle are red listed as species of conservation concern.


In 2013, the RSPB received 341 reported incidents of wild bird crime in the UK, the lowest figure since 2009. This represents a reduction of 24% since 2012 when there were 446 reported incidents, and well below the previous 4 year average of 573.


As in previous years, the, the most commonly reported offence in 2013 was the shooting and destruction of birds of prey, with 164 reported incidents in 2013. Of these, the shooting of 49 birds of prey are shown in the report as being confirmed, of which 7 were in counties of the North of England where grouse shooting takes place. The remaining 23 incidents that were confirmed in England occurred elsewhere.


During 2013 there were 74 reports of poisoning incidents involving the confirmed poisoning of 58 Birds of Prey of which only 2 occurred in counties in the North of England where grouse shooting takes place:


There were 18 confirmed incidents of illegal trapping of birds of prey in 2013, and no confirmed cases of nest destructions, compared to 2012 when there had been 10 incidents of nests being destroyed. Although this figure of 18 is an improvement on that for 2012, it is still above the previous 4 year average of 14 incidents.


In 2013 there were 32 individual prosecutions involving wild birds. Only 6 of those individuals were game keepers, and one of those was found not guilty. Therefore, of those prosecuted, only 16% were gamekeepers and only 6% of the 32 cases involved birds (buzzards) that had been killed. Only one of the cases concerned an upland keeper employed by an estate with grouse shooting interests, and that case did not involve the destruction of a bird of prey:


It is clear from its 2013 Birdcrime Report that the RSPB is continuing in its efforts to promote an anti-shooting agenda, especially against driven grouse shooting. It has less to do with aconcern about birds and more about ideology and a political agenda. Like reports of recent years, the 2013 Birdcrime Report is deliberately misleading, and many readers will invariably take at face value the claims and accusations that have been made. Many of these are serious, and made without the necessary evidence with which to substantiate them.


The reason, perhaps, this article has mysteriously ‘disappeared’ from the CA’s website can probably be explained by the following…..

The Countryside Alliance used this article to lodge a complaint against the RSPB with the Charity Commission. The CA’s claim was based on this:

The report [Birdcrime 2013] makes sweeping allegations against the shooting community, and grouse shooting in particular – allegations that are not consistent with the evidence provided [in Birdcrime 2013]”.

The Charity Commission was obliged to investigate the CA’s complaint that the RSPB had ‘mis-used’ data and had made ‘un-founded allegations’ and they have now issued their verdict – they have rejected every single complaint made by the Countryside Alliance against the RSPB.

Strangely, although the Charity Commission’s response letter was sent to the CA on 7th January 2015, the findings have not appeared on the CA’s website. Can’t think why. Anyway, here’s a copy for those who want to read it – it’s really rather good:

Charity Commission response to Countryside Alliance complaint re RSPB Jan 2015

Not to be deterred by making yet another ‘embarrassing blunder‘, this week the Countryside Alliance wrote a response to the sentencing of goshawk-bludgeoning gamekeeper George Mutch, sent to jail for four months for his raptor-killing crimes. The CA’s response starts off well, condemning Mutch’s actions, but then it all goes badly wrong. According to the CA, it’s the RSPB’s ‘wider policy’ that is driving the continued illegal persecution of raptors!

You couldn’t make this stuff up. Why is it so hard for the game-shooting industry to take responsibility for their actions instead of continually trying (and failing) to discredit the RSPB? Is it because they have no intention whatsoever of addressing the widespread criminality within their ranks and so they churn out all this anti-RSPB rhetoric as a distraction technique? Nothing to do with the RSPB being so effective at exposing and documenting the game-shooting industry’s crimes, of course.

Expect more ludicrous attacks on the RSPB over the coming weeks and months….a predictable response from an industry unable, or unwilling, to self-regulate and undoubtedly feeling the pressure of scrutiny and demand for change from an increasingly well-informed public.

The link to the CA’s latest absurd accusation can be found here, but just in case it also mysteriously ‘disappears’, here’s the full text. Enjoy!

Countryside Alliance website

16th January 2015

‘Shooting, livelihoods and raptors’

The illegal killing of birds of prey is about the most selfish crime it is possible to commit because even if there are short term benefits for the preservation of game (and those benefits are as likely to be perceived as real) they will always be outweighed by the long term damage to the shooting industry as a whole.

That is why the Alliance has no hesitation in condemning an Aberdeenshire gamekeeper who was sentenced to four months in prison earlier this week for four offences including the killing of a goshawk.

Raptors as a whole may be the biggest success story in British birds with numbers having increased hugely as a result of legal protection and reintroduction, but some species remain rare and killing them for the sake of providing more birds to shoot is never going to be anything but a political and PR disaster.

The RSPB collected the evidence which convicted that gamekeeper and was understandably pleased with the outcome of the case. Whilst its actions in relation to individual cases like this are entirely justified the Society must, however, consider whether its wider policy is actually helping to perpetuate, rather than reduce, illegal persecution.

This might sound a strange statement, but it is worth considering the RSPB’s own history and how other wildlife conflicts have been resolved. The RSPB was founded by a group of women appalled by the trade in exotic feathers for ladies’ hats. Its first campaign was not aimed at prosecuting the people killing birds, but at removing the causes of persecution, which in that case was the high value of feathers. By reducing demand for rare birds it removed the economic imperative for persecution.

One argument might be to simply ban shooting and with it one of the main reasons someone might have for killing a raptor. However, that policy would create far greater conflict and remove the many positive environmental, economic and social benefits of shooting which far outweigh the negatives of any associated raptor killing.

Another, we would argue far more logical, approach would be to consider the causes of any illegal raptor killing and how the drivers for that activity could be removed. In two areas in particular the RSPB seems unwilling to consider proposals which tackle the causes of persecution, as well as persecution itself.

Firstly by refusing to endorse proposals for hen harrier ‘brood management’ which would give assurances to upland keepers that colonies of hen harriers could not make their moors unviable and their jobs redundant. And secondly by opposing absolutely any management, even non-lethal, of the burgeoning buzzard population even if they are having a significant economic impact on game shooting.

We are not suggesting that these management practices must take place, but surely an agreement that they could be used where absolutely necessary to protect livelihoods would make it less likely that people would make the wrong decision about illegal killing?


14 Responses to “RSPB Investigations Team: 1; Countryside Alliance: 0”

  1. 1 Mike
    January 17, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I find that a pleasing vindication, presumably staff at the Charity Commission are not big into grouse shooting nor chummy with those who are. Perhaps they simply exercise integrity and it is good to see that the CA are shot down, not on the pro’s and cons of the conservation voracity of their complaint but on the tactical attempt to discredit the RSPB who they see as their opposition.

    It is surely gratifying to see their devious and corrupt tactics exposed and a big well done to RPS for tracking it and letting the rest of us see what goes on.

  2. January 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    These countryside idiots will continue to defend their actions and destruction of the land for their pleasure and profit.

    The figures they continue to push out, do not stand up to scrutiny. I saw one from the Langholm Project, where 78% of adult grouse found dead showed evidence of raptor activity. They do not say, how many grouse were involved or whether the signs they found were pre or post mortem. Number juggling for their own ends and incomplete figures to hide the deficiencies.

    The game shooting industry remains in denial (prepared to lie, a trait so commonly used by them and their bosses) over the causes raptor disappearances.

    Just occasionally people like Mutch get it wrong (in that they have not hidden their crimes) and have witnesses of their evil deeds.

    But they try to twist the law to get indisputable evidence disallowed.

    So, it is time to show to the public the evidence we have, poisonings, shooting, last known satellite tracking positions, traps found and evidence of raptors having been caught in traps (even when disposed of away from the estates).

    More needs to be done to discredit and bring to justice, the shooting industry and show what they really are doing to our country.

  3. 3 Lesley Totten
    January 17, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Excellent news ! Countryside Alliance should consider taking up some other sport – maybe Ian Botham could teach them how to play cricket ? No…..they’d probably use the bat to bash some birds on the head ….

  4. 4 Dave Dick
    January 17, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    We need governments that take a long and serious independent look at how our Uplands are used and managed. Im sick of this “defend grouse shooting at all costs”, a lot of it coming from government agencies and even some conservation charities. We now know the costs of allowing this tawdry “industry” to continue. Lets cost out how much it would take to get the land back into good heart..and start doing it.

    • 5 crypticmirror
      January 18, 2015 at 8:28 am

      First we’d need a government that was truly independent from shooting interests… ConLibLab are all in it up to their corrupt eyeballs, and even the SNP is heavily dependent on votes from areas where shooting is one of the trad industries.

  5. 7 Circus maxima
    January 18, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Are the CA a registered charity?

  6. 9 Merlin
    January 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    First Beefy the charity slayer now the Countryside areliars, it’s a sad state of affairs when your only line of defence is to try and discredit a charity for telling the truth, definitely rotten from the top down these organisations
    Massive congratulations to the RSPB for disclosing these incidents and exposing to the world the seedy side of the shooting industry in this country. Well done to the charity commission for rejecting the pathetic complaints of the shooting industry, surely now is the time for the shooting industry to cut the dead wood from the tops of these organisations before they inflict any more embarrassment on their honest members, these people wont resign and your quickly running out of allies

  7. 10 crypticmirror
    January 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Do you know the location of these traps, so we can check on the animals welfare, of course. I’m sure we would exercise all due care in making sure the trap is completely unharmed and undamaged -no matter how flimsily it might be constructed- in checking the welfare of the birds used. I’d also assume that anyone going to them would wrap up warm to avoid hypothermia, a ski-mask, balaclava, or insulated motorcycle helmet with full visor would be essential, and warm gloves.

  8. 11 Chris Roberts
    January 19, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Gamekeepers and their bosses don’t give a damn about our wildlife, seems like they are all cold bloodied and cruel killers.

  9. 13 Bimbliing
    January 19, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    There’s a mechanism for the suspension of wildfowling in severe weather. The assessment is done by ornithologists in SNH. Seems pretty straightforward to have a similar such mechanism in the general licence applying to cage crow traps.

    I would also like to take the opportunity (again) to point out that in my view these crow traps are being used not for the conservation of wild birds, which is what the WCA allows for, but for the creation of a shootable surplus, which the WCA does not allow for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 7,456,269 hits


Our recent blog visitors