We’ve been reading through the written evidence presented to the Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting and naturally, we’re interested in the evidence relating specifically to illegal raptor persecution.
472 submissions have been published. Of these, 200 were against driven grouse shooting in its current form, while 270 were supportive of the status quo (a couple of submissions didn’t provide a clear response either way).
Of the 200 submissions against driven grouse shooting, 182 of them cited illegal raptor persecution as a concern. That’s a lot. The on-going killing of raptors has clearly motivated the majority of respondents to write in against driven grouse shooting.
Of those in favour of driven grouse shooting, many of them simply didn’t mention raptor persecution at all (this was also noted by Mark Avery yesterday). Perhaps they thought that by ignoring it, we’d all forget it was an issue. Move along, nothing to see.
However, some of those in favour of driven grouse shooting DID mention illegal raptor persecution, but not as an issue of concern. Instead, 21 of them claimed that raptor persecution is either rare or isn’t even happening. Here are some quotes:
“The funny thing is that the raptors rely on us and our work as much as the grouse do. The do-gooders are wrong to point fingers. There isn’t persecution of predators anymore, has been so for a while. If anything the only reason raptors like buzzards and hen harriers are still around is because of us, the keepers“.
“The argument that we persecute raptors has no ground to stand on. The opposite. Because they are ground-nesting birds by controlling the population of vermin like foxes we protect them. And if a keeper is even suspected of killing a raptor, it’s instant dismissal. If they’re lucky. No one would want to give up their career like that“.
“The argument that we persecute birds of prey is a good few decades behind“.
“The antis keep slinging mud at us but there’s no proof. They say we persecute raptors but there aren’t bodies“.
“And regarding birds of prey, it’s ridiculous too, they are about, they are abundant. If anything, I’d say there are now even too many of them, they are wiping out the smaller songbirds and such“.
“Opponents of grouse shooting often say that management of prey species includes the illegal killing of protected birds of prey such as Hen Harriers. In fact, illegal persecution is extremely rare“.
“The keepers, and everyone really, all agree that shooting birds of prey is wrong and it hasn’t been done for decades round here“.
“Predator persecution has not happened in decades. At least on the moors I work and know I can say that for certain. It’s just wrong to shoot a particular species of bird off, we all know this, and it’s ridiculous that people still claim we continue with it“.
“I doubt there are even any ‘bad eggs’ left in the keeping community nowadays. We have huge biodiversity on the moors here and are all extremely proud of it. We have everything from little songbirds to large merlins and hen harriers“.
“If they think there is still bird of prey persecution, they are very wrong. They are misinformed“.
“I know of no instance on any of the estates visited where raptor persecution has occurred or has even been spoken about“.
“There are more birds of prey in the countryside than I can ever remember, yet there are constant accusations of persecution principally towards gamekeepers. Many of these accusations are unfound [sic] as there is often no evidence to support them“.
“Game keepers on high profile estates have well paid jobs and would be unemployable elsewhere if guilty of persecuting raptors. Equally, landowners in Scotland many of them high profile are subject to vicarious liability if protected species are killed. So they don’t do it“.
“The whole grouse shooting debate comes down to the lives of predator birds, doesn’t it? I think the argument is three decades behind if not more. It used to be the case that they were labelled vermin and were treated as such but now predator persecution round here is no more, not even a memory“.
A similarly absurd claim was made by Amanda Anderson during her oral evidence, who claimed the raptors are ‘there on the moors’ (she had ‘a picture in her head’ and said she ‘could see raptors from her kitchen window’). About as credible as Sarah Palin’s claim that she could see Russia from her back door.
In amongst all the written submissions is plenty of evidence of continuing raptor persecution: eg. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And then there’s this one, listing 252 persecution incidents on grouse moors over the last ten years. We’ve copied the data below.
We look forward to Monday’s debate in Westminster Hall and listening to MPs trying to defend this widespread and disgusting criminality that continues, largely without punishment, on UK driven grouse moors. If your MP needs a reminder of the scale of these crimes, it might be worth sending him/her a link to this blog post.