Brood meddling: the role of the ICBP

We’ve learned, through a series of FoIs about DEFRA’s planned hen harrier brood meddling scheme, that the practical aspect of the trial (i.e. the removal of eggs/chicks from the nests and the subsequent captive-rearing) will be undertaken by the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Gloucestershire (see here and here for previous blogs).

The ICBP is directed by Jemima Parry-Jones, who, along with several others involved in this brood meddling scheme (Philip Merricks, Steve Redpath and Philip Holms), also serves on the Hawk & Owl Trust’s Board of Trustees.

As part of her input, she has produced an estimated costing. Given the number of uncertainties about the trial, the costing is, inevitably, largely guesswork. Nevertheless, it’s pretty detailed and provides an insight to what will be involved.

You can read it here: harrier-brood-management-draft-ballpark-costings

Jemima Parry-Jones’ knowledge and expertise on the breeding and captive rearing of raptors is undeniable. She is a recognised and highly respected world authority on this subject. We can be assured that any hen harrier eggs/chicks that the ICBP receives during this trial will be given the utmost care and attention to ensure they’re fit enough for release.

But what’s so baffling, and yes, disappointing, is that Jemima would want to play any part in this brood meddling scheme. As a lifelong advocate for raptor conservation, why would she support a plan to remove these harriers from the wild, just to enable an industry to kill an artificially-high number of grouse, for personal gratification, and then release those harriers back to the wild knowing that their chance of survival (at the hands of that same criminally-based industry) is virtually nil?

Why go to all the effort of rearing those birds, knowing that in fact all you’re doing is delaying the inevitable? There isn’t a scrap of evidence, not one tiny shred, to suggest that those released juveniles will be left alone; on the contrary, ALL the evidence suggests otherwise.

All we have is the word of the grouse shooting industry that they’ll abide by the law, but who in their right mind would take them at their word?! They don’t even believe it themselves – why else would they propose that the cessation of illegal persecution is not a condition of this brood meddling trial!

Wake up Jemima, you’re being played.


39 Responses to “Brood meddling: the role of the ICBP”

  1. 1 Mike
    November 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    She would seem to have been taken in – hook, line and sinker! Is this and HOT involvement just a ‘dash for cash’ to ensure their future survival at the cost of their credibility?

  2. November 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    There’s a typo in your last sentence. You wrote; “Wake up Jemima, you’re being played.” You meant; “Wake up Jemima, you’re being paid”.

  3. 3 Paul V Irving
    November 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I have no idea whether JPJ has been totally taken in or not . It may be that given HOT/ NE/ MA etc are determined this ” trial” will happen it may be that she in turn is determined that these young harriers will have the best care and chance possible. The whole thing is utterly unacceptable for a host of reasons but if it is going to happen that at least is no bad thing.

    • November 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Totally agree, Paul. If this trial is going to happen, there’s nobody better to be in charge of the captive-rearing stage.

      But that in itself is not a good enough reason for involvement, in our opinion.

      • November 16, 2016 at 1:04 pm

        It seems to me that ICBP and Jemima’s involvement adds a healthy air of credibility to the programme – I wonder if brood abduction could really proceed without her involvement? Her withdrawal could precipitate a frantic search for alternative brood removal and rearing experts and facilities which may not be readily available. I do find it bizarre that three of the main protagonists have managed to come together as H&OT trustees – bit of an inner circle.

      • 6 Paul V Irving
        November 16, 2016 at 5:30 pm

        I agree if JPJ with her well known expertise were not going to be involved the plan for captive rearing would look much less credible.

        • 7 SG
          November 16, 2016 at 6:45 pm

          A staff member at ICBP advised me that she herself wasn’t keen on being involved, but that the ICBP needed the funding, plus if anyone had to do it, they preferred to be the ones who did. Jemima also had a very open rant about Phillip Merricks being a d******d.

          • 8 Paul V Irving
            November 16, 2016 at 7:48 pm

            yes I too have a very low opinion of Merricks having met the man twice and taken a fairly instant dislike , not that keen on obvious egotists and self publicising idiots. Lets just leave that I think on hen harriers and grouse shooting he is a dangerous ” know nowt” as we say in Yorkshire

  4. 9 dave angel
    November 16, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    ‘what’s so baffling, and yes, disappointing, is that Jemima would want to play any part in this brood meddling scheme.’


    She’s from a falconry background and therefore possibly has a different perspective on what is and is not appropriate.

  5. 10 against feudalism
    November 16, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I would have thought that in proper conservation terms, if a nesting pair of Harriers is discovered, then all activity in a 10km radius or more, should cease until the young are fledged. Any disturbance or fatalities, the estate in question seized, and all staff fined and imprisoned.

    This idea that removing eggs or chicks from the nests of one of England rarest raptors, just so the boys fun of killing and maiming grouse or pheasant, isn’t interrupted, is just plain bonkers, and deeply disturbing.

    This is stretching the meaning of ‘conservation’ to a bizarre length, and only serves the interests of the criminal estates, who, by their persecution, have brought this all about.

  6. 11 Les Wallace
    November 16, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Yes bit surprised that she is involved in this – I know the centre at Newent I used to live in Gloucester, remember going their when I was 11 and being gobsmacked. Sadly a lot of falconers are very reticent about coming out with remarks re the dodgy shooters, it’s very noticeable and frustrating given how popular falconry displays are would be a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness. She’s done so much good work that I can’t be angry just a bit perplexed. This really isn’t the answer – a lot of time, effort and expense to compromise conservation just for a pathetic over blown hobby.

  7. 12 Frank Williams
    November 16, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Firstly before going any further let me state I am against this “brood meddling plan”
    That said however if it were to go ahead it relies on there being 2 nest within 10km as I understand it…….currently this means comparatively small numbers of nests will be interfered with.
    If this scheme successfully put young harriers back into the wild I assume these birds will be fitted with trackers etc. The continuing persecution of harriers would become even more obvious.
    The eventual goal would be to have more pairs of harriers successfully breeding within the UK.This is unlikely to happen due to persecution and thus the scheme will have failed
    The failure of the plan would then increase yet further the pressure on Driven Grouse Moors.

    • November 16, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      Continued persecution would only become more obvious if the satellite tracking data are in the public domain of course – isn’t NE already sitting on lots of such data and refusing to release it? I’m not convinced there’ll be much public pressure. On the one hand, the grouse managers will celebrate successful captive rearing and release – good news story. To accompany this will potentially be a successful lowland re-introduction – another good news story. The public affairs tacticians have sussed this. Suppress satellite tagging data – bury bad news; and two good news stories….What’s the problem – hen harrier numbers are going up in England AND driven grouse moor management is still with us – win-win surely?!

  8. 16 D.Wilkinson
    November 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    As a matter of interest have you asked JPJ if she’d explain her thinking?

  9. November 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I had a conversation with JPJ some time ago and contrary to what has been said above I found her knowledge of wild birds somewhat lacking.

  10. November 16, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Surely a translocation scheme should be subject to the same guidelines as a re-introduction, since it is the same just on a smaller scale. The causes of the near extinction haven’t been removed therefore it shouldn’t be allowed. The immovable conditions haven;t even been applied.
    I am against brood persecution under any conditions but at least follow the rules.

    The only silver lining is that this really is the last chance for the grousers. As Frank Williams says the chicks must surely be fitted with satellite tags, if not it is beyond madness. When these tagged juveniles get killed that should be it, game over for DGS.
    An immoral experiment with Hen Harriers as bait which is to me totally unacceptable but may be the end of driven grouse shooting.

    • November 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      I agree. The cause of the extinction is known, and it is ongoing so it would not pass the IUCN rules.
      But that aside, everyone uses a 2km radius around a nest site, it’s the widely recognised industry standard. What on earth are they using to justify the 10km?
      At a 10km density, the birds will not be able to behave and interact properly. I think that ICBP should be asked if they are content to be sending birds to their death and to explain why they are supporting a scheme which will impact on the natural behaviour of the birds?

  11. November 16, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    As I understand it, ICBP switched from being a private commercial operation to being a registered charity during 2014/15, and I’ve often wondered if this was in preparation for participating in brood abduction, it being far easier for a charity to obtain donations and grants than a private business. And maybe Defra procurement rules are slacker when it comes to contracting work out – simpler to recruit a charity than a commercial outfit.

    Regardless of Jemima’s undoubted expertise and track record in international conservation of birds of prey, here she is pivotal to facilitation the continuation of intensifying driven grouse moor management. Jemima is central to a group that is turning a blind eye to the persecution of species other than hen harriers on driven grouse moors – hen harrier abduction will perpetuate intensive moorland management and this illegal killings of other species. If brood abduction came as part of the thorough application of the mitigation hierarchy – i.e. moorland managers attempt to reduce their impacts on moorland by reducing management intensity, then they apply diversionary feeding when hen harriers are demonstrably a problem for shoot viability, and then, if the moor is under demonstrably reasonably sensitive management, and diversionary feeding just isn’t working, and there are plenty of hen harriers in the region, then a given moor might look at brood removal, to mitigate impacts on a moor that’s done all it can to practice sensitivity. Rather than apply this logical sequence of adaptive grouse moor management steps, the grouse moor managers have said Nope, either you get rid of the harriers, or we will continue to do so. And Jemima has stepped in and said OK, we’ll do it – and, by implication, even if you also continue to shoot at them too.

  12. 21 Dylanben
    November 16, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Assuming that this farcical proposal to manipulate nature ever comes to pass – ie that we should ever have a situation where we have two English HH pairs nesting within 10 Km of each other – my main concerns are the actual mechanics and practicalities of the release process. Putting to one side, for the moment, the probability of the birds being persecuted, how are they going to learn to hunt for their food? They’ll have no adults to copy or provide for them during this transitional period. The situation differs significantly from, for example, the release of Red Kites which are primarily scavengers and learned very quickly to find their own static food. Hen Harriers, on the other hand, are hunters and would need to learn very quickly if they were to survive. Maybe they’re going to be provided with food left out on the tops of poles!!

    Incidentally, if two nests which were no more than 10Km apart happened to be the only two in the whole of England, would the brood meddling process still be triggered? I’ve not seen anything that says that it wouldn’t!

    I concur with the positive comments regarding the involvement of JPJ in these proposals. She will wish her part in it to be successful and, in this respect, I doubt that there is anyone or anywhere else better suited to the hatching and rearing of the young. Indeed, in my opinion, her involvement provides the only ray of light in this whole sorry enterprise. It’s what comes afterwards which really concerns me.

    • November 16, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      “Incidentally, if two nests which were no more than 10km apart happened to be the only two in the whole of England, would the brood meddling process still be triggered?”

      Yes, this is absolutely what they’re planning to do. There is no pre-determined threshold that the breeding population must reach before brood meddling begins. As long as one of those two nests is on a grouse moor, and the landowner agrees to the removal of eggs/chicks. See here:


    • November 16, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      But how can Jemima’s involvement in a scheme that perpetuates intensifying driven moor management, and is silent to the plight of goshawks, peregrines, short-eared owls etc etc, possibly be ‘positive’? Without her involvement, they’d have to find an alternative that tackles persecution of all birds of prey and moderates intensive grouse moor management.

      • 24 Dylanben
        November 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

        My comment was based on her involvement in HH brood manipulation apparently being a ‘fait accompli’. In no way do I approve of anything which is going on here.

        • November 16, 2016 at 3:10 pm

          Yep fair enough. But I suspect it’s the other way around – brood abduction only becomes a fait accompli with ICBP involvement – it’s what gives the captive rearing element its air of acceptability, and my guess is that Defra and Team Merricks would find hard to find alternative rear-and-release expertise. Jemima’s withdrawal could well scupper or at least frustrate the scam, sorry, scheme.

  13. 26 Kiteman
    November 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Just a thought, maybe a bit naive, but has anybody thought to approach Jemima Parry-Jones for a comment on the subject?

  14. 27 Gerard
    November 16, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    ICBP = Intercontinental Ballistic Plonkers.

  15. November 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    Or is she being paid for being played. everyone has a price they say. this is so similar to the problem with fox hunting and the Anti Hunting Law. the Hunts take no notice , arrogance as with the drive grouse shooting estates….. Hunts don’t trail hunt but continue to chase with hounds and kill, dig out and kill.

    • November 16, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Several people have been suggesting that JPJ is in this for the money, but if you look at her projected costings, she/ICBP don’t appear to be looking to make a huge profit from this. The estimated costings are reasonable (there’s nothing wrong with staff wages being paid for their skill & expertise) and although the ICBP’s administration fee has not been estimated, again it is reasonable to expect there to be one.

      It’s our view that JPJ genuinely believes this to be a raptor ‘conservation’ effort, and on that basis, of course she’d want to be involved. What is unfathomable is that she is so trusting of an industry that has shown itself to be criminally untrustworthy when it comes to raptor conservation and she is willing to risk her reputation on it.

      • 30 heclasu
        November 17, 2016 at 3:08 am

        “Even a debate in parliament, involved extensive behind the scenes manipulation of the result, what with one chairperson standing down to be replaced by some buffoon from Cornwall??”

        Yes! Glad you mentioned this because this fact has troubled me since the day of the great ‘debate’. The whole thing was orchestrated by the grouse-shooting lobby even before the debate took place.

        Slightly off topic., but now I am beginning to hear of a Tory plot to rid the RSPCA of its’ powers to prosecute – according to the ‘Onekind’ Facebook page. Take a look!

        If true, it is extremely worrying. However, one thing is certain, these bastards are going to make as much hay as they can whilst there is no ‘opposition’ to them in Parliament. It is extremely depressing.

        One thing that would be helpful would be a list of those MP’s who are interested in the Environment and in supporting an end to DGS and raptor persecution.

  16. November 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    DEFRA has a cunning plan to allow the drive grouse shoots to continue and look as if they are doing something about the hen harriers.

  17. 32 Gerard
    November 16, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    You probably won’t be surprised at how uncritical people can be especially when they have taken a managerial role. Its almost like all the paperwork disseminated and discussions that are held etc serve one simple function: that is to justify decisions that are made in board rooms and in private conversations between people who are privy to such. Even a debate in parliament, involved extensive behind the scenes manipulation of the result, what with one chairperson standing down to be replaced by some buffoon from Cornwall?? HOT etc have chosen sides in this and should be prepared for what happens when they loose the fight. I can not see this political landscape lasting beyond this administration. Opinion becomes so polarised in these battles, however people who pick sides should realise this and prepare for the consequences.

  18. 33 Doug Malpus
    November 16, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Is the plan to take the eggs, then shoot the adults? Then shoot fledglings after release?

    This seems to be inevitable!!!


  19. 34 Nimby
    November 16, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Where is this money (whatever the amount) actually coming from? If it is public funds (say from Defra) then it will surely be required to be offered through open tender? If not why not?

    Given the potential conflict of interest then surely the ICBP wants/needs to be open and transparent in its conduct? JPJ would surely not risk her international reputation for involvement in this debacle?

    How, if at all, has all this H&OT involvement been explained? There is so much potential conflict of interest by vested interest in various aspects of the ‘project’?

  20. November 17, 2016 at 9:09 am

    According to the ICBP website, they do not have any experience is raising any harrier species.

    • 36 AlanTwo
      November 17, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Indeed, Circus, and their website has interesting things to say abut captive breeding and release:
      “… usually the very last thing to do when conserving a rare species, is a release programme.”
      “Usually much has to be done in terms of habitat conservation and public education, and possibly government legislation before birds can be released. The problem of a birds decline has to be solved prior to release programmes.”
      “We consider that our brief at ICBP has never been to produce large quantities of young from a small number of species, as in a specific captive and release programme..”

      This is all going to be a bit of a departure for them.

      • 37 Dylanben
        November 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm

        This is very interesting. One of the points covered is actually one of the IUCN criteria for translocation of species – namely, to quote ICBP, ‘The problem of a birds decline has to be solved prior to release programmes’.

        Although there might not be a history of persecution of HHs in the chosen release areas, a much broader view would need to be taken to ascertain whether this had been eliminated in all areas in England to which young harriers were likely to be attracted. Clearly this condition could not be regarded as met for as long as tagged birds keep disappearing, pole-traps are set in remote areas etc.. In this respect it is of considerable interest that one of the notes of the Brood Meddling Panel records that – “Natural England has taken independent legal advice on some aspects of the proposed Brood Management Trial.The advice was summarised; nothing in it leads us to believe that there were any legal barriers to the trial progressing as discussed to date. Discussion around this lead to a view that …. The trial would test …. the survival of those chicks once they had fledged and were released back into the wild’.

        What this suggests to me is that they are skating on very thin ice, it being apparent that they have not actually established that the IUCN criteria would be regarded as being fully met. They appear to be relying on circumventing these requirements by dressing up their meddling as a ‘trial’. I would have thought that a somewhat firmer legal basis for proceeding would have been established before significant expenditure was incurred. If this wasn’t such a serious issue it would be comical!

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