Hawk and Owl Trust dig themselves in to a deeper hole re: shot hen harrier Rowan

The Hawk and Owl Trust are digging themselves in to a deeper hole.

Most people looking at the x-ray of hen harrier Rowan’s leg injuries, which was published yesterday, would be able to interpret the image fairly easily. A fractured leg with a number of radio-dense foreign bodies associated with the injury site; radio-dense foreign bodies with a radio density consistent with metal. This is not a difficult image to interpret and it’s pretty clear that Rowan’s injuries weren’t caused when he was shaving his legs and slipped (thanks Lewis Thomson @LT_FoD for the most amusing suggestion seen on Twitter yesterday!).


The Hawk and Owl Trust (and Natural England and Cumbria Police) had the benefit of additional evidence in the form of photographs (presumably a gunshot entry wound was visible on the leg directly adjacent to the fracture site) and a written report from the pathology expert who had conducted the post mortem. The opinion of the pathologist was that Rowan had been shot and Cumbria Police accepted his expert opinion.

So we come back to the questions we raised earlier:

(a) Why did the joint press release issued by Hawk & Owl Trust / Natural England on 28 October (just prior to the Westminster grouse shooting debate) exclude all the post mortem evidence that was available to them on 27 October?

Their press release included the line: “We are unable to make further comments or enter into discussion at this time as this may be prejudicial to ongoing investigations“. Our friend Mark Avery suggested to us an alternative line: “We are unable to make further comments or enter into discussion at this time as this may be prejudicial to the Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting“.

(b) Cumbria Police’s draft press release on 3 November clearly stated that the post mortem had concluded Rowan had been shot. Why then, on 7 November and after consultation with Natural England (and possibly Hawk & Owl Trust) was this police press release altered from Rowan ‘was shot’ to Rowan ‘was likely to have been shot’?

Yesterday evening, the Hawk and Owl Trust issued a statement in an attempt to justify their lack of transparency:

The most interesting sentence is the penultimate one:

“……the initial post mortem results were not wholly conclusive and further metallurgical tests were required“.

Really? Who said the initial post mortem results weren’t wholly conclusive? (Clue: it wasn’t the pathologist).

And who said further metallurgical tests were required? (Clue: it wasn’t the pathologist).

Have those further metallurgical tests been done? If so, where are the results? If they haven’t been done, four months on, then why not if they were supposedly “required”?

Emails to: enquiries@hawkandowl.org 

24 Responses to “Hawk and Owl Trust dig themselves in to a deeper hole re: shot hen harrier Rowan”

  1. 2 Mick Reavey
    February 4, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve emailed asking for details of who decided extra tests be carried out and if indeed they were actually carried out.
    I doubt they’ll reply and even if they do, they’ll fob me off with some rubbish.

  2. 3 SOG
    February 4, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    So maye the bright spots weren’t Dave’s bits of gravel, or they’d have gone for mineralogical tests?

  3. 4 SOG
    February 4, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    please turn maye into maybe. thanks

  4. February 4, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    It is obvious in which direction the hawk and owl trust are paddleing

  5. 6 Roger Daniels
    February 4, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Words fail me apart from unbelievable.

  6. 7 Secret Squirrel
    February 4, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    “We can’t risk any possible funding we may get from the shooting industry, so we climb into bed with the devil and try not to upset him” would be more accurate. Chris Packham had the right idea

  7. 8 SG
    February 4, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    The Hawk and Owl Trust says they abhor raptor persecution, but why do they so very rarely publicise the frequent incidences of raptor persecution via their social media platforms, inc confirmed offences, police appeals and case outcomes? You’ll also note that they didn’t share or even comment on the RSPB’s 2015 Birdcrime report yesterday. Natural England issued its first buzzard-killing license in July 2016 – it took HOT FIVE months to publicly release a statement about this. And this was only after strong pressure from its members at their 2016 AGM (and an agreed part of Phillip Merricks’s controversial re-election as its chair). Evidence from FOI requests point towards Phillip watering down the shooting of Rowan prior to the debate on driven grouse shooting, and start of its brood management trial. Surely HOT would have been incensed with anger at the word change if they had nothing to do with it? I’m sure they do abhor raptor persecution, but their ‘middle ground’ approach isn’t working – I see them as an alliance of Countryside Alliance these days. How sad, especially when there are still volunteers who do good work for HOT, but for how much longer? There is discontent within some local groups, who are looking to distance themselves from HOT.

  8. February 4, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    It is now perfectly obvious that satellite tagged Hen Harriers are shot regularly and that once the brood persecution scheme starts some of these birds WILL be shot. That is so obvious now, it is a certainty.
    HOT obviously have massive investment in this scheme. Not financial but in terms of commitment and i would say ego.
    I am very sceptical. I knew that NE and HOT would not keep to the guidelines of only starting the scheme until the English population had recovered to certain level. The guidelines in the plan if it can be called a plan had two or three criteria but it was all so vague that when i wrote to the RSPB for clarity they couldn’t give me an answer and no doubt that is one of the reasons they withdrew.
    I knew instinctively, because of the ‘stakeholders’ involved, that this lack of clarity would be misused and it has. Now the requirements for brood persecution are so low it is laughable. RPUK covered this in a great post and the comments BTL were illuminating too.
    So my sceptical mind got me wondering. OK HHs are definitely going to be killed once the scheme starts so then how are HOT going to respond?

    1. Will they suppress the data? NE seems to be quite good at this but i can’t imagine HOT being able to do it.
    2. Will they ignore the immovable condition when a transmitter stops working in highly suspicious circumstances? Almost certainly.
    3. Will they change the goal posts entirely so it is no longer one bird that has to be killed for them to withdraw from the scheme but a certain percentage, an ‘acceptable loss’ strategy?
    4. This on the surface is the most bizarre but given the stubbornness in continuing with the scheme which is doomed to failure, is the only one that actually makes sense. Is it possible that HOT will alert the landowners on whose land the HH is tracked and try to protect them that way? ‘if you want brrod meddling hands off this HH ols chap’.
    Has this possibilty occurred to anyone else or am i completely barking? Merricks obviously has very good relationship with the estates as Henry found out. It would also explain why the insistence on the scheme actually starting before unmovable conditions apply although more realistically it is just a childish ‘but i wasn’t ready’ strategy.
    If this is the case, is it ethical? Is it tampering with the ‘trial’? I would consider it unethical simply because as has been pointed out by Merricks this is a trial and a trial should follow a procedure which would be practical if it is, as they obviously intend, ‘rolled out’. It isn’t.
    5. Get NE to hide behind a National Security D notice.
    6. Withdraw financial support but continue as an umbrella of NE or somehow or other shuffle the paperwork. Instead of changing the number of HH killed change the terms of their involvement.
    7. Stick to the promise and withdraw from HHAP as soon as a bird is killed or stops transmitting in suspicious circumstances.
    I can’t think of any more. There really aren’t that many options. 6 is the only sensible option and it should be now before they look even more ridiculous.

    I would love to hear what others think and i hope this isn’t off topic.

  9. February 4, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    More a case of when in a hole don’t start up the JCB …

  10. 13 nirofo
    February 4, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    A 5 second visual inspection would be more than suffice to tell whether the metal objects were shot or not, they don’t need a metallurgical report for that, they would almost certainly be made of lead as virtually no one in the UK uses anything else. The only thing left is collusion between the shooting interests,, HOT and Natural England to circumvent the true facts in order to prevent damning evidence being presented at the Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting. It’s fairly obvious by now that HOT and Natural England are unfit for purpose and should be disbanded.

  11. 14 Doug Malpus
    February 4, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Here’s my email to HOT.

    It has come to my notice that despite the conclusive pathologist report and clearly visible “xray blocking” (broken lead shot) particles by the fracture you have not accepted the evidence.

    Why is and organisation that abhors persecution of hen harriers and all raptors protecting the shooting industry with this cover up?

    The bird was shot, the lead pellet broke upon shattering the bone. What more do you want?

    Or is it a matter of not upsetting the paymaster?

    Doug Malpus

  12. 15 Graham Hall
    February 4, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Knowing very little about the Owl and Hawk trust I do not wish to speculate and can only make comment on the information available.

    Something is very obviously causing the O and H trust to make statements that are at odds with raptor conservation.

    Some possibilities to consider.

    Falconry and wild raptor conservation are not the same thing.

    Falconry is often connected to sporting estates. Falconry birds being used to hunt Gamebirds, pigeons, rabbit, and hare.

    Perhaps the reluctance by the O and H trust to state the obvious is being effected by sporting interests or perhaps simply it has no backbone and sitting on the fence.

    Whatever the reason, I have zero confidence that this organisation will help the fight against raptor persecution.

    • 16 Northern Diver
      February 4, 2017 at 11:21 pm

      I may be wrong but the Trustees and VP’s of HOT seem to include several members/ex-officials of the CLA, with all its associations with game shooting. Is it far fetched to think the charity has been “infiltrated”? Or has the current world political situation fried my brain?

  13. 17 lizzybusy
    February 5, 2017 at 2:18 am

    I will be writing to the HOT. I am perplexed that they should suggest that more metallurgical tests were required. The autopsy would have involved extracting the metal gun shot pellets from the carcass. What further tests could be done?

  14. 18 Adam
    February 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Has anyone from RPUK read either the preliminary or the full post mortem report?

  15. 19 Chris Davies (Mrs)
    February 5, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    E-mail sent to HOT. I’m really very upset and annoyed with their response.

  16. 20 Roderick Leslie
    February 6, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    An awful lot of people seem to be being very careful with the facts these days – remember RSPB wasn’t going to say anything about the HH 2016 breeding season until October, despite it becoming common knowledge that virtually no HH were breeding in England. I never thought much of the Defra plan but, as I pointed out to Phillip, you can’t have a plan without any Hen Harriers – and it is the shooting lobby who are making all the running, by ensuring no HH can breed in England. Also worth noting that – as RPUK make clear – there is considerable dissent, actually hooror, within the HOT ranks at the line Phillip is persuing.

    • 21 Dylanben
      February 6, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      How long before someone in HOT calls for an EGM?

    • 22 Messi
      February 6, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      But, Rod, you can have brood removal with just two pairs of hen harriers attempting to nest, as long as the two pairs are sufficiently close to cause ‘a problem’. That’s pretty obscene, isn’t it? I reckon we’re not likely to have more than three of four pairs this summer, and, if any of these are sufficiently close to another pair, their broods will be removed. So what Phil said is a bit silly.

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