Countryside Alliance – regretful or forgetful?

caThe Countryside Alliance has responded to the RSPB’s 2015 Birdcrime report with the following statement:

The RSPB has recently published its Birdcrime Report for 2015, which provides a summary of the offences against wild bird legislation that were reported to the RSPB. While we are grateful for the work the RSPB do in the detection of bird crime, it is regrettable that the presentation of these statistics once again seems driven by a desire to create a narrative which supports an agenda, including the introduction of an offence of vicarious liability and the licensing of grouse moors, which the evidence simply does not support.

The press release circulated by the RSPB to mark the release of the report states that “196 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey and 50 reports of wildlife poisoning and pesticide related offences across the UK in 2015”. These figures refer to the total number of incidents relating to birds of prey reported to the RSPB. Less than half of these reported incidents go on to be confirmed, even fewer lead to a successful conviction. Even so, the total number of such reported incidents is in decline. The figures quoted from the RSPB press release represent a 33% decline since 2010. This is especially pleasing given the enormous increase in many raptor populations and the improvements in raptor crime detection made by the RSPB and others during this time.

There is, however, a regrettable tendency for the RSPB’s press releases around their Birdcrime Reports to be needlessly divisive and to ignore both the progress that has been made and the valuable relationships that have been built with farmers, gamekeepers and others. Nowhere is this divisiveness clearer than in the conclusion to the report. The report concerns 2015, yet the conclusions are headlined by a large pie-chart highlighting a high number of gamekeepers convicted of raptor crimes over the previous 25 years, implying that this remains a serious problem. Yet the RSPB’s reports for 2006 – 2015 show that gamekeepers were convicted of just 5% of the 1,550 individual charges brought during that 10 year period. The RSPB’s focus on the game keeping community is totally disproportionate, and extremely damaging to its relationship with those they should be actively seeking to work in partnership.

Even one illegal killing is too many, and the Countryside Alliance wishes to see wildlife crime stamped out completely, but this will be only be achieved by government, farmers, landowners, gamekeepers and conservation charities working together, a collaborative effort that is threatened by the RSPB’s misleading presentation of the facts and its intemperate and unnecessary calls for new legislation.


As you’d expect from the Countryside Alliance, this statement seeks to cast doubt over the RSPB’s evidence-based conclusions that illegal raptor persecution is unequivocally linked to the game-shooting industry. You might also notice the use of the word ‘regrettable’, in the same way the National Gamekeepers’ organisation did in their response (see here).

The Countryside Alliance suggests the RSPB is making a “misleading presentation of the facts“. They’re quite a forgetful bunch, because they made an identical claim about the RSPB’s 2013 Birdcrime report and they even complained to the Charity Commission about it (we blogged about it here).

The Charity Commission’s response? The RSPB had no case to answer. You can read the Charity Commission’s report here.

The Countryside Alliance hasn’t had much success with making official complaints. Here’s the result of a joint Countryside Alliance / Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust complaint to the BBC about Chris Packham.

As an aside, has anyone noticed the Countryside Alliance’s new logo? There’s been quite a lot of discussion on social media about what it’s supposed to represent. To us, it looks like a misshapen heart with a big hole torn in it. Perhaps their new strap line is ‘Ripping the heart out of the countryside’.


17 Responses to “Countryside Alliance – regretful or forgetful?”

  1. 1 michael gill
    February 10, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    I notice there’s no mention of The Countryside Alliance on http://www.steve-edge.com. You’d have thought that such a prestigious client would be worth shouting about? Or maybe not.

  2. 2 Arnie F
    February 10, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Their heart’s obviously not linnet

  3. 3 Chris
    February 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I hope they are not claiming any credit for “the enormous increase in many raptor populations”, which, even if correct, certainly won’t be in the vicinity of any shooting estate.

  4. February 10, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    The CA are a truly insidious organisation who’s main drive is purely the protection of hunting & shooting interests despite all the other claims they make. Dim Bonner et al are still smarting that their smear campaign against the RSCPA fell flat on it’s face regarding the right of the organisation to bring prosecutions for animal cruelty (most notably against fox hunts).

    I can’t decide on the logo, as a designer myself I think it looks like something from a 70’s sitcom but completely missing the whole “retro chic” thing. The heart shape would be more representative if it was black & red.

  5. 6 Robert Moss
    February 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    The CA logo looks like two quotation marks with nothing between them, so representing the substance of their arguments quite well.

  6. February 10, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Brilliant reponse :D – rippint the heart out of the countryside – so true!

  7. 8 Howard Broughton
    February 10, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    No mention of the number of foxes killed by illegal hunting??

  8. 9 Gerard
    February 10, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    In a response from Defra to a letter I wrote to my MP (Dennis Skinner) re banning driven grouse shooting, Rory Stewart mentioned populations of raptors doing particularly well. My take on this was that he was referring to urban peregrine populations which are doing fairly well and taken as a whole with the national peregrine population would make the situation look healthy enough. But this is not relevant to the management of grouse moors and can hardly be upheld as a glowing example of moorland management, which was how it was being presented. I did write back pointing this out.

  9. 10 Paul V Irving
    February 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Isn’t the countryside Areliars an incarnation of the British Field Sports Society rebranded ( the group that supported Hare coursing amongst other outrages)? Whatever what they choose to ignore is that on grouse estates raptor numbers appear to have declined rather against the national trend, Hen Harriers almost extinct as breeders on grouse moors, same for Peregrine, Short Eared Owls in massive decline, even the ubiquitous Buzzard is notable by its absence on many shooting estates. That is what they always always fail to address in their post RSPB report drivel. Perhaps they know the answer and don’t wish to publicise it. So we as raptor workers and conservationists should work with the wildlife criminals to solve the problem, I have of course noted that burglars and householders have well publicised meeting together all the time to solve the house breaking problem. No — me neither.

  10. February 10, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Ah, the parallel universe of Grouseland !
    They now issue keepers & shooters with CGI spectacles that add raptors to the view of the hills.

    In the real world we know that the tiny number of crimes detected, let alone the miniscule number of prosecutions are just the tip of a monumental iceberg of raptor crime.

    Just where have the Hen harriers gone – as migrants & partial migrants they have the misfortune to wander onto grouse moors, let alone dare to try & nest there ?

    And those eagles & other raptor species that are not present or are underrepresented on many Scotland moors, not to mention the English moors ?

    All those pairs of Goshawk that disappeared from the Derwent valley & surrounding areas ?
    Indeed, Goshawk nests attacked by masked gun – toting criminals at night ?

    Goshawks thriving in public forests without shooting interests ?

    Red kites strangely not thriving in Scotland ?

    Raptor distribution maps with weird grouse moor shaped holes ?

    It is all very difficult for the driven game shooting lobby isn’t it !

    Also very strange how Ospreys have returned throughout the UK & particularly Scotland, with minimal persecution …… Oh, I forgot they eat fish & don’t have the audacity to eat grouse or pheasant !

    They’ll be trying to explain away why virtually all raptors, polecats, pine martens, wild cats etc etc were extirpated during 18th to 20th Centuries on grouse moors & other driven shoots …… surely not keepers ?!

    A perfect storm brewing on the grouse moors I feel as the public starts to exert pressure on the politicians !

    Keep up the pressure !

  11. February 10, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    tomorrow 3 Hunts will be ouit within 25is miles of where I live. Shoots surround . Game keepers do the devils work.

  12. 13 Doug Malpus
    February 10, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    A leaked draft, shows the original final paragraph was changed to suit the less gullible.

    “Even one illegal killing is too many, and the Country wishes to see vicious birds and other vermin stamped out completely, ….. a collaborative effort that is threatened by the RSPB’s misleading presentation of the facts and its intemperate and unnecessary calls for new legislation.”

    I think I now know where all the government’s trainee spin doctors learn their craft.


  13. 14 Iain Gibson
    February 11, 2017 at 12:44 am

    Why do we allow statements made by CA and other pro-shooting organisations about “the enormous increase in many raptor populations” to continue largely unchallenged? Their supporters speaking in the petition debate at Westminster Hall repeatedly made this statement in evidence, including a claim that Hen Harriers were “thriving” on English grouse moors. Again this was largely unchallenged. So what constitutes the alleged “enormous increase” in raptor numbers?

    There was a period, mainly between 1986 and 2007, when Buzzard and Kestrel populations underwent a significant increase (and expansion of range in the case of Buzzard), but in the past decade both of these species have undergone quite a dramatic decline, in some stronghold areas by as much as 50% (Buzzard) and 90% (Kestrel). The days of “enormous increase” are well and truly over, in fact they have decreased by a considerable degree, and although the Buzzard range remains expanded, population densities are back to (or below) longer term average in core areas. Hen Harriers had a minor boost during the same period, which could have been far more dramatic, had they not been ruthlessly suppressed by gamekeepers. However it looks as if the 2016 survey is going to show a sharp decline again, and not just in England.

    Otherwise, Peregrines have increased in urban areas while undergoing declines in many of their more rural territories, but apart from reintroduced Red Kites in some parts of the country I can’t think of any raptor which could be described as increasing “enormously” at present. If anything the threat posed by persecution is increasing, as Countryside Alliance supporters, gamekeepers in particular, become angrier and more prone to taking revenge on the birds. The CA are claiming that raptor crime is decreasing, but in my opinion if that is the case, it’s only because all the recent publicity has made keepers more careful about secreting the evidence.

    • 15 Paul V Irving
      February 11, 2017 at 8:44 am

      I Think you are right Iain crimes against raptors, other predators especially Otters and Badgers and ” nuisance wildlife” are doubtless increasing. Fed in part by the relentless production of criticism of Buzzards amongst other things. Here in the Raptor persecution capital that is North Yorkshire we have heard recently of fishermen becoming intolerant of Otters as well as returning to wanting Cormorants and Goosanders gone, they appear to not restock sites without” alleviating the problem. Our kite population may also be in decline in some areas as well as constantly being kept out of the uplands with poison and the gun. Distributions of some species may not be reducing, may be even expanding but all the circumstantial evidence suggests that numbers killed and crimes concealed are probably increasing in both number and spread. Statements by the CA and others in the ” countryside pursuits” industries about an increase in raptors and other predators helps to fuel the attitudes that end in illegality against wildlife.

      • February 11, 2017 at 1:15 pm

        ‘Our kite population may also be in decline in some areas’
        I am curious as to what will happen to the Harewood population as the numbers increase. It has the moors to the north where it will be shot, Leeds to the south and the Vale of York to the east which is probably too intensively farmed. The corridor to the west into Lancashire looks good but i noticed there were a few crimes involving Red Kites even in that direction. Hopefully they can leap frog across these obstacles to suitable habitats. It might be a case of survival of the most adventurous. Perhaps i am underestimating their dispersal potential but so far they don’t appear to disperse far although this might change when the population reaches a maximum level.
        I am convinced the situation will be the same if not much worse with the populations in eastern Scotland and north-east England as they already do in the Black Isle.

  14. 17 Bob Burnett
    February 11, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Killing with complete impunity.

    Currently there is absolutely nothing that can be done to stop this industry decimating any species they perceive may impact in any way on game bird stocks.

    We the public have to stand by and watch them commit these crimes and listen to their lies and spin all of which is devoid of any scientific findings.

    It is not by chance that the authorities can not or will not do anything to stop this.

    The crazy thing is no-one including them believes it, but so it goes on.

    As we enter a chapter of right wing politics I fear it will only get worse.

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