Convictions for raptor persecution “must be the tip of the iceberg”, admits BASC chief

Further to this morning’s blog about BASC’s acting chief exec Christopher Graffius urging his members to stop killing raptors (here), here’s some more detail.

The Times article had suggested that Christopher had written a letter to BASC members, in response to the publication yesterday of the RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report. It turns out that ‘letter’ was an opinion article in the Nov/Dec 2017 edition of BASC’s magazine, Shooting & Conservation:

For those struggling to read the small text, here’s a PDF of the article:

Christopher Graffius BASC Raptor Persecution threatens us all_Nov2017

How refreshing to see a senior member of the shooting industry acknowledge that convictions for illegal raptor killing “must be the tip of the iceberg“.

He writes: “I know it’s not all keepers, but the figures of those caught and convicted must be the tip of the iceberg and in 2017 the cases continue: a buzzard and a red kite in Yorkshire, a peregrine in Cambridgeshire, a buzzard in Hertfordshire, a peregrine in Lancashire, a red kite in Northern Ireland, a peregrine in Suffolk and a short-eared owl in Scotland. Those are some of the confirmed cases of shooting in the space of three months from July“.

This comes after years and years and years of denials from ‘leaders’ within the game-shooting industry who have argued that raptor persecution is an ‘historical’ problem and everything’s just fine now (e.g. see here and here).

Well done, Christopher Graffius. Until now, the shooting industry’s collective denial has been one of the main reasons (along with poor enforcement of the law) for the failure to make progress on this issue – there’s no point having dialogue with those who won’t admit there’s even a problem.

Is this the beginning of a new start? Time will tell….although the industry doesn’t have that much time left before change is enforced….

26 Responses to “Convictions for raptor persecution “must be the tip of the iceberg”, admits BASC chief”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    November 2, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    #YesAllKeepers. Because the ones that haven’t have still covered for those that have. Unless they have testified in open court about the crimes committed by their fellows then they are all culpable. That is how simple it is. Even the “I haven’t done it, I’m not a bad guy” keepers have to accept that they are the bad guys because they are not helping stop and prosecute those who are actively destroying the nation’s wildlife.

  2. 2 Chris Dobson
    November 2, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    At last! A small step towards sanity. I can’t help but wonder what’s been said privately. Something like: We can’t protect you completely if public opinion turns, possibly?

    • 3 Secret Squirrel
      November 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Basically says that in the text. Top of the last column.

      Rear and release is another matter, no-one else is allowed to release vast quantities of (usually non-native) reared livestock into the countryside

  3. 5 michael gill
    November 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Though he is still being merely selfish about it, “If the killing doesn’t stop, jobs and income from shooting is at risk.” and: “To kill raptors illegally is a fool’s bargain, if it means the end of shooting and the benefits it brings to the environment and economy.”

    He’s not saying it’s wrong.

  4. November 2, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Whatever one’s personal views on game shooting, Christopher Graffius deserves huge respect and praise for his comments but I’ll be very surprised if he’s still in post within the year. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how other ‘interest groups’ within shooting will react to his views.

  5. 8 Gerard
    November 2, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    The Moorland Association has responded to the report with some comedy statistical analysis, essentially aping the response of the countryside alliance or visa versa (Tim Bonner and Liam Stokes on Twitter yesterday):

    “Any incident of bird of prey persecution is unacceptable and the full force of the law should be felt by those breaking it. The statistics in the latest report show that the number of such incidents continues to decline significantly and there has been a very substantial drop in incidents over the last five years. This is what we all want to see.” (http://www.moorlandassociation.org/2017/11/moorland-association-response-rspb-birdcrime-2016-report/)

    • 9 Gerard
      November 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      Whereas the data actually shows a few percent increase in confirmed cases since 2000. Talk about cherry-picking your data.

      • 10 Gerard
        November 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm

        And off course if you squint your eyes and look at the data imagining that the up/down fluctuations are replaced by error bars, then the decline really obviously isn’t statistically significant since 2012.

  6. 11 Paul V Irving
    November 2, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    In the days when we Raptor workers actually went to meetings with the other side about Hen Harriers facilittaed through the Environment Council, John Swift then I think doing the job Christopher Graffius does now then he was saying the same things, I believed John to be sincere at the time and think and hope Mr Graffius is too but it is still an uphill task, especially when one reads the responses of NGO, SGA and the CA to this article and of course the latest Bird Crime report from RSPB.
    Incidentally for those who think persecution has taken a down turn the only measure of our success in reducing it should be the return of Peregrines, Golden Eagles, Goshawks, Short eared Owls and most of all Hen Harriers to breed in territories where they are currently absent or persistently fail on land managed for shooting.
    One must take ones hat off to Graffius for standing up for what is right whatever his motives, it is a great gesture but it is still only words. That it leads to something positive we can only hope but I for one will not be holding my breath.

  7. 12 Andrew Blake
    November 2, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Let’s see how the Shooting Times reacts as they represent wider interests than the likes of the Moorland asses.
    Fingers crossed it opens the floodgates for the majority of shooters to voice their opinion. They need a hashtag – how about #keepitclean or #nocrime

  8. 13 Tony Warburton MBE
    November 2, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    Come on folks. Give credit where credit is due. This is a major break through, so please cut out the churlishment, it does us no credit. At least here we have an honest shooting man at last, and one who has put the rogues in his ‘sport’ in their rightful place – i.e. in the gutter!. This is a brave act given his position and the crass ‘forked tongue’ responses from the CA, NGA and Moorland Association. At least he admits to being a shooter, and obviously as such wishes to save his ‘sport’. He is entitled to stand up for what he believes is ok, even if we don’t agree with all he says and does. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but over time it was built – and the Walls of Jericho was doomed soon after the first brick fell out! So this time Paul, I will try to hold my breath for a little while at least!!!

    • 14 Paul V Irving
      November 2, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      Tony , I probably will hold my breath too but the cynicism born of experience usually has the upper hand. Don’t get me wrong I want this to make a huge difference but it needs to be said often and with the sincerity that I think Christopher Graffius has and clearly NGO, SGA, CA and MA do not. Their crocodile tears and failure to do anything real shames them indeed.

  9. 15 Macgee
    November 2, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    99% of gamekeepers give the rest a bad name.


  10. 16 Tony Warburton MBE
    November 2, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Macgee – I couldn’t agree more. The 1% gamekeeper is a decent bloke – whoever he is!!! You see Paul I’m as cynical as you so don’t give up on me!

    • 17 Paul V Irving
      November 2, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      never Tony, never. I agree the vast majority of keepers on grouse moors are either at it as they say, turn a blind eye to their colleagues on neighbouring estates being at it or would be at it except their boss has made it very plain they should not be. Of course on those estates where the boss says “just do the job as you see fit, but I want plenty of birds come the season” the keeper will also be at it, its not just where they are told to get rid of everything that may be a problem. I think Mr Gaffius will be very unpopular with some of what we are now calling the “dark side” Most of the “good ” keepers I once knew are now either retired dead or sacked.

      • 18 crypticmirror
        November 2, 2017 at 7:45 pm

        You know know what you call a good gamekeeper? A wildlife warden. You know what shooting interests call a good gamekeeper? Unemployed.

  11. November 2, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Driven grouse shooting requires the removal of predators to achieve the high bag numbers that are paid for.
    This is why the industry is unsustainable.
    It relies upon wild breeding stock.
    Other driven game shoots now rely on releasing vast numbers of pheasant & partridge.
    This does not require the removal of predators.
    Regardless of what anyone thinks about shooting in its many forms this is the reality & is why there is now much less persecution of raptors on lowland estates compared to what went on when gamebird chicks were reared & released at a much younger age & were increased by wild breeding stock.

    Driven grouse shooting has never been, and can never be, sustainable, or possible, without the removal of large raptors.

    Keep up the pressure !

    • 20 crypticmirror
      November 2, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      Those other types of shooting might not require removal of predators, but far too many keepers are still willing to do it anyway. That is why we need licensing of both shooting and of gamekeeper’s themselves. A professional competency certificate with a lifelong training requirement, and a register of permitted practitioners; one strike and they’re off it. That should focus minds, at least for the lowland shoots where predator removal is more a keeper hobby than anything else, nicely. Put into those licenses and registers a requirement to report suspected wildlife crime even if they are not part of it, and make failure to report a striking off offence. That is the only way to neutralise a wall of silence like the shooting interests.

  12. 22 Anon
    November 2, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Hopefully (and very probably) this is something coming from the new BASC Chief Exec:

    Otherwise Christopher Graffius would have done this sooner.

    Hopefully (and possibly) he’s told the various shooting organisations that they need to get their act together on the issue of wildlife crime as defending the indefensible is not a credible policy position!

  13. 24 Anthony B
    November 8, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    “Any BASC member convicted of killing a raptor is expelled from the association” I’m sure we can all agree with that, the trouble is we know convictions are few and far between and as a result, those who do kill raptors often have little to fear. Perhaps it would be better for BASC to adopt an approach along the lines of “expelling members suspected of killing raptors” would have more impact?

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