Chair of Bowland AONB condemns illegal raptor persecution

Following the recent publication of the RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report, it has been very encouraging to see a steady stream of public statements of condemnation of illegal raptor persecution from various organisations that previously have been pretty quiet on the subject, unless prodded with a large stick. This is indicative of increased public awareness of the issue, and subsequent public pressure demanding change.

First there was the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (here), then the Chair of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (here), then the Peak District National Park Authority (here), and now the Chair of the Forest of Bowland AONB has joined in:

Statement on Persecution of Birds of Prey

7 November 2017

The Forest of Bowland AONB is an important area for the birds of prey that we associate with the English uplands, such as hen harrier, peregrine, merlin and short-eared owls.  However, the RSPB Birdcrime Report 2016 published last week highlights how some of these iconic species continue to be the subject of illegal acts of persecution throughout much of England and particularly the northern uplands.

The Chair of the Forest of Bowland AONB Joint Advisory Committee, County Councillor Albert Atkinson stated:

“It is particularly concerning to the Committee that these acts of illegal persecution continue; badly affecting the populations of birds of prey that are synonymous with the Forest of Bowland. These acts undoubtedly have an impact on the reputation of Bowland as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.   The Committee unreservedly condemns all illegal persecution of birds of prey.  The AONB will continue to work closely with landowners, the police, RSPB and Natural England to help protect and conserve birds of prey across the area.”

If you wish to report any crimes against wild birds, we would suggest contacting the police by calling 101.


We don’t remember ever seeing a public statement on this issue from the Forest of Bowland AONB, despite this being an area notorious for illegal raptor persecution.

Bowland AONB sign, as adapted by Mark Avery

And yes, we have been critical of the actual content of some of these recent public statements (e.g. see here and here), but we’re not going to criticise the intention behind the statements, nor the fact that these statements have been published on these organisations’ respective websites. By announcing these statements on the National Park and AONB websites, the messages of condemnation will reach a wide audience, including many who may previously have been unaware that illegal raptor persecution was even a ‘thing’, let alone a ‘thing’ going on inside these supposedly protected areas.

Well done, Cllr Albert Atkinson of the Forest of Bowland AONB. There’s still a LOT more to do at Bowland, and it will need more than just words, but this is an excellent start.

15 Responses to “Chair of Bowland AONB condemns illegal raptor persecution”

  1. 1 Sean harris
    November 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    However, where the f+#k have these CEOs of our AONBs and NPs been hiding whilst Bowland, the Peak District, Y Dales, NY Moor etc have systematically been cleared of OUR wildlife. Personally I think the fact it has taken them so long to come out with one statement each shows they are not fit for purposes and should resign immediately.

    • 2 Dylanben
      November 10, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      It’s not ‘OUR’ wildlife, but neither is it theirs to destroy.

    • November 10, 2017 at 10:55 pm

      Maybe not. These are the people who know “where the bodies are buried” and who perhaps have reluctantly had to accept being unable to do much about it. These may be the individuals, with their staff, who have had some insight into local rumours and have had their suspicions but were unable, or yes, unwilling, for whatever reason, to be open about it.
      It’s all about what they choose to do about it now. The only way we’ll know is when we see thorough investigation and successful prosecutions.
      They may turn out to be the right people, with public support, to turn this around.

  2. November 10, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Whilst I applaud your restraint, the statement is both far too little and far too late. I’d have more confidence that it presages a real change in attitudes and genuine determination to make real changes if it had commented more pointedly on the wholesale disappearance of the area’s Peregrines and other raptors. Until we have a really robust and focused condemnation then I’ll continue to regard such statements as little more than empty words used more to avoid criticism than signalling an intention to do anything to address the problem.

    • 7 Les Wallace
      November 11, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      Well said John..if these statements came with some actual, practical element as well as verbal condemnation e.g saying there needs to be automatic deployment of cameras at any and all identified raptor nesting sites (just an example not sure how realistic that would be) then I’d be a lot happier. Even if all these comments have been genuine expressions of angst at deplorable levels of wildlife crime, how much will they change things if they don’t really make life harder for those who seem to take a delight in giving two fingers to public concerns and the conservation community especially? A bit of progress, but not nearly enough.

  3. 8 Steve macsweeney
    November 10, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    What about widespread strongly worded signage to underline the point?
    Are they all that keen to stop persecution?

  4. 9 Neil Glenn
    November 10, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    While these can be seen as empty words, the fact they are the first words at all from Bowland EVER indicates a shift in balance between ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘They are becoming increasingly worried about their image (they don’t give a toss about birds of prey, of course, but the public gaze is ever more focussing on ‘them’ and that is what they absolutely do no want). And now Bowland are finally on record as condemning raptor persecution, those words can be used to hold them to account should no action tackling wildlife crime be forthcoming. It’s a subtle shift but at least it is a shift.

  5. 10 Phil Walton
    November 10, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Come on guys! When someone takes their first steps you don’t say “Huh, you should have done this sooner”. You say “Great! Let’s have some more!”

    Let’s keep this momentum going!

    • November 10, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      I’m a great believer in positive reinforcement but given that statements of this sort really are the barest minimum we should expect and have only been made thanks to the growing chorus of concern and condemnation, I feel the pressure still needs to be applied.

  6. 12 Northern Diver
    November 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    I would love to see a map of Bowland with land ownership & boundaries of the large estates shown . I suspect the vast majority of the dwellings in Bowland are tenanted and therefore the locals are effectively unable to be free agents in reporting wildlife crime. The Abbeystead estate alone employs 15 gamekeepers and from what I’ve seen they can be quite intimidating. The large landowners seem to me to have the local population in a stranglehold and have done so for generations. There was quite a bit of local hostility to the last Hen Harrier Day but because of what I have said it is understandable. Most Bowlanders are in a form of serfdom.

  7. November 10, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    These fine words increasingly have the ” Me too ! ” ring about them !
    ” Fine words butter no parsnips ” !
    As I’ve said before, everyone working in the uplands knows exactly what has been going on for 150 years on driven grouse moors.
    The actions that follow all these fine words from the agencies etc. will be interesting to see.
    Only the rapid reestablishment of the missing raptor species will suffice.
    Peregrine, Hen harrier & others, as we know, will very rapidly infill these sites once the subsidised persecution stops.
    Just 10 years without the current illegal killing would see a huge recovery.
    Call me cynical but I will believe it when I see it !

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. 14 Bob Morris
    November 10, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    “The AONB will continue to work closely with landowners.” An expression that leaves me with a sinking feeling. The landowning fraternity have had far too much influence in this subject to date. It’s time to start TELLING them the score. Maybe that’s just my opinion. It is good to see more people in positions of influence speaking out though. I just wish they would stop pussy footing around. Everyone, including the landowners know what the issue is and it needs addressing not discussing.

  9. 15 Dylanben
    November 10, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Don’t recollect seeing any such message from the North York Moors NPA yet.

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