14
May
18

Grouse shooting industry insider lifts lid in interview with Chris Packham

For the benefit of those not on social media, last week Chris Packham posted a series of daily tweets under the heading ‘Top 20 raptor crimes’, to highlight the extent of illegal raptor persecution in the UK, how often these crimes go unpunished, and when cases have reached court, how feeble and inadequate the sentences have been.

To round off the week, Chris posted this video interview with a (now former) grouse-shooting insider, who tells it as he’s seen it:

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49 Responses to “Grouse shooting industry insider lifts lid in interview with Chris Packham”


  1. May 14, 2018 at 8:11 am

    It’s very depressing to hear, from a Keeper today, that virtually nothing has changed since I worked as a Keeper myself!

  2. 2 Mark Lund
    May 14, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Good interview, though a shame he would not be identified. Not surprising. Legally does this constitute any form of evidence to be brought before the policing authorities..the police for instance?

  3. 3 Roberta Mouse
    May 14, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Such a pity the speaker felt he had to remain anonymous….particularly if he really doesn’t work in this ‘industry’ any longer. The use of an actor seems to have emboldened DGS supporters to comment negatively under this vid.

  4. 4 John Cantelo
    May 14, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Whilst it would have better if the witness was identified I doubt that it would have made the slightest difference to the response of DGS supporters. Having tried to support CP’s posts on social media it is quite clear that they are quite happy to twist, misrepresent, distort, cherry-pick, deflect with ‘what-about-isms’, etc when these issues are raised or simply ignore the evidence presented. They seem to have either a willful disregard for any information that demonstrates the reality of persecution (no matter what linguistic or logical gymnastics they have to indulge in to do so) or are, to be polite, trapped in the logic of their terminological inexactitudes.

    • 5 Coop
      May 14, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      Indeed, John. One utter fruitcake, who often trolls CP’s facebook page even referred to “threatened bird species, some of which can only be found on keepered moors now”! When pressed to name said species, he predictably jumped ship, only to be replaced by another idiot who named the species as…you’ve guessed it…Hen Harrier!

  5. 6 Robert Moss
    May 14, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Much academic discussion of the harrier/grouse relationship focuses on the impact of harriers on grouse numbers and how to lessen this. As this knowledgeable interviewee correctly highlights, the major problem – real and perceived – is the disturbance of grouse during drives. Replace grouse shooting by grouse hunting and the problem goes away.

    Shooters regards grouse as little more than challenging targets and status comes from killing more than your friends/neighbours/competitors. A hunter walking up grouse in partnership with dogs appreciates nature. Seeing a harrier makes him feel at one with the hill around him – something the shooter only dimly appreciates. So the hunter gets more, better pleasure from killing fewer grouse. Harriers add to such pleasure rather than detracting from it.

    • May 14, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      To be specific about this, there are 2 major forms of grouse shooting, and game bird shooting in general. One is walking up, where the shooters walk around with dogs to either point at birds or flush them up where they are shot. This is the traditional style of shooting in Britain, and relatively low numbers of birds are shot. However, driven shooting was introduced from the Continent in the 19th Century, and the big landowners of the time used to compete to see who’s shoot could produce the biggest “bags” of birds, the total shot in a day. This model of shooting persists, and the big shoots still measure their success by the amount of birds shot. To produce big “bags” of birds, requires unnaturally high population densities of game birds, hence the systematic persecution of predators, which is connected to this style of shooting. For the very highest population densities of game birds, ruthless shoot managers must attempt to eliminate all predators, not just keep their population down.

      • 8 Robert Moss
        May 14, 2018 at 8:58 pm

        Yeah. The model of shooting that I called “hunting” involves a mindset common in e.g. Norway and Sweden. In the UK it is more often found amongst fishermen who may spend an entire day without catching a salmon but who nonetheless profess themselves to have had a good day just by being on the river. They often talk about other things – such as a colossal hatch of mayflies or a hobby amongst the swallows.

        The hunter has a richer experience than the bag-hunting shooter. If we could return to this pre-battue mindset then shooting estates could be run within the law and conservationists could rest happy.

        All that is needed is to educate both sets of protagonists to this point of view!

        • 9 crypticmirror
          May 14, 2018 at 10:55 pm

          Those fishermen also talk about culling cormorants, ducks, osprey, heron, otter, harbour seals, and porpoises, all for “taking [their] fish”. Not to mention an increasing number which deliberately use lead weights simply because they are banned and nobody is gonna tell them what to do. Maybe the angling community used to be better, but now it has been thoroughly infiltrated by the same godawful attitude that the rest of the huntin’ and shootin’ lobby has.

        • 10 Iain Gibson
          May 15, 2018 at 3:42 am

          Robert, you’re perfectly entitled to your honest, albeit libertarian opinion, but I can’t bring myself to agree. Your views come across as if looking through rose-tinted spectacles, especially your notion of these noble savages you prefer to call “hunters” rather than shooters. I have a few friends who fish that match your description, but those I have encountered in the shooting community don’t tie in with your notion of deeper human beings in an intellectual or philosophical sense. Quite the opposite in the majority of cases.

          • 11 Robert Moss
            May 15, 2018 at 10:06 am

            We seem to agree that the hunting mindset does exist. I advocate working towards it.

            But I also understand that negotiations are best started from extreme positions. So here we are.

  6. 12 George M
    May 14, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Aye, that tallies exactly with my experiences in the Angus Glens a few years ago, right down to a long term gamekeeper being replaced because he would not guarantee numbers. It’s fine having a “Model Estate” providing Wildlife Tours and having the odd rapror around but it solves nothing if a “sink estate” which is still intensely illegally persecuting raptors adjacant to it, as they benefit too, albeit to a lesser extent. Typical PR stuff to fool the public during this period of pressure on DGM’s. I also complained to the Fire Brigade due to frequent instances of burning on wondy days and the fire subsequently getting out of control necessitating interventions at cost to the wildlife, the flora and, of course, the public purse. Rumour has it, confirmed by some of those working as beaters, that due to the intense pressure and publicity the DGM industry is under at present, that methods of persecution have altered and high grade military equipment is being used. Mid to late evening is a favourite time for the persecution to take place due to the relative absence of people on the moor at that time. When I was younger if you spoke to a keeper it could be almost guaranteed you would hear a local accent. Not now, however, as many have been introduced from other areas and this has even broken the often fragile bond between small sheep farmers and the gamekeeping community, installing uncertainty and fear into those dependant on fealty to keep their homes and leases. Recently a plan was devised to bring the small sheep farmers back on board and the result of this is the current experimental and and scientifically unsupported cull of ravens, with a view to compensation being secured at some point in the future for a non existant problem. PR companies with military connections are now continually manufacturing propaganda designed to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in an attempt to legitimate a “sport” which relies on criminal behaviour to function.

    • 13 crypticmirror
      May 14, 2018 at 1:18 pm

      Fragile bond? Sheep farmers have always been enthusiastically in bed with the keeping fraternity, the willing complicity in seeing golden eagles killed and sea eagles extirpated entirely has been and continues to be an unbreakable bond.

      • 14 George M
        May 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

        Not in my experience, cryptic. It was accepted that in many cases tensions exist between the communities and these tensions were encouraged as the landowners say it as a method to help remain fully informed when each would inform the factor about the activites of the other. Sea eagles are an income stream for many of the struggling small sheep farmers today as they receive many grants related to their presence when it was, unwisely in my mind, accepted by SNH and the RSPB that the birds took a number of otherwise healthy lambs. This created common ground between the two groups.

    • May 14, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      I agree with you about “military grade equipment”. I’m fairly certain that the almost complete eradication of successfully breeding Hen Harriers is due to the use and availability of thermal imagers. Birders and ringers may be aware of the successful use of thermal imagers for finding and ringing waders roosting on the ground. Imagine how easy it is to find roosting Hen Harriers if you have a thermal imager.

  7. 20 Dougoutcanoe
    May 14, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Hideous comments that highlight that DGS is still in the realms of Victorian attitudes. Kill everything that might eat or disturb grouse or disturb someones blood lust or reduce profits.

    Money seems to play more than a key role.

    I consider a total ban will be the only way to stop the carnage.

    Doug

  8. May 14, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I suppose it would break some kind of law if someone compiled a statistical analysis of crimes and/or suspicious incidents against the names of the agents?
    It it was statistically highly valid it would be proof.

  9. 22 crypticmirror
    May 14, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Now if only someone can “Leak” the name of this insider, we might get somewhere.

    • May 14, 2018 at 4:17 pm

      Leak the name of the agents he is talking about but why would we want to leak the identity of a whistleblower? Maybe he should be offered a job as a conservation warden and then he would be free to spill the beans.

  10. 24 Dougoutcanoe
    May 14, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    From previous incidents, including threats of violence from the shooting industry, against anyone who hints at trouble in the industry. I think the insider is well to keep their ID secret.

    There will be a hunt, ongoing now, to find the insider. I dread to think of the consequences.

    Doug

    • 25 Michael Haden
      May 14, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      Cue the haunting tune of Apollonia

    • 26 crypticmirror
      May 14, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      May there be much collateral damage which hurts “innocent” gamekeepers too, maybe a few embittered fired keepers who want to get back at their ex-boss and who feel they may as well be fired for a sheep as a lamb will prompt some on the record and truly public candid comments on the industry. Failing that, a paranoid industry with keepers more concerned about covering themselves and distrusting their colleagues and bosses getting more and more paranoid and distrusting of employees can only be a good thing. It means it will be a step closer to it all falling apart.

    • 27 heclasu
      May 14, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      I totally agree Doug.

  11. 28 Andrew
    May 14, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Great that someone has come forward. Shame about the secrecy as it allows doubt to be cast on the accuracy of his statements, although the sound perfectly reasonable given all we know already.

    Two things confuse me.
    Tawny owls killing pheasant poults – maybe small ones in an open top pen – so cover it over – but not the size when they are generally released.

    Hen Harriers causing all the grouse on the moor to scatter?
    The natural and safe reaction to a bird of prey is to sit tight and hide in the heather. This reaction was used in the past to catch larks and other small moorland birds. A hobby would be flown causing the birds to stay hidden then large nets would be dragged over the moor to trap them. Beaters would then work the ground causing the birds to rise and get trapped in the net. Ergo I can’t see why a harrier passing over would clear the area the grouse would sit tight. I also doubt a harrier would come anywhere near a drive where the beaters are hollering and waving flags to flush the grouse and so disturb the direction of the driven grouse.

    Another complaint I have heard from shooters is that the birds won’t fly high if birds of prey are present.
    Check this video to see the reaction of a pheasant flushed with two falcons high in the sky above it.

    Close to the ground means the direction of travel to escape is limited by the ground below and the additional energy required to go up or just sideways in any escape manoeuvre. Height give them an advantage .

    Happy to be corrected/educated if anyone has anything to add.

    I think, as we know, enlightened attitudes and knowledge would help.

    • May 14, 2018 at 2:36 pm

      A few points. Firstly, the other year I watched a male Hen Harrier fly directly into where beaters and guns were on a driven pheasant shoot. Luckily it seemed to have survived, although I was worried at the time because after disappearing out of sight behind some scrub, there were a number of shots.

      I think there’s also a misunderstanding here. The tendency of game birds to disperse in response to predators, is not an issue of the birds fleeing at the time in the direct presence of the raptor. It’s that birds will tend to avoid areas where they regularly see raptors, and this causes dispersal of the unnaturally high population density of game birds, that the managers of driven shoots try to create.

      I’ll given an analogy. You get roofs, areas where pigeons like to roost and hang out. You get female Sparrowhawks which like to take advantage of this. You may have a roof or roofs where many pigeons gather. Once a Sparrowhawk has taken a few pigeons from these roofs, you won’t see many pigeons perched on these roofs for many months after.

      Shoot managers can create unnaturally high densities of game birds (remember these shoots have precise boundaries, and game birds which stray outside these boundaries are effectively lost to that shoot) with high levels of food – with grouse by Heather burning, and with pheasants, grain hoppers and supplementary feed. However, these unnaturally high populations of game birds will only stay in these areas, if there are no predators. Such unnaturally high prey densities attract predators, and the game birds respond by dispersing and moving from the areas where the predators are searching.

      These unnaturally high densities of game birds are not flocks which confuse predators. They are large gatherings of individual birds, which attract predators.

      • 30 Stewart McCallum
        May 14, 2018 at 7:35 pm

        If a hen harrier is present on a grouse moor on a driven day, it does effect the control of the birds. I’ve witnessed this twice. It’s true. Didn’t seem to happen when a golden eagle flew overhead. Don’t know if this was coincidence.
        But it’s not just game birds this happens with. I remember a few years ago now, I was across on Mull to watch sea eagles and whilst watching this eagle roasting for a while, it suddenly took off and I had no idea there was as many birds in the vicinity until it took flight. They all got up and scattered. Again, don’t know if this is common but can definitely vouch for the grouse and hen harrier effect.

  12. May 14, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    This was an excellent contribution to the understanding of the persecution of raptors and indeed mammalian predators on managed driven shoots, not merely grouse moors. You’ll notice that it highlights that raptors are persecuted not necessarily because they eat many grouse, but because their presence and hunting causes the unnatural high populations of game birds to disperse.

    Anyone who’s read my comments on here and elsewhere will be aware that I have repeatedly tried to highlight that shoot managers persecute raptors primarily because of the way they disperse the unnaturally high densities of game birds they try to produce, not necessarily because their predation results in lower numbers of game birds.

    This is a much misunderstood point. It will be seen that most discussions about the reason for the illegal persecution of raptors wrongly centre on the direct predation of grouse and pheasants by these raptors. Of course this does happen, but it is the disturbance and dispersal that driven shoot managers are most concerned about. It is a fundamental mistake to think this is about reducing the predation of game birds, because even if predation levels are low, dispersion levels due to the presence of predators, will still be high.

    The reason it’s so important to understand this point is because once you grasp the full implications of this, it will be realised why driven shoot managers persecute all raptors and not just major predators of grouse. It also explains why shoot managers aim to completely eliminate all predators, and not just reduce their population. It explains why driven shoots that aim to produce the biggest bags of game birds possible, will always be tempted to illegally persecute protected predators, not just raptors, but also protected mammalian predators. In reality those managing these large driven shoots are opposed to the legal protection of all predators, because it interferes with their objectives.

    The shooting industry does not want conservationists to understand this, because once conservationists understand this, it will be realised that there is a fundamental incompatibility between large scale driven shooting, and conservation.

    You see, large driven shoots have always measured their success on the amount of birds shot, the bag. To create these large bags means unnaturally high densities of game birds, which must be in the boundaries of that particular shoot. Game birds which stray outside the boundaries of that particular shoot, are effectively lost to the shoot, and these losses can be much higher than predation. To maintain these artificially high population densities of game birds you need two things. One a surplus of food, and secondly a total absence of predators, which will cause the game birds to disperse, even if they are not major predators of these game birds.

    • 32 tperry
      May 14, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      That’s extremely interesting; if RSPB understand this point regarding dispersal, why do they persist with their objective of licencing shoots when it is glaringly obvious that DGS (in its present form) is completely incompatible with the laws protecting raptors?

      • May 14, 2018 at 10:29 pm

        Precisely. I once came to the conclusion that the RSPB were just being very canny because a licence (if enforced) is just the same as a ban. Since then i doubt they are that cunning.
        The enforcing is the difficult (if not impossible) bit.

      • May 14, 2018 at 10:59 pm

        This is the whole thing. I used to think licensing was the way to go, purely on the grounds that it was more likely. But after Mark Avery’s petition I’ve changed my mind. I think the way grouse moor management works, is that ruthless managers will always persecute raptors if they can get away with it.

        Also it calls into question both diversionary feeding as experimented with at Langholm Moor and the flimsy premises of brood meddling. Supposedly diversionary feeding reduces grouse predation. But if shoot managers are more worried about the disturbance and dispersal, than actual predation, they’re not going to stop persecuting Hen Harriers etc, just because they aren’t eating many grouse.

        Likewise a justification for brood meddling, is that because the Harriers won’t be feeding chicks, they won’t be predating so many grouse chicks. But if shoot managers are more bothered about the disturbance and dispersal of quartering Hen Harries, and not just predation, it again won’t stop them persecuting them.

        In other words, if the grouse moor manager’s ideal situation is no predators and especially raptors, because they are very visible, and cause disturbance and dispersal of the high population densities of grouse the managers aim for – then they’re going to carry on persecuting raptors if they can get away with it.

        Clearly driven shooting is the problem, as it requires unnatural densities of game birds, which will disperse if there are raptors present. With none driven shooting, such as the more traditional style of walking up, grouse and other game birds are shot in far smaller numbers, so the big population densities are not necessary. In simple terms, driven shooting seems to be fundamentally incompatible with the conservation of raptors, because shoot managers wanting to maximize the bag sizes on driven shoots, will always see the elimination of raptors as the best way to maximize the population of game, birds, and therefore bag size.

        This is why it is essential that conservationists understand how shoot managers actually see things.

    • 35 Iain Gibson
      May 15, 2018 at 3:25 am

      I’m afraid my experience suggests otherwise. Gamekeepers and some grouse shooters try to justify their illegal persecution of harriers by inventing a variety of excuses to add to the harriers being direct predators of grouse chicks. In my opinion, on the basis of having observed harriers closely on grouse moors over a collective period of 22 years, a harrier hunting a grouse moor does not disturb all the grouse present, never mind driving them to “a neighbouring moor.” On many occasions when the shooting season has started, I have positioned myself on a vantage point where I can watch what is happening to a driven shoot. The presence of one or more harriers had no noticeable effect on the grouse, apart from the occasional bird being frightened by a harrier in close proximity. On only one occasion did I witness a harrier (an adult female) pursue and catch a fully grown grouse. In any case, if it were true that flocks of grouse deserted a particular moor due to the presence of a harrier, doesn’t that work to the shooters’ advantage if the harrier is hunting on a neighbour’s moor?

      I can’t agree that “hunting” grouse by the walk-up method makes any great difference to the persecution of raptors, especially hen harriers and buzzards, or the collateral environmental damage to the moor and its biodiversity potential by traditional management. Unless the practice is different elsewhere, my long term experience on three different moors suggests that harriers were equally persecuted on the non-driven moors. It is hard to accept that the walked-up method is somehow more noble than its counterpart. I concur with Chris Packham’s line that all hunting and shooting for the gaining of pleasure is morally unacceptable.

      • 36 AlanTwo
        May 15, 2018 at 9:28 am

        Even if there were some real difference in keeper behaviour between walked-up and driven grouse shooting initially, I have no doubt that it would gradually ‘morph’ into something just as damaging as the driven variety.
        In the same way that the fox hunters invented so-called trail hunting to get around the law and enable them to evade prosecution while carrying on much as before, the shooters would soon come up with a scam to let them keep daily bag numbers high.
        Most modern shooters are simply not interested in expending a lot of time and energy for a relatively small number of birds, and commercial competitive pressures will, in time, demand intensive management.

      • May 15, 2018 at 5:14 pm

        Firstly, I have not personally said grouse were disturbed and flew to a neighbouring estate. But that is how shoot managers perceive it, and this is what counts. It’s rather like the persecution of Foxes because of their supposedly taking lambs. The evidence is that Fox predation of live lambs is probably a lot lower than the perception of it by sheep farmers. Often Foxes get scapegoated to some extent due to poor animal husbandry. Please note, that I am not saying Foxes never take live lambs, but I am saying the frequency is probably much lower than how sheep farmers perceive it. But perception is everything, and that determines the level of persecution.

        What I did say personally is that it is likely unnaturally high densities of game birds, will probably have a tendency over time to disperse if their numbers attract lots of predators. You cannot observe this pattern of dispersion over time by looking from a vantage point.

        Nor have I ever implied that walking up is “more noble” than driven grouse shooting. This is misrepresenting what I said. It is a fact that with walking up, game birds are shot in far smaller numbers. Not just grouse, but any game birds. Likewise in walked up shooting, the size of the bag in shooting circles has never been a thing of competition, like driven shooting. When I was younger, even the Guinness Book of records, used to include bag size on driven shoots. But there was never any category for bag size on walked up shoots.

        My points about this are that because of various factors, it is less important to have very high population density of game birds on walked up shoots, than on driven shoots. Therefore overall with an end to driven shooting there would be less tendency to persecute predators, all predators. You say you haven’t noticed any difference in levels of persecution. Have you observed people trying to illegally persecute raptors, and if so have you reported it? Because if you haven’t observed the keepers trying to illegally kill raptors, then how do you know the levels of persecution were the same? I’m not trying to belittle your insight, but if it was that easy to know what keepers were up to, the problem would be solvable.

        For clarity I am not promoting walked up shooting. I am saying that if driven shooting was banned, that I believe the overall levels of illegal raptor persecution would be lower.

        • 38 Iain Gibson
          May 15, 2018 at 9:50 pm

          steb1, sorry that you have taken some of my comments so personally, but I was really only reacting to your point that “clearly driven shooting is the problem.” Most of the other comments which you denied making were actually made by other commenters in this thread. So my response was collective rather than personal.

          • 39 Stewart McCallum
            May 16, 2018 at 5:33 pm

            Raptors on a driven day (hen harrier/peregrine) will cause the grouse to be ‘jumpy’. Red kites and golden eagles don’t seem to have the same effect from what I’ve saw.
            Once these birds have been shot over a few times, the bigger coveys start appearing which is difficult enough to control on a drive. Throw into the mix a raptor on the moor, not hunting but in flight due to the shooting activity on the moor, then you have extremely hard grouse to control and out over the guns.
            On the point of fox preying on lambs, a fox does not just kill one lamb and disperse with it. Same as when it gets into a pheasant pen. It will kill at will. It couldn’t possibly eat all the birds it kills. It doesn’t kill just three or four.
            But in the sheep farmers defence and people who are not involved in agriculture will not understand this, but a dead lamb just doesn’t end there. There’s a strong possibility that you’ll loose the ewe too. Once the lamb is dead, the ewe is at peak lactation. She can’t just turn off milk production. Due to her not being suckled, the udder can become inflamed/irritated due to excessive milk being carried which in turn leads to mastitis, turns toxic/ecoli then death.

            • 40 Iain Gibson
              May 17, 2018 at 6:43 am

              Sorry Stewart, but there are several aspects of your comments that don’t quite ring true to me. You clearly have some experience of being involved in driven grouse shoots, but I’m dubious about your interpretation of events you may or may not have witnessed. I might be misjudging you, but I suspect some of the ‘facts’ you present have been picked up during after-shoot gossip or over-enthusiastic misconceptions fuelled by intoxicating substances. Why would a raptor not hunting, but “in flight due to the shooting activity,” be more likely to spook the grouse? Is it really that easy to determine or measure the added effect an over-flying raptor has on a group of grouse which are already nervous and wary due to being driven several times? I doubt it, and this sounds to me more like an imaginary perception rather than an objective observation.

              I’m not quite sure why you brought up the subject of foxes killing lambs and raiding pheasant pens, but again your perception of behaviour appears to be wildly exaggerated and a typical subject of banter after a few drinks. It’s also verging on anthropomorphism to imply that foxes are experiencing some sort of over-indulgent pleasure in killing as many poults as possible. Such behaviour is clearly driven by instinct, responding to an exceptional situation where the fox finds itself within an enclosure where the poults are effectively trapped. In any case, on the rare occasion when a fox does manage to enter a pen, this is likely to be down to poor maintenance by the gamekeeper. Your examples of foxes killing lambs are typical speculation which in my extensive observations of ravens, crows and foxes interacting with lambing ewes produced no evidence that such behaviour is typical. In my seven years of intensively observing fields of lambing ewes, I never witnessed a single incident of any of the attendant scavengers doing any such thing.

              • 41 Stewart McCallum
                May 17, 2018 at 8:18 pm

                Well, I can only tell you what I have witnessed and experienced in both the grouse and foxes. Yes, I have a bit experience on a grouse moor (not overly) and extensive experience in farming. The point on the foxes was raised by another contributor to the post. I’m not wanting to get into an arguement or rubbish your claims/counter claims but in your seven years of watching lambing ewes, I take it you have sat with night vision as well to see what goes on?
                As far as the grouse, as I said earlier in the thread, all I can say is what I’ve witnessed twice and saw the reaction from those on the ground trying to put the birds over the line. It is a problem and I’m not the only person saying this here.

                • 42 Iain Gibson
                  May 18, 2018 at 12:06 am

                  Stewart, my research was focused on Ravens, which do not feed at night so I did not use night vision equipment. Observations on foxes and Carrion Crows were incidental to my study of the Ravens. It was not uncommon for one or two foxes to be present at some points during each day’s observation, and not once did I see any significant interaction with lambing ewes or their lambs. The foxes simply performed similar foraging activity to the crows, mainly clearing up birthing material from the ground. The adult ewes, which would normally panic if an unfamiliar dog entered the field, showed no reaction whatsoever, apart perhaps from keeping an eye on the fox or half-heartedly driving it away if the fox came too close (i.e. one or two metres). If you are implying the foxes behave more aggressively at night, I don’t know of any evidence to support this hypothesis. In research studies where farmers supplied lambs which they believed had been killed by foxes, post mortem examinations revealed that the lambs had been partially eaten AFTER they had died, with no evidence that foxes or any other animal had caused the death.

                  I was interested to hear that you witnessed the grouse reaction to a passing raptor on only two occasions. I don’t mean to be competitive, but that nowhere near represents my numerous observations made over a cumulative period of 22 years! I can’t imagine how you were able to attribute the cause solely or primarily to the predator’s presence, when the grouse were already being disturbed by a line of beaters and no doubt some gunshot. I could go into more detail, but I’ll leave it there.

          • May 16, 2018 at 5:33 pm

            Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally. My overall point is that to address the problem, we have got to understand the problem. To what extent raptors disperse the artificially high population of game birds which the driven shooting industry creates, is probably debatable. However, what matters is how shoot managers see this. If they believe that all raptors and any predators will tend to disturb and disperse the population density of game birds which they are trying to create, the concomitant tendency will be to eliminate all predators. Certainly, even on shoots where shooting is mainly walked up, I’m certain that shoot managers will still see predators as a problem.

  13. 44 Paul V Irving
    May 14, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    I used to beat on a number of Yorkshire and Lancashire grouse moors between 1989 and 1996, so quite a while ago when persecution wasn’t quite as rife as it is now with grouse moor land values and the value of the shooting much less then even in relative terms. There were of course even then estates that would not use me as it was widely known I worked either for RSPB or the Yorkshire Dales NP in the breeding season, as it happens anything untoward I heard in the lunch hut was also passed to the appropriate authorities. Then even some harriers or peregrines were tolerated this topped with the results of the first Langholm study. However on some estates even then persecution of everything that might impact on either grouse numbers or the day itself and that sadly still applies to those same estates and a lot more besides. In order the most persecuted on English moors were and are Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Goshawk and Short-eared Owl, quite where Marsh Harrier, Buzzard or Raven fit in I’m no longer sure although they are all routinely killed and certainly prevented from breeding. There is only one answer given the unlikelihood of licencing being robustly policed or gov’t dislike of vicarious liability and that is to ban the whole stinking bloody thing. Remember even the few who do not persecute knowingly benefit from it.

  14. May 14, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Interesting comments from Alan Stewart.
    https://wildlifedetective.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/chris-packhams-interview-with-grouse-moor-informant/
    I am pretty sure this infamous agent has been mentioned a few times on RPUK.
    Alan mentions the common law charge of conspiracy as an option.
    It is because of that conspiracy and the fact that all estates profit from raptor crime that i consider all driven grouse shoots to be passive or active participants in organized crime.

    • 46 Paul V Irving
      May 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Indeed Anand the only way the few who do not persecute can avoid that charge is if they “shop” those they know who do and of course they quite clearly and very obviously fail to do that very thing. Thus they are ALL complicit

      • 47 Paul Fisher
        May 14, 2018 at 6:48 pm

        And wouldn’t the same apply to the police, politicians, magistrates, judges? If they know of course!
        Aiding and abetting is a crime is it not.

  15. May 15, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    It cant be repeated often enough that the “sport” or system known as driven grouse shooting, was invented in the 19th century when all predators could be and were, wiped out in huge numbers. That was the plan, that is the system…anything less than that is seen as a failure. There is no model for the co-existence of predators with huge numbers of grouse and there never was. All this chat about who is doing the killing and why, is a complete waste of time – its an entirely destructive, exploitative throwback to our uncivilised past and must be got rid…end of. Ban Driven Grouse Shooting, now.

  16. 49 Jack
    May 15, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    How are you ever going to ban a ‘sport’ thats infiltrated the complete upper echalons of our society??? Our government is brimming with scum who participate in hunting, our royals hunt and our government lives hand in pocket with the voting landowners who they rely on to keep them in power. Shooting, hunting whatever you want to call it, has just about managed to infiltrate the very grains of our culture and society. Its marketed as a ticket to the upper class system by idiots such as Botha
    ; and the look at me Essex-type brigade totally fall for it, “look Im wearing tweed and sipping a pint at a country lodge while my hound rests securely by the fire whilst my hunter wellies dry off in the Land Rover”. Its sickening. Its become part of a lifestyle everyone wants in on. Its marketed as sexy, fashionable and cool. Thats where they have the edge. Its become desirable whilst conservation and conservationists are slurred as being mad, fanatical, unsexy and not cool. Smash their image, show the public whats really going on! And expose the real enemy, purge parliament at the top and nature will finally have its day.


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