Archive for June, 2018

22
Jun
18

Preston man receives police warning for raven cull death threat

The BBC News website is reporting that a 47 year old man from Preston has been arrested and given a formal ‘harassment warning’ following an alleged death threat sent to SNH Chair Mike Cantlay over the controversial Strathbraan raven cull licence.

Good. This sort of behaviour is wholly unacceptable and it’s a shame this individual only received a warning, given the Sentencing Council’s guidelines for those who make threats to kill.

Interestingly, the BBC article places great emphasis on the fact that Chris Packham sent an email to Mike Cantlay in which he criticised SNH’s decision to issue the raven cull licence. We’re not sure why that’s relevant given that Chris’s email did not incite anyone to attack or threaten Mr Cantlay, and given that SNH received complaints from 1247 people but only one appears to have been stupid enough to include an alleged death threat. Perhaps the BBC is playing the same game as The Times, who, tipped off by SNH, published an article about the alleged death threat and ludicrously tried to link it to Chris’s email.

Then there are the usual clowns on social media who tried to use the alleged death threat to characterise those of us opposing the raven cull licence as “sickos”, “criminals” and “animal rights vijilantees” [sic].

Sadly for them, 795 of us have chosen not to send death threats nor indeed commit any other offence in reaction to the raven cull licence, but instead have decided to exercise our democratic right and support a lawful legal challenge against SNH’s decision to issue the licence. Over £19.5k has now been raised by an on-going crowdfunding appeal that aims to raise £25k by 4th July to cover legal costs.

If you’d like to donate to help support this legal action PLEASE CLICK HERE

And don’t forget you can now order #Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise (t-shirts & beanie hat) with 100% of profits going to the crowdfunder but hurry up, these are limited editions and are selling fast! (See here for order details).

Thank you

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20
Jun
18

Red kites found illegally poisoned at nest site

Press release from RSPB, 20 June 2018:

PAIR OF NESTING RED KITES FOUND POISONED IN COUNTY DOWN

RSPB (Northern Ireland) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are appealing for information after a pair of protected red kites died through illegal poisoning in County Down.

A male bird was found in distress close to a known nest site in the Katesbridge area on April 24. A member of the public alerted RSPB NI but the bird died shortly afterwards. When the RSPB NI red kite project officer attended the scene, she found the female parent bird immobile on the nest – she too was dead. A rescue mission was launched in an attempt to save three orphaned eggs found in the nest beneath the deceased mother.

[Photo by RSPB]

The bodies of the parent birds were collected and taken for toxicology testing by the PSNI. This has now revealed that both birds – known as Blue 21 and Red 63 because of their identifying tags – died from Carbofuran poisoning.

Red kites, along with all birds of prey, are protected in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011. Carbofuran is a highly toxic pesticide which has been banned across the EU since 2001 due to its high toxicity towards wildlife and humans.

Red kites mostly hunt within 2.5km of their nest site. The male bird brings food for the incubating female bird, so it is possible that the male bird found a poisoned bait – such as a rabbit – and likely brought this back to the nest to feed the female bird. The dead male’s first partner (Blue 13) also died by poisoning in 2014 in the same area.

Under licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the rescue operation ensured that the three eggs were fostered into two wild red kite nests, alongside other eggs, in the hope of saving them.

In one of the nests two transferred eggs failed as they were found intact (unhatched) during a follow-up inspection. In the other nest – which hosted one adoptive egg alongside two other eggs – one chick was found on the nest. As there were no egg shell remains it’s unknown if the sole chick on this nest was from the donor egg.

A nestcam was installed by RSPB NI to monitor this chick – which was named ‘Solo’ by RSPB NI red kite volunteers. This is the first time staff have been able to monitor behaviour and development as well as share the red kite’s early life with the public and schools participating in the RKites project, a funded red kite education and engagement project. A live stream on the nest is available to view at www.rspb.org.uk/niredkites

PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, said, “Incidents such as this give rise to concerns, as poisons are generally very dangerous. We would have serious concerns over any poison but particularly over Carbofuran. We are disappointed that we are still dealing with cases involving Carbofuran, an incredibly dangerous substance and one which can kill birds of prey but also a child, family pet or any adult coming into contact with it. We would remind the public that if they discover a bird of prey that they suspect has been poisoned or killed in any other suspicious circumstances to leave the bird/s and/or bait in situ and call the PSNI as soon as possible. If anyone has information about the use of Carbofuran and/or the death of these protected birds then we would be really keen to hear from them. The person responsible needs to be identified to ensure that no further risk is posed to other wildlife, domestic pets, or even humans.”

Claire Barnett, RSPB NI Conservation Team Leader, added: “We are shocked and saddened by what is the loss of a generation of red kites. With only around 20 breeding pairs in Northern Ireland, our red kite population is particularly vulnerable to persecution.

Carbofuran is an illegal and deadly poison and should not be used in our countryside. It is such an incredibly dangerous substance.

We would like to once again make it clear that red kites are mostly scavengers and feed on roadkill and other dead animals they find on their foraging flights. During the breeding season, adults will often hunt young crows, magpies, rats and rabbits. They are no threat to livestock or game.”

Red kites were persecuted to extinction across the island of Ireland 200 years ago. A decade ago this summer, in 2008, the RSPB – along with project partners the Golden Eagle Trust and Welsh Kite Trust – began a reintroduction project that has been successful in encouraging the birds to breed here.

Like all birds of prey in Northern Ireland, red kites are specially protected as a Schedule 1 species under The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). As a Schedule 1 bird, red kites are protected by special penalty and their nests are also provided with protection all year under Schedule A1. Those found guilty of persecution could be given a custodial sentence and/or fines of up to £5,000 per offence.

Mark Thomas, Senior Investigations Officer at the RSPB, said: “Carbofuran has a history of being used to kill birds of prey. Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected by law.

There have been 10 confirmed red kite persecution incidents recorded in this area in the last decade. This is not acceptable. We urge anyone with information about this incident to contact the police immediately on 101.”

Claire Barnett added, “We would like to thank communities, landowners and schools across Northern Ireland – particularly in County Down and County Armagh – for their ongoing support for the red kites project. There is always an outpouring of outrage when red kite persecutions are reported. It is so disappointing that a minority of people continue to endanger red kites by using illegal poisons including Carbofuran. But the majority of people here are behind the RSPB in our work to give these remarkable birds of prey a home in Northern Ireland.”

Anyone with information can contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting reference number 802 of 24/4/18.

ENDS

20
Jun
18

#Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise now available

As mentioned yesterday, our friends at the Probable Bird Society (@YoloBirder & @Stewpottery) have created some #Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise (t-shirt & beanie hat).

100% of profits are being donated to the SRSG crowdfunder, which is aiming to raise £25k to help cover the costs of a legal challenge against SNH’s decision to issue the raven cull licence.

These items are limited edition, only available to order for the next 7 days, and are already selling fast!

The t-shirt (available in ladies & mens design) is £13.99 and can be ordered here

The beanie hat is £10.99 and can be ordered here

If you’re interested in buying both the t-shirt and the hat, there’s a special bundle price of £21.99 and you can make your order here

Thanks a million @YoloBirder & @stewpottery and thanks to everyone who is helping to support the crowdfunding appeal.

19
Jun
18

Raven cull: a few updates

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve blogged and a number of people have expressed concern; thanks, but nothing to worry about, just a few personal issues being dealt with.

So, back to business. There have been a few developments on the Strathbraan raven cull licence since we last blogged.

Last Friday (15th June), SNH finally released its delayed response to the FoIs submitted in April, providing some background detail to the decision behind the raven cull licence. The documents can be accessed here.

It makes for a very interesting read, detailing at least some of the internal SNH correspondence about the licence application dating back to June 2017, and reveals staff concerns about the scientific evidence in support of the licence, the robustness of the scientific monitoring proposed for the duration of the cull, the issue of trust given the history of illegal raptor persecution in the cull area, and the issue of some agricultural practices (potentially illegal) in the area that could be impacting on wader populations. There were also concerns that information about the licence application may be leaked by this blog – gosh, heaven forbid that the activities of a public body might be subject to public scrutiny, despite SNH’s claims of a ‘commitment to high standards of openess and transparency’!

We don’t intend to comment further on these documents at this stage so as not to prejudice the Scottish Raptor Study Group’s intention to launch a legal challenge in the form of a judicial review.

And on the subject of the legal challenge, work has continued apace behind the scenes with the collation of evidence and a QC has now been instructed. The SRSG awaits his formal advice about various technicalities (that have little to do with the actual challenge but more to do with legal procedure) before deciding how best to proceed with an application for judicial review.

The crowdfunder set up to help pay for this legal advice and costs is doing very well, currently standing at over £17k. The initital target of £10k (required for lawyers to be instructed) was smashed on the first day and there are now two weeks remaining to reach the stretch target of £25k. Thanks to the 746 people who have donated so generously to this appeal; the response has been fantastic.

If you’d like to make a contribution to the crowdfunder please CLICK HERE

In other fundraising news the ever-creative @YoloBirder has designed some fantastic t-shirts and other merchandise and all sales profits will be put towards the crowdfunder. What a star! We’ll blog with details of how to order these as soon as the information is available (imminently).

Meanwhile, in England there is news that Natural England has, or will be (it’s not quite clear which) issued licences to cull ravens in several counties. The details of the scale of these culls are scant but there are two useful blogs to read on this subject: Dr Rob Sheldon’s blog (here) and RSPB Martin Harper’s blog (here). We understand enquries are being made of Natural England to clarify some details.

06
Jun
18

Raven cull: legal challenge crowdfunder smashes £10k target on Day One!

Yesterday the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) launched a crowdfunder to raise funds to cover the costs of a legal challenge against SNH’s decision to issue a raven cull licence to grouse moor owners and gamekeepers in Strathbraan, Perthshire.

The legal challenge will take the form of the SRSG applying to the courts to seek a judicial review of the decision-making process used by SNH when they agreed to issue the licence.

The initial crowdfunder target was set at £10k and the SRSG had just 30 days to raise these funds. The SRSG couldn’t instruct its lawyers until this funding was secured.

From the minute the crowdfunder page went live at 7am yesterday, donations streamed in, some large, some small, all of them important. By 9pm, the initial target of £10k had been smashed. What an overwhelming response! As @RareBirdAlertUK wrote on Twitter, ‘If SNH was under any illusion about the strength of feeling against the raven cull, they won’t be after today’.

It’s doubtful SNH was under any illusion though. A recent FoI response received by one of our blog readers revealed that SNH received 1247 emails about the raven cull licence. Of those, just 73 were supportive. The rest (1,174) were “either unsupportive or seeking clarification of [the licensing] approach“. That’s a lot of angry and/or bemused people.

Over 500 people have donated to the crowdfunder so far –  and it’s only Day 2 – all of them in support of the SRSG’s decision to launch this legal challenge, and it’s not hard to see why they’d be supportive. SNH has been given every opportunity to explain and answer straightforward questions about the raven cull licence over the last six weeks but has simply ducked and dodged and refused to engage on any meaningful level. So much for its claimed ‘commitment to high standards of openness and transparency’. The public has clearly had enough.

The success of the crowdfunder was picked up by The National and there’s an article in today’s edition (here). It doesn’t provide any new information except for SNH saying it was ‘wrong to suggest the raven cull could lead to a cull on other birds’ and an SNH spokeswoman was quoted: “This is a community-based application which seeks to bring a balance between species, bringing back waders from the brink whilst still maintaining a healthy national population of ravens“.

Wrong to suggest the raven cull could lead to a cull on other birds? Really? Perhaps the spokeswoman hadn’t listened to this interview given by Nick Halfhide (Director of Sustainable Development at SNH) in early May who said, “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things so we can really test to see what we can learn from this kind of approach“.

The solicitor handling the raven cull legal challenge (Sindi Mules of Balfour & Manson LLP) has now been instructed and the QC will be instructed imminently, so as preparations begin for the legal proceedings there will be no further commentary on the details of this case until the lawyers advise differently.

Meanwhile, the SRSG’s crowdfunder is open for the next 28 days and now has a stretch target of £25k. At the moment it’s already halfway there at £12.5k.

If you’d like to donate please click here and please do keep sharing it on social media and amongst friends, family and colleagues.

#Justice4Ravens

THANK YOU!

05
Jun
18

Legal challenge against raven cull licence: your help needed!

Regular blog readers will be well aware that in April 2018, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) issued a licence permitting the killing of ravens in Strathbraan, a large area of Highland Perthshire ( and a recognised raptor persecution hotspot) on the basis of ‘seeing what happens’ to wader populations as part of a five-year ‘experiment’.

Many of us believe this raven cull has absolutely nothing to do with ‘protecting waders’ and nor is it based on sound scientific evidence. When you look at how much grouse moor lies within the cull area (here) and look at who is behind the licence application (here), it becomes quite apparent that this raven cull is more likely to be about protecting stocks of red grouse than it is about waders.

Unsurprisingly, this controversial licensing decision resulted in public uproar and hundreds of complaints were lodged with SNH, questions have been asked in Parliament and over 168,000 people have signed a petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of the licence.

However, since the news broke six weeks ago SNH has consistently failed to answer some pretty simple questions about this licence. Instead, the details have remained shrouded in secrecy and responses to numerous FoI requests have been delayed.

If we were cynics we might think that SNH was deliberately stalling for time to frustrate any chance of an application for judicial review (SNH will know very well that an application for a judicial review needs to be lodged at court within a limited timeframe). Why else would SNH behave as it has, when according to its own website SNH is supposedly ‘committed to high standards of openness and transparency’. They’re having a laugh, aren’t they?

Open, responsive, collaborative and inclusive? It appears the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) doesn’t think so and today it’s launching a crowdfunder to help fund an application for judicial review.

A judicial review is a legal challenge to the decision-making process used by SNH (as opposed to the actual decision to issue the licence) and there are two main stages to this:

Stage one is an application to the court seeking permission for a judicial review. If the judge considers there are sufficient grounds to proceed, the application moves to stage two, which is the substantive hearing where legal arguments are made by both sides.

Applying for a judicial review is a bold move and the SRSG will not have entered this process without plenty of consideration to the risks involved, but in this case SNH has left them with little option, especially as it has indicated that similar licences may be authorised to kill protected birds of prey, again on the basis of ‘just seeing what happens’.

SNH’s refusal to discuss its justification for this licence, and with many MSPs refusing to support a Parliamentary motion calling for the withdrawal of the licence, leads to two choices: either sit and complain from the sidelines or get stuck in and seek a legal remedy through the courts.

We applaud the SRSG’s stance but it’s not applause they need – it’s funding support. Judicial reviews don’t come cheap and neither do top barristers (although in this case a formidable QC has generously offered his services at a reduced rate).

This is where your help is needed. The SRSG needs to raise £10k ASAP to get the ball rolling and get the judicial review application to stage one. They are working against the clock because that application needs to be lodged very soon if they’re to meet the deadline. If the application is successful, more funds will need to be raised to proceed to stage two (the hearing).

If you’re as angry as the rest of us about this raven cull licence and the way SNH has behaved, please consider making a donation to the SRSG’s crowdfunder which will go live at 7am today:

HERE IS THE LINK TO THE CROWDFUNDER PAGE.

Please also help spread the word, especially on social media using the hashtag #Justice4Ravens

Thank you




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