Moorland Association’s response to peregrine persecution on Bleasdale grouse moor

The Moorland Association’s response to the RSPB video published on Wednesday is an interesting read.

For new blog readers, the Moorland Association is a lobby group representing the interests of grouse moor owners in England.

Here’s the video again, for those who might have missed it, showing an unidentified individual attending a peregrine nest site where an adult male peregrine had been caught in a spring trap on the nest ledge, and where it thrashed around for over ten hours in a desperate attempt to escape before finally being removed by the unidentified individual. We believe this nest site to have been located on a grouse moor on the Bleasdale Estate in Bowland in April 2016 and that the video footage published by the RSPB related to the prosecution of a Bleasdale Estate gamekeeper – a case that collapsed in April this year due to a series of legal technicalities.

Here’s the Moorland Association’s statement in response to the publication of this video nasty:

The opening line is astonishing: “The suffering of the Peregrine in the RSPB blog is barbaric and abhorrent“.

The peregrine didn’t suffer “in the RSPB blog”, it suffered at its nest site on a driven grouse moor.

A more sincere and accurate Moorland Association statement might have looked like this: “The suffering of the Peregrine in the illegally-set trap that was positioned at the Peregrine’s nest site on a grouse moor on the Bleasdale Estate, a Moorland Association member, is barbaric and abhorrent“.

The rest of the Moorland Association’s statement deflects attention away from the peregrine’s suffering as a result of this crime and instead focuses on trying to undermine the integrity and credibility of the RSPB, as we’ve come to expect.

Not only did the Moorland Association ignore the fact this peregrine suffered on a driven grouse moor (the words ‘grouse moor’ don’t appear anywhere in the MA’s statement!), but it also carefully sidestepped the fact that the grouse moor in question was, at least at the time this footage (and the peregrine) was captured, a Moorland Association member.

How do we know that? Well, as we blogged back in April 2018 when the court case collapsed (see here), in April 2016 when the alleged offences took place, the owner of the Bleasdale Estate was one Jeremy Duckworth, who also happened to be a Director and Regional Representative of the Moorland Association. Here’s a screengrab from the Moorland Association website in 2016:

Strangely, according to documents lodged at Companies House, Mr Duckworth resigned his Directorship of the Moorland Association in September 2016. There are many different reasons why people resign from Directorships but it’s interesting to note that the timing of Jeremy Duckworth’s resignation coincided with the early stages of the police investigation in to the alleged offences on his grouse moor – obviously nothing to do with damage limitation and purely and simply coincidental, of course:

We wonder whether the Bleasdale Estate is a still a member of the Moorland Association?

We wonder whether the Moorland Association is concerned that an unidentified camouflaged individual was able to repeatedly visit this peregrine nest site on the grouse moor of a Moorland Association member and inflict what looks like unimaginable cruelty to this peregrine?

We wonder whether the Moorland Association is concerned that an unidentified armed individual was able to visit this peregrine nest site and fire four shots as another adult peregrine flew from the nest?

We wonder whether the Moorland Association is concerned about the widespread, systematic persecution of peregrines on driven grouse moors in England, as evidenced by an increasing number of scientific papers (here, here, here)? Incidentally, this last paper, ‘Raptor Persecution in the Peak District National Park’ by Melling et al was published by British Birds in May 2018 but the full paper was only available to BB subscribers. British Birds has now kindly published this paper in full so everyone can read it – see here).

We wonder whether the Moorland Association still expects to be considered a genuine partner in the fight against the illegal persecution of raptors on driven grouse moors when it seems to take every opportunity to attack the RSPB’s Investigations Team instead of those responsible for enabling and carrying out these barbaric crimes?

[Photo of an illegally-killed peregrine found next to a driven grouse moor, photo by RSPB]

28 Responses to “Moorland Association’s response to peregrine persecution on Bleasdale grouse moor”

  1. 1 Mike Haden
    August 10, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    When I first read the MA’s comment I thought is was a piece from the Daily Mash or News Thump

  2. 2 SuffolkBoi
    August 10, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Even more so, reading some of the grouse shooting fraternity comments..some are claiming that animal welfare types will go to such extremes as to plant spring traps and the evidence in order to discredit the shooting fraternity. As they claim, all they want to do is have a go at the RSPB and in some cases blame vegans!

    • 3 Coop
      August 10, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      A blatant attempt at deflection from the youtube page….

      “Unless they caught the person who actually committed the act, and had evidence that it was them that done it, then of course the case would have failed. There are huge problems with illegal taking of protected species, both for the pet trade – taking chicks, and eggs off of nests after killing the parents, egg collectors taking eggs, and people killing the parents for taxidermy. Its disguting, and is something that is condemmed by the vast majority of shooters.”

      Who do these nanas think they’re kidding?

  3. 4 Barney
    August 10, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Excellent response to these clowns who call themselves the moorland association, I can think of another name for that lot but I won’t put it on here

  4. 5 David
    August 10, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    FFS I am so sick of it being called covert camera footage, clandestine operations etc IT WAS A MONITORING CAMERA placed under licence at a Schedule 1 nest site to ascertain productivity of the species – it actually filmed numerous crimes which should really have been dealt with properly – the biggest problem with this whole affair is the **** poor barrister employed to prosecute. I am sure I could have put up a better argument than he did. The Judge was not much better really folding to a smart argument.

    What it does show if you have the money to employ a barrister like Johnny Cochrane you can get away with anything !

    What do we do next – I feel despondent because this has set a president to all camera footage

    I feel that the Polices hands are tied but I also feel that there are other forces at work so they do not push as hard as they should due to power and money.

    If I went and battered the xxxxxxx in question and there was no evidence at all the Police would do everything in their power to covict me – Yet here there is evidence that would convict anyone outside a Grouse Moor and they roll over and have thier tummy tickled

    [Ed: Worth noting that the legal decision in this case does NOT set a precedent for future cases. Each case has to be assessed on its individual circumstances]

    • August 10, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      I agree…and in Scotland we should also be backed by our right to access for research purposes. I think it should be sufficient for the RSG’s to write to all landowners and inform them that we will be undertaking cctv research on raptor nests. We do not need to tell if it will actually happen, we do not need to tell then which species and where. All they need to know is that responsible people are exercising their right to undertake research on rare birds prices on their land. With that knowledge they can not claim that the cameras are “covert” . And as they and their staff will never deliberately be interfering or disturbing the nest sites they should be relaxed about the situation.

    • 7 Dylanben
      August 10, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      You appear to have inside knowledge of the circumstances in which this camera was installed, though it is not clear what you mean by it being ‘…. placed under licence at a Schedule 1 nest site …’. Whatever this might mean, it would appear to be beyond dispute that this was done without the permission of the landowner. Whatever the objective – whether genuinely placed to record the outcome of the breeding attempt or to record the activities of someone operating on the dark side of the law – the camera appears to have been both hidden and unauthorised. Whether you call this, monitoring, covert or clandestine activity is up to you, but the fact remains that it recorded some very significant detail which adds to the increasing wealth of evidence against the dark side – even though the prosecution failed.

      As regards Mr Yip, it would appear that he had very little opportunity to get to grips with his brief. I recently saw the publication ‘The Secret Barrister’ referred to by RPUK. I have purchased a copy and am finding it an intriguing read. What comes across very strongly are the shortcomings of the CPS, it being nothing new for the heap of files that the prosecuting barrister receives on arrival at court to be the first he has seen of the cases he has to present that day. This is not to place all the blame on the CPS staff in run of the mill cases – rather, it is suggested that it was under-funded when it was set up in 1986 and that the situation has got much worse since then due to budget cuts and consequential staff losses. Notwithstanding this, I place much of the blame for the particular Bleasdale court case fiasco on them. They had agreed that the case should be prosecuted, no doubt in the full knowledge of its strong dependency on video evidence. They would have been aware of the complex nature of the potential arguments on the admissibility, or otherwise, of this form of evidence. However, it appears that they did nothing to ensure that the prosecution they had authorised received expert representation in court, by someone who had seen the papers sufficiently far in advance to give the case any chance of succeeding. Poor Mr Yip!

      As to where we go next, we need a full review of the question of admissibility of video evidence. It is a farce that such evidence might show a heinous crime being committed – such as the trapping of the male Peregrine in the Bleasdale case – only for it to be ruled out of court on a technicality. It is either evidence which shows the committing of a crime or it is not. There has been criticism of the RSPB elsewhere for it’s apparent lack of pre-planning of its video evidence gathering activity. No doubt, if given several weeks notice of a forthcoming event such as a pair of Marsh Harriers settling to breed on a North Yorkshire grouse moor or a pair of Peregrines setting up shop in a notorious black spot, there would be time to go through the proper protocols. However, things don’t always happen like this. A field-worker will find the birds already nesting and, given the known risks in the area, urgent action becomes imperative. Call it ‘on the hoof’ if you like, because that’s basically what it is – of necessity! Had due process been applied in the North Yorkshire Marsh Harrier case, it is highly likely that the offences would have been committed long before a camera was installed.

  5. August 10, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    If the police were doing their jobs properly they would be the ones setting the covert video equipment and investigating the crimes. It’s the same with the people who criticise the RSPCA: both organisations, charities relying on public funding, are doing jobs abdicated by the statutory authorities, which is why the dishonest platitudes of people like the Moorland Association can be made.

    It is this country’s shame that our governments and judiciary lie about taking wildlife crime seriously, whilst their every action belies that fact. It is to the credit of the people of this country that they support investigative organisations like the RSPCA and the RSPB, despite the continual propaganda campaigns waged to try and discredit them.

    It is unfortunate that too many people who should know better forget those facts.

    • August 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      Hi Simon,

      The police are not able to install covert cameras on private land unless they have authorisation under RIPA. That authorisation is only available for what are termed ‘serious crimes’ (as judged by the Sentencing Council). Wildlife crime is not classified as ‘serious crime’ on this basis, so RIPA authority would not be granted.

  6. 11 Dave Harrison
    August 10, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    They say lightening never strikes twice BUT. I remember a case recently when a cache of buried poisons was found on a moor in the Northern dales. If memory serves me right again it was the East Arkengathdale Estate It was videod too and got thrown out in court. The factor/agent for the Estate in question was the local MA rep for the Yorkshire Dales. The case was covered on RPS blog at the time. Odd coincidence ‘if’ my memory is working?

  7. 17 Ben Gunn
    August 10, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    With a response like this is it any wonder that raptor persecution and wildlife crime continues to be a major problem.

    Gamekeepers are clearly being supported and protected by landowners and the shooting industry in general.

    Selfish, horrible ,disgusting, common criminals who are profiting by killing our wildlife.

  8. 18 Pheasant beater
    August 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Prosecution, or not, the MA are clearly rattled by covert cameras.
    Well done RSPB Investigation.
    Keep up the great work.

  9. 19 kevinj
    August 10, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Since the Moorland Association are such firm believers in preventing persecution of Birds of Prey surely the problem of legality of the cameras can easily be solved for the grouse moors owned by their members by requiring all their members to permit cameras to be placed watching the nests.
    What reason would these valiant protectors of raptors have to do otherwise?

    • 20 Dylanben
      August 10, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      Invasion of privacy and interference with the perceived right to blast or trap anything that is not a Red Grouse. Simple as that.

  10. August 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Ratchetting up the pressure on the moorland criminals is rattling them & their apologists.

    The sad & sickening losses of our raptors will not be in vain – they will win with our help but it won’t be soon.
    Just look at the huge increases in large raptor species that have happened all over UK outside driven grouse moors and intensive lowland game shoots in the last 40 years.
    This has occurred after the removal of persistent pesticides, not simply because of that removal.
    The keepers are simply the slaves of the industry and must be freed to more fulfilling employment if they are able !

    Keep up the pressure !

    Oh, and publicise….publicise….publicise !

  11. August 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Another denial by the moorland association where it would be easy to track the individual, yet another cover up.

  12. 23 dave angel
    August 11, 2018 at 12:12 am

    The Moorland Association could make it a condition of membership that the Police and RSPB be allowed to install covert cameras to monitor nest sites.

    That way they could play their part in stamping out wildlife crime.

  13. August 12, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Sharing FB post from Yorkshire Dales National Park –
    Yorkshire Dales National Park
    10 August at 13:51 ·
    ‘Sound condemnation’ needed of raptor persecution

    The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will present evidence-based data on birds of prey persecution in the Park at a Northern England Raptor Forum open day in Grassington tomorrow.

    ‘Sound condemnation’ needed of raptor persecution
    The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will present evidence-based data on birds of prey persecution in the Park at a Northern England Raptor Forum open day in Grassington tomorrow.

    • August 12, 2018 at 5:27 pm

      YorkshireDales.org.uk post in full – “Bainbridge, 10 August, 2018

      The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will present evidence-based data on birds of prey persecution in the Park at a Northern England Raptor Forum open day in Grassington tomorrow.

      Wildlife Officer Ian Court will be one of seven ‘expert speakers’ at the free Devonshire Institute event, which is taking place from 1000-1400.

      As well as presenting the Authority’s recent birds of prey evidence report, he will speak about a new objective in the draft Yorkshire Dales Management Plan. The objective commits the organisations that sign up to the Plan to work with landowners and land managers to achieve and maintain sustainable populations of raptors such as hen harrier and merlin by 2025.

      The Authority’s Chief Executive, David Butterworth, said reaction to recent news that hen harriers had fledged in the National Park for the first time since 2007, while a red kite had been found shot dead near Bolton Abbey, showed there was a lot of work to be done:

      “Some people have reacted to the reports of a successful nesting attempt of hen harriers as if all the problems of persecution and expanding the breeding range have been resolved. Others have been so negative as to barely acknowledge what has happened as a ‘good thing’. That is disappointing and is probably reflective of the lack of trust between many involved in these issues. From our point of view, we won’t be getting into either of these ‘trenches’ throwing barbs at each other. Our only concern is to assist in the efforts to stop criminal persecution and to see more of these magnificent birds in the National Park. Anything that gets in the way of that objective is an indulgence.

      “In terms of the successful Cumbria nesting attempt, thanks to the work of Natural England we had fantastic support from the landowner, and a lot of co-operation from the shooting interests. It was good to hear the Moorland Association welcome the news of the successful breeding and recognise that every organisation had a few ‘bad apples’ that needed to be rooted out. From a personal perspective, I’d like to see an increasing hen harrier population include successful breeding pairs in the Yorkshire part of the National Park. I’d also like to hear a sound condemnation of any criminal persecutions should they continue to take place. The recent shooting of the red kite, found at Bolton Abbey, shows we have a long way to go.”

      The Northern England Raptor Forum has said it is hosting tomorrow’s event in Grassington to help raise public awareness of the levels of illegal persecution faced by raptors in northern England.”

  14. 26 Paul V Irving
    August 14, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    We need to highlight the hypocrisy of the MA ask awkward questions of them make them embarrassed or look embarrassing to be friends with them
    so Amanda Anderson are Bleasdale and their owner Mr Jeremy Duckworth still members? Are Langbar and Denton and their tenant Tim Hare Vice Lord-Lieutenant of of West Yorkshire still members?
    Are Mossdale Estate and their owners the Van Cutsem family still excluded from membership?
    Is Snilesworth Estate, remember them, members?
    Given the East Arkengarthdale poisons cache how do they justify Adrian Thornton-Berry being their representative on the YDNP management committee?
    Given all the Red Kite poisoning and shooting in the area is Blubberhouses Moor and its owner Major Marriott members?
    Perhaps those attending RPPDG meetings should ask this of Amanda Anderson too!
    Perhaps each time a satellite tagged harrier “disappears” on a grouse moor one of the first questions asked should be are they MA members?

  15. August 14, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Yorkshire Dales National Park
    1 hr ·
    Our Wildlife Officer, Ian Court, tells Campaign for National Parks about our determination that the illegal persecution of raptors in the Dales is brought to an end so that iconic species such as the hen harrier can return to the uplands.


    Birds of Prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park | Campaign for National Parks

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