Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: BASC

The publication of the hen harrier satellite tag paper on Tuesday (here) that provided compelling evidence to highlight, yet again, the link between grouse moors and the illegal killing of hen harriers, has resulted in a flurry of responses from various individuals and organisations.

We’ll be looking at these responses in turn.

Yesterday we looked at the response of Supt Nick Lyall, Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (here).

Today we’re examining the response from the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC).

BASC was quick to publish a lengthy statement on its website and at first glance it looks convincing. BASC accepts that raptor persecution is a problem and calls for its members to help stamp it out:

The statement starts off very strongly but the message gets progressively lame as you scroll down the page, with BASC feeling the need to justify the ‘benefits’ of grouse shooting and then make some incredulous claims about the so-called ‘success’ of last year’s hen harrier breeding season, which actually looks like something that’s been cut and pasted from the Moorland Association’s website.

Nevertheless, we could forgive BASC its small piece of propagandist nonsense because hey, the main message (about stamping out illegal raptor persecution) is clear and it looks like it’s based on sincerely held views.

But wait a minute! Some of the phraseology in BASC’s statement looks awfully familiar.

There are criminals among us“, “Terminal damage“, “We must all take personal responsibility“, “Ensuring the criminal minority do not ruin it for the lawful, ethical majority“, “I want my grandchildren to enjoy shooting“.

Haven’t we heard this before? Ah yes, 16 months ago in November 2017 in response to the RSPB’s Birdcrime report, BASC published a strong position statement in The Times (here) (for which BASC earned well-deserved credit) using some of these very same phrases and then a further piece for the BASC website (here) again using some of these very same phrases. For example, here’s what BASC Chairman Peter Glenser wrote for the BASC website at the time:

Sorry, BASC, but it’s just not as convincing when you can’t respond spontaneously to the results of the hen harrier satellite tag paper but instead rely upon regurgitating a previous media statement just because it got you some good press the first time around, and just attribute it to a different member of staff each time.

To be fair to BASC, it is seen by many in the conservation community as the most progressive of the game-shooting organisations although let’s be honest, the bar is set pretty low and some of its individual staff members need to attend a ‘how not to behave in a way that will embarrass your employer and alienate the public on social media and in real life’ course.

But words are just words and they’re easy to churn out (especially if you’re simply cutting and pasting from an earlier piece). What about actions? What action has BASC taken to demonstrate a commitment to rooting out the criminals amongst its membership and wider industry since what it called the “watershed moment” to do exactly that back in November 2017?

Errrrr……boycotting the first meeting of the RPPDG chaired by Nick Lyall in January (see here, here and here)?

Or perhaps appearing to accept a significant donation from a company owned by somebody long-involved with the sporting management of various estates throughout the UK, some of which are notorious for their appalling record of confirmed and alleged raptor persecution crimes?

BASC’s rhetoric might be fooling some, but……

13 Responses to “Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: BASC”

  1. 1 Mr Greer Hart
    March 21, 2019 at 4:09 am

    I have been long in the saddle in the humane task of saving many life forms, plants, animals, insects, and whatever makes up the fascinating way Life has taken form on Earth. When I read the statement from BASC, I actually believed that there had come into existence some form of conscience for what some of its members had allegedly been accused of, namely, the extermination of Birds of Prey and any other creatures that may affect game bird numbers. In a world, where being totally absolute is a state difficult to achieve, I thought some form of middle ground could be reached, whereby, the more humane of the game bird shooting activity, would influence the more sanguine members to desist from the alleged persecution of predatory creatures, supposedly impacting unacceptably on game bird numbers. However, my optimism has been dispelled by more experienced people than I am, on the matter of trusting the verbal and printed intent of a major proponent organisation, namely, BASC.

    Over the past five years, I, and many others, have been saddened to witness a terrible increase in the harrying of wildlife all over the planet. This unreasonable threat to many species, has been accompanied by habitat destruction by various forces, bent on extracting the maximum resource return, to supply industry and rising population on an exponential scale. In my naivete, at one point, I thought the UK would set an example, by firmly, but fairly conceding some concessions to those who sought “sport” in the form of shooting, if they relinquished the egregious slaughter of protected Birds of Prey, and other creatures that the general public wished to see included.

    Thankfully, I live in a society which is quick to respond to social injustice and unnecessary suffering, whether of human or animal. We now have a large majority among the UK population which is determined to fight for and fund, any cause that is humanitarian. It has also developed a mentality free of the old dogma that the countryside and by extension, the whole world environment and its life forms, are better managed by country folk and companies seeking ways to supply us with resources that have come at too great a cost in loss of biodiversity and human suffering. In the UK, we can no longer trust the words of the shooting estate land managers, and to not entrust politicians with installing and enforcing laws to protect the natural environment, if they are ridden with get out clauses and limp punishments. Moreover, the humane part of the UK population cannot understand why some people HAVE TO shoot some creature, and in great numbers, and to not be challenged over such an obsession. The BASC statement actually acknowledges the danger of allowing the persecution of Birds of Prey, to continue, but it must know that those involved in shooting, have a strong element who will not heed the plea to accept such restraint.

    Raptor Persecution UK is the rallying point for the drive to bring better management to our countryside. Pleas for funding campaigns by individuals and organisations, produce bountiful results, showing the enthusiastic depth of concern. The battle is not going to be easy, as the opposition is deeply entrenched in many areas of our society, and we must not allow any political group or other cause, to hijack our purpose to rid our countryside of a centuries old, repressive grip, that can old lead diversity of life forms, to almost extinction. Those who seek to clamour for the cruel management of our natural environment to continue, have only themselves to blame when the inevitable will happen to their “sport”.

    • 2 Gordon Shaw
      March 21, 2019 at 8:14 am

      Well said. I think social media has a lot to do with this empowerment, lets keep fighting.

    • 3 Janet Hoptroff
      March 21, 2019 at 9:54 am

      Well said. Words are easy, and attract publicity… BASC needs to take positive action NOW if we are to give any credence to its statements.

  2. March 21, 2019 at 9:03 am

    However, the paper does not support the claim that it is a “criminal minority” as the BASC misleadingly claims. The paper provides evidence that the persecution of Hen Harriers if rife across the majority of managed grouse moors. This is why this response lacks all credibility. It’s trying to perpetrate the fallacious “few bad apples” narrative.

  3. 5 Paul Fisher
    March 21, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Can somebody please explain to me just what is ‘Ethical’ about shooting animals for fun.
    Grandchildren enjoying sustainable shooting? FFS. These people are sick.

    • 6 Les Wallace
      March 21, 2019 at 10:33 am

      When I read the statement the first time when I came to ‘I want my grandchildren to see….’ I honestly thought it was going to say ‘hen harriers and other birds of prey’, but of course it didn’t! You’re right grandchildren plus shooting sums up their limited perspective and sickness. ‘FFS’ definitely!

  4. 7 Paul V Irving
    March 21, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Perhaps if we take the statement at face value BASC really mean what they say even if it is just part of self preservation. The best of shooting organisations– not sure personally that any of them are worth much in that regard but then as you say the bar is very close to ground level. Even if we accept what they say and many of the wildlife criminals we are discussing are probably members they need to demonstrate rather well that ACTION SPEAKS LOADER THAN WORDS. Do something positive and we may just believe you!

    • March 21, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      Absolutely. Redpath, XXXXXXXXXXXX and co. and BASC use this report as further evidence to go ahead with legalized nest removal. Perverse in the extreme. If the BASC expected their copy and paste job to work we wouldn’t ‘need’ the HH Action Plan. The whole scheme is based on the acceptance of criminality, organized criminality. If the XXXXX XXXXX were just a few bad apples that need reigning in we wouldn’t be on the verge of HH extinction in England and we wouldn’t need brood removal. They still haven’t faced up, or publicly acknowledge the fact that this criminal activity is widespread, entrenched, and the business plan of the vast majority, possibly all, of these estates. Those maps prove it once and for all. Of course they are also playing it both ways. It is a few bad apples AND the crime is so widespread that even if they could effect the behaviour of some of their members they know it won’t work and call for legalized brood removal. It can’t be both and they have to stop lying to themselves XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX.

      They still appear to think that the worst thing that could happen is licensing. Why, if they are not breaking the law. The first thing they should do if they really meant what they say is strongly demand licensing.

      What else should [Ed: the shooting industry] do if they were to be believed?
      They should also support the use of video surveillance (independent of licensing but also as a prerequisite for licensing), stop brood removal or at the very least push for much higher densities of Hen Harriers before nest removal, demand members use diversionary feeding, demand much stricter penalties for raptor crime, fight for allowing video evidence in court, demand further powers to the SSPCA, ban members using gas-guns, fire-works and inflatable moving men to scare raptors, support Nick Lyall and support transparency, welcome anti-crime conservationists onto RPDG, call a special meeting of their members on this topic and get very heavy, allow the police to do their job in secrecy when a crime has occurred instead of demanding to be informed before searches and stop moaning when house searches occur i.e. stop playing the victim, oppose and publicly call out strongly other grouser organizations when they:

      [As posted previously]
      Slur the RSPB for sticking to original principals of above
      Use expensive lawyers to defend the alleged criminals
      Hire full time spin doctors
      Give convicted gamekeepers’ jobs to their wives in order to keep man in the same job
      Complain to be a persecuted minority
      Claim they are being framed
      Claim the persecution is a few bad apples or rogues or wind turbines
      Claim that population declines are nothing to do with persecution
      Give false statistics on satellite tag failures
      Occasionally accidentally reveal their true intentions with ‘if we let them [Hen Harriers] in’
      Make ridiculous claims of Hen Harriers from my window in the worst raptor areas in the UK
      Claim to be concerned about raptors but actually call for licenced killing
      Commission surveys without revealing the raw data but giving highly unlikely results and wrong spelling of species
      Claim the BTO are involved in their surveys which the BTO denied
      Spend a fortune on propaganda videos for the worst raptor areas in the UK
      Refuse to endorse the petition asking for a review of the true financial benefits of DGS
      Smear Chris Packham, Charlie Moores, Mark Avery, Ruth and even Adam Watson
      Call anyone who wants the law to be obeyed as eco-zealot or worse
      Claim that missing tagged raptors have been resurrected with no evidence
      Defend crimes as being a debatable issue
      Lobby MPs to repeat false claims on your behalf in westminster debate
      Refuse to acknowledge the results of the review of the Scottish Golden Eagle satellite tags data
      Refuse to acknowledge the scientific reviews of Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles populations etc.
      Refuse to fully acknowledge any scientific paper which highlights the extent of raptor crime
      In Holyrood raptor debate claim that no change to the status quo was needed because everything was working fine
      Refusal to expel members with raptor crime convictions or refuse to reveal if criminals are members
      Make false claims about it being town verses country.
      Trying to polarise a criminal activity thereby normalising crime.
      Trying to make raptor crime a human conflict issue thereby legitimising crime
      Demand access to all satellite tagged data and nesting data

  5. 9 SOG
    March 21, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Do BASC hold any kind of list of estates behaving in an ethical manner, and those behaving illegally? One wouldn’t expect them to be published, but it would be interesting to read the proportion of each, and how it changes with time. Then we’ll all see how well they are reining in their ‘Criminal Minority’.

    I feel I’ve asked too much. Even though it’s not actually naming the lawbreakers.

  6. 11 David Spiers
    March 21, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Unbelievable , cant wait to teach My little grandchild how to blast wildlife , maybe stamp on a few hedgehogs on the way home from nursery.

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