Hen harrier brood meddling letter: you won’t see this on the Moorland Association’s website

News of this year’s Hen Harrier Brood Meddling trial continues to trickle through.

Yesterday, Mark Avery posted a fascinating email from one member of the Scientific Steering Group to all the others, outlining concerns about the safety of the brood meddled birds once they’ve been released back to the wild (er, yes, this has been the most glaring flaw in the brood meddling plan – has the scientific steering group only just recognised this?!).

Here’s another letter that’s been brought to our attention (thanks to the blog reader who sent it), this time written by senior figures at Natural England, Police and the Moorland Association and addressed to Moorland Association members (predominantly grouse moor owners) and some sporting agents:

Gosh, you won’t find a copy of this letter on the Moorland Association’s website – although it should be right up there, pinned to the front page, to be read first before all the usual propaganda about the so-called ‘triumph’ of this year’s breeding success (less than 5% of the country’s carrying capacity is nowhere near a triumph) and how grouse moor owners have apparently been ‘voicing their support’ for Hen Harrier Day! Really? Where was that, then?

‘Stop killing hen harriers’ is this letter’s message, writ large.

It’s interesting that we’re already a third of the way through September and as yet we’ve not heard of any of this year’s satellite-tagged cohort ‘disappearing’. Most unusual.

25 Responses to “Hen harrier brood meddling letter: you won’t see this on the Moorland Association’s website”

  1. 1 Valerie Foster
    September 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Shame you don’t know someone who could hack into MA Web site and post this letter
    That would be very amusing

  2. 2 Paul V Irving
    September 10, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Given that these birds were tagged by Natural England would we have heard had one or more of them gone down?

    • September 10, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      Not necessarily, no. I spoke to someone at NE about this very recently and was told that NE’s policy on reporting would be the same as it always has been, i.e no public statement until the police give the all clear. (This doesn’t include sensitive details like location etc, this is simply basic information that a tagged HH has vanished/been found to have been shot/trapped etc).

      I asked him to clarify this position – e.g. if the police decided to sit on this news for two years (before a case becomes time-barred in England) would NE still keep quiet for all that time? The response: Yes!

      So you’re right, Paul – we wouldn’t necessarily hear about the fate of the brood meddled HHs but don’t forget the RSPB has also tagged birds again this year and has become much better at getting the news out quickly when something happens to their birds.

      • 4 Paul V Irving
        September 10, 2019 at 5:02 pm

        Yes I knew that RSPB have tagged quite a number of Harriers but the crucial thing is that BM chicks survive or the at least have a markedly better survival than previous NE tagged birds or the whole trial fails. however I suppose that will not be determined until after the 5 year trial. I had hoped we might not have to wait that long. We will know of course because of the RSPB tagged birds if the persecution rate has declined and possibly quite quickly. Interesting times!

        • 5 Mike Whitehouse
          September 10, 2019 at 5:45 pm

          Whatever happened to NE saying that they are “open and transparent”? On this issue more like devious and opaque.

        • September 10, 2019 at 6:51 pm

          ‘I suppose that will not be determined until after the 5 year trial.’
          I take it then that you are taking the promise of the HOT of withdrawal at the the first sign of wrongdoing by MA estates as worth sod all if they can hide for 5 years or more until the scheme ends.
          If so it seems that promises are dying like Hen Harriers, the other promise being the release of the young at the same site as the brood removal. Yes the letter of the rule is being followed (at a long stretch) but not the spirit.
          HOT has already stretched the meaning of the start of the scheme to its absolute limit.
          And all this is supposed to bring about an atmosphere of trust as a conflict resolution issue.
          Yes right. The other one has bells and jesses on.

          • 7 Paul V Irving
            September 11, 2019 at 8:12 am

            Anand with ICBP on board looking after the taken harriers I’m fairly sure that HOT are not actually providing anything critical here except a very thin to almost invisible veneer of respectability. Most if not all their credibility has been destroyed by Philip Merricks previously. If I’m wrong what do you think they bring to the table?

            • September 11, 2019 at 9:54 am

              I don’t know enough about HOT except the statements and FOI requests by and concerning Merricks posted here and on Mark’s blog and that their name is on this letter above dated July 2019 (I was surprised by that because they seem to have gone into hiding). I am sure you are more clued up on this than me.
              My point is that if this scheme is in their name, which the letter shows it is, they should keep to their agreement to withdraw their connection to the scheme if there is any persecution on MA estates and should publicly declare it. In other words if they were true to their word we should hear very quickly about any crimes or suspicious satellite data from MA moors. I don’t think there is a chance in hell of that happening because this scheme has become hell bent on continuing at all costs and the reason for that is because without it the government will be shown to be doing nothing. We know they are doing nothing towards reducing, never mind eradicating, raptor persecution on driven grouse moors but without this scheme their pretence is exposed as a sham. It has become a religious cult clearly demonstrated by the fact that the nest removal estate was allowed to take part in the scheme without accepting the young. They are do or die mode and unfortunately it is raptors that are going to be doing all the dying.

              • 9 Paul V Irving
                September 11, 2019 at 10:47 am

                OK I take your point, that they made eons ago, a very public statement that if any harriers they were involved with were persecuted they would withdraw support. Yet one of their satellite tagged harriers ( not a BM bird) has already suffered this fate and after prevaricating and arguing that point they stayed as supporters of the Hen Harrier recovery plan, hence my comment about lack of credibility. We shall see because some estates/keepers are unlikely to heed the request and birds will be shot I feel sure. Interesting times, this horrible scheme we all disapprove of may yet back the bastards into an even tighter corner!

                • September 11, 2019 at 1:12 pm

                  Didn’t they use the ‘trial not started argument’ last time a crime was committed. Now they can’t use that excuse but it seems that nowadays honesty and integrity have gone out of the window.

      • September 15, 2019 at 2:11 pm

        But surely the BM birds are at the heart of their policy – A lack of transparency does nothing other than invalidate the initial claims – after the sat-tagging exercise they won’t be able to prove the on-going success of the project without releasing information on a regular basis. There’s no reason whatsoever that information can’t be released from the month before, if only to say that the birds have survived up to that time – while it might be preferable to know general locations on say a regional basis that, including point of release, might be justifiably withheld until some time later.

  3. 12 Loki
    September 10, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    To my mind this letter does not give me a sense of impartiality on NE’s part. It reads as if they are more than partners with the Moorland Association.

    I’m astounded that NE has to remind the Moorland Association that the killing of Hen Harriers is illegal!

    “Seen to be acting within the spirit of the law..?!?” What the hell does that mean? Continue to hide their bodies and say “it wasn’t me, guv!?”

    Here NE go again – “to be seen to be a success..” – more window dressing? Green washing?

    NE also seem concerned about damage to the game bird shooting sector – more so than any of the associated shooting organisations…

  4. 14 Ivan S
    September 10, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    Amanda appears to be begging estates to let hen harriers in…

  5. 16 John Clare
    September 10, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Has there been an amendment to the WCA making it illegal to disturb Hen Harriers at roost sites? Whoever drafted the NE letter appears to be under that impression – see paragraph 3. Such an amendment can’t come soon enough.

  6. September 10, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    “All five of the brood managed chicks, plus 2 chicks from the initial nest, will be fitted with satellite tags and Natural England and project partners will be monitoring their movements and survival.”
    I wonder which of the project partners will be warning estates of the vicinity of these birds?
    Is this letter deemed sufficient to ensure that the brood managed birds will not be killed or is the monitoring going to involve further and more urgent pleadings based upon known locations?
    I’d be delighted if no more Hen Harriers were killed on estates, as wished by the signatories to the letter, but I would not be surprised if these birds have a much higher survival rate than those tagged by the RSPB.

    • September 11, 2019 at 10:48 am

      Hell. I thought Mark was being sarcastic when he made a similar remark.
      Surely they shouldn’t be allowed to release the real time tracking data to anyone.
      It wouldn’t be a ‘trial’ if that happened because it could and probably would effect the data (i.e. HH killings).
      My thoughts were the opposite that released real time data would be used to kill birds not protect them. Gamekeepers have made efforts to get tracking data and constantly complain that they don’t have access to it. They don’t want this data to protect them do they?
      But if you are right that is truly scary that we would have falsified data on the true status of satellite tagged Hen Harriers, that this scheme would be used as a way to interfere with the results of a scientific ‘trial’.

  7. 19 Chris Dobson
    September 10, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Are they thinking to give us a few more pairs of Harriers & hoping the rest of the massacre gets left in peace? I doubt the’ll manage to control the gamekeepers even if I’m right

  8. 20 Gerard
    September 11, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Good god, what a nightmare for keepers, trying to work out which tagged birds to leave flying around.

  9. September 11, 2019 at 9:35 am

    The disgraced Hawk and Owl trust….. Was their precondition for engaging in this farce not based on the fact that things had changed and the killing has stopped? I wonder what they make of the ongoing persecution and their partners 11th hour plea to let the birds they raised survive?

  10. 23 Mike Haden
    September 11, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    This will be interesting. IF the (let’s call it) ‘Failure rates’ of the satellite tags from the BM birds drops from the current ~70% to less than 10%, what does that imply?

    That providing the location of tagged birds to gamekeepers ensures that the criminals now know which areas to leave alone.

    If this scheme is working we should get a drastic reduction in tag failures. Perhaps this was the original purpose, provide the people you suspect to be committing the crimes with the intelligence as to where the birds will be, if there is any change significant change in the tag failure rates then you have basically proven that these birds were being illegally killed.

    Of course any reduction of birds being killed could be because the gamekeepers are more aware and preventing the criminals from gaining access to the areas where the birds are. Well that’s one way of spinning it (as long as there are fewer killed birds I don’t care which way people spin it)

  11. 24 Marklar
    September 18, 2019 at 8:59 am

    In a nutshell the letter says – listen up chaps, we are about to release some high profile, satellite tagged hen harriers into the Yorkshire Dales so make sure you don’t get rumbled by shooting them.

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