Decision on next Hen Harrier brood meddling licence to ‘take into account the results to date’

Yesterday, before the news that a fourth satellite-tagged hen harrier had vanished in suspicious circumstances this autumn (see here), DEFRA published the following blog:

We’re still waiting to learn from Natural England what, exactly, is the exit strategy for the hen harrier brood meddling trial and specifically, what are the criteria for making that decision?

Well what a relief to learn that the decision on whether to renew the hen harrier brood meddling licence ‘will take into account the results to date‘.

Those ‘results’ will be the suspicious disappearance of three of this year’s five brood meddled hen harriers (we understand the two surviving brood meddled birds have flown off to France) plus the suspicious disappearance of at least one other satellite-tagged hen harrier (Rosie) in recent weeks and there’s absolutely no doubt there’ll be more before this year is out.

The decision whether to renew or not should be easy and it should already have been made. Nobody in their right mind can think that brood meddling has (a) been successful and (b) is in any way helping hen harrier conservation.

But then look at that last paragraph in the DEFRA blog, above. It claims that the ‘ultimate aim’ of the DEFRA Hen Harrier (In)Action Plan, of which brood meddling is a part, is to ‘reduce hen harrier predation of grouse chicks on driven grouse moors……’


Why is a Government department (DEFRA) and the statutory conservation agency (Natural England) focusing on protecting excessive numbers of red grouse (that are going to be shot for fun) at the expense of a protected red-listed bird of prey in population free-fall due to illegal killing on aforementioned grouse moors?

19 Responses to “Decision on next Hen Harrier brood meddling licence to ‘take into account the results to date’”

  1. 1 sennen bottalack
    October 18, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Interesting just how blatantly these daft schemes are cobbled together with the driven grouse industry.
    Similarly, the published Langholm report not only makes it quite clear that the project was undertaken without the previous destruction of raptors that was routine there, but also states plainly that persecution on driven grouse moors is he big limiting factor on Hen Harrier numbers in UK currently.
    There’s not even any pretence that the Emperor has any new clothes !

    Keep up the pressure !

  2. 2 Mike Whitehouse
    October 18, 2019 at 9:28 am

    If the ‘ultimate aim’ of the DEFRA Hen Harrier Action Plan is to ‘reduce hen harrier predation of grouse chicks on driven grouse moors” then why do they not just encourage their mates and partners to shoot even more hen harriers. They are nearly extinct in England, one final push and they will all be gone. Red grouse can then be fully protected until of course they are shot as well.

    You couldn’t make it up.

  3. 3 Paul V Irving
    October 18, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Why is a Government department (DEFRA) and the statutory conservation agency (Natural England) focusing on protecting excessive numbers of red grouse (that are going to be shot for fun) at the expense of a protected red-listed bird of prey in population free-fall due to illegal killing on aforementioned grouse moors?

    Answer:- because every committee/ meeting discussing raptor, and Hen Harrier in particular, persecution set up by DEFRA/NE historically has been loaded with people from pro shooting organisations. Two of those organisations should be completely ostracised from any discussion of this, MA and NGO represent the people doing the killing and instructing/ commissioning such crimes, they cannot be the answer and should not be at the table the current failures show that.
    BM is now shown to be a sham, the MA always claimed this was needed as a safety net for their members and its institution would negate the need for persecution. Now all shown to be untrue, MA cannot deliver, even if its trying to ( which I doubt). Its members have the option under their constitution of ignoring advice/MA decisions and they seem to believe that they can continue to kill Hen Harriers and doubtless other protected raptors as well notably Peregrines ( if you don’t believe that look at occupation on and the almost complete lack of breeding success on grouse moors, which doesn’t happen naturally!) with impunity without consequence.

    Time, indeed long past time DEFRA/NE/SNH and both governments got tough with grouse shooting, very tough. BM has to be off the table replaced with robust licencing or a meaningful threat of a ban. Either current laws are obeyed with non negotiable monitoring on all moors or DGS is gone.

  4. 4 Steve
    October 18, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Wow. That comment on reducing predation on grouse chicks is extremely telling. Will you be bringing that up with them? That statement alone has pretty much exposed the whole project, acting under the guise of conservation, as a sham.

  5. 7 Christopher Hawkins
    October 18, 2019 at 9:47 am

    It is all getting quite depressing. Failed fancy schemes and tragically pointless results. Another disappearance – predictable and expected ? More wasted time and thrown-away efforts and resources. And for what ? Surely this is the end of this fanciful dream. Brood-meddling. What a joke. The killers will now be laughing as they continue to eradicate and erase.

  6. 8 Iain Gibson
    October 18, 2019 at 10:17 am

    What a bunch of amateurs! Not only that, but they seem to be determined not to seek realistic scientific advice from the experts. Otherwise the brood meddling aspect of “conservation” would be working, and as it is clearly not, even given a small sample, it’s time for the incompetent researchers to give up and go hide in the heather. Or make that thorn bushes. From my own experience I’m certain that this incompetence is boosting the persecution of harriers on grouse moors, along with greater determination by “the industry” to wipe out these magnificent birds of prey. To be completely honest, I feel that the ruthlessness of the grouse shooting fraternity is never ending, too many keepers prepared to commit criminal activities and mismanagement of “their moors, and simply not giving up their endless persecution. The authorities have little control of this criminality, and although getting tougher thanks to the monumental dedication of a dedicated handful of brave individuals, who have alerted hundreds of raptor conservationists to the true state of mindless persecution, more action and publicity is essential. The future is looking brighter, but there’s a lot more work and action ahead of us.

  7. 9 douglas Malpus
    October 18, 2019 at 10:41 am

    “Ultimate aim”, is what the gamekeepers and their bosses demand, “Get rid of all predators that may eat my precious grouse/pheasant/partridge.”

    The industry know who is doing these criminal activities, they say it is deplored, but do nothing to stop it.

    The Victorian attitude will not stop until the killing for fun is stopped.


  8. 10 Secret Squirrel
    October 18, 2019 at 11:01 am

    In many ways that last statement ties in with the staments from the SNH CEO implying that their role is more economic development than conservation. It’s all about the ££££

    RE Brood meddling – watch them try and spin it as a success as there was no persecution of nesting HH’s on the areas concerned, and the estates got a nice big abundance of grouse to shoot. The fact that there was 3/5 mortality post-rerelease will be passed off as ‘other factors we need to address….. and could have happened anyway’

  9. 11 Tom
    October 18, 2019 at 11:07 am

    As a piece of info, I recently overheard a comment, in the pub, that there were ‘far too many rapters’. I didn’t comment!

    • 12 Simon Tucker
      October 18, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      I went to an inaugural meeting of the Lowland Curlew Project in north Wiltshire. Amazingly, a lot of farmers turned up (there was a dairy farmers’ forum on the same night) and are very keen on helping curlew recovery. It did not take long before the first comments about needing to do something about raptors reared its ugly head. This was not helped by the main presentation, I won’t name the presenter, discussing the problem of nest predation with a slide showing photos of fox, carrion, crow and buzzard. When questioned she admitted that the key nest predator was the fox, which can be deterred by the use of electric fencing.

      Still, at least they showed an interest.

    • 13 Paul V Irving
      October 18, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      I think you should always comment when hearing this patent ignorant untruth. Go just about anywhere else in the world and you will see more raptors than in the UK. Basic ecology says the number of raptors are governed by the amount/number of prey not vice versa, that’s the first point to make!
      For too long we have let folk get away with this ignorance, challenge it always!

      • 14 Dougie
        October 18, 2019 at 3:39 pm

        Correct – where I reside I hear the same ignorance peddled as the reason for the decline in songbird populations. “Strangely”, the main protagonists in this local fairy story are pigeon flyers. Sparrowhawks were once a daily sight. Lucky to see two or three per year now, but the songbird numbers have not recovered. Methinks cats are responsible.

      • 15 Coop
        October 18, 2019 at 5:17 pm

        Ask them if they’ve ever heard of “Carrying Capacity”. And, if they know what it means.

  10. 16 HenHarry
    October 18, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Would we propose removing children from an area where there was high incidence of child abuse, leaving the abusers to go unchecked and unidentified? Of course we wouldn’t, it would be a crazy solution that was put in place simply to avoid tackling the root of the problem.

  11. 17 Jimmy
    October 19, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    The only thing they should be “taking into account” is the ongoing criminality on too many grouse estates

  12. 18 Allan
    October 23, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    You will note that it distinctly states ….ultimately aiming to reduce hen harrier predation of grouse chicks on driven grouse moors….
    If that isn’t a clear indication that HHs are to be eliminated, I don’t know what it is!!!

  13. 19 John Corkindale
    October 28, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Absolutely typical of the political establishment! One cannot help wondering if what they take most ‘account’ of is money passing to them from the grouse shooters. John

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