01
Jun
20

BBC Countryfile highlights raptor persecution on grouse moors

Last night’s edition of Countryfile on the BBC included a ten minute slot on raptor persecution.

It’s available to watch on BBCiPlayer (here) for the next 11 months (starts 10.40 min).

To be honest, after watching the compelling piece on raptor persecution that featured on Channel 4 News on Friday (see here), Countryfile’s effort was a bit limp and underwhelming.

Having said that, we should bear in mind that to the average Countryfile viewer, the fact that gamekeepers are still killing birds of prey in 21st Century Britain will have been quite a shock so ten mins of exposure on such a prime time programme is to be welcomed. There was also some cracking footage of hen harriers.

But for those of us all too familiar with this subject, this programme grated in some areas.

Presenter Tom Heap pitched the subject as a ‘political war between gamekeepers and the RSPB’ – sorry, Tom, but you’re about ten years out of date. Look around, there’s an ever-increasing community of organisations and individuals who are fighting hard against the grouse shooting industry and not just on the raptor persecution issue.

Tom also repeated the wildly inaccurate but often cited claim that the game-shooting industry is worth £2 billion to the rural economy. It’s worth nothing of the sort – keep an eye on Mark Avery’s blog as we anticipate a forensic dissection of this particular topic. [Update: read Mark’s blog here]

Then we had Steve Bloomfield from BASC who was complaining about ‘sweeping statements’ being made about raptor persecution that, according to him, infer everyone in gameshooting is killing raptors. He might just as well have stamped his feet and said, ‘It’s so unfair!’ The so-called ‘sweeping statements’ that I’ve seen are nothing of the sort – they’re statements of fact. For example, that the RSPB has received an increase in reported raptor persecution incidents during lockdown and the majority of those have been on land managed for game shooting.

Another example, from a senior police officer (Insp Matt Hagen, North Yorkshire Police), who told Channel 4 News and Countryfile that reported incidents had certainly increased since lockdown and that ALL his investigations were currently centred on gamekeepers on grouse moors.

To be honest, I can’t be bothered to write anymore of a review. It’s just going over the same old ground, time and time again. Watch the video if you like but if you watched the Channel 4 News video on Friday you’ll not learn much new from this one.

Meanwhile, let’s get back to the Bransdale case and those industry connections…..


14 Responses to “BBC Countryfile highlights raptor persecution on grouse moors”


  1. 1 Gerald
    June 1, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    My heart sank when I saw that it was Heap doing the report. He has been a safe pair of hands for the NFU/DEFRA/ and grouseshooters. I remember his report on the culling of hares on Cairngorm, a real whitewash.

  2. 2 Paul V Irving
    June 1, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Yes there were moments in the Countryfile report that were inaccurate but in general it was much better than I had anticipated given the programmes previous outings on this issue, which were woeful. Its not a political war between Keepers and RSPB and never has been, a war between those who want the law upheld and those who break the law might be more true. The Dark side like to portray it all as part of a “debate” about raptors and raptor persecution it is neither there is no debate about raptors the law protects them no debate necessary. As to persecution it is illegal and the only “debate” is about how much of it goes on and who the culprits of unsolved crimes might be, the statistics about successfully prosecuted crime give you a damned good idea. Shooting is never worth that much, only the gullible would believe so.
    The rest was OK, sort of, but Channel 4 did a far better job and at least we weren’t subjected to the likes of Duncan Thomas or Amanda A oozing spin and half truths. Yes it was better than I expected but could do much better still.

  3. 3 EricH
    June 1, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    It is great that both BBC and Channel 4 have highlighted the ongoing persecution of raptors. We have to hope that the Scottish Government will soon bring forward legislation that will set an example for rest of UK.

    I imagine there will be quite a few complaints from the shooting industry sent to the BBC. It is probably worth highlighting as many inaccuracies as possible in the form of complaints to the BBC. So when the BBC review the complaints they get a more balanced view of the issues. The worst outcome is the BBC has to issue an apology which certain organisations will use as an exoneration and for propaganda purposes.

  4. 4 Nigel
    June 1, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    I haven’t seen this & probably won’t but it makes a change to Countryfile showing gamekeepers as though are do good for our wildlife out there in the countryside.

  5. 5 PTH
    June 1, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    I thought the Two Billion figure was what it’s worth to the back pockets of the Grouse Shooting industry and Land owners, not the rural communities they parasite off – why are the BBC so poorly informed on such well known points.

  6. 6 Jonathan Wallace
    June 1, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    Very strange idea to describe it as a political war between the RSPB and the gamekeepers. It is first and foremost an issue of criminality. If Countryfile did a piece on livestock theft or fly-tipping in the countryside they would not describe it a a political war, they would refer to a ‘rural crime wave’. By describing the raptor persecution as a political war they are to some extent downplaying the criminality.

    The financial contribution of game shooting to the economy – even if the figures were remotely accurate – is irrelevant to the crimes being committed. You could as easily say that someone offering a house-clearing service who then dumps sofas and fridges in country lanes is making a contribution to the economy and providing employment. If what you are doing is a crime then the fact that it ‘contributes’ to some ££££ circulating within the economy does not justify it in any sense.

    • June 2, 2020 at 3:17 am

      Perfectly put. Why wasn`t this was said on the program? When we get our chance to speak in the media we must get this most valid point across to the viewers

    • 8 Mike Haden
      June 2, 2020 at 7:32 am

      I’ve always thought the economic benefit argument is made of straw. So what if it contributes £XX million to the economy where there are little alternative employment opportunities, their business is successful due to criminal activity.

  7. 9 Mike Brown.
    June 1, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Paul, Yes, better than some of Countryfile’s previews efforts on the subject. I anticipated worse, this is the team that produced that dreadful “guardian of the countryside” profile of an apprentice gamekeeper a couple of years ago. Anyway, enough of my personal dislikes. I find it depressing that the focus is currently all on the RSPB, what a shame they are such rotten spoilsports for the tweedies!! As you say, at least we were spared Amanda.

    • 10 Pete Seaman
      June 1, 2020 at 5:05 pm

      As said by others a bit wishy washy but probably reaching a wider audience than the Ch4 news so it might waken a few more people up to the problem that many have been aware of for a long time. There are still masny in the area where the crimes occur do not believe it happens.

  8. 11 Simon Tucker
    June 1, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    It was the softest of approaches. They should have got Anita Rani to do it. She, at least, is a journalist without a history of being soft on “field sports”. It could have been worse: Matt Baker did the totally misleading pieces on how wonderful gamekeepers are last year. The man from BASC should have been ripped to shreds: he was just not challenged.

    BASC, who have an appalling record of rooting out the criminals in the shooting industry, would love to focus it as a war between the big, bullying RSPB and the poor misunderstood game-keeping community, then they can pretend that it is not about the extinction of our birds of prey and other wildlife on shooting estates.

    Heap should have had the information to hand to challenge the £2 billion claim: they lump in all revenues from all types of shooting, including clay pigeon shooting, which is actually the highest revenue generator, and the least damaging to wildlife and the environment.

    The Channel 4 piece was journalism; Countryfile was coffee table blah! blah! blah! A good opportunity missed, but the BBC have reverted back to the 1950’s when forelocks had to be tugged and the Establishment was always right.

  9. 12 Paul V Irving
    June 2, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Perhaps we should just be grateful that it was covered at all as Countryfile seems to often be the mouthpiece for the NFU/ CA.

  10. 13 dave angel
    June 2, 2020 at 11:22 am

    The Home Office estimates the value of the illegal drugs market in the UK at £5.3 billion.

    Just sayin’.


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