Archive for the '2018 persecution incidents' Category

23
Mar
21

Natural England ignores ongoing raptor persecution & now plans to captive breed hen harriers for release!

Do you remember DEFRA’s ludicrous Hen Harrier Action Plan, published in 2016 and responsible for hen harrier brood meddling – the conservation sham sanctioned by DEFRA and carried out by Natural England, in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England? (For more background see here).

Well the conservation sham has just been extended, this time to the proposed ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England, also part of the ridiculous Hen Harrier Action Plan.

[A brilliantly apt cartoon by Gerard Hobley]

The so-called southern reintroduction has been on the cards since 2016 when the ‘Action Plan’ was first published, to be used as a massive distraction from the ongoing illegal killing of hen harriers on British grouse moors. But Natural England has had terrible trouble trying to persuade conservationists in Spain and France to donate hen harriers, especially given the UK’s appalling raptor persecution record – even though Natural England staff have been caught out trying to play this down on a number of occasions (e.g. see here).

Hmm. What to do? What to do? Ah, how about, we ask some other countries for some donor stock (countries that we haven’t tried yet, like Finland, Sweden, Norway) so we can release their birds in to southern England (and we won’t mention the suspicious disappearance of a hen harrier in the proposed release area), and how about we also take some chicks from nests in England and keep them in captivity forever and use their chicks to release in to the wild, and call it a ‘conservation breeding programme’ (cos we did it with peregrines last year, remember?), and then why don’t we also take some un-releasable hen harriers from rehab centres in France and Spain and use them as breeding stock as well so we’ll have more young hen harriers to chuck out in to the countryside whilst we all sit with our fingers and toes crossed that they don’t venture anywhere near a grouse moor? (And we’ll keep quiet about the ongoing raptor persecution crimes being uncovered near the proposed release site, including this one).

Yeah! And we can pay our old mate Jemima Parry Jones and the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) at Newent, Glos to do all this ‘conservation breeding’ – they’re not gonna turn down a big pay out, just as they’re getting paid for doing the hen harrier brood meddling. Yeah! £350K should do it….it’s tax payers money but there’s no need to tell anyone about it, we’ll just keep it quiet in case those pesky conservationists find out, see through our propaganda and try to take a legal challenge against us.

Think this is all a bit far-fetched? Well have a look at the following documents, released last week as part of a larger bundle under Freedom of Information requests that Natural England has sat on since January. It’s worth paying particular attention to Natural England’s options appraisal (the 2nd document), undertaken last year during lockdown. Abandoning the whole ridiculous idea of releasing hen harriers in to a country where they are systematically and illegally killed by a large part of the driven grouse shooting industry (52 hen harriers known to have gone since 2018) was apparently not an option due to the ‘reputational risk’ to DEFRA and Natural England if they pulled out.

That should be the least of their worries. Make no mistake, if there is an opportunity for a legal challenge against this insane plan, it will be taken.

More soon.

Here are some of the documents to look at:

UPDATE 25th March 2021: This news article led to a story being published in the environmental journal the Ends Report (here).

UPDATE 26th March 2021: Natural England’s shady approach to IUCN guidelines on hen harrier reintroduction (here)

16
Mar
21

52 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018

For anyone who still wants to pretend that the grouse shooting industry isn’t responsible for the systematic extermination of hen harriers on grouse moors across the UK, here’s the latest catalogue of crime that suggests otherwise.

[This male hen harrier died in 2019 after his leg was almost severed in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a Scottish grouse moor (see here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

In January 2021, this list totalled 51 hen harriers, all either confirmed to have been illegally killed or to have ‘disappeared’, most of them on or next to driven grouse moors.

They disappear in the same way political dissidents in authoritarian dictatorships have disappeared” (Stephen Barlow, 22 January 2021).

Today the list has been updated to include the latest victim, Tarras, hatched in 2020, gone by 24th February 2021 (see here).

This disgraceful catalogue will continue to grow – I know of at least one more on-going police investigation which has yet to be publicised and I suspect there’s one other, although I’m still waiting for clarification on that one.

I’ve been compiling this list only since 2018 because that is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

2018 was also the year that Natural England issued itself with a licence to begin a hen harrier brood meddling trial on grouse moors in northern England. For new blog readers, hen harrier brood meddling is a conservation sham sanctioned by DEFRA as part of its ludicrous ‘Hen Harrier Action Plan‘ and carried out by Natural England (NE), in cahoots with the very industry responsible for the species’ catastrophic decline in England. For more background see here.

Brood meddling has been described as a sort of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ by commentator Stephen Welch:

I don’t get it, I thought the idea of that scheme was some kind of trade off – a gentleman’s agreement that the birds would be left in peace if they were moved from grouse moors at a certain density. It seems that one party is not keeping their side of the bargain“.

With 52 hen harriers gone since 2018, I think it’s fair to say that the grouse shooting industry is simply taking the piss. Meanwhile, Natural England pretends that ‘partnership working’ is the way to go.

‘Partnership working’ appears to include authorising the removal of hen harrier chicks from a grouse moor already under investigation by the police for suspected raptor persecution (here) and accepting a £10K bung from representatives of the grouse shooting industry that prevents Natural England from criticising them (see here).

[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]

So here’s the latest gruesome list:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

24 September 2019: Hen harrier Bronwyn ‘disappeared’ near a grouse moor in North Wales (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

23 March 2020: Hen harrier Rosie ‘disappeared’ at an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

19 May 2020: Hen harrier Fingal ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Lowther Hills, Scotland (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland (here)

9 July 2020: Unnamed female hen harrier (#201118) ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed site in Northumberland (here).

25 July 2020: Hen harrier Harriet ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

14 August 2020: Hen harrier Solo ‘disappeared’ in confidential nest area in Lancashire (here)

7 September 2020: Hen harrier Dryad ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

16 September 2020: Hen harrier Fortune ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

19 September 2020: Hen harrier Harold ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

20 September 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2020, #55152) ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here)

24 February 2021: Hen harrier Tarras ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Northumberland (here)

To be continued……..

03
Mar
21

UK wildlife crime legislation & enforcement to be assessed (again)

Press release from DEFRA (2nd March 2021)

Assessment launches to appraise UK wildlife and forest crime legislation and enforcement

New toolkit launched to assess the way we tackle wildlife crime in the UK

A UN backed assessment of UK wildlife and forest crime legislation and enforcement has launched today, using the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) toolkit.

The toolkit will review wildlife crime policing structures, including the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and UK Border Force and efficacy of prosecutions. The toolkit consists of five parts: legislation; enforcement; judiciary and prosecution; drivers and prevention. To date, the toolkit has been implemented in 15 countries. The UK will be the first G20 country to have invited this assessment.

This assessment will comprise a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of our preventive and criminal justice responses, which are crucial to curtailing wildlife and forest crime nationally and internationally.

[51 hen harriers have been confirmed illegally killed or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances, mostly on or close to driven grouse moors, since 2018. There hasn’t been a single prosecution for any of them]

Originally developed in 2012, the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit was created by the UNODC, in partnership with the UK and other members of ICCWC. The assessments in the UK will run until August this year.

Speaking at the launch today, Environment Minister, Minister Pow, said:

We have made tremendous progress tackling wildlife crime in this country, but we know there is more to do.

We requested this assessment to help build on our progress and will look closely at the recommendations, working with key stakeholder groups to inform a cross-government response.

Together we can reduce these horrific crimes for the benefit of our biodiversity, our precious habitats and our rural communities for generations to come“.

Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said:

I have been immersed in Policing wildlife crime for the entirety of my Police service and I am delighted to see the ICCWC Tool kit coming to Policing UK. This will shine a much needed spotlight on Wildlife Crime and raise the importance of it in the wider Policing picture, as Wildlife Crime often feeds into more serious and organised crime types.

It will be a pleasure for the NWCU to work with colleagues to ensure the success of the tool kit. It’s vitally important that we continue to celebrate our success and highlight the importance of fighting Wildlife Crime. But I welcome the opportunity to reflect on our practices and look to become better and more efficient“.

Since 2016, Defra and the Home Office have jointly committed £300,000 a year to funding the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). The unit plays a valuable role in detecting and preventing wildlife crime by monitoring and gathering intelligence on illegal activities, undertaking analysis and directly assisting law enforcers with their investigations.

The past few years have seen successful launches of police operations such as Operation Galileo, an anti-hare coursing campaign led by Lincolnshire police force and Operation Owl, led by North Yorkshire Police, which aims to raise awareness of raptor persecution amongst the wider public and police officers.

The NWCU is one part of the UK’s network fighting wildlife crime, Police customs officers and other enforcers carry also out vital work on the ground.

In addition, the UK Border Force continues to make successful seizures and work with international partners to ensure illegal wildlife trade products do not enter the market.

Last year, as part of operation Thunder 2020, UK Border Force worked with fellow enforcement agencies across 105 countries to tackle the global illegal wildlife trade. With other targeted operations also taking place throughout the year including checks on exports to South East Asia for movements of illegal ivory, Border Force made 490 seizures of illegally trafficked live specimens or derivative products at numerous UK Border control areas from Grangemouth in Scotland to Southampton port.

There are now over 770 wildlife crime officers in England and Wales and 133 covering Scotland. These officers are specially trained to conduct and support investigations into wildlife crimes.

The UK’s participation in this will help inform recommendations on improving the prevention and enforcement of domestic and international wildlife crime in the UK and will reaffirm our global leadership role in tackling wildlife crime.

ENDS

So Environment Minister Rebecca Pow thinks, ‘We have made tremendous progress tackling wildlife crime in this country….’? Not on tackling raptor persecution, we haven’t. It’s still rampant and the criminals are still escaping justice. What’s tremendous and progressive about that?

Some might argue that this is a good reason for a review of legislation and enforcement, and to some extent that’s fair comment. However, reviews on this topic have been undertaken before, conclusions are drawn, everyone agrees we must improve but then nothing happens and we end up having another review several years later to make everyone think the Government cares about tackling wildlife crime.

Perhaps this review will be different. It’s using a novel approach (a United Nations toolkit). But do we really need it? I’d argue no. We already know full well who is committing the majority of raptor persecution crimes, we know where they’re committing those crimes and we know why they’re committing those crimes.

We don’t need another review, we just need effective enforcement instead of the regulatory authority accepting money with gagging orders attached, from the very industry responsible for these crimes.

02
Mar
21

Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland – this case is still live

On Saturday I blogged about a press announcement from Police Scotland that had indicated there had been a successful conviction in a case involving the illegal mass poisoning of birds of prey in Dumfries & Galloway (see here).

This police statement didn’t ring true because surely, if there had been a successful prosecution in such a high profile case, the police and all the partner agencies who had also been involved in the investigation would have been shouting it from the rooftops.

The claim had been made in relation to the police officers winning Team of the Year at the Chief Constable’s Bravery and Excellence Awards on 19th February 2021 and the accompanying statement said, ‘This investigation led to an individual being convicted of wildlife crime offences‘ (see here).

I contacted Police Scotland to ask them for clarification about this case and they got in touch this morning to explain that the case is still live (i.e. there hasn’t been a conviction), the next court hearing is this month, and the inaccurate police statement was a result of a misunderstanding in the police comms team.

As this case is still live comments won’t be accepted until legal proceedings have finished, thanks.

01
Mar
21

Swinton Estate owner (& Chair of Moorland Association) challenged by BBC about raptor persecution on his estate

This is worth a watch.

A BBC documentary series called Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby featured the Swinton Estate in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.

The owner of the estate, Mark Cunliffe-Lister (also known as Lord Masham) also happens to be the Chair of the Moorland Association, the lobby group for grouse moor owners in England.

As part of the programme, presenter Giles Coren visited Swinton’s grouse moors with Cunliffe-Lister and Coren asked him straight out about confirmed raptor persecution crimes on Swinton. The change in Cunliffe-Lister’s body language was quite noticeable – he went from confident, open, welcoming hotel owner to cagey, uncomfortable grouse moor owner.

Giles Coren:Have there been instances around here of raptors being killed?

Mark Cunliffe-Lister:Yes, there have been, there was one that was found on Swinton itself, it was found to have some lead in it so, er, clearly had been shot at some stage. There’s nothing that we’re culpable of but clearly there are still instances of it taking place“.

Just the one, Mark? What a forgetful silly billy (and not for the first time).

Kudos to Giles Coren and to whoever was the BBC executive producer of this edition. Good stuff.

The programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for a year (the grouse moor stuff starts at 39 mins 15 sec) HERE

28
Feb
21

Andy Wightman to stand as an Independent candidate for Highlands & Islands

Just before Christmas, MSP Andy Wightman resigned from the Scottish Greens and has since been operating as an Independent MSP (see here).

[Andy (Scottish Parliament’s Golden Eagle Champion) with golden eagle ‘Adam’, who later disappeared in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in Strathbraan (here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Andy has just announced he will be standing again in the forthcoming May election as an Independent candidate for the Highlands and Islands region.

Here is his statement, posted on his blog yesterday:

Andy Wightman for Highlands and Islands MSP

I will be putting my name forward as an Independent candidate in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election for the Highlands and Islands Region. From the end of March, my home will be in Lochaber.

Holyrood needs more independent voices. Over the past 5 years, I have campaigned successfully on a range of issues.

As an MSP (2016-21), I led the successful legal challenge in the European Court of Justice that ruled that Article 50 could be unilaterally revoked.

I launched the Homes First campaign to better regulate short-term lets and led opposition to the latest regulations that affect Bed and Breakfast businesses.

I introduced a Bill to incorporate the European Charter of Local Self-Government to strengthen local democracy. It will be voted on at its final stage in Parliament within the next few weeks.

I have championed tenants’ rights and the need for more affordable housing.

As a long-standing land campaigner (author of Who Owns Scotland 1996 & The Poor Had No Lawyers 2010), a focus of my election campaign will be a Land for the People Bill to reform Scotland’s antiquated land laws and democratise the ownership and use of land and property.

In the coming days I will launch a crowdfunder and later in March I will formally launch my campaign.

It is very hard to be elected as an Independent candidate. I will need 12-15,000 votes across the Highlands and Islands.

I will be relying on a grassroots campaign of supporters who are able to mobilise voters by word of mouth and social media.

If you support my candidacy, please tell your friends and family. Very soon I will be offering you ways to get involved in the campaign.

Meanwhile, thank you for your support.

ENDS

27
Feb
21

Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland – has there been a conviction?

From 2018 to 2020 there was a large, multi-agency investigation in south Scotland relating to the deaths of ‘upwards of 20 birds of prey’, including red kites and buzzards, around the Castle Douglas area – see here and here for previous blogs.

In April 2020 Police Scotland announced that a 64-year-old man had been charged in relation to the illegal poisoning of birds in the Stewartry area (which is close to Castle Douglas) and that a report had been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal (see here).

As far as I was aware, this case was ongoing, no pleas had been entered and the case was due back in court in March.

However, on Thursday the Daily Record ran a story about how some Police Scotland officers had been recognised for their efforts in ‘solving’ the poisoning crimes (see here).

Prior to the Daily Record’s article, Police Scotland had issued a press release about the officers winning Team of the Year at the Chief Constable’s Bravery and Excellence Awards on 19th February 2021 and the statement said, ‘This investigation led to an individual being convicted of wildlife crime offences‘ (see here).

First of all, many congratulations to the award-winning officers – as regular blog readers will know, raptor persecution crimes are rarely easy to get to the prosecution stage, let alone secure a conviction. The police officers deserve recognition, as do all the partner agencies who worked on this investigation.

But what about the conviction? Where was the publicity about it? This was a high profile case where a large number of protected birds of prey had been poisoned with a banned substance over a number of years. NB: It was not thought to be linked to the game-shooting industry, for a change.

What, exactly, was he convicted of and what was the sentence?

It seems slightly bizarre that the apparent successful prosecution of a raptor poisoner has not made the headlines, doesn’t it? What’s going on?

Come on, Police Scotland, it’s rare to get a win, let’s hear about it when it happens!

I’ll be chasing this up with the police next week.

UPDATE 2nd March 2021: Mass poisoning of raptors in south Scotland: this case is still live (here)

23
Feb
21

Moffat to be celebrated as ‘Eagle Town’ during golden eagle festival

The UK’s first golden eagle festival will take place later this year, celebrating the town of Moffat being named as an ‘Eagle Town’ as part of a plan to boost eco-tourism to the area.

Moffat has been chosen as it’s close to the original release site for translocated golden eagles, brought down from the Highlands and released in South Scotland to boost the tiny, remnant population that had previously been ravaged by illegal persecution and of which there is still evidence to suggest an on-going intolerance of golden eagles in some areas (see here).

The five-year translocation project is being led by a coalition of groups under the banner of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project and this is also the group organising the golden eagle festival.

The event will take place between 19-26th September 2021 and wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan has been signed up to deliver the online keynote speech. He said:

I’m delighted to be part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project’s first ever Golden Eagle Festival and to support their important conservation work to ensure golden eagles once again flourish in southern skies.

The thrill of seeing a golden eagle soaring over a Scottish hillside is an unbeatable experience.

Each glimpse of this magical bird is special, but they should and could be more common in the south of Scotland.”

More details about the festival will be publicised later in the year. It’s worth keeping an eye on the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project website for info.

06
Feb
21

On-going hen harrier persecution raised in House of Lords

I’d wager that the subject of the illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors has been discussed many times in the House of Lords, probably on the terrace bar and probably accompanied by some hearty back-slapping, sniggering and cheering.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Fortunately, the hen harrier does have some friends in high places, not least long-time supporter and Life Peer Natalie Bennett (Green party), who tabled the following written question on 21st January 2021 after learning that yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier had ‘vanished’ in suspicious circumstances (see here).

From Hansard: UIN HL12411, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle –

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to prevent the killing of satellite-tagged hen harriers.

Answered 4th February 2021 by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which provides a powerful framework for the conservation of wild birds, their eggs, nests and habitats. The Government is committed to ensuring the protection afforded to wild birds of prey is effectively enforced. There are strong penalties for offenders, including imprisonment.

We are also committed to securing the long-term future of the hen harrier as a breeding bird in England. The Hen Harrier Action Plan sets out what will be done to increase hen harrier populations in England and includes measures to stop illegal persecution. The long-term plan was published in January 2016 and we believe that it remains the best way to safeguard the hen harrier in England. A copy of the plan is attached.

Raptor persecution is one of six national wildlife crime priorities. Each wildlife crime priority has a delivery group to consider what action should be taken and develop a plan to prevent crime, gather intelligence on offences and enforce against it. The Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group focuses on the golden eagle, goshawk, hen harrier, peregrine and white-tailed eagle. The National Wildlife Crime Unit, which is part funded by Defra, monitors and gathers intelligence on illegal activities affecting birds of prey and provides assistance to police forces when required.

So, five years on from the launch of DEFRA’s heavily criticised Hen Harrier Action Plan, which would be better re-named the Hen Harrier Persecution Plan, and with an embarrassing amount of evidence to demonstrate that the illegal killing of hen harriers is still rampant, this response from Zac Goldsmith is pathetically lame.

The evidence that hen harrier persecution continues relentlessly includes the devastating results of a peer-reviewed scientific study, based on Natural England’s own data and published in a high-ranking journal, demonstrating that at least 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers are presumed illegally killed on grouse moors (see here).

There’s also the rather inconvenient tally of 51 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or reported ‘missing’ in suspicious circumstances since 2018, when grouse moor owners pretended they’d be more tolerant of the species (here) and then the admission just a few days ago from Natural England’s Chair that “continuing illegal persecution [of hen harriers] is preventing the recovery we need to see” (here).

This issue is one of the most pressing wildlife conservation issues in the UK, and yet DEFRA has nothing more to offer than, ‘We believe the Hen Harrier Action Plan remains the best way to safeguard the hen harrier in England‘.

For how many more years is DEFRA going to hide behind it’s obviously-failing action plan? It’s been five years, and counting.

Here’s a more realistic view of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, from blog reader Dr Gerard Hobley.

Enough said.

04
Feb
21

Gamekeepers responsible for more illegal raptor killing than any other profession

Somebody sent me a screen grab the other day of a statement posted on social media by the Southern Uplands Moorland Group (SUMG), which is one of a number of regional groups representing grouse moor estates around the country and designed to persuade the public that birds of prey are warmly welcomed and that gamekeepers love having birds of prey on their ground.

The statement published by the SUMG is fairly typical of the misrepresentation of facts that we’ve all come to expect from certain quarters of the grouse shooting industry. It reads as follows and I’ve underlined the sentence of interest:

Now, I can’t recall EVER saying on this blog that a dead raptor is automatically linked to the [game]keepering profession and there are numerous examples of illegal raptor killing offences that I’ve reported on here over the years where gamekeepers have quite clearly not been responsible (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here etc).

As a co-director of Wild Justice I’m also pretty certain that WJ has NEVER made such a claim. If there is such evidence, the SUMG are challenged to provide it.

I can’t speak for the RSPB but I can’t imagine they would EVER make such a ridiculous claim either.

Speaking for myself, I don’t even believe, as some do, that ALL gamekeepers are raptor killers. A lot of them are, of that there’s no doubt whatsoever, and some other gamekeepers will benefit from that killing even if they’re not doing the actual killing themselves, but I also know of some decent, law-abiding gamekeepers who are as thrilled at seeing a raptor as I am. I’ve met them and have worked with them, so I know they exist.

However, there’s no getting away from the undeniable evidence that shows overall, gamekeepers in the UK are responsible for more illegal raptor killing than any other profession. If you want to see the evidence, have a look at this pie chart published by the RSPB last year in their annual Birdcrime report:

Interestingly, one of the individuals included in the convicted gamekeepers section of this pie chart was a certain Alan Wilson, a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association who was convicted in 2019 of a catalogue of horrendous wildlife crimes he committed on the Longformacus Estate, a grouse/pheasant shooting moor in, er, the Southern Uplands (see here).

It strikes me that the Southern Uplands Moorland Group would do well to concentrate on ousting the criminals within the gamekeeping industry rather than smearing those of us who report on such crimes and who, quite legitimately, campaign for the Government to clamp down on the criminals involved.




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 7,270,735 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors