Archive for the 'News' Category

08
Aug
20

How you can take action to help save hen harriers

Hen Harrier Day (online) is well underway and you can watch it live, right now, on the Hen Harrier Day YouTube channel.

Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin will be back around 17.20hrs to co-present the finale.

All of today’s online material will be available for viewing on this channel at any time.

WATCH HERE

Meanwhile, here’s something you can do to help hen harriers….

Wild Justice, the RSPB and Hen Harrier Action have joined forces to create an e-action, which enables you to have a pre-written letter sent to your local MP/MSP to urge them to take action on driven grouse shooting.

It takes a few seconds to do, and you can opt in/out to receive updates from Wild Justice and/or Hen Harrier Action.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO URGE YOUR POLITICIAN TO TAKE ACTION FOR HEN HARRIERS

06
Aug
20

Hen Harrier Day (goes online) Saturday 8th August 2020

It’s Hen Harrier Day this Saturday (8th August 2020) and this year it’s going online.

Although we’ll miss the physical annual gathering at venues up and down the country, this year there’s actually far more scope to reach a huge audience, many of whom may previously have been unaware of the scandalous mismanagement of the UK’s uplands, including the systematic and violent persecution of this beautiful bird of prey.

Hen Harrier Day will go live on YouTube from 10am on Saturday, hosted by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin and there’ll be a packed day of events, running right through to 4pm.

TUNE IN HERE TO WATCH

It’s anticipated that the footage will be available to view after the event if you can’t make the live show.

For further information about Hen Harrier Day and what it’s all about and how you can get involved, please visit the Hen Harrier Day website, hosted by charity Hen Harrier Action HERE

06
Aug
20

Campaign for Protection of Moorland Communities: who’s involved?

Last October a new pro-grouse shooting group lurched on to the scene in the form of an ‘aggressively chanting’ mob outside a Harrogate theatre. They were there to protest against Chris Packham (who was appearing at the theatre that night), who they claimed, amongst other things, was ‘destroying moorland communities’ and they threatened to enter the theatre and disrupt the event. Local organisers were so concerned they called the police.

These protesters all carried corporate-looking placards embossed with the name of the new group: Campaign for Protection of Moorland Communities (or C4PMC) and they appeared to be led that evening by an individual whose twitter account included some pretty disturbing views (see here for a blog about that night).

This new group had a website (here) and social media accounts and the content might have persuaded some naive readers to think this was a ‘grassroots community group’, purporting to represent ‘downtrodden country folk’ who were being unfairly attacked by some nasty people from the cities who didn’t understand country ways. You know the sort of idiotic rhetoric.

At the time of the website’s launch, the group’s ‘About’ page identified four individuals who were described as “Our People”. Here’s who they were:

Interestingly, the name of the Harrogate protest leader didn’t appear anywhere on the website and his twitter account was deleted shortly after screen grabs of its offensive content were published on this blog.

The four people who were listed as ‘Our People’ were all known, all ‘real’ people, but it wasn’t clear which of them, if any, was writing the articles that appeared on the website or pumping out the group’s propaganda on social media. This content has, over recent months, become progressively nasty and has targeted a number of individuals and organisations in the conservation sector, leading to several of them taking legal advice on topics such as misrepresentation, copyright infringement and harassment. Predictably, the targets have been the RSPB (obvs), the directors of Wild Justice (obvs) and the Revive Coalition (obvs) but then some other, less obvious targets such as a prominent member of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and a prominent author and TV producer.

Some of us got the impression, given the style of C4PMC’s output, that none of these four were directly involved with producing C4PMC propaganda at all, but were perhaps just being used as a convenient front to maintain the illusion of this group being a ‘grassroots community group’ rather than an astroturfing outfit for the grouse shooting industry (a bit like, it could be argued, You Forgot the Birds and the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders).

Even more interestingly, in the last few days the names, bios and photos of these four have vanished from the website, as quickly and suddenly as a tagged hen harrier vanishes from a driven grouse moor. The reason for this can only be speculated but it’s not the only weird thing that’s happened in recent days, as you’ll see further below.

The C4PMC’s ‘About’ webpage now looks like this:

So now C4PMC is claiming to be run and managed by editor ‘Jenny Wilson’, whose bio sounds about as convincing as Dominic Cummings’s justification for visiting Barnard Castle.

It’s fascinating that ‘Jenny Wilson’ is portrayed as she is, given that the behaviour and media output of C4PMC in recent weeks has been more akin to something written by a tabloid hack. Or perhaps a former tabloid hack now working for a corporate PR company. You know, a personal, nasty, sensationalist, poorly researched, distorted version of reality designed to grab headlines rather than sensibly inform.

Anywaaaaaaay……..

In early July, C4PMC ramped up the nastiness by publishing an article that included a vile and personal attack on a young RSPB staff member. It’s not going to be re-posted here to save him the anguish. A couple of days ago the RSPB’s Martin Harper wrote a blog about this attack and condemned those involved (see here).

Now, that deeply offensive article wasn’t just written and published by C4PMC. The group went a step further and paid to have it promoted on Facebook, to ensure it was seen by an audience beyond the reach of its own limited following.

C4PMC has paid for a lot of promotional work since the group was established in October 2019…..£3,311 so far, according to these statistics provided by Facebook, which seems a lot of money for a poor, downtrodden grassroots community group to fritter away on self-promotion and attacking those who want to see grouse moor reform, doesn’t it?

But the amount paid for the particularly vicious attack on the young RSPB employee was the highest sum that C4PMC has paid for any of its promotional output to date. According to the Facebook stats, C4PMC paid between £300-399 to promote this particular nasty piece, whereas it’s paid less than £100 for almost all of its other promoted pieces:

Now, when you pay to promote material on Facebook, not only is the amount paid recorded in the public domain, but if that material is categorised as being about ‘social issues, elections or politics’, then the promoter also has to provide contact details which are also then available in the public domain.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Here are the details, posted by Facebook, associated with the promoted piece attacking the RSPB employee:

You’ll note that the phone number has been partially redacted. On Facebook the number is provided in full but a decision has been made not to publish it in full on this blog for what should be obvious reasons.

But that phone number is important, because if it can be linked to a named individual it might provide an insight in to who, exactly, is behind the C4PMC group.

And it appears it can indeed be linked to a named individual. Somebody by the name of Katy Roxburgh, whose mobile number was listed on another Facebook page that promoted a charity event in 2015 at Durham University – the Durham University Charity Fashion Show (DUCFS):

Hmm. So Katy Roxburgh’s mobile phone number was used by whoever paid for the C4PMC’s advert.

So who is Katy Roxburgh then? Is she another gamekeeper’s daughter now living quietly on a small farm in Yorkshire?

Err, not quite.

Katy Roxburgh is an Associate Director at Sabi Strategy Group, a slick corporate communications outfit with offices in Johannesburg, Hong Kong and London.

How do we know this is the ‘right’ Katy Roxburgh? There could be (and are) a number of people in the world with that name.

Well, LinkedIn has helped there. Here’s Katy Roxburgh’s LinkedIn profile page, linking her to the SABI Strategy Group and the University of Durham:

And here’s a bit more detail from her LinkedIn profile page, documenting that this Katy Roxburgh was the Vice President of Durham University Charity Fashion Show in 2015:

According to Companies House, Katy Roxburgh is also a Director of a company called KHK Media Group Ltd, along with two colleagues from the SABI Strategy Group. Note the correspondence address given for Katy Roxburgh, and compare it with the correspondence address given for the C4PMC promotion on Facebook:

Interestingly, the London address for the SABI Strategy Group, up until yesterday, was also given as 49 Princes Place, London, W11 4QA, as shown in this screengrab:

But then this morning the address had been changed on the website to this:

All this sudden change in website content, both for C4PMC and SABI Strategy Group, is very curious, isn’t it?

Now, it should be said quite clearly that there is no evidence whatsoever that Katy Roxburgh is responsible for the disgraceful propaganda being published by C4PMC. Nor is there any evidence that she, personally, is responsible for paying Facebook to promote this tosh. All we can say is that Katy Roxburgh’s mobile phone number and work address were provided to Facebook as the contact details required when paying for a promotional piece.

So really, we’re not that much further forward with finding out who is behind C4PMC. There’s ‘editor Jenny Wilson’, who sounds fictional and until evidence of her existence emerges will continue to be viewed as fictional, and there’s Katy Roxburgh and the SABI Strategy Group and/or KHK Media Group Ltd who appear to be connected to C4PMC to some extent but not conclusively and if they are, it’s not clear what their roles are.

We don’t know who’s bankrolling this outfit. Who’s paying for ‘editor’ Jenny Wilson’s time and expertise? Who’s paying for those corporate placards and banners? Who’s paying for the C4PMC website? Who’s paying thousands of pounds to promote nasty, vindictive attacks on conservationists? Who’s paying to engage a slick London communication company to organise that promotion?

We don’t know. Yet.

But as part of the research undertaken for this particular blog, the following organisation was brought to our attention:

Now THIS is an interesting organisation. Check out the Directors (here) and note the links to the Moorland Association, GWCT and the Royal family, and have a read of the company’s objectives, which can be downloaded here: Moorland Communities Tradition Ltd_ArticlesIncorporation

How very interesting.

05
Aug
20

Poisoned eagle found dead on Scottish grouse moor: Chris Packham urges First Minister to act

Further to last week’s news that a young white-tailed eagle has been found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park, having been poisoned with a banned toxin (see here and here), and the Scottish Government’s woefully inadequate response (see here), Chris Packham has sent a video message to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for action.

He sent the video, via Twitter, this evening. Click below to watch.

Thank you to all of you who have written to the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and Environment Cabinet Secretary (Roseanna Cunningham) about this repulsive crime, which is far from being a one-off. It is clear that their inboxes have been deluged. Good, they need to be.

If you haven’t written yet, please consider doing so.

Here are the email addresses of the relevant ministers:

To email Nicola Sturgeon, please use this address: firstminister@gov.scot

To email Roseanna Cunningham, please use this address: CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

Thank you.

[The poisoned sea eagle, found dead on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park. Photo by Police Scotland]

 

05
Aug
20

Unconfirmed reports of mountain hare culls on several Scottish grouse moors

The season for killing mountain hares in Scotland opened on Saturday (1st August) despite a recent Parliamentary vote to provide more protection for this species.

In this particular case, greater protection (i.e. those who want to kill mountain hares will need to apply for a licence) will not be available until the Scottish Government has undertaken a consultation to consider the terms and conditions of any such licencing scheme.

Meanwhile, while everyone waits for the Scottish Government to conduct that consultation, the shooting season has opened and the Government has ignored campaigners’ pleas to offer interim protection to those mountain hares.

Instead, the Environment Cabinet Secretary has, with a straight face, called on the grouse-shooting industry to practice ‘voluntary restraint’ (see here).

So it came as no surprise to see a number of (as yet unconfirmed) reports on Twitter yesterday that mountain hare culling had begun, apparently on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths and a grouse moor in the Angus Glens.

Under the current legislation, these estates are entitled to kill as many mountain hares as they like, without needing permission or a licence, and there is no obligation for them to record or report the number of hares killed.

Nor is there any obligation to report what they do with those shot hares. Some will end up on sale for human consumption (complete with embedded toxic poisonous lead shot, yum yum), others will simply be discarded, and some will be used to bait traps and stink pits to lure other wildlife to a gruesome death.

[Shot mountain hares strung up in a chilling larder, screen-grabbed from a controversial feature on Countryfile (2018) showing mountain hares being shot on a Scottish grouse moor]

 

05
Aug
20

Another satellite-tagged red kite ‘vanishes’ in North Pennines AONB

RSPB press release (4 August 2020)

Another red kite vanishes in suspicious circumstances in problem area

Two red kites and one hen harrier – one of England’s rarest breeding birds – have vanished suddenly and unexpectedly in the same area of the North Pennines AONB since last October.

The birds, all of which are protected by law, were wearing satellite tags to help experts understand more about their lives after leaving the nest.

The most recent of these, a young red kite named ‘BB’, vanished in the Derwent Gorge in June 2020, triggering a police appeal for information.

BB was fitted with a satellite tag near Gateshead in June 2019 by Friends of Red Kites (FoRK) with NERF support. It has been monitored since by the RSPB.

[Red kite ‘BB’ in the centre. Photo via RSPB]

BB’s tag had been functioning reliably and as expected when it suddenly stopped on 7 June 2020. Police have been conducting enquiries including a search of the area of the bird’s last fix, between Muggleswick and Castleside, where the bird had been present for the previous month, but found no trace of the bird or the tag. BB has not been heard from since.

Two further birds have suffered similar fates. In April 2020, another red kite, KK, which hatched last summer also near Gateshead, suddenly stopped transmitting on a grouse moor near Derwent Reservoir. And in October 2019, a rare hen harrier named Ada vanished after similarly sending her last transmission from a grouse moor, east of Allendale in Northumberland, also within the AONB.

All of these birds were tagged in the summer of 2019 and were under a year old when they disappeared. It is believed the birds may have been illegally killed.

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “There is a distinct pattern emerging of satellite-tagged birds of prey vanishing without a trace on or near land managed for driven grouse shooting in this area.

“BB, KK and Ada’s disappearances are categorised as a ‘sudden stop’. These are reliable tags which continue transmitting even after a bird has died. To cut out suddenly like this strongly suggests human interference.”

Birds of prey are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which makes it an offence to deliberately kill or injure one. Those found to have done so could be given an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence.

The persecution of raptors including red kites is a national police wildlife crime priority. Red kites, which are mainly scavengers, went extinct in England in the early 1900s largely down to persecution and egg collecting. Reintroduction programmes in recent decades have been a huge success in the UK, yet red kites remain listed as globally-threatened by the IUCN/BirdLife International.

Harold Dobson, spokesman for the Friends of the Red Kites, said: “It is with a combination of sadness, frustration and anger that we have learned of yet another red kite disappearing under suspicious circumstances. Red kites were re-introduced in the Lower Derwent Valley between 2004-2006. They continue to fare well in the valley itself but evidence such as this strongly suggests they are being prevented from naturally expanding their range, at least in part, due to human persecution. Since 2010, seven red kites have been found poisoned or shot near the Derwent Gorge and surrounding Durham moorland. We fear that this may be the tip of the iceberg and that many more persecuted kites are never found.”

Inspector Ed Turner, from Durham Constabulary said: “It is sad that, within a matter of months, I am appealing to the public for information again regarding another red kite that has disappeared without explanation in the same area of the North Pennines. The fate of this bird is not yet clear. Until we can rule out the possibility that a crime has been committed, we will continue to take this matter very seriously.”

Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “I’m immensely disappointed that we’re back here again having to ask for information on missing birds of prey in this part of the AONB. We never jump to conclusions about single satellite-tagged birds going off-line – there could be several reasons for that and we always want to get to the bottom of why it’s happened, where possible – but there’s a pattern here, and this part of the North Pennines has been a problem location for ten years or so now with shot, poisoned and missing birds. Please come forward if you can help locate this bird or know what happened to it.”

ENDS

 

03
Aug
20

Wild Justice wins permission for judicial review of Welsh General Licences

Some brilliant news!

Wild Justice has been granted permission for a judicial review of the Welsh General Licences.

This case has been on the go for some time, interrupted like everything else by Covid19, but is now back on track. For further details about what the legal challenge is all about please read the Wild Justice blog here.

The Honorable Mr Justice Griffiths, who granted permission for Wild Justice to proceed, didn’t agree with BASC that this case would “close down the countryside“, nor that it was “shameful” or “bully-boy tactics” to simply exercise a right to utilise an open, democratic process to challenge the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body, nor that it was a “vexatious legal attack” (see here).

Quite the contrary actually, as the Honorable Judge has agreed that Wild Justice’s legal challenge has sufficient significance and importance to warrant an expedited hearing. Excellent!

Unfortunately BASC won’t be able to participate in the legal proceedings. The Honourable Mr Justice Griffiths refused BASC’s application to join as an interested party, saying it was ‘neither necessary nor desirable‘.

Never mind. Perhaps BASC can include its exclusion as a ‘Key achievement in 2020’ just as it did when it lost its own application for judicial review back in 2018 (see here).

Still, plenty of time now for BASC to consider how to spend its much bragged-about ‘seven figure fighting fund’ which apparently was going to allow BASC to, er, ‘lead from the front’.

For those who’d like to be amongst the first to hear about this and Wild Justice’s other legal challenges and activities, you can sign up for the free Wild Justice newsletter HERE, which is emailed directly to your inbox.

03
Aug
20

Buzzard & kestrel confirmed illegally poisoned in Derbyshire

In March 2020, just after the start of lockdown, Derbyshire Constabulary reported the suspected poisoning of a kestrel and a buzzard, both found dead next to the remains of a pigeon at Ault Hucknall near Chesterfield (see here).

[Photo via Derbyshire Constabulary]

Samples were sent for toxicology analysis and last week the police received the findings. Both birds had been illegally poisoned with the banned pesticide Aldicarb.

This news was published on the Rural Crime Team’s Facebook page (see below). We haven’t been able to find any further news reports, for e.g. on the Derbyshire Constabulary website or in the local press.

These latest illegal poisonings are not the first in this area. A total of six buzzards were also illegally poisoned in neighbouring Glapwell between 2015-2016 (2 x buzzards, March 2015; 1 x buzzard & pheasant bait, February 2016; 3 x buzzards & pheasant bait, March 2016). Alphachloralose was the poison used in those cases.

[Some of the poisoned buzzards and a pheasant bait found at Glapwell in 2016, photos via RSPB]

There is a record of those poisonings in the RSPB’s 2016 BirdCrime report (here) and a short video, here:

It is quite clear that somebody in this area has access to banned poisons and is not afraid to set out poisonous baits that could kill anyone unfortunate to come in to contact with them, let alone wildlife and domestic animals and pets.

Let’s hope we see a continued publicity drive from Derbyshire Constabulary – these crimes warrant maximum awareness and exposure.

02
Aug
20

Another huge penalty for raptor poisoning offence in Spain

There have been a number of raptor poisoning cases in the news recently, including the illegal killing of a white-tailed eagle found on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland (here), the mass poisoning of 23 buzzards in a field in Co Cork, Ireland (here), the poisoning of four peregrines on Guernsey in the Channel Islands (here), the poisoning of a family’s pet dog, believed to have consumed a poisoned bait intended for birds of prey in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire (here), the poisoning of a buzzard found dead on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here), the poisoning of a buzzard in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire (here) and the suspected poisoning of numerous raptors in Derbyshire including three peregrines, two buzzards and one kestrel, all pending toxicology results (here). More on some of those suspected cases shortly.

The connecting feature of all these incidents is that, in all probability, the poisoners will evade justice.

[Illegally poisoned sea eagle. Photo by Police Scotland]

It’s incredibly rare to secure a conviction for poisoning birds of prey in the UK, mainly due to the difficulty of securing sufficient evidence to link the crime to the actual individual who laid the bait. For example if the poisoned bait had been laid out on a large game shooting estate there could be numerous suspects (e.g. gamekeepers), who will all give ‘no comment’ interviews to the police, thus making it virtually impossible for the police to determine which one of them should be charged.

And even in a case where three golden eagles were found illegally poisoned on the same grouse moor, and an enormous stash of banned Carbofuran poison was found in the gamekeeper’s locked shed, reportedly to which only he had the key, he still wasn’t charged with killing those eagles, only for possession of the banned poison (see here).

There have been a few successful prosecutions for raptor poisoning over the years, but the subsequent penalties have been so utterly feeble they simply haven’t acted as a suitable deterrent for others (e.g. see here, here and here).

Meanwhile, over in Spain where tackling the illegal killing of birds of prey is taken seriously with, for example, the deployment of specialist poison detection dogs, resulting in massive fines, custodial sentences and extended hunting disqualifications for those convicted of laying poisoned baits (e.g. see here, here, here, here), another poisoner has just been sentenced this week.

According to these articles (here and here), an unnamed farmer has just been convicted of poisoning two red kites in Cabeza de Buey (Badajoz) in 2018 and has been ordered to pay a 20,000 EURO fine (the estimated value of the two red kites). He also received a two-year hunting disqualification.

Compare that response with what we’ve seen in Scotland this last week – an illegally poisoned white-tailed eagle, killed with a banned pesticide, found dead inside a National Park in an area where at least seven eagles have now been either illegally killed or have disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

There was a wholly inadequate response from a junior Environment Minister (here) followed by total silence from the Environment Cabinet Secretary and the First Minister, despite unprecedented public uproar urging action (see here and here).

Interesting, isn’t it?

02
Aug
20

Publicity campaign to find buzzard poisoner

In May 2020 news emerged that 23 buzzards had been killed in a single incident in Co Cork after ingesting the banned pesticide Carbofuran (see here).

[The corpses of several buzzards found poisoned by Carbofuran in Co Cork in another incident, this time in 2018. See here for details. Photo by NPWS]

As if that news wasn’t shocking enough, it also emerged that the mass poisoning had been discovered in December 2019 and was ‘investigated’ by the National Parks and Wildlife Service but it was only publicised five months later once BirdWatch Ireland and the Irish Raptor Study Group had found out about it.

This poisoning incident and the apparent silence of the investigating authorities led to questions in the Irish Parliament (see here) and calls for the establishment of a special police unit to focus on tackling wildlife crime (here).

Meanwhile, an animal welfare charity ‘The Amica Projects’ has put up a reward of 5,000 Euros for information leading to a prosecution and has placed a full page advert in the Southern Star newspaper appealing for whistle blowers to get in touch:




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