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OneKind launches new petition: End the killing of wildlife on grouse moors & elsewhere in Scotland

A new petition has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament calling for ‘an end to the killing of wildlife on grouse moors and elsewhere in Scotland’.

Petition # PE01762 is the work of animal welfare charity OneKind and runs from now until 13 November 2019. Petitions to the Scottish Parliament are different to those lodged at Westminster because (a) there is no requirement to reach a signature threshold (e.g. 10,000 or 100,000) before the Petitions Committee will consider the petition, and (b) anybody anywhere in the world can sign this petition.

Here is some background information from OneKind on why they’re calling for the Scottish Parliament to conduct a full review of the animal welfare impacts of the use of traps and snares on grouse moors and elsewhere in Scotland:

The focus of the review called for in this petition should be:

• The ethics and sustainability of the routine and repeated killing of the same species in the same location;
• The case for banning snares, Larsen traps and certain other types of live traps outright, on animal welfare grounds;
• The animal welfare issues surrounding lethal traps such as spring traps, both approved and non-approved categories;
• Mechanisms to ensure proper scrutiny of all practices undertaken by hunters, shooters and trappers and only to permit the use of traps under exceptional circumstances; and
• Whether activities closely associated with causing unnecessary suffering by means of trapping and snaring, such as driven grouse shooting, should be banned.

OneKind has created this public petition to the Scottish Parliament following the publication on 13 August 2019 of a photograph of a golden eagle – Scotland’s national bird – flying near Crathie in the Cairngorms National Park, with its leg apparently caught in a spring trap.  At the time of writing the fate of the eagle is unknown, but it is thought likely to have suffered considerably and probably to have died.

OneKind is a member of the Revive coalition, along with Common Weal, Friends of the Earth Scotland, the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK.  Revive campaigns for significant reform of Scotland’s grouse moors and is working to propose an alternative vision for the estimated 12 – 18% of Scotland’s land currently used for grouse shooting. Such reform will not be achieved overnight and in view of the widespread public outrage provoked by this incident the petitioners see it as urgent to institute a Scottish Parliament review of wildlife persecution with the aim of eradicating inhumane practices associated with driven grouse shooting as soon as possible.

The petitioners are aware that the Grouse Moor Management Group (the Werritty Review), is likely to report shortly.  The terms of reference for the Werritty review group are to: “look at the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.”  These do not allow for full consideration of the severe animal welfare consequences of continued trapping and snaring practices on grouse moors.

The Crathie incident has caused a public outcry and a petition by Wild Justice to the UK Parliament calling for an outright ban on driven grouse shooting attracted tens of thousands of signatures within a few days of its launch.  OneKind supports that petition, as driven grouse shooting is intimately connected both with so many wildlife offences across the UK, as well as the legal infliction of suffering on animals, including by trapping and snaring.

Given that animal welfare and wildlife protection are devolved issues, the scale of wildlife killing in Scotland and the suffering caused, we believe that action is urgently required in the Scottish Parliament.



This pine marten (a so-called protected species) was caught in a spring trap on a Highland shooting estate in 2017. It didn’t survive these injuries.


Brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor on Bowes Estate, County Durham

Durham Constabulary has issued a press statement about one of the two brood meddled hen harrier chicks that vanished off the face of the earth in September, which the Moorland Association was so keen to play down.

From it we learn that this young male hen harrier ‘disappeared’ on 9th September 2019 (what’s that, just over a month from being released from captivity?) and its last satellite tag signal came from a grouse moor on the Bowes Estate in County Durham.

[Bowes Moor, photo from Natural England]

It’s good that the police have managed to put together a press release about this missing hen harrier but the content is quite extraordinary. As you’d expect it includes statements from ‘partner’ organisations such as Natural England and the North Pennines AONB Partnership, but it also includes what almost amounts to a testimonial from the Bowes Estate, including the line:

The police have stressed that there is no suspicion of any wrongdoing by Bowes Estate or its staff…...”

Really? That would be an astonishing statement from the police. A police spokesman said that the possibility of a crime being committed had not been ruled out, so presumably everybody is still under suspicion, whether connected to the estate or not? And no, that doesn’t mean we’re accusing the estate staff of anything.

Here’s the press release in full:

Concerns over welfare of missing hen harrier

4 October 2019

Concerns have been raised about the welfare of a satellite tagged hen harrier which has dropped off the radar in County Durham.
The signal from a young male hen harrier was lost while it was flying over the Bowes area on September 9. It is one of two which have gone missing recently in northern England.
Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey. Like all wild birds, they are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Inspector Ed Turner, from Durham Constabulary, said: “The fate of these birds is not yet clear. Until we can rule out the possibility that a crime has been committed, we will be taking this matter seriously and bringing our increased knowledge and awareness to bear on it wherever possible.
Natural England Director, Rob Cooke, said: “We are extremely concerned by the unexplained disappearance of this young hen harrier.
Restoring the hen harrier population to favourable conservation status across their entire range is one of Natural England’s key objectives, so any loss from such a small population is significant.”
A spokesman for Bowes Estate said: “We have been informed by Natural England that a satellite tagged hen harrier ceased transmitting on Monday, September 9 and the last known signal came from our moorland.
Staff have been collaborating with Natural England on the ground to ensure the increase in hen harrier population as part of the Defra Hen Harrier Action Plan.
We have a good relationship with Natural England fieldworkers and harriers, along with other birds of prey, are regular visitors hunting over the moor and frequently use roost sites on the estate.
We have been proactively scouring the large area on our land looking for any sign of the bird but have so far had no luck.
Satellite tags are not infallible and we very much hope that the harrier will start re-transmitting soon meaning the bird is safe and well.
We want to stress that the estate and its management oppose all forms of wildlife crimes and are fully supportive of all efforts to restore the UK’s hen harrier population.
The police have stressed that there is no suspicion of any wrongdoing by Bowes Estate or its staff and the estate is fully cooperating with the police. We join the police in appealing for information.”
The North Pennines AONB Partnership said it would be supporting the police in the search for evidence and would encourage the public to share information or any sightings.
Director Chris Woodley-Stewart said: “Juvenile mortality in raptors is common, but the trackers on birds that have been killed by predators or died from other natural causes/accidents usually continue to give out a signal, facilitating their recovery.
Though rushing to judgement isn’t wise, and for now we still hope they turn up safe and well, as the police have said, there is also a possibility that crimes have been committed in relation to the missing bird.
In mid-September we hosted a full day raptor crime training session with four police forces, aided by the RSPB, the North East Raptor Forum and a local estate that is also committed to ending raptor persecution.
Should the birds be re-found alive, this would be great news. If they have died a natural or accidental death, this is sad but not uncommon. But if a crime has been committed, police are now better informed than ever and are eager to stamp it out.
We urge people to keep a keen eye out for hen harriers in the North Pennines and report any sightings to the RSPB. If you have evidence of any illegal activity in this matter, we urge you to contact Durham Constabulary.”
Anyone with any information about the hen harrier’s disappearance should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, quoting incident number 87 of September 17.
Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Bowes Moor is managed for grouse shooting and Natural England has a restoration plan in place for the SSSI. It makes for a very interesting read (increased frequency of burning, burning in designated ‘no burn’ areas, active draining, vehicle damage on blanket bog…….):

Bowes Moor SSSI Restoration Plan 2018_2028

A ‘seriously injured’ Marsh harrier was found in the Bowes area in 2011 with gunshot injuries to both wings and a leg (see here) leading to an offer of a reward for information. We’re not aware of any subsequent prosecutions (thanks Guy Shorrock for the info).

We’re still waiting for further details of the second brood meddled hen harrier that vanished. We know it disappeared in September, in North Yorkshire, on a grouse moor, but no further information has been revealed yet.


When will Natural England pull the plug on hen harrier brood meddling?

Following on from the news earlier this week that two of this year’s five brood meddled hen harrier chicks have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances (both on grouse moors, we’ve been told unofficially), questions have been asked about when Natural England will pull the plug on this outrageous five year ‘trial’.

[The most pitiful photograph of the year: the five brood meddled hen harrier chicks, removed from their nest and parents to appease the grouse shooting industry. After being released again in August, two have since vanished in suspicious circumstances]

Although the corpses of the two ‘missing’ hen harriers haven’t been found (hardly a surprise, those people killing these birds have learned to cover their tracks and destroy the evidence thus preventing any prospect of being prosecuted), expert opinion from both within and outwith the shooting industry is pretty clear about what’s likely to have happened to them:

Natural England does have an exit strategy for the hen harrier brood meddling trial, as laid out in the Project Plan, although the terms of reference are a bit vague, perhaps deliberately so:

So there is scope in this exit strategy to stop the trial at any time rather than having to endure a full five years of this pantomime – that’s good – but look at the section highlighted in red above: it is not clear how many brood meddled hen harriers have to ‘disappear’ or be found and confirmed to have been illegally killed before a decision is made to pull the plug.

We’ve been seeking clarity on this but so far Natural England has dodged the question:

This question was also put directly to Natural England during a meeting with Wild Justice in August. The interim CEO and one of her Directors said they didn’t know off the top of their heads but would find out and get back to us. So far, nothing.

The licence to brood meddle hen harriers in England expires in January 2020 (it was only issued on a two-year basis, for legal reasons) so it’ll be interesting to see whether Natural England issues it again and if so, how it deals with the knowledge that two of the five (and possibly more by then) have most likely been killed on grouse moors.

We’re also still waiting to hear from the court to find out whether Mark Avery and the RSPB can appeal an earlier decision and have the brood meddling ‘trial’ declared unlawful.


Join Chris Packham this weekend to highlight lack of hen harriers in our skies

Press release:

Chris Packham to highlight lack of hen harriers in our skies with mass kite-flying event this Saturday at Box Hill, Surrey

Naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham is hoping for good kite flying weather this Saturday at Box Hill in the Surrey Hills. To highlight the plight of Hen Harriers he’s had 100 paper kites made, with their image, for kids and adults to fly at the National Trusts’ Box Hill property, Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm.

[Photo by Paul Carter Photography]

Chris Packham: “Saturday is about having an enjoyable day out for people and to raise awareness that our Hen Harriers are in deep trouble. If we are able to fly 100 kites it will represent many times more than the actual number of Hen Harriers that are flying in the skies of England. This a shameful situation.” 

There’s been more in the news this week about two young Hen Harriers disappearing in suspicious circumstances in North Yorkshire and Durham. These two were part of a ludicrous government ‘trial’ to see whether removing Hen Harrier chicks from a grouse moor (to prevent their parents catching Red Grouse to feed to them), rearing the young Harriers in captivity and then later returning them to another grouse moor, would help boost the dwindling Hen Harrier population. Based on all the scientific evidence and previous knowledge of what happens to young Hen Harriers in the UK, it’s probably a safe bet to predict these two Harriers have been illegally killed on grouse moors. The police are currently investigating.

Although a serious message, Saturday at Box Hill is very much a family day out where kids and adults can have fun flying the kites as well as learn more about these precious raptors.



Moorland Association’s brood meddling press release amounts to abuse of process

Whichever way you look at it, the Moorland Association’s press release on hen harrier brood meddling amounts to an abuse of process.

First of all there’s the abuse of process in terms of the internal governance of the brood meddling project. We know, from the formal brood meddling project plan, that there’s a Project Board whose responsibilities include:

(a) ensuring that reporting from the project team is timely and acted upon;

(b) to oversee project external communications

We now know that the Moorland Association released its press release on Sunday without the knowledge and consent of project partner Natural England. How do we know this? Because Tony Juniper stated as much in a tweet yesterday:

Not only that, but we’ve also been informed via another source that the satellite tag data released by the Moorland Association was incorrect – apparently one of those harriers had not travelled to southern Ireland at all, but the Moorland Association had simply misunderstood / misinterpreted the data!

Now, the issue of whether the Moorland Association, or anyone else connected to an industry that’s been identified as being responsible for the mass illegal killing of hen harriers, should have access to hen harrier satellite tag data is a topic for another time (for the record – no, of course they bloody shouldn’t for what should be plainly obvious reasons) but the abuse of process from an internal (Project Board) perspective is quite clear. At least one of the Project Board team (Natural England) was excluded from the decision to publish, let alone what to publish.

Will the Moorland Association suffer any consequences/sanctions for this abuse of process, let alone leaving the Project Board’s credibility and integrity in pieces? Probably not.

A far more serious apparent abuse of process is the external one. That is, the suspicious disappearances of two satellite-tagged hen harriers are currently the subject of live police investigations and yet the Moorland Association chose to publish the information WITHOUT THE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT OF THE POLICE. It was also published before the police had conducted any land searches at the locations of the tags’ last known fixes as part of the investigation. We know this from a conversation we had yesterday with Police Supt Nick Lyall.

That is absolutely outrageous and wholly unacceptable. It could also potentially be a criminal offence and have jeopardised the police investigation by alerting any suspect and providing them with an opportunity to remove evidence and clean up their tracks before the police arrive.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, can’t claim ignorance on this issue. As a long-term member of the RPPDG, and a frequent critic of the RSPB’s role in police investigations, the Moorland Association knows the police-led investigative process very well.

For those who don’t know the process, here’s what happens when we suspect something has happened to one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles:

  1. First of all there’s a detailed discussion and analysis of the eagle’s recent movements and satellite tag data undertaken by a group of researchers who are recognised international experts in this field and have extensive experience of golden eagle ecology and satellite tag functioning.
  2. Immediate contact is made with the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) to provide them with an early warning heads up. Tag data are shared with the NWCU, in confidence, and the NWCU is fully appraised of the analysis to date.
  3. The NWCU carries out its own analysis of the tag data and puts together its own confidential intelligence package about the tag’s last known location.
  4. The NWCU and the tag owner decide an appropriate course of action, e.g. no action required because the circumstances aren’t suspicious; or wait for a bit longer (depending on the tag type and the data duty cycle etc) before deciding a further course of action; or agree that the researchers can go and retrieve the corpse and submit for a post mortem if the circumstances don’t indicate anything suspicious; or agree that the police will either go and retrieve the corpse (assuming there is one and the circumstances look suspicious) or agree the police will go and conduct a detailed search of the tag’s last known location if the circumstances suggest any hint of suspicious activity.
  5. Any subsequent media statements are made only after discussion and agreement between the police and the tag operator.

This is the protocol we follow for our satellite-tagged golden eagles and we’re also aware it’s the same protocol the RSPB follows for their satellite-tagged hen harriers. Contrary to the myths, lies and slurs constantly churned out by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Land and Estates et al, we have worked hard to build up a mutually trusting working relationship with the NWCU (helped enormously, it has to be said, by the new head of unit, Chief Inspector Lou Hubble) and this protocol is working exceptionally well. Indeed, we’ve been using it this very week.

[Chief Inspector Lou Hubble, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) at a satellite tag workshop in North Yorkshire earlier this year. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

We’ll be commenting at length, in the near future, about the SGA’s recent petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for the police to be ‘allowed access’ to sat tag data – those morons at the SGA are obviously oblivious to the fact the police already have access and not only do they have access, several of them are now trained to comprehend and interpret the complex array of engineering and locational data of different tag types.

So, in light of this protocol that we all have to adhere to (and when I say ‘have to adhere to’ we do so voluntarily and willingly because it’s working well and why wouldn’t we want to help the police to investigate crimes against our raptors?!), we fully expect other satellite-tagging projects to also have to adhere.

Does it look like the Moorland Association has adhered?

No, it doesn’t because clearly they haven’t.

The question now is, what sanction, if any, will the Moorland Association face for such blatant abuse of process?


Outstanding Contribution award for Chris Packham

Huge congratulations to Chris Packham who was honoured at last night’s Mirror Animal Hero Awards 2019, winning the Outstanding Contribution Award.

[Chris at the awards ceremony last night, taking the opportunity to distribute Wild Justice postcards urging people to sign his petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Photo by Press Association]

His citation read as follows:

Chris Packham

Television presenter, campaigner, author and environmentalist who has inspired the nation to celebrate and care for British wildlife.

Naturalist, television presenter, writer, photographer, conservationist, campaigner and filmmaker is one of Britain’s most powerful voices for the natural world.

Chris has translated a childhood passion for wildlife into a career as one of our best-loved TV presenters, who has instilled a love and concern for animals and the environment in millions of viewers of all ages.

Since he could crawl Chris has been an ardent nature lover – as a toddler he would search the family garden in Southampton for ladybirds to rescue and he spent his teenage years studying birds, badgers and other wildlife.

He also played in a punk band, but despite trading in his pink platforms for a comfortable pair of walking boots, the music’s ethos left an indelible mark on Chris who learned to never take ‘no’ for an answer. 

He went on to study Zoology at Southampton University and trained to be a wildlife cameraman, working on A Toad’s Tale with Stephen Bolwell in 1983. 

He soon swapped for a career in front of the camera, presenting award-winning The Really Wild Show from 1986 until 1995, instilling a love of animals in a whole generation of kids. 

He has become one of our best-loved wildlife presenters, with the hugely popular Springwatch, and its BBC spin-off shows.

Chris has always used his platform to campaign for the natural world.

Throughout his career, he has been a vociferous opponent of the badger cull and a leading campaigner against driven grouse shooting.  

He is vocal about wildlife and conservation injustices, travelling to Malta in 2014 to conduct an award-winning investigation into the horrifying slaughter of migrating birds. 

Chris, 58, co-founded the Wild Justice campaign group which takes legal action on the behalf of wildlife against public bodies who are failing to protect species and their habitats. 

He said: “Our wildlife has been abused, has been suffering, exploited or destroyed by criminals for too long. Well, no longer.” 

His work has won him numerous accolades including a CBE earlier this year for his services to nature conservation. 


There’s also an exclusive interview with Chris in today’s Mirror (here) covering death threats, intimidation, Wild Justice, Extinction Rebellion and the youth climate strikers.

There was another familiar face amongst the winners last night – congratulations to Inspector Kev Kelly from North Yorkshire Police who received a Special Recognition award for his efforts tackling wildlife crime (including raptor persecution) across the county.


Two of the five brood meddled hen harrier chicks have ‘disappeared’

Well, well, well.

As predicted by absolutely everybody with half a brain, some of this year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks have ‘disappeared’ and it’s not even the end of September. Quelle surprise!

However, if you’d just seen the Moorland Association’s headline and first few paragraphs of their press release you’d never know that two of the five have disappeared in suspicious circumstances. This latest media output is perhaps the most disingenuous we’ve ever seen from the Moorland Association, and that’s saying something from an organisation notorious for distorting the facts!

In fact you have to get down as far as paragraph six before you’re told that two have disappeared, although the text doesn’t actually tell you that they’ve disappeared. Here’s the full press release, just for the record:

It’s quite the masterclass in distraction techniques, isn’t it?!

Mark Avery has already pulled apart some of this press release (see here) including comments about the maps not matching the text.

What we’re interested in is this:

  1. When did these two birds disappear? No dates are provided in the press release.
  2. In which county or counties did these two birds disappear? There is no geographic location provided in the press release. [See update at foot of blog]
  3. On what type of habitat did the last known fix come from for each tag? Was it a grouse moor in one or both cases?
  4. Were the last two locations on land owned/managed by Moorland Association members?
  5. What sort of tags were the two birds carrying and what were the details of each tag’s transmission cycle? (i.e. how many data transfer cycles have now passed without data being transmitted)?
  6. Who is monitoring the tag data?
  7. Have the police been informed? If so, who informed them? Was it the Moorland Association or was it somebody else?
  8. Are these two disappearances the subject of a live police investigation? [See update at foot of blog]
  9. Have the police been given access to the tag data?
  10. Have any police searches been carried out? If yes, were these searches undertaken without giving the landowner prior notification?
  11. Why hasn’t Natural England made a statement?
  12. What is Natural England’s policy for declaring the brood meddling trial a failure? i.e. How many satellite tagged brood meddled chicks have to ‘disappear’ before Natural England makes that declaration? One? Two? Three? Four? Five? This question was actually put to Natural England during a recent meeting between Wild Justice & Natural England’s interim CEO and one of its Directors. Natural England said they didn’t know but would find out. So far they haven’t come back with an answer.
  13. When will DEFRA acknowledge that the grouse shooting industry is completely out of control and unable to self-regulate?
  14. And when will DEFRA do something about it?

For those who might have missed it, here’s what the Government-commissioned science says about satellite-tagged hen harriers in northern England – 72% of those tagged so far [by Natural England] have been done in on grouse moors (see here). We await the results of the RSPB’s five-year tagging data with interest.

And for those who might have missed it, here’s the Moorland Association practically begging its members not to kill any hen harriers this year (see here).

UPDATE midnight:

Police Supt Nick Lyall has tweeted the following this evening:

UPDATE 1 October 2019: Moorland Association’s brood meddling press release amounts to abuse of process (here)

UPDATE 3 October 2019: When will Natural England pull the plug on hen harrier brood meddling? (here)

UPDATE 4 October 2019: Brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor on Bowes Estate, County Durham (here)

UPDATE 8 October 2019: 2nd brood meddled hen harrier chick vanished from grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

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