Misguided meddlers

Photo: Gordon Yates

Therese Coffey was handed a hospital pass when Rory Stewart zipped off to another department leaving her holding the Hen Harrier Recovery Farce. A key, and totally ridiculous, element of the plan was to take away young Hen Harriers from grouse moors, raise them expensively in captivity, and then release them again on grouse moors where they would live happily ever afterwards.  This was so clearly a plan to make life easier for grouse moor managers (who had a predator of Red Grouse removed from their land in the grouse rearing season) that only the hopeless Defra ministers of these days could possibly fall for it.

It’s clearly not a Hen Harrier plan, it’s a grouse moor managers’ plan.  If you asked a Hen Harrier what ought to be in the Hen Harrier Recovery Plan then they might look rather piercingly at you with those yellow eyes and say ‘Just stop people killing us. It’s against the law and it’s not nice.’.  It’s basically a plan to take Hen Harriers into detention during the time when they might take Red Grouse chicks that people want to shoot for fun, and then release them back into the killing fields of our uplands National Parks so that they can be killed off in private by grouse shooting interests.

Defra doesn’t have a plan for stopping people killing Hen Harriers except the continued funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit which has been in existence since 2008 and has not had a major impact on wildlife crime against birds of prey in that time.  Let’s be quite clear, that the minister was quite clear, and oleaginously smug about it, that she has no plan whatsoever to tackle wildlife crime and really couldn’t give a damn about it.

Medlars. Photo: © Jörgens.mi / , via Wikimedia Commons

Brood meddling (this business of being a parent to Hen Harriers that already have parents) might even be tested in England this year although there is no justification at all for any testing since there are likely to be very few pairs of Hen Harriers in England this coming year.  Last year, remember, there were just three pairs of Hen Harriers, and none of them nested on grouse moors – a rousing start to the first year of the Hen Harrier Recovery Farce?

And the young from those nests, some of which were satellite tagged, aren’t doing terribly well. Bonnie, named after the Countryside Alliance’s CEO Tim Bonner, appears to have bitten the dust a little way from its Geltsdale home.  Carroll, a Northumberland bird fledged on Forestry Commission land, died of a parasite infection but was found to have two shotgun pellets in her body when post-mortemed. And Mick, another bird from Forestry Commission land disappeared in December in an area of grouse moors in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  Finn, another Forestry Commission bird is still flying around. And I’m pretty sure there’s another bird, tagged in Northumberland, by NE, whose fate will remain secret for weeks, or clouded in ‘likely to have’s whatever happens to it.

Of those five birds, two have disappeared off the radar, one has disappeared from public scrutiny because it is an NE bird and therefore no-one gets to know about it, one is dead and had shot in it when it died and another, my friend Finn, is still flapping around. Not a resounding success for Hen Harriers nor a resounding success of communication from Defra’s tame agency Natural England is it?

But whatever is happening, Hen Harriers fledged in England do not appear to be thriving, do they?  And it doesn’t look as though they will be recruiting in droves to the breeding population does it? So why on this planet do NE and Defra think that brood meddling is a way to address the criminal actions of grouse shooting interests?

I assume that the RSPB will challenge any move to do brood meddling in England this year in the courts.

And we all ought to be thinking about using the last knockings of our EU membership to complain to the EU over the non-compliance of the UK government (most especially the English government) to maintain the conservation status of the Hen Harrier even in those SPAs designated with its conservation in mind.

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12 Comments

  1. John Miles says:

    With no harriers to meddle with may be some one should ask the question why DEFRA are going to use a drug that has not been tested to pump into Grey Squirrels which are eaten by Birds of Prey.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-38880095?SThisFB

    Well they would eat the squirrels if the land owners stopped shooting the Birds of Prey and the ones that are not shot face a chemical which may end up killing them!! Breeding Goshawks can take up to 75% to 95% Grey Squirrel prey to their nests. Again as long as 'Red Alert' are not removing the Greys paid for by the tax payer pushing the Goshawks to take more Pheasants and then giving a reason to the land owner to kill them.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(1)
  2. Andy Holden says:

    The whole government-where-wildlife-is-concerned situation needs meddling with.
    The Tories, sucking up to the landowners of the UK, are a disgrace; Coffey needs to be decaffeinated, Sells needs to be sold down the river, NE should become NA, 'Not Applicable', and DEFRA - 'Department Engaging in Faffing about with Raptors Association'.

    Likes(17)Dislikes(1)
  3. Major Major Major says:

    The image of Dr Coffey covered in oil has to be quickly dismissed from the subconscious, for health reasons.

    Harriers, carriers. Defra seems to like money-making scams so perhaps a scheme whereby you could get 5p for every harrier you didn't shoot could be introduced.

    You could make a good thing out of not shooting any. The government would pay you well for every harrier you did not shoot. The more harriers you do not shoot, the more money the government would give you, and you could spend every penny you don't earn on new land to increase the number of harriers that don't live there. You could work without rest at not raising harriers. On long winter evenings you could remain indoors and not repair butts, and you could spring out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the medicated grit was not spread. If you invested in land wisely you could soon not shoot more harriers anyone in the county. Neighbours would seek you out for advice on all subjects, for you would have much money and would therefore be wise. “As ye shoot, so shall ye reap,” you counsel one and all, and everyone will say “Amen".

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/carrier-bag-charges-retailers-responsibilities

    Likes(10)Dislikes(1)
    • Andy Holden says:

      "The image of Dr Coffey covered in oil has to be quickly dismissed from the subconscious, for health reasons."

      There's a difference between olive and boiling.

      Definition of oleaginous. 1 : resembling or having the properties of oil : oily; also : containing or producing oil. 2 : marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality.

      I'm guessing that Mark's use of the word was steering more towards the second definition, but certainly one can see the first being apt in Coffey's case.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(2)
  4. eco-worrier says:

    Sorry to think this but it seems true - a Conservative minister will never, ever enact a programme, a pledge or promise that would cause a greedy businessman or one of their supporters to lose a penny of their ill-gotten gains. Who the hell voted the 'fill you boots at the expense of the living environment' party.

    Likes(7)Dislikes(2)
  5. Roderick Leslie says:

    The trouble with Hen Harriers is that they wander around a lot - even if you could get them to breed in the lowlands, just like the Forestry Commission's 2016 cohort which are going down like ninepins meddled HH will head for the moors - and, bang they're gone.

    Likes(3)Dislikes(3)
    • Thomas David Dick says:

      Which is exactly why Ban Driven Grouse Shooting is the only sensible long term option...

      Westminster parliament may have shown itself incapable of producing a proper debate or taking any action last year...but all the very valid points in favour of a ban still stand and in fact become more pertinent with every downed harrier [or poisoned red kite!].

      Likes(7)Dislikes(2)
      • Iain Gibson says:

        Why stop at driven grouse shooting? I say this as someone who spent a considerable part of his life working on grouse moors (not on the shooting side), both driven and walk-up. The gamekeepers from all four moors persistently shot harriers, and if only driven grouse shooting was banned, I believe there would still be high levels of persecution as the shooters will demand a walked-up alternative for their 'sport.' They are already looking at other options to continue exploitation of the moors should driven grouse shooting be banned. Already during grouse shortages they flood the moors with thousands of Red-legged Partridges, and arrange contingency plans to shoot Woodcock in the woods. Don't underestimate their ingenuity or determination, not to mention sheer bloody-mindedness.

        Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
        • Messi says:

          Another reason why brood removal and dumping is unlikely to succeed, Iain - where exactly does one dump the birds with some confidence that they'll not be gunned down? One may dump them well away from driven grouse moors, but bloody-mindedness is widespread within the shooting community and they'll shoot harriers out of spite. This is why the HOT solution - or, really, the Redpath-Merricks-Parry-Jones solution - is unlikely to succeed if one considers continuing illegal killing to be an indicator of failure.

          Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  6. Sandra Padfield says:

    A very appropriate and entertaining summing up of the situation, Mark. Let's hope that someone involved in this planned fiasco will at last see sense and 'pull the plug' on it. However, I won't be holding my breath.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(1)
  7. Alan Johnson says:

    Question is - IS anyone preparing a plan to effectively head off this ludicrous proposal? Any effective action would need legal status and, if funds are required to get something off the ground, I would pitch in, for sure, and hopefully so would many others. A legal campaign would attract huge public attention to the whole context. We should turn this threat into a campaigning OPPORTUNITY!

    Likes(6)Dislikes(1)
  8. […] Mark Avery wrote a blog about about DEFRA’s ridiculous hen harrier brood meddling plan, due to start this […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Trackbacks

  1. John Miles says:

    With no harriers to meddle with may be some one should ask the question why DEFRA are going to use a drug that has not been tested to pump into Grey Squirrels which are eaten by Birds of Prey.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-38880095?SThisFB

    Well they would eat the squirrels if the land owners stopped shooting the Birds of Prey and the ones that are not shot face a chemical which may end up killing them!! Breeding Goshawks can take up to 75% to 95% Grey Squirrel prey to their nests. Again as long as 'Red Alert' are not removing the Greys paid for by the tax payer pushing the Goshawks to take more Pheasants and then giving a reason to the land owner to kill them.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(1)
  2. Andy Holden says:

    The whole government-where-wildlife-is-concerned situation needs meddling with.
    The Tories, sucking up to the landowners of the UK, are a disgrace; Coffey needs to be decaffeinated, Sells needs to be sold down the river, NE should become NA, 'Not Applicable', and DEFRA - 'Department Engaging in Faffing about with Raptors Association'.

    Likes(17)Dislikes(1)
  3. Major Major Major says:

    The image of Dr Coffey covered in oil has to be quickly dismissed from the subconscious, for health reasons.

    Harriers, carriers. Defra seems to like money-making scams so perhaps a scheme whereby you could get 5p for every harrier you didn't shoot could be introduced.

    You could make a good thing out of not shooting any. The government would pay you well for every harrier you did not shoot. The more harriers you do not shoot, the more money the government would give you, and you could spend every penny you don't earn on new land to increase the number of harriers that don't live there. You could work without rest at not raising harriers. On long winter evenings you could remain indoors and not repair butts, and you could spring out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the medicated grit was not spread. If you invested in land wisely you could soon not shoot more harriers anyone in the county. Neighbours would seek you out for advice on all subjects, for you would have much money and would therefore be wise. “As ye shoot, so shall ye reap,” you counsel one and all, and everyone will say “Amen".

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/carrier-bag-charges-retailers-responsibilities

    Likes(10)Dislikes(1)
    • Andy Holden says:

      "The image of Dr Coffey covered in oil has to be quickly dismissed from the subconscious, for health reasons."

      There's a difference between olive and boiling.

      Definition of oleaginous. 1 : resembling or having the properties of oil : oily; also : containing or producing oil. 2 : marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality.

      I'm guessing that Mark's use of the word was steering more towards the second definition, but certainly one can see the first being apt in Coffey's case.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(2)
  4. eco-worrier says:

    Sorry to think this but it seems true - a Conservative minister will never, ever enact a programme, a pledge or promise that would cause a greedy businessman or one of their supporters to lose a penny of their ill-gotten gains. Who the hell voted the 'fill you boots at the expense of the living environment' party.

    Likes(7)Dislikes(2)
  5. Roderick Leslie says:

    The trouble with Hen Harriers is that they wander around a lot - even if you could get them to breed in the lowlands, just like the Forestry Commission's 2016 cohort which are going down like ninepins meddled HH will head for the moors - and, bang they're gone.

    Likes(3)Dislikes(3)
    • Thomas David Dick says:

      Which is exactly why Ban Driven Grouse Shooting is the only sensible long term option...

      Westminster parliament may have shown itself incapable of producing a proper debate or taking any action last year...but all the very valid points in favour of a ban still stand and in fact become more pertinent with every downed harrier [or poisoned red kite!].

      Likes(7)Dislikes(2)
      • Iain Gibson says:

        Why stop at driven grouse shooting? I say this as someone who spent a considerable part of his life working on grouse moors (not on the shooting side), both driven and walk-up. The gamekeepers from all four moors persistently shot harriers, and if only driven grouse shooting was banned, I believe there would still be high levels of persecution as the shooters will demand a walked-up alternative for their 'sport.' They are already looking at other options to continue exploitation of the moors should driven grouse shooting be banned. Already during grouse shortages they flood the moors with thousands of Red-legged Partridges, and arrange contingency plans to shoot Woodcock in the woods. Don't underestimate their ingenuity or determination, not to mention sheer bloody-mindedness.

        Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
        • Messi says:

          Another reason why brood removal and dumping is unlikely to succeed, Iain - where exactly does one dump the birds with some confidence that they'll not be gunned down? One may dump them well away from driven grouse moors, but bloody-mindedness is widespread within the shooting community and they'll shoot harriers out of spite. This is why the HOT solution - or, really, the Redpath-Merricks-Parry-Jones solution - is unlikely to succeed if one considers continuing illegal killing to be an indicator of failure.

          Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  6. Sandra Padfield says:

    A very appropriate and entertaining summing up of the situation, Mark. Let's hope that someone involved in this planned fiasco will at last see sense and 'pull the plug' on it. However, I won't be holding my breath.

    Likes(5)Dislikes(1)
  7. Alan Johnson says:

    Question is - IS anyone preparing a plan to effectively head off this ludicrous proposal? Any effective action would need legal status and, if funds are required to get something off the ground, I would pitch in, for sure, and hopefully so would many others. A legal campaign would attract huge public attention to the whole context. We should turn this threat into a campaigning OPPORTUNITY!

    Likes(6)Dislikes(1)
  8. […] Mark Avery wrote a blog about about DEFRA’s ridiculous hen harrier brood meddling plan, due to start this […]

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

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