Lancashire’s ‘Bowland Betty’ bites the Yorkshire dust

Bowland Betty being fitted with satellite tag. Photo:RSPB

A female hen harrier raised in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire, last year, and fitted with a satellite tag, was found dead on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales in June this year.  I hadn’t realised the trans-Pennine rivalry was so strong that the War of the Roses included shooting each other’s hen harriers.

But both the Lancashire Telegraph and the Harrogate Advertiser covered the story.

This blog by RSPB Bowland Project Officer, Jude Lane, is an appropriately emotional and angry response.

Bowland Betty being ringed. Her left leg was shattered when she was shot and killed. Photo: RSPB

Using cutting edge (pun intended) technology, scientists were able to show that there were traces of metal, mainly lead, on the fractured leg of the bird.

It doesn’t come as any great shock to hear this news.  The bird was picked up by Natural England’s Stephen Murphy who has been satellite-tagging hen harriers for several years.

We already know that many of those birds disappear long before either they or their satellite tags should cease to work.  Many of the ‘disappeared’ have been lost on grouse moors as was this one.  When asked to comment on this study back in May, Defra Minister Richard Benyon described it thus: This work showed that hen harriers travel over large distances and some individuals range widely over both upland and lowland areas before returning to traditional upland heather moorland sites to breed.

Well actually Minister that isn’t all the study showed as pointed out in my blog a few days later.  Here are some quotes from the NE report A future for the hen harrier in England? :

  • evidence of persecution is irrefutable
  • we have observed masked and/or armed individuals in the vicinity of nest and roost sites and recorded activities likely to disturb birds at or near their nests
  • we have nevertheless found direct evidence that Hen Harriers have been persecuted
  • we have, for instance, been looking into the disappearance of six Hen Harriers at an autumn roost known to us in the northern uplands. The anecdotal evidence of deliberate persecution given to us in confidence by a local land manager correlates with the information provided by the last known location of a number of birds that were being radio-tracked by project staff
  • a number of birds, including six birds fitted with satellite transmitters have been tracked from the Bowland Fells into parts of the North Pennines managed principally as driven grouse moors, and have not been recorded subsequently
  • in three incidents nests had been destroyed by illegal burning
  • we have also come across eight instances where other birds of prey have been shot, poisoned or disappeared on sites where Hen Harriers have been observed

But the point is that they don’t all return to traditional heather moorland areas to breed – particularly if their ranging takes them onto grouse moors where they may be shot by a person or persons apparently unknown.

Bowland Betty is an anecdote – a short-lived anecdote. She was hatched, flew around upland areas of northern England and south Scotland and was shot on a grouse moor before she could reproduce herself.  Just an anecdote really.

But the science is very clear – there should be hundreds of pairs of hen harriers in the north of England and they rarely reach double figures these days let alone treble figures.

Last May the RSPB called for a government recovery plan for hen harriers endorsed by landowners – I haven’t seen one, have you? Now the RSPB is calling for an emergency recovery plan from Defra one of whose actions should be the continued existence of the National Wildlife Crime Unit whose future is not secure.  I would like the NWCU to survive but I have to say that it hasn’t yet made a material difference to the fate of the hen harrier in England.  I can’t really believe that it would even if its budget were doubled – which is beyond anyone’s hope.

No, we have to face the fact that while commercial grouse shooting remains as a widespread land use in northern England then the hen harrier will always remain an endangered species – or worse, become extinct in England.  Let’s see how many hen harriers there are nesting in the north of England in 2013.  Unless things miraculously improve then it will be time to start the campaign, on 12 August 2013, to end grouse shooting.  Put the date in your diary.


109 Replies to “Lancashire’s ‘Bowland Betty’ bites the Yorkshire dust”

  1. The story was also covered in the Independent here–was-shot-illegally-8397633.html?origin=internalSearch.

    Like you I am appalled but not surprised by this news. Benyon recently wrote in the Independent that decisions he has taken with respect to raptor persecution have never been influenced by his personal interest in shooting. That may be so but the response I have received to letters I have written to my MP as well as his public statements on the topic indicate that he and his department are at best woefully complacent about this issue.

    If grouse shooting cannot clean up its act then I think a campaign to close it down would be entirely justified.

  2. A complete contrast to the upbeat blog yesterday.

    Time to end driven grouse shooting andd its dubious claims of rural economy, biodiversity etc etc. We, the wider general public, need those uplands to store carbon and water before anything else happens up there. No drainage, no burning, more trees (in the right places). I’d be happy for some of my taxes to pay for that under agri-environment schemes. I’m not at all happy that large landowners far far wealthier than me get subsidised to ‘farm’ red grouse and kill (alegedly) my wildlife heritage

  3. I agree Joanathon. Where do you see such a campaign being led from given the RSPB’s position?

  4. I once said that if I was supreme ruler of the world I’d probably allow some sustainably managed Grouse shooting in the English uplands.

    I’ve changed my mind. I would now ban it totally; direct some serious resources into enforcement and, almost certainly, compulsorily acquire the vast majority of the upland “grouse farms” which would then be managed to secure wider public benefits associated with a healthy upland heath ecology.

    They had their chance. They blew it. Up with the ban campaign…….

  5. I would love to see a ban but is it realistic? I have sent Jude Lane’s blog which I found heartbreaking to my MP ( Tory! ) and written to Defra. One can hope something will be done, but in the meantime date is in the diary!

  6. Completely agree with every word Mark. Grouse shoot owners have shown they are unable or unwilling to put their house in order & stop the persecution of Raptors on their moors. I can see no other option now, Driven Grouse shooting must be banned.

  7. If you want to see scientific evidence of raptor persecution on grouse moors & its impacts on Peregrines, here is a link to an article (2012) in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Biological Conservation’. This article is free to download.

    Title “Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations”.

  8. Would guess you know how I feel Mark,nothing new I could add but feel annoyed that the RSPB did absolutely b***** all to help V L petition up to 100,000 signatures and while I realise that V L is not a complete answer at least it would be one step to further progress.
    Now I believe the petition is closed I have requests for help from RSPB on similar lines and they now start on about H H deaths and I believe offer £1,000 reward for information(hope they do not hold their breath)a very small % of that £1,000 put into getting the V L petition numbers up would have in all probability better value.Like looking for a needle in a haystack for the person responsible for this H H death.

  9. Just picking up on the point about the wildlfe crime unit, a very quick trawl through ebay reveals numerous butterfly and moth species supposedly protected and banned from sale under the W&C Act 1981 Sch 5 being freely offered. I find it hard to believe that these sales would qualify for a Defra licence. There seems little point in having a law unless some very basic effort is made to enforce it. The traders appear to be operating openly without fear of any consequence.

    A pair of Adonis Blue for 99p? Marsh Fritillary for £3.95? Anyone?

  10. Is a ban on driven grouse shooting that right way forward here? I do not shoot or understand why one would want to, but I do ask myself the question (I don’t have the answer yet) “What has driven grouse shooting done for us?”
    I assume that the conservation of heather moorland (and associated costs) is to a large extent in the hands of grouse moor owners. I also assume that the management of these heather moorlands for the production of red grouse has led to the protection of habitat for other species. I would need an understanding of the costs and benefits to a wide range of species (and perhaps landscapes) before I would consider supporting such a move.
    Perhaps a better way forward is to develop relationships with grouse moor owners, managers and game keepers to better understand the reasons for this persecution. I assume that the perception is that raptors remove an uneconomical number of red grouse. If this is the case (rather than an irrational hatred of raptors) then perhaps there needs to be some acceptance that productivity on some grouse moors is not economically viable and therefore in these areas other land uses need to be explored.
    The entrenchment of the two sides of this argument – the “them and us” mentality – will not allow a long term solution to this problem. There needs to be a certain amount of compromise on both sides. So, rather than starting a campaign to stop grouse shooting on 12th August 2013, why don’t we start a campaign to work together with the grouse shooting industry to stop raptor persecution on the 13th December 2012. It is not going to be easy to get meaningful discussion going between the two sides but it has got to be worth a try. Perhaps I am too idealistic…..

    1. Matt – thank you for your comment but it will cause a rolling of eyes from many people simply because there has been a lot of give and take, and offers to compromise, but grosue shooting cannot get its house in order adn the patience , some would say, has to end sometime. When there are almost no hen harriers left nesting on english grosue moors might be the time to lose one’s patience.

      Opinions differ as to how valuable heather moorland is for biodiversity as a whole but there is certainly a balance sheet of good and bad. The recent move by the National trust to regulate heather burning on their land in the High Peak shows which way conservation thinking is going.

      And, of course, most of these sites are designated for their wildlife interest under European legislation. They are designated partly for the hen harrier numbers that they no longer have – funny that isn’t it? The designations allow the state to specify what sort of management should take place (just as listed building status restricts your freedom to paint yur house pink). And your taxes are going into the esttes that don’t have any hen harriers nesting on them. How happy are you with that?

  11. Only yesterday the Costa Rican government passed a law banning all sport shooting in Costa Rica. The penalty for infringement is $3000 . The law came about because 175,000 people signed a petition demanding that this issue was raised by their parliament.
    If Costa Rica can do it so can we. Why do we not stop banging on about hen harriers which are relatively common throughout Europe and parts of Scotland and concentrate on banning all shooting instead. I do not think that it is any worse to shoot a hen harrier than a woodcock or snipe.
    If someone were to petition the people of Britain to support a ban on sport shooting of birds and animals instead of talking about vicarious liability , when most people do not know what this means then we may get somewhere.
    This could kill two or more birds with one stone : no more lead being scattered over the countryside and no more birds of prey killed.

    1. In even a country racked with instability (Egypt) one of the ministers was horrifed to hear of Maltaesse shooters taking advantage of the instabiltity and illegally shooting various species of birds, “the hunters were seen taking several large bin bags full of birds to their vehicles”, managed to raise questions in their parliament and to be fair you’d think the Eygptians have more pressing issues to tackle yet we do bugger all!

  12. Given the ‘leisure spend’ orientation of grouse moor management, I’m not sure just what difference the following suggestion might make, but I have begun to ask traceability questions in restaurants serving grouse (and other game). Questions such as can they assure me that all management practices on the estate where the grouse were sourced are legal. Do they know the extent to which grouse moor management is inplicated in the illegal destruction of birds of prey? etc.

    Perhaps there’s scope for an independent game version of the Marine Stewartship Council arrangement with a traffic light system?

    1. Suspect that the sale of game to restaurants is a pretty inconsequential issue in this problem, the money mainly comes from those doing the shooting. May be better to require the shooters ask the questions or preferably restrict shooting on upland estates unless they can demonstrate that they have taken steps which have ensured a healthy population of raptors, with targets to be met. Peer pressure would work wonders with any truculent neighbours. Ten years lead-in time would give something to mull over while numbers recover.

  13. PS – Any discussion usually ends with me making a different selection from the menu. Oh and it doesn’t happen more than a few times a year lest you think I’m living it up – or are concerned about my lead intake!

  14. I don’t know there I was yesterday with a spring in my step and then I go and read this, I would love to swear but won’t. It’s the same old story, the same old people. No REAL punishment, I think the lack of prosecution of the HH death at Sandringham sent a message to the shooting twats they can get away with it, and if by chance or luck they caught the punishment is pathetic, heck if I was to drive without insurance the penalty would be much stiffer. Why is it (and I’ve said this before) in a country (USA), whom we take the mickey out of or look down at with condescension do the shooting communtity and birders seem to not have such conflict, you’d honestly expect in country the prides itself in it’s love of animals it would be ours where the skies are filled to the brim with a huge variety of avian species, and in a country whose love of the gun there would be a lot less avian species, yes I know some species have become extinct due to shooting in the USA, but there doesn’t seem to be the persecution on the same level as in this country.
    Time is running out for various raptors in this fair isles of ours and I feel in side me an undeniable urge to grab a balaclava and take more direct action, it gets to the point all the talking stops and we have to take another approach, stuff the “lets work together” as expressed by a guest blogger some time ago on here, what’s it achieved. The CSA, Basc and other gun carrying/raptor hating folks are just playing lip service, “we’ll tell the bunny huggers one thing, but when they’re not looking just carry on as usual!” is how I see the conversation going, no enough is enough no more talking and more action. Do we have to fit every Hen Harrier,Goshawk,Sparrowhawk,Corvid,Golden Eagle,Marsh Harrier and Buzzard with tags that relay real time data and mapping and have people tracking the individual tagged birds and then sit and protect every single bird? If so I would love to be a “birding bouncer”. Stuff them.

  15. Hello Mark,
    strong and heartfelt views expressed (quite rightly) by your commentators and by sane minded conservationists everywhere.
    I can’t help thinking that calls for a ban would be wasted on the Conservative Party though, mainly due to its core voters in the shires of England. At best you’d get some meaningless verbal support of yet another study or the loss of rural jobs argument, etc. (as in the fox hunting debate).
    Direct peaceful protest and an highly organized campaign targeting all MP’s, rural council leaders, Police authorities, land owning bodies, etc, is surely the way.
    And……..perhaps the time has finally come to ditch the accommodation of a rich minority “sport” and outmoded rural sensibilities and wage a collective and total campaign to eradicate grouse shooting in the UK.

  16. “Unless things miraculously improve then it will be time to start the campaign, on 12 August 2013, to end grouse shooting. Put the date in your diary.”

    Here we go again – New Labour’s relentless ethnic cleansing of the Countryside continues – driven by its animal rights terrorists and loony vegetarians members.

    Lordy! Lordy!

    My nearest grouse moor is less than100 yards away and 12 August 2013 is certainly in my diary already!

    Time to stop ALL funding to folk like the RSPB, Woodland Trust etc – methinks. There’s more chance of that than banning grouse shooting!

    Give Mr May a call – he may know something about birds!

  17. I have heard powerful voices (Steve Redpath) arguing for working towards a win-win solution and citing the Downing Street Agreement as an example of where entrenched and seemingly intractable positions were (at least in large part) resolved: rather than the absolutist win-lose.

    This supported by an argument that ecological research has not resolved the dispute between conservationists and game managers because ecology in not at the heart of the dispute. I agree with this and but I believe that the dispute is not actually between conservationists and game managers and cannot be resolved by them. The disagreement is between game managers and the Settled Will of the People as enacted through Parliament.

    If a business needs to operate outside of the law of the land in order to be profitable and survive then it has 3 options as I see it: 1) lobby for a change in the law, 2) lobby for public support to meet the financial gap (if there is one) between legality and profitability, or 3) choose another activity.

    At this point I’m reminded of Mark’s use of children in chimmneys (analogy – not literally), but I think a better analogy lies in slavery. If an activity relies on illegal action in order to survive, then it is, or should be inevitable that a Win-Lose will be the final outcome. Difficult to imagine a win-win involving slavery.

    Perhaps after over a century of shooting, stamping, trapping, poisoning and burning irrespective of the background of the law of the land at the time, we are finally at the Beginning of the End?

      1. Bimbling has it on the nail, criminal enterprises like the News of the World, UK dependencies acting as tax havens and grouse shooting need to be shut down, even under this government. Never say never Trimbush.

  18. Trimbush,
    If you are the coherent, reasoned, argument to avoid a campaign to stop grouse shooting, then I feel it cannot fail. You dismiss the Labour Party (and I suspect “Towney’s” and non-shooters in general) as animal rights terrorists and loony vegetarians!
    It just shows how out of touch people such as you are with the “reasoned majority”.
    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi John – I was born in Chiswick, London – one of the ‘townies’ but I decided being based rurally was a better option – it’s open to everybody – you see more birds – more wildlife generally – and you grow to appreciate things that the London elite from the Labour Party have never even heard of – but still retain the option to go up to London to visit the Tate, Sadlers Wells etc etc..

  19. We’re an urban nation and the urban view, however badly educated, will win through in the end.

    I learnt that in Oregon in 1986 – and it had a big effect on the future of a similarly unpopular activity, upland conifer planting – where the urban majority & booming economy (eg Boeing – but not Microsoft – was it even invented back then ?) simply beat the loggers and the many deep rural communities they lived in over old growth logging and the Spotted Owl.

    Political winds keep changing but the long term trend is towards urban values dominating and any rural interest with sense, whether shooter, farmer or forester will do well to listen to and work with urban values – and most of all remember that education (as opposed to propaganda) is always a two way exchange.

    Out of all the comments, Mark’s and everyone else’s, its sobering to reflect that noone will have done more for the ban grouse shooting campaign than Trimbush, albeit unintentionally.

    1. I am beginning to wonder if Trimbush isn’t the nom de plume of a vegetarian towny stirring up indignation and some motivation! I fear he is correct though that little will happen under this administration….

        1. Absolutely right Ernest – I believe the correct term is ENTRYIST

          I joined the Labour Party online (£30) but my local Labour Party rejected me (!) – Labour said I would have a chance to address the NEC – which I was looking forward to – but it changed its ‘mind’ – It still owes me the £30 – it didn’t refund it as promised (!)

          They don’t like it up ’em Pikey

          Cheers Ernest

          Good hunting

  20. Research by Prof Stephen Redpath recorded that hen harriers can remove the “shootable surplus” of red grouse from managed moorland, making the business non-viable and so proving (I think) that driven grouse shooting is fundamentally incompatible with our moral and legal obligation to conserve the hen harrier. The now parlous state of the hen harrier as a breeding species in England further demonstrates this point as (not very) mysteriously red grouse shoots thrive. Therefore the only win-win solution I can imagine is a ban on driven grouse shooting and a switch to walked up shooting.

    Conservationists “win” in seeing an end to a practice that has shown itself to be catastrophically destructive of our natural heritage.

    Grouse shooters “win” in being able to continue their passion for shooting birds (and the jobs that shooting sustains are maintained).

    All UK conservation organisations should unite in publicising the unacceptable consequences of driven red grouse shooting, consigning it to the dustbin of outmoded and now unacceptable Victorian era practices as we have with things like tiger hunts.

    However, I’m sad to say I think it is a thousand times more likely that we will see the hen harrier finally disappear from England than it is that we will see an end to driven grouse shooting.

  21. Look folks

    Living at 1500 feet – where the air is much cleaner – enables one to ‘see’ clearer.

    Living closer to Mother Nature is not an option – you really wouldn’t believe how hard it is (especially on my blackbirds) – and you bunch (most of you) are nice soft members of RSPB, Ramblers, etc for which you pay – and are anti-hunt, and anti-shoot – pro-environmental pathogens etc etc.

    You really haven’t got a clue – you all mean well – you mean what you say and you are polite BUT you are fundamentally wrong!

    Hen Harriers – I’ve said before – one of God’s wondrous creations – for his sake – don’t be stupid – wanting to ban Grouse Shooting is adolescent! Waiting for 12 Aug 2013 is wrong – Find a Leader – Do it Now! Even Mr May can throw a Party

    PS The keys on my Mac keyboard have gone red from the blood dripping from my fingers with working outside at –7 o

    Good Hunting & Good Night!

    Reasoned Majority? That is me!

    1. Trimbush,
      Very brave comments from one who doesn’t leave a real name. I enjoy a giggle at some of your comments, they’re almost direct qoutes from the Daily Mail, just a few words changed in case someone screams plagerism.
      I had always thought your head was stuck somewhere but never thought it was 1500 feet up in the clouds, must make you feel more godly, hey.
      So lets get this right then, anyone who dares to think the shooting,trapping or poisoning of an animal is a “left wing,animal right terrorist, vegetarian loony”? Well by that reckoning anyone who enjoys are willing takes part in the destruction of animal, just so they can maintain a right to kill other animals must be a “right-wing,homophobic,sexist,racits,private school educated paedophiles”, after all isn’t that how the right of politics could be described? But both statements aren’t true? ARE THEY? The simple truth is do you think it’s justified to kill a Hen Harrier, just because it’s doing what comes natural to it? Fine you might live at 1500ft and the cleaner air helps you to see better, but you do have to open your eyes to see and not permanently walk around blinkered.
      Whilst I’m not at all a Labour voter, I think some examples of the ethnic cleansing of the countryside could be helpful for town dwelling trogolydytes like myself. Where on earth did Blair hide all the crimes/evidence of ethnic cleansing? Just a shame he missed a few….

      1. Douglas – quite near getting a yellow card for that comment but I hope it will be taken as robust and jocular.

      2. Douglas me owd

        You are not keeping up – look at the above Guardian link and you will see that my name is Peter Brady – Founder of the Rural Army and co-founder of SETT

        Strategies for the Eradication of Tuberculosis Transmission

        and ‘Countryside Activist’ extra airy – so speak

        Now will you all please go back to discussing Hen Harriers like what Mark suggested in the first place

        I would NEVER kill a Hen Harrier but I would love to hunt it over the moors with a couple of German Shorthaired Pointers to put up the Grouse for the HH.

        Now that confuses the issue don’t?

        Good hunting – Peter

      3. Hi Douglas

        I do not take the Daily Mail – although it appears that you do – so no “plagiarism” there than – I write me own stuff!

        As to Bliar’s hidden Ethnic Cleansing – Try IRAQ

        1. Trim, I asked for some examples of “ethic cleansing of the British Countryside”, and the best example you can give is IRAQ! If I remember correctly and unjust invasion of a country which got the majority of cross party support in the House of Commons with the exception of a small handful of Labour,LIberal and Tory MP’s who didn’t go along oh and lets not forget almost an entire nation except the million or so who put down their veggie meals to protest. AGAIN I stress I don’t read the Daily Mail but here’s were things get slightly strange…October 23rd(Tuesday I think) the Daily Mail printed an article who’s title and reporter I can’t recall, I was sat in the canteen waiting for my lorry to be unloaded when a fellow worker handed my over the paper to have a read of an article about the proposed Badger Cull. I admit I had to take the article home to read, it took me an hour to read for reasons I’ve stated on here in the past. The article was about a husband and wife team, he was a farmer, she ran the B&B side of her business, he was taking part in the badger cull (if I recall correctly it was his business that was running the cull) and they both had appeared on the ALF’s “Badger Killers” website with all the details, now I’m not sure who copied who but in the article a line pops up “the threat of Tb in Cattle must be treated as seriously as a war….” October 25th Mark writes an article titled “It’s about Tb” oddly the last line (I think it might have your second comment) in your comment appears to be VERY SIMILAR. Plagiarism (thanks for the correct spelling) or did the reporter qoute you and didn’t credit you as a source?

        2. Peter Brady was The Invisible Man, and Ernest Moss the local handyman for the lovely Northern town of Ottle

  22. It would appear that the ‘game industry’ thinks following any of the laws of the land is optional, as well as some ignoring the laws surrounding wildlife protection they also seem to take a dim view of paying the appropriate taxation.

    Is an industry that flouts the law in so many ways a viable one? Why hasn’t HMRC tackled this issue more firmly previously. Perhaps Patterson and Osbourne et al should ‘bear down’ on this disgraceful illegality. If these were urban employers they would be hammered by HMRC.

      1. As a a former school boy bush beater, which helped develop my interest in birds and the countryside and an ex tax inspector, this point is a side issue. Employers of casual labour have always been required by PAYE regulations to obtain details of those they pay daily wages too. The fact that most of them are teenagers or retired persons with no support other than state pensions means that most of them have excess personal allowances and no tax liability. Compliance with the system is not that difficult but it can be viewed as a bureaucratic nonsense in this scenario. Those working guys who enjoy a days beating and a few quid in their pocket should just pay their tax. I don’t think this is the magic bullet to protect hen harriers.

        Trimbush should be careful in whipping up opposition. Unfortunately the shooting movement will by necessity stand and fall together and it will be difficult to pick off grouse shooting on its own. To many urban people’s view the reality of the cruelty inflicted on birds, hares and rabbits by poor shots,were it driven home by a propaganda campaign would be sufficient cause for them to seek a total ban on shooting. There needs to be a sensible debate among shooting people about how they move their sport forward. The massive release / maintenance of high levels of birds will have to change. The Buzzard guy has already shot the industry in the foot and let the cat out of the bag. Trimbush seems to be leading a death spiral for shooting and he ought to be advocating positive sporting change of a kind he alludes to rather than defending the indefensible.

        Shooting does not have to be totally banned but it might end up like that unless their advocates smarten up.

  23. Why do game birds not require the the same stringent laws of electrical stunning such as…cattle,sheep and poultry before being sold to the public?

    1. Paul – because they are not livestock? Or because it would be rather difficult as they fly past?

  24. Countryside Alliance – EXTRACT

    CA Moorlands Director Adrian Blackmore writes: The RSPB’s recently published Birdcrime Report for 2011 provides a summary of the offences against wildlife legislation that were reported to the RSPB in 2011. Since 2009, Birdcrime reports have not included a “total” reported figure for all categories of wild bird crime, explanation given being that this enables the RSPB to focus its finite resources on wild bird crime affecting species of high conservation concern, and crime that is serious and organised. In his forward to the Report, Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, states that the RSPB believes that persecution of birds of prey is just that; both “serious” and “organised”, and he refers to the “intolerable Victorian throwback of persecuting birds of prey and other wildlife in the name of sport”.

    The RSPB believes that there is strong evidence of a link between raptor persecution and land managed for driven grouse shooting in the uplands of England and parts of Scotland, and that the nature of this activity is “widespread and systematic”. It believes that the law currently fails to target those who encourage or require their employees to break the law by killing birds of prey, and therefore wishes to see an offence of vicarious liability introduced. It is calling for the maximum fine of £5,000 and / or 6 months imprisonment that can be awarded for offences tried in the Magistrates Court to be increased to £50,000 and / or 12 months imprisonment, and in the Crown Court is wishes to see unlimited fines and / or up to 5 years imprisonment. It further believes that there should be an option to withdraw the ‘right’ of an individual to shoot game, or businesses to supply shooting services, for a fixed period, following a conviction for a wildlife or environmental offence, and that “reckless” provisions should be added to all “intentional” incidents of wildlife crime.

    From all of this, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that wild bird crime must be spiralling out of control, and that illegal persecution of threatened species of birds of prey is rife; particularly in the uplands of England. If that were indeed the case, then the RSPB’s calls for tighter legislation would make perfect sense, but when based upon its own available statistics in its Report that convincingly show the problem to be reducing, they become absurd.

    In 2011, there were a total of 461 reported incidents, compared to 568 in 2010 and 741 in 2009; a reduction of 19% and 38% respectively. Going even further back, the figure for 2011 also happens to be 28% lower than the previous 5 year average of 644 reported incidents. These, however, are just the reported incidents, the usefulness of which must be questionable at the best of times, but especially when the RSPB admits in the report that 1% of those concerning birds of prey occurred in an unknown location in the UK.

    Careful study of the figures show that for every five ‘reported incidents’, just one results in the confirmed death of a bird of prey. Of the 202 reports of the shooting and destruction of birds of prey in 2011, there are 42 that are shown as having been confirmed. This figure includes 30 incidents of shooting (a figure that includes 8 owls), the destruction of 1 nest, 9 incidents in relation to illegal trapping, and 2 confirmed ‘other’ incidents, details of which have not been given in the report. Although there were 70 confirmed cases of poisoning and the use of poisoned baits, the number involving birds of prey was 48, the other 22 being concerned with dogs, cats, a hedgehog, and non bird of prey species including carrion crows, magpies and a rook. There were therefore a total of 90 confirmed bird of prey incidents in 2011, compared to 115 in 2010; a reduction of 22%. The 48 confirmed poisoning incidents in 2011 also represents a 31% reduction from 2012, when the figure had been 70; another downward trend that should be welcomed.

    Of the 90 confirmed bird of prey incidents in 2011, only 9 are shown as having occurred in counties where grouse moor management takes place in the North of England, and none have been linked to that management. Despite the RSPB using the Report to highlight alleged persecution of hen harriers and peregrines on grouse moors, there is not a single incident, either reported or confirmed, against these species within any county in the North of England where grouse moor management is carried out. The RSPB is also well known for its frequent accusations against gamekeepers, but of the 42 individuals prosecuted in the courts last year, just 7 were either full or part-time gamekeepers, and of the offences for which they were found guilty, only 2 were directly linked to the taking or death of a bird of prey. As in previous years, the vast majority of prosecutions were concerned with non birds of prey.

    All the facts therefore paint a very different picture to that which the RSPB is doing its utmost to portray. It should be celebrating the significant reductions year on year in the crimes that it is reporting, but instead it is campaigning for major changes to legislation that directly target the sporting community, based on ‘evidence’ that it simply cannot produce.

    1. Trimbush – 300 pairs of hen harriers missing from northern England due to illegal killing. Possibly only the Countryside Alliance denies that.

      1. Hi Mark

        I do not know if your missing 300 pairs is real or not – point me to where / how this has been established – I’ve downloaded RSPBs Birdcrime 2011


        I think coopy’s gone a little loopy

        1. Trimbush – I think the 300 pairs is a GWCT estimate of how many hen harriers could live in the English uplands if left unmolested.

          Here’s some more stuff (from a blog I wrote in another place in March 2011

          Here is a quote from the summary of a scientific paper published in 1998:

          ‘In the U.K., a full recovery of Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus breeding numbers is prevented by illegal culling by some gamekeepers who fear the species threatens the future of grouse moors. This study’s main purpose was to estimate how many more Hen Harriers there would be in the U.K. if this culling were to cease.’

          Later in the summary, I’ve missed out some dull bits, the author states:

          ‘If all potential habitats were occupied, present numbers could more than double, to an estimated 1660 nesting females. This estimate represents an average of one nesting female per 25 km2 of habitat, a density which would cause little or no significant economic damage on grouse moors.

          ‘However, because Hen Harriers tend to aggregate, they would not spread out evenly but would nest in relatively high densities on a number of moors. The economic impact on Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus would not be a function of overall numbers, rather it would arise from the uneven dispersion of nesting Hen Harriers.’

          And who was this author? None other than Dick Potts, who was then the boss of the Game Conservancy Trust. The paper was published in the journal Ibis Vol 140, pp 76-88.

          The RSPB was active doing science on the subject around this time too.

          Here is the complete summary of a 1997 paper entitled ‘The effects of illegal killing and destruction of nests by humans on the population dynamics of hen harriers Circus cyaneus in Scotland in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol 34, pp 1081-1105 :

          ‘1. Breeding productivity, natal dispersal and survival of hen harriers Circus cyaneus were studied between 1988 and 1995 on moorland managed for sport shooting of red grouse, other heather moorland and young conifer forests in the uplands of Scotland. 2. Nest success was much lower on grouse moors than on other land management classes. Annual productivity was 0.8 fledglings per breeding female year on grouse moors compared with 2.4 on other moorland and 1.4 in young conifer forests. Human interference was recorded on half of the grouse moor estates studied and accounted for at least 30% of breeding failures in this land management class. It was much less frequent in the other land management classes. 3. Annual survival of female hen harriers which bred on grouse moors was about half that of females breeding on other moorland. On grouse moors, survival of females which bred unsuccessfully was much lower than that of females which reared at least one fledgling. Survival of breeding females on other moorland was high and unrelated to breeding success. The difference in survival of breeding females between grouse moors and other moors was attributed to killing by humans. On average, 55-74 females were killed each year, 11-15% of the total population of breeding females in Scotland, excluding Orkney. 4. The population of breeding females on grouse moors was estimated to decline rapidly without immigration. Harriers breeding on the other habitats were producing a surplus of female recruits approximately sufficient to compensate for the losses on grouse moors. 5. Most females started to breed at 1 year old and most males at 2 years old. The percentage of breeding males which were 1 year old was higher on grouse moors than on the other land management classes. 6. The median natal dispersal distance of both sexes exceeded 10 km. Harriers fledged from one land management class were often found breeding in another. 7. Natal dispersal resulted in net movements of 1-year-old females between land management classes which were sufficient to reduce the differences in population trend which would otherwise have occurred. Moorland managed for grouse shooting was a sink habitat which received two-thirds of its female recruits from other habitats. 8. The difference in productivity and survival between grouse moors and other habitats was attributed to illegal human interference. It is speculated that, without persecution, the hen harrier population in Scotland would increase, initially by about 13% per year, until a new, but unknown, equilibrium level was reached.’.

    2. Certainly any decline in persecution should be welcomed (although these reported declines reflect reported crimes rather than actual totals so may not reflect any real decline at all).

      Assuming for a moment that they do reflect a real decline in persecution, could it be that this is simply because finding any hen harriers to persecute these days is an increasingly challenging task ( When they’ve all been shot we can celebrate that persecution has declined to zero.

      I also note in this link above, a quote from a certain Dr Avery stating that more than 70% of individuals prosecuted for raptor persecution in the last 20 years were gamekeepers – rather a different picture to the CA propaganda.

      1. Hugh – thanks for this. I think it is 70% of convictions are gamekeepers – which if I have remembered correctly, makes it even more stark.

  25. Here’s a “heads up” for you Trimbush:

    You, and those who share your enjoyment of killing things for fun, don’t represent “the countryside” at all; that particular subterfuge has been well and truly exposed long ago. Trotting out well-worn stereotypes to enforce your argument only shows it for what it is; tired, baseless, and totally discredited.

  26. Bloody shameful. Both the shooting of yet another English Hen Harrier, and the apologists who in some way think that there’s any good reason to continue the fiction that uplands in some way *need* to be managed for bloodsports, and without this management will be as a whole impoverished.

    Whatever happened to vicarious liability? The RSPB are, at the moment, petitioning for our signatures to back Marine Protection Areas in Scotland. Where were the RSPB when the online petition to push for vicarious liability in England was being held earlier this year? Conspicuously silent, that’s where. And that was shameful too.

    As it stands, this female Hen Harrier is just another casualty in a long line of similar offences against wildlife and any sort of moral decency. She shouldn’t be relegated to a footnote in environmental history. She should be a full-stop. The moment when people finally say enough is enough. Get angry. Care, care a very great deal, and don’t let the shooting industry pull the wool over politicians’ or the public’s eyes. It’s time for a change. Time to say killing animals for fun is plain wrong. Time to say that killing animals that don’t fit neatly into the picture of a bloodsport industry is wrong too.

    Am I angry? Hell, yes.

  27. I’m going to change the tack slightly and sorry this may be long. As a Yorkshire man and raptor worker I’m incandescent that yet again the criminals that work on our moors at the behest of the land owning criminals have destroyed one of the birds I love, in direct defiance of the law, logic and science that shows all these moors could easily support 2 pairs of harriers per 5000 acres (Redpaths figures) without damage to grouse stocks.

    We’ve been talking to these b****rds for years and getting jack **** in return. Supplementary feeding stops them taking grouse chicks but no moor in England uses it, Redpath’s figures show that harriers at reasonable density are not a problem, yet their plan seems to be extermination. The ****************** NGO, ****************** Moorland Owners and the ******************* CA have had their chance to put it right and we must a find better way quickly— write to your MP express your outrage whilst asking him to ask awkward questions of Benyon.

    Betty has in one way done us a favour, for years radio tagged and sat tagged harriers from Bowland have come to the Dales en masse and en masse disappeared, now we have some proof of how, as a shot fired in haste did not kill outright so a tagged bird goes over the hill and dies to be evidence of crime (normally bird and tag would be gone) . This has been ROUTINE on our grouse moors for years.

    Then there is the estate (Swinton) she was found on ******************. We first found a harrier nest on it (yes its my local patch as it were) in 94 it failed at the egg stage, with adults disappearing. Since then there have been nesting attempts in most years from 2000 to 2007 about twelve in total 3 broods reared the rest all failed when the adults disappeared. Peregrines have nested or attempted to from 1980 to 2005 never reared young, 2 pairs of goshawks found in the early nineties are long gone. Wing tagged kites have disappeared to never appear elsewhere and have occasionally been found carbofuran poisoned. Of course we don’t know who did this or indeed shot Betty but I’ve a damned good idea that who ever, it was a grouse keeper. It is known that a harrier and eagle owl have ************************ and I’ve SEEN ******************* crouched on the roadside gun in hand as a harrier approached fortunately for the bird she veered off out of range. There are those who will deny this but North Yorkshire is a hot bed of persecution with well over 20 proven incidents in the Dales alone in the last few years of nest destruction, poisoning and shootings almost all on grouse moors. They are almost all at it.

    I don’t want Betty, a bird lots of people followed through the Bowland RSPB blog to be just another footnote, another victim we need to make her death and short life mean something, if it means we need to fight for an end to driven shooting so be it but that will be a hard but not unfruitful aim but the killing has to stop.

    Oh and said estate ******************************* recently hosted a fund raiser for our ” leading wildlife research charity” no not RSPB or BTO but GWCT Give me b***dy strength, they are all in it together and all belong on the bonfire of history. Let’s make it so.

    1. Paul – that’s very passionate. I have edited your comment a little. This general area does seem, according to your local knowledge of raptor nesting history, to be a rather unlucky one for birds of prey. I am sure that all the locals must be distraught and puzzled at the lack of breeding raptors.

      1. No Mark not unlucky but typical, there are other large estates in the Dales with catalogues as bad, we have this sort of data from a number and from some of their smaller neighbours. The “gentle man” who’s job you redacted once told me on the moor top in the days when we spoke! ” you know what my instructions are as well as I do, you’ll have nowt .” Lots of locals accept it as the norm few speak out. There are even a few members of our local natural history society that see it as keepers legitimately protecting their interests and we should accept it as the price of having the moors as they are. Ask the people in West Yorkshire or Durham their moors are as bad or the non United Utiliies sites in Bowland we know they are all at it. The more city bankers et al that shoot the more the value goes up and all they care about is the bag size, they know nothing of the ecology and care nothing for the natural competition or the law.

    1. Hi there Co-op – I missed you late last night – I trust you slept well.

      Tell Mark I’m looking at his 300 pairs etc


  28. The shooting of Bowland Betty clearly indicates that if any successful hen harrier nests are found in England in the future, all chicks must be satellite tagged at nests before fledging. Second, if the latest RSPB hen harrier initiative funded by the £600,000 required is to have any chance of success the government must change the law relating to access by professional licensed field workers, including paid wardens to private estates, which is illegal at the moment under CRoW legislation, unless land owner approval has been obtained. The BTO must also change their own rules regarding ringing Schedule 1 species on CRoW access land in England, regardless of who may own the land. Under BTO rules, not applicable to Scotland or National Parks in England it appears, unless approval is first obtained to ring nestlings from the respective landowner the BTO rules are clear, ringing is not allowed, and may even infringe licence conditions.

    If all these conditions are applied it still does not guarantee fledged hen harriers will be any more successful in the future than they are now. What is really required is to address the root cause of raptor persecution, more experienced unpaid licensed field workers on the ground together with improved enforcement of existing legislation where it counts. This will be particularly important throughout England’s moorland uplands as demonstrated by systematic persecution which has eliminated the hen harrier as a breeding bird from all but one location in northern England. If none of this works the only alternative must be for a licensing scheme to be put in place covering all moorland in England used to shoot red grouse as proposed by the RSPB. This scheme must be supported by adequate funding to pay for staff to monitor the success of the project throughout the whole year. The removal of licenses by Natural England from England’s most experienced raptor group preventing members from monitoring vulnerable nests on private estates at their own expense in the Forest of Bowland has not helped the current situation there, playing into the hands of the raptor persecutors.

    1. I agree with much of what Terry says but a ban on driven grouse shooting must be seen as a viable option to licencing and both will be difficult to achieve. The last sentence however I cannot remotely agree with as Terry knows only too well and why.

  29. Whilst an untested and potentially lawful solution exists, it is unlikely any government will legislate to ban / licence driven shooting of grouse. Such a solution has been developed through a process of dialogue, albeit at times painfully slow. The pace of the dialogue was probably inevitable given the divergent views of the conservation and shooting groups.

    The solution involves temporarily placing hen harrier chicks in aviaries once nesting pairs exceed a certain density on grouse moors. This removes the most serious impacts of hen harrier predation on grouse i.e. during the chick rearing phase. At the point of fledging, juvenile harriers are released back onto the moors. This is similar to schemes in France and Spain, whereby harrier chicks are temporarily taken into captivity so that birds in farmland do not have their nests destroyed at harvest time. There is no lethal control and birds not nesting on grouse moors are not part of the trial.

    Many conservationists are understandably very uncomfortable with such an interventionist approach, but some recognise that it is necessary to pursue in order to gradually chip away at the shooting groups’ remaining arguments – call their bluff so to speak. Either it works, or continuing persecution in the presence of a lawful solution would remove any remaining excuses and leave the shooting groups totally exposed. They would just rather carry on killing harriers. This may then allow tougher measures to be considered.

    Some have questioned the commitment to such a scheme, but it was very revealing to note the Moorland Association’s comments to the minister that were revealed following one of Mark’s FOI requests surrounding the Walshaw case. Privately, they were lobbying for such a trial to go ahead. Unfortunately, after several years of dialogue the RSPB have pulled out and the whole process has stalled. Possibly such a trial could be seen to weaken our laws protecting birds of prey, but if there was an easy solution to hen harrier conservation that did not involve any compromise we would not be in this position.

    1. Rich – show me the queue of moors wanting to accept translocated hen harriers. And such a scheme might kick in when there are hen harriers on grouse moors – it is hardly relevant when there are none. And none because of ongoing criminality.

      1. Personally, I also want tougher measures to be implemented. I just think the only chance of this ever happening is to test the aviary scheme and rule it out once and for all. Until this happens it remains a wonderful excuse for inaction. I wouldn’t disagree that such a scheme may well fail, but unfortunately I think it is a necessary step before any form of control of shooting would be considered. Whilst there are moors claiming they are willing to enter into such a scheme, until such claims are tested then I suspect the shooting groups’ closer ties to government will prevail over any possible calls by conservation groups for a ban.

  30. I live in another “typically” unlucky area when it comes to raptors The Peak District, I am not sure that anywhere in the country there is a more clearly demonstrated difference in fortunes of medium and large raptors.
    In the south of the peak (The White Peak) the expansion and breeding success of species such as Peregrine, Goshawk, Raven and Buzzard has been recorded and yet in the north (The Dark Peak) there is little to no success for these species.
    I have always believed that the shooting industry would eventually put it’s house in order but it is becoming more and more apparent that they are paying lip service to the laws and are simply unable to operate legally, speaking with local keepers it soon becomes apparent that they have no interest in reaching an agreement unless you agree with their methods and ideals.
    I for one would be sorry to see driven grouse shooting stopped as I believe a mixture of habitat and uses makes for a much better future, unfortunately this sentiment is not felt by what I will refer to as the “otherside” and I am quickly starting to feel that the weight of my sympathy has shifted greatly, I hope that the National Trust vision plan is approved and can be quickly implemented in this area and that others follow their lead, but if we were subject to another year of the same I would give my 100% support, backing and time to raise awareness and lobby for a ban on driven Red Grouse Shooting.
    We are long overdue some change.

    1. Mike – thanks! You reflect my own views. I am totally frustrated that thee has been no movement by the shooting community – just year after year of fewer and fewer raptors in the uplands. Patience is running out.

  31. I have serious doubts that banning driven grouse shooting would be acceptable to the current government or its game shooting supporters. I also have my doubts that even a Labour government would have the balls to go down that highly political route. I consider a total ban as impractical without a workable scheme to control ground predators. This was graphically demonstrated by Langholm 1, where harrier increased under controlled protection to 20 pairs, but as soon as the gamekeepers were removed and predator control ended hen harrier numbers crashed to just one or two pairs. I also have concerns with the feasibility of any quota system. Even if one or two estates finally agreed to provide safe sanctuary for hen harriers, the majority would not be willing to do so. Any harriers produced naturally or relocated to safe moorland regions would then face the same persecution once they crossed estate boundaries after fledging. I think we need a King Solomon to sort this mess out once and for all.

    1. Surprised to hear you advocating control of ground predators. My ideal would be a naturally regulated, fully functioning ecosystem. If that just means a few pairs of hen harriers rather than twenty odd on a moor then that’s how it’s meant to be. It’s stilll more than we have now. All this meddling (supplementary feeding, predator control etc.) just risks negating natural selective pressures and leaving poorly adapted individuals to breed. Hen harriers will have evolved in the presence of stoats, foxes etc. and although I do not know much about their breeding strategies (I’ve never seen one) they must be able to manage, albeit naturally with less success than with ground predators present.

      1. PS the argument for controlling predators reminds me of the now outmoded practice of shooting predators in African and North American National Parks where animals like wolves, wild dogs, hyenas etc. were routinely exterminated up until the 1960s to “protect” the species the managers considered desirable. Today, where these animals have been able to return they have driven increases in biodiversity at all levels.

  32. In response to Rich’s comment/idea can I add a following footnote about rearing of HH chicks in aviaries before being released at a further date.
    Apart from what Mark has pointed out Rich, I worked at a “falconry centre/hospital”. Apart from doing shows for schools and public at the centre, we also did DNA sampling and also created a big DNA database: If birds were brought in from “private collections” they were tested to see if the claimed parentage was accurate, sadly/shockingly 65% were descendents from wild populations, these included Barn Owls,Little Owls (most popular),Peregrines and one Goshawk. We also received wild birds, that had either been injured,shot or trapped. Again we would DNA test the individuals to establish if they were true “wild” or escapees or unauthorised releases. The most common birds that came into the centre (when I worked there) was Barn Owls and Kestrels (car strikes),Buzzards and Peregrines (shot/trapped). These birds were after treatment put into cages, away from public viewing, that were adapted so when we were feeding them, they couldn’t see us and we couldn’t see them, to prevent them associating humans with feeding. Now some of the problems we faced after release (which takes some time and organising to get permision) were despite our best efforts some birds somehow managed to find their way back to the centre and would often sit on the aviaries for food! Some were later found dead of starvation after release, especially young peregrines, as a human I personally felt that it was down to the fact we can’t teach them to hunt. Also we witnessed with some birds at release sites that as soon as anyone, not just us were seen/heard some species would come towards people expecting food. Because despite our best efforts at hiding ourselves during the rehabilitation they can still hear! And the association of human=food was imprinted on them especially younger birds. Another issue that we found, despite security was how many times individuals would try to break in and steal species of birds, so you might struggle to find some organisations willing to take juvenile Hen Harriers on that issue alone.

    1. The aviary approach seems to work well enough on the continent, Douglas, where Montagu’s Harrier chicks are removed from nests in wheat fields before the combine harvesters are let loose, and then safely released back into the environment.

      1. Lazywell – how do you feel about that hen harrier being shot? Would you ask the GWCT to put something on their website condemning it? Can’t find anything which condemns illegal persecution of hen harriers on GWCT website (by putting hen harrier into search engine).

      2. Lazywell, been searching for more info on this, can’t find anything, a helpful pointer in the right direction please, though from your description it sounds like the birds are only removed for the short period during harvesting, so sounds clever, and is only if I assume right a short period before being put back onto the nest not really an issue as being taking from the nest will enforce in the bird memory “humans bad”, however from Richards comment I assume he meant from chick until they have fledged, which isn’t the right approach, though thats just a personal opinion. As for controlling ground predators I have to admit I’m also against,as it’s natures way, and I also did see (funniy a Monty nest) an acceptible control of ground predator control where the nest was circled with mesh fencing, but at the same time thought it kind of “advertised” where the nest was to wrong “sorts”.

        1. I will do some more research, Douglas, but in the meantime I have found a reference to work done on the subject by Arjun Amar et al in a GCT paper from 2000 about translocation: http://www.the-environment
          Arjun’s paper can be found at

          Incidentally, I’ve just had a snoop at your own blog: terrific images.

  33. I know you’ve been tweeting elsewhere, Mark, about the hen harrier dialogue that is being facilitated by the Environment Council, and the RSPB’s decision to walk away from it, but I need more than 140 characters to repeat my disappointment at their reluctance to continue to engage in the process.

    Yes, it has taken a long time, and no, it hasn’t stopped the killing yet. But it has been making steady progress and a clear consensus has developed amongst stakeholders on all sides, not to mention independent and highly respected raptor ecologists such as Professor Steve Redpath, that there should be some kind of managed solution to the conflict. As long as the RSPB was involved it was party to that consensus. And while I know that your own position has hardened, it was only last year that you commended the idea of a ceiling or quota scheme on this blog: Furthermore, you will recall your erstwhile colleague Arjun Amar, another senior raptor expert, acknowledging here in September both the merits of a brood management scheme as canvassed at the Environment Council, but also the importance of dialogue between the key stakeholders. Indeed, he referred to a paper of which he was a joint author which concluded as follows: “Importantly, progress requires that all sides in this debate consider alternative viewpoints, are prepared to maintain open and inclusive dialogue and not retreat too readily into their pre-existing positions.” I fear that is precisely what the RSPB has done.

    Yes, the state of the harrier population in England at the moment is woeful, but that is all the more reason to explore pragmatic and imaginative approaches where compromise would be required on both sides. As I have observed on this site before, the result could indeed be the win-win-win scenario of an increased number of harriers, no illegal persecution and economically viable driven grouse moors. I dare say you will reply, Mark, that that is somehow rewarding the “criminals”; or that on past and present form the shooting community can’t be trusted. But just remember the remarkable lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process.

    1. Lazywell – yes, that would be rewarding the criminals!

      The NI peace process didn’t have one side stepping up the killing while asking for the other side to compromise as I remember it.

      You are keen to mention my enthusiasm for a managed solution but if you recall that should be the reward for an admission of culpability by the shooting community and a reduction in hostilities against the hen harrier. How are you getting on with that? I feel that progress is a little difficult to discern from where I stand.

      And our comments may have crossed in the ether but: how do you feel about that hen harrier being shot? Would you ask the GWCT to put something on their website condemning it? Can’t find anything which condemns illegal persecution of hen harriers on GWCT website (by putting hen harrier into search engine).

      1. I condemn it, of course.

        As for the GWCT, I contribute here as a mere supporter. What I do know is that it recognises that there is a genuine conservation conflict and is doing its best to help find a solution.

        I sometimes wonder if the RSPB’s stance is as constructive.

        And I’m afraid I become quite cynical when I receive the sort of appeal that appeared on 3rd December: “To stop the killing, we must raise £600,000 by 20 December, so that we can put our plans into action. That’s just two and half weeks away!
        Please give £25 today and play your part in saving the hen harrier.”

        A highly efficient fundraising ploy, I have no doubt; but from a conservation point of view I suggest that it would be more productive to look at the broader picture.

  34. How can there be conflict Lazywell, there are almost no harriers in England and certainly none nesting on grouse moors. I too have been involved in the Harrier conflict resolution thing via the Environment Council, too slow and progress , not so sure. Langholm 2 shows that supplementary feeding solves the problem so why no uptake, brood management as practiced in France would only solve the problem if persecution ceases and there is fat chance of that currently, despite there not being enough harriers to even hint at a damage to the grouse bag on the smallest of moors. We on the conservation side are expected to accept all the science of Langholm 1, yet there has as yet been no compromise from the other side. For brood management Redpaths modelling shows that the could be 2 pairs of harriers per 5000 acres without damage, what are we offered by the other side 1 pair per 20, 000 and that’s compromise! Oh and they want the possiblity of management just above the current population of 1 pair. Sorry thats not compromise, thats taking the P—, whilst their lackeys complete the extermination.
    We also need to remember that all the moors around where Betty died are part of the North Pennines SPA designated for its Golden Plover, Merlin, and wait for it Peregrines and Harriers. Currently only one of these certainly meets the required population target one might and the last two don’t, We should be asking the government some very hard questions about it or may be Europe will show an interest. As SSSIs making up the SPA these moors get some of our taxes through HLS payments. So not only are these criminals exterminating our harriers and severely restricting upland Peregrines but we are bloody paying them to do it!

    Now that really does take the biscuit.

    GWCT is notably silent on persecution unlike BASC who at least condemn it and of course for the CA and MA it is a figment of our “Protectionist” minds. How will they act to stop it if they don’t know its happening. No they’ve had their chances time they were gone.

  35. Couldn’t stand this criminal nonesense anymore. have writen to my MP and MEPs to ask questiions of the secretary of state and consituency MP of that area.

    It’s gone well beyond the pale.

    1. Thank you David I think it is what we should all be doing. THe more of us do it the more we may be taken seriously.

      The compromise solutions through the environment council are to ponerous and slow at this late hour for the harrier, besides which we don’t have arbitration between burglars and the police/ victims why should we have it between wildlife criminals and conservationists. The law is the law and should be enforced however inconvenient that is for grouse shooting.

  36. The best hope in my humble opinion is to push hard for estate licensing as the next step in what will be a long hard campaign.
    Never undersestimate the pwer & connections of the fat arse brigade !

  37. As a moorland keeper my self I understand your points of view totally but please dont tie us all with the same brush. A lot of us do actually manage the moorland habitat to benefit all types of wildlife – why should we all suffer a ban on driven shooting? Dont punish us all – Punish the keepers doing the wrong!

    1. Andy, if you are as you say and I have no reason to doubt that, oyu and the silent law abiding minority in the so called grouse industry must stand up and be counted. THe time for talking has gone only action is needed start agitating for chnage from within and Shopping the culprits. The only reason they are not prosecuted is lack of evidence against individuals, start providing it and we might just take notice.

  38. Funny how you want a ban on grouse shooting now Mark, but not when you were at RSPB. Nothing’s changed – just more of the same, which means
    1. The powers that be (funders?) at RSPB prevented you saying what you really thought
    or 2. You’re only doing so now because you don’t have to deal with the fall out a campaign to ban grouse shooting would involve and you’re just trying to keep your profile up by making suggestions that you would never follow through on if you were still in a position to do so.
    My money’s on 2, but neither reflects well on you.

    1. PO – welcome and thank you for your comment.

      You’d do well to read Fighting for Birds (available from a few good bookshops and Amazon and the publisher Pelagic Press) for a different and more accurate explanation. But I admire your certainty in the absence of knowing what you are talking about…

      However, to save you £12.99 (or the Kindle version is very good value at £8.04) you should remember a couple of things;

      1) we are two breeding seasons further on than when I left the RSPB and things have not stayed the same, they have got worse. If things stayed the same for two years more (after lots of earnest discussions with upland landowners) it would be reasonable to begin to lose patience, but actually things have got worse.

      2) the RSPB has a Royal Charter which prevents it from being either for or against legitimate field sports – I don’t have a Royal Charter (and am certainly not seeking one). The Royal Charter issue does not make it impossible for the RSPB to oppose driven grouse shooting but it does make it more complicated.

      But thanks very much for your comment.

  39. Recently the RSPB sent a letter out asking for contributions to its Hen Harrier appeal,
    as I am a member I sent of £20 to this. Along with this I incl. a letter suggesting that
    we carryout Kinderscout demos. carried out by Benny Rothman and others in the
    1930s to disrupt the grouse shooting season. I got no response to this, so I sent a
    similar letter to the Scottish Regional office of the RSPB, I did get a reply but it was the usual negative content. ” Oh we could nt do this as it would break the law and go against the Countryside Access laws blah f*cking blah. In other words the RSPB
    are more concerned about keeping the” Royal” in there title than anything else.

    1. Oliver – you won’t find many charities advocating breaking the law. And your conclusion hardly follows from the rest of your comment. However, maybe some of us should go for a stroll in the hills around 12 August – the heather should look lovely.

    2. Oliver, I do believe there are some issues in regards to the Scot’s arm of the RSPB, I believe, and if wrong, someone correct me, but some of the land on which the shoots take place have limited access to the public, but one quirk is also on some of the land you can’t film on without the landowners permission, thus making it hard to even get evidence of persecution as you wouldn’t be able to submit it for evidence.

  40. Sorry to come back to this so late. Shocked, saddenned, appalled, adding this issue to the 200 or so wildlife and environment related letters I should have written to my MP about in the last year and haven’t (yet).

    It’s struck me reading this and other raptor/wuthering moor related posts over the past few months that wildlife crime is quite similar to road traffic offences in many ways.

    The law in both areas has been established for many years, in response to public concern/outrage, to protect life (of people and wildlife) and quality of life too.

    A concerted effort in public education has been mounted over many years to change attitudes and stamp out behaviours. This involves specialist law enforcement agencies supported by other groups, albeit small and relatively underresourced compared to the size of the problem (especially in the case of wildlife crime). It has met with some successes (e.g. reducing drink driving, egg collecting) but has found progress in other areas extremely difficult (e.g. speed enforcement and general driving standards, shooting/poisoning of raptors).

    Enforcement of the established law is patchy – crimes are difficult to detect because they may happen in remote areas, other offences may have “higher priority”, evidence may be felt to be too sketchy to build a case, victims may not come forward (or in the case of raptors, as Mark says, have no voice of their own). Partly as a result, the law is broken on an almost routine basis and those breaking the law seldom suffer any consequence. When they do sententences handed out by the court seem unduly lenient, to put it mildly.

    A minority of the population continue to flout the law, believing it does not / should not apply to them, that it impinges on what they see as their legitimate right to do something (e.g. grouse shooting, driving at high speed and with no regard to others’ safety). Any attempt at law enforcement drives the persecution complex (forgive the puns) of those perpetrating the crimes – witness the militancy of protests against speed cameras and the persistence of shameful criminal persecution of our birds of prey.

    A myth persists that both are somehow “low priority” and victimless crimes – as we know wildlife and people are the victims and the consequences in both cases can be tragic.*

    The victims don’t have a voice – in the case of wildlife crime at all, and in the case of road crash victims if at all then not usually until it’s too late.

    There seems to be an acceptance in some quarters of wildlife crime and road casualties as a ‘necessary price’ for some other objective (e.g. managing moors for driven grouse shooting “supports” part of the rural economy, road transport with attendant casualties are a necessary price for economic prosperity). This is at odds with what is seen as unacceptable in other related areas (for example the media reaction to casualties from thankfully much rarer rail crashes)

    I suppose the major difference, which spoils the argument somewhat, is that most wildlife crime must be a conscious decision whereas many of the less serious road traffic offences can be committed due to inattention rather than a deliberate act – it’s quite possible I will have committed a few by the time you read this comment. The other difference is probably that I suspect much wildlife crime is committed by a relatively small section of society (wealthy, white and male**) whereas road traffic offences are committed by a much broader cross section of the population!

    Leaving that aside, and assuming this comparison is useful, what do we seek to do about it?

    It’s clear that better enforcement, and possibly improvement to, existing laws would be in the public interest and I believe widely supported, especially if the arguments were properly put. Do we (i) simply redouble our efforts at what we do now, e.g. better resourcing NWCU/more traffic police? Or do we (ii) do things radically differently – prohibit the activity completely (e.g. ban grouse shooting, stop human beings from being put in charge of motor vehicles!) on a sort of extended precautionary principle? Or (iii) allow activity to continue but under much more stringent conditions? (strict licencing of shoots, unannounced visits by enforcement agencies to check the chemicals in gamekeepers’ sheds, extended driver education and periodically retaking the driving test, much tougher sentencing guidelines, more specialist prosecutors and knowledgable judges/magistrates etc. etc.).

    My feeling is a little bit of (i) and rather a lot of (iii) could still work, ie see the law enforced to some acceptable degree and change attitudes and behaviour to achieve what the law set out to achieve – wildlife protected. If only we could generate the political will – incredibly difficult in our “democratic” policital system so maybe demanding (ii) is the only thing to do (ie ban grouse shooting rather than ban people driving cars, even I have to be realistic sometimes!!) – in order to focus minds enough in time to save the hen harrier.

    A key test perhaps will be whether we do in fact get Defra’s emergency recovery plan for the hh and whether it’s any better than, for example, it’s action plan to do b***** all to stop ash dieback or it’s rather pathetic suggestion of designating hardly any marine sites for greater protection. Or the response to the recent Environmental Audit Committee and forthcoming Law Commission proposals. Time to write that letter…

    In terms of a campaign to ban grouse shooting, I’m interested in what form this would take and how any kind of direct action to disrupt it (which seems to be hinted at in a few comments) might work. Especially as the ‘other side’ have guns!

    * Forgive me if you yourself a friend or a loved one have been seriously affected by a road traffic collision, I’m not trying to trivialise the consequences of these in “equating” it to loss of wildlife, even a bird as lovely as a golden eagle or hen harrier, merely to point out some possible similarities.

    ** I just put that in to be controversial …

  41. I don’t speed I purposely watch my speed, I can’t afford the fine or the insurance premium rise, beside the worry of losing my license and leaving myself with no transport whilst living in rural area.

    Maybe if the punishment was something that really affected the people involved rather than a small fine or community service then we might see some change in their attitude.

    Just an idea

    1. Mike – you made it to the end! Thank you for responding and I totally agree with you.

      Like you I try to watch my speed. Do consider a RoSPA or IAM course, well worth it to take the worry out of driving.

      What I was trying to say in my rambling way is that if Parliament is going to pass laws to protect wildlife (and people) we have to see a proper means of enforcement and punishment as real deterrent – sadly lacking at times in both these areas.

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