John Armitage’s well-supported e-petition has received the following response from Defra:
‘As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:
The Government is aware of incidences of illegal killing of birds of prey and Ministers take the issue very seriously. To address this, senior Government and enforcement officers in the UK identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority. Raptor persecution is subject to a prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance plan led by a senior police officer through the Raptor Persecution Delivery group. The National Wildlife Crime Unit, which is funded by the Government, monitors and gathers intelligence on illegal activities affecting birds of prey and provides assistance to police forces when required.
Shooting makes an important contribution to wildlife control and conservation, biodiversity and to the social, economic and environmental well-being of rural areas, where it can provide a supplement to incomes and jobs. The overall environmental and economic impact of game bird shooting is therefore a positive one and it has been estimated by the industry that £250 million per year is spent on management activities that provide benefits for conservation.
When carried out in accordance with the law, shooting for sport is a legitimate activity and our position is that people should be free to undertake lawful activities. There are no current plans to restrict sport shooting in England. This Government encourages all shoot managers and owners to ensure they and their staff are following recommended guidelines and best practice to reduce the chances of a conflict of interest with birds of prey.
We acknowledge that crimes against birds of prey are abhorrent but it should be noted though that, despite instances of poisoning and killing of birds of prey, populations of many species, such as the peregrine falcon, red kite and buzzard have increased. While a small minority is prepared to kill birds of prey, and where possible these people are brought to justice, this demonstrates that the policies in place to conserve these species are working.
This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.’
Well, there are a few mistakes in there surely? Not least, the fact that government doesn’t even know that this e-petition is now closed to further signatures.
‘Shooting makes an important contribution to wildlife control and conservation’ – means what? And this is an e-petition about grouse shooting not shooting in general. Is this government in favour of wildlife control – it certainly seems that it might be?
‘The overall environmental and economic impact of game bird shooting is therefore a positive one’ – eh? ‘therefore’? Such a lapse in logic would be castigated in an undergraduate essay!
‘it has been estimated by the industry that £250 million per year is spent on management activities that provide benefits for conservation’ – but that is for shooting as a whole and this is a petition about grouse shooting. And does this mean that government simply accepts the industry figures for everything? What about the conservation industry’s views then?
‘this demonstrates that the policies in place to conserve these species are working.’ – an interesting perspective and, again, this is an e-petition about grouse shooting. Amazing that the response does not even mention the Hen Harrier – the species most affected by illegal persecution by grouse moor managers. The sentence could have ended ‘but we recognise that the fact that around 300 pairs of Hen Harriers are missing from the English uplands, and that this is due to illegal persecution, shows that the policies in place for this species are not working. Furthermore, the low densities and breeding success of Peregine Falcons nesting in areas dominated by driven grouse shooting also demonstrate that the policies in place to conserve this species are not working well enough. In fact, let’s be honest, sites designated partly for their populations of birds of prey in upland England are drastically under-performing in acting as conservation measures. In fact, we the government are doing an awful job for nature all being said.’
This is a response that suggests, once more, that Defra doesn’t know what it is talking about. And also it doesn’t care about the facts.
In fact, it is an apologia for shooting rather than a response to the e-petition signed by 10,000+ voters.
The Defra response takes the approach that there isn’t a problem so there isn’t anything that need to be done about it. There is a problem, and something does need to be done about it. Licensing might be a good approach, but there are others too, but we have a government that isn’t even on the right page on this subject.
The government response is extremely helpful to those of us who believe that more needs to be done about illegal persecution of raptors – it shows that this government has its head in the sand.