What they say 12:

BAWC-220-x-220pxThe latest in the series of BAWC podcasts ahead of Hen Harrier Day (it’s difficult to keep up!) is a fascinating interview with Andrew Gilruth of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. You should listen to it here.

I don’t know Andrew Gilruth, as far as I recall we’ve never met, but I was very impressed by his performance. It was very slick and it was a long interview on a difficult subject. If I were his boss I’d be pleased with how he had performed.

I do know Charlie Moores, a bit, and I was impressed by his questioning too – it’s not an easy job and I thought Charlies did it with his characteristic politeness and a few pointed questions.

Good though I thought Andrew Gilruth’s performance was, I found it unconvincing. You see what you think.

He deserves some plaudits for being fairly clear that the cause of the lack of Hen Harriers on grouse moors across the UK is indeed criminal activity by gamekeepers.  It’s not often that we hear this, and it’s not often that clear.  Well done, Andrew!  In other words, driven grouse shooting is currently based on illegal activity as many of us have been saying for quite a while.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s response to driven grouse shooting  (the pastime and business of many of their members) being based on illegal activity is to say that we have to tackle the crime and the motive for the crime.  This sounds quite clever but isn’t very clever in this particular case. Tackling the crime, catching the criminals, is very difficult given where these crimes happen (on remote hillsides at any time of the day) and that’s one of the reasons why so much wildlife crime occurs in the uplands – the criminals know they won’t get caught.

Tackling the motive for the crime is a bit tricky too because it is based on the biological reality that Hen Harriers, given the chance, will eat Red Grouse before grouse shooters get the chance to shoot them.  We can’t tackle the biology very easily.

The motive for killing Hen Harriers is, thus, entirely rational (though illegal) and is designed to maintain the profitability of driven grouse shooting as a business and a ‘sport’.  So how do we deal with the motive? We can’t change the biology and the proponents of driven grouse shooting have shown no sign of wanting to give an inch.  This is one reason, not the only one, why we should quite simply ban driven grouse shooting.  It’s a sport or a business that depends on illegal behaviour and its proponents want to keep making money and/or enjoying themselves by shooting grouse and they don’t want Hen Harriers (Golden Eagles or Peregrine Falcons) mucking it up. That’s why the whole thing is intractable, that’s why licensing of grouse moors is unlikely to work and that’s why we should ban it.

This clearly wouldn’t suit the GWCT and their grouse-shooting members, so they have come up with a ‘plan’ referred to in the interview. The ‘plan’ is sometimes called the ‘joint plan’ but it is only agreed by those who are the proponents of grouse shooting. It’s not a plan that is agreed by the RSPB which is a member of the group trying to come up with a plan, and it’s not a plan that has been published by Defra which convened the group. You can see why Defra hasn’t published it – it isn’t a joint plan, and it isn’t an agreed plan. It’s the preferred way forward from those representing the industry that is responsible for large amounts of wildlife crime in the hills.

What is this plan? Well, we don’t really know, because it hasn’t been published! But it seems to involve Brood Management for Hen Harriers – removing them from grouse moors, not by shooting them, but by taking them somewhere else, being nice to them, and letting them go. It’s all a bit complicated and involved really isn’t it? Just for a minor sport or pastime?  But GWCT are very keen on it.

Andrew was a bit naughty, not very naughty but just a little naughty I thought, in referring to this as having worked in France and Spain as if there were some very similar intractable conflict there where it had proved to be the silver bullet. In those cases it is used not to manipulate broods so that the land owner isn’t inconvenienced, but to rescue broods that might otherwise be accidentally killed by legal agricultural operations – harvesting your crop!

Charlie asked a telling question, which was poorly answered, and is one that I have asked here without answer, and that is – how many Hen Harriers will be allowed to survive through this mechanism? Given that there could be, looking at the available habitat, around 340 pairs of Hen Harrier nesting in the uplands of England, and this year there were just three, how many would we get from this scheme? The GWCT answer was that they can’t tell us but let’s get on with it anyway. Ha Ha!

I suspect that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation ask the same question too. I wonder what answer they are given by GWCT.  Not only is this not a ‘joint plan’, it’s not even a ‘plan’. It’s a distraction.

Let’s not be distracted.

And it’s not just about Hen Harriers of course.

PS Notice how Andrew mentions the conflict between Hen Harriers and Red Grouse – there isn’t one, they live together across northern latitudes – the conflict is between a protected part of our wildlife heritage and grouse shooting as an industry.

PPS Notice how lame is the answer about diversionary feeding – even when Hen Harriers’ impacts are reduced by 86% grouse numbers don’t increase. That is a bit odd but, as Charlie says, it does rather let Hen Harriers off the hook.  This result is a bit puzzling.

PPPS Notice how many mentions Andrew gives the RSPB. They must be the very best of mates really mustn’t they? You’d almost believe that GWCT held the RSPB in the utmost respect, until you read the comments by GWCT’s Chair, Ian Coghill, on this blog (no doubt in an entirely personal capacity) where he rarely fails to criticise the RSPB in one way or another.



93 Replies to “What they say 12:”

  1. Using their logic surely the answer would be 340 pairs would be allowed to breed? How many chicks would they be allowed to rear? Tosh, absolute tosh.

    Lets translocate gamekeepers to areas where they don’t need to commit their crimes. Better for them and better for the countryside.

      1. Wouldn’t be the first labour force to have to re-train when the industry they work in became unsustainable.

          1. WE£ don’t generally relocate people though do we? Yes circumstances change and people may choose to relocate themselves but to actually relocate a group of people that’s pretty rare in this country at least.

        1. They probably wouldn’t need to re-train, or re-locate – just to work under different management – supporting wildlife and teaching rather than trapping and killing.

  2. “Some gamekeepers are killing hen harriers” in other words “driven grouse shooting is based on criminality”

    “some black people sell crack” in other words “black people are drug dealers”

    “some gay people have spread AIDS” in other words “gay people spread aids”

    “some muslims have committed terrorist acts” in other words “muslims are terrorists”

    What ‘other words’ might they be? Simple – the words from the mouth of a bigot.

    1. giles – no-one I know has said the things in your quotes and no-one has made that case. Simply wrong. Listen to Andrew Gilruth’s interview and, as I say in the blog, he is commendably forthright about the fact that it is upland ‘keepers who are responsible, through their illegal actions, in reducing the English Hen harrier population to the brink of extinction.

      Although now you almost mention it, we actually have no evidence that it is the minority of upland ‘keepers who kill hen harriers – we’re just all being polite. It might be all of them – except there are so few hen harriers now there aren’t enough to go round for everyone to have a go.

      We’ve gone over this before but the thing about Hen Harrier killing is that everyone benefits from the illegality, not just the moor which kills the bird. Driven grouse shooting can’t exist in current form without widespread criminality. Don’t you agree?

      1. Mark – I think you miss the point. Yes upland keepers kill harriers – yes black people deal crack, jews lend money and tories dress up as nazis &c &c but going from such statements to generalities about groups of people is plain wrong.

        Take a look at Circus Maximus’s comment about translocating gamekeepers – can you see what is ever so slightly dodgy about that? Try a little thought experiment – substitute a group of people you do not despise for gamekeepers. Do you actually want to live in a country where people are ‘translocated’ on the basis of their membership of a group? I can think of a few historical precedents.

        “Driven grouse shooting can’t exist in current form without widespread criminality. ”

        I’ll be honest I have no idea but my personal feeling is that it probably needs to change so that it is far less ‘industrial’ and that the best way to bring about such a change is to implement tougher environmental controls.

        I know you despise the concept of liberal laws. Maybe you think they are ‘wishy washy’. The truth is that a liberal law can be very tough but it is one that is not targeted at a group but targeted at an activity which is causing damage.

        Ultimately it’s not driven grouse shooting that kills hen harriers – it’s criminals. Of course we need to break any connection between the two but it is wrong to attack an entire section of society on the basis of a few (or even most) of their number being criminals. We need to attack the crime.

        We also – as I have said before need to find better ways of making businesses – including grouse estates pay for any damage caused by their employees.

        It may be that certain crimes and ills are more prevalent amongst certain sections of society but we don’t attack the sections of society we attack the crimes and ills. That is an incredibly important distinction – it’s what keeps our country civilised.

        1. giles – since I didn’t say any of that I don’t need to reply.

          And I don’t despise gamekeepers – I didn’t say that either did I?

          And I don’t despise the concept of liberal laws etc etc

          You say I miss ‘the point’ – that is a self-testimony to the clarity of your comments here.

        2. Of course what I said was ridiculous…I was poking fun at the ridiculous “solution” being suggested by GCWT!

          The last thing I would want to do is move the keepers onto non-driven grouse moors, they are the only places where a hen harrier population can currently survive.

          Its not every keeper who breaks the law, the research tells us that it is most keepers (unless there is some other organised group of mysterious grouse managers out there that nobody knows about?)

          1. What research demonstrates that most keepers break the law? Could you give a reference?

          2. Giles….these days google is a good place to get details… but you could make a start…

            ETHERIDGE, B., SUMMERS, R.W. & GREEN, R.E. 1997. The effects of illegal killing and destruction of nests by humans on the population dynamics of the hen harrier Circus cyaneus in Scotland. Journal of Applied Ecology 34: 1081–1105.

          3. Thank you so much CM – I had a quick scan but there does not seem to be any statement or conclusion in that particular paper that most keepers break the law – are there any others? I’ve yet to find any research papers that actually say that and I’d be grateful if you could link to any which actually do as you appear to think you have read some.

        3. In fact, gamekeepers work on the land for the people who own the land. While we all might hope we would obey the law, if it was your job, your home and your family, with little chance of being caught, would we not all do this? Reading all I have and listening to Andrew Gilruth and others, I am of the view that it’s the owners that are the problem not the gamekeepers. When I read the accounts of people who walk the moors and talk to gamekeepers I can see no evidence they do this other than as a job, and if given the choice may well prefer to protect the wildlife.
          Gamekeepers have a huge body of knowledge, this will prove invaluable when we realise many, many more people want to see live Hen Harriers than shoot grouse.

        4. http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf

          That’s a link to the Hen Harrier Framework….after you have read it…go through the references and read them one by one….when you have assimilated that body of work you will understand that that the bulk of the problem lies squarely with driven grouse moors…and who undertakes the management on driven grouse moors…. people who kill hen harriers- which is of course illegal.

          1. That’s slightly different from the claim that most keepers kill hen harriers though isn’t it?

            You’ve not yet provided any research that states that even though you claim there is some. I am afraid I am led to conclude that you are simply not telling the truth.

            If so that is shameful.

      2. The English population? Since when did a Hen harrier know the Border line between England and Scotland?

        Bit like antis thinking foxes live on farms and observe farm boundaries.

        1. Nigel – see previous answer. Listen to GWCT’s admission that gamekeepers are the reason why HH so rare in the UK uplands, not just on one side of an arbitrary border. you know all this anyway, of course.

          1. Anyone can see it is about getting the correct balance. This needs to be refined and it would appear the Hen harrier needs a gamekeeper just as much as they do not need a gamekeeper. Very interesting to read and subsequently deduce nobody gives a toss about other ground nesting birds and waders.

            Q: Why are there so few hen harriers on the 50% of suitable habitat in England that has no driven grouse shooting?

            A: It is likely to be a combination of harrier nests being predated4, lack of food5, persecution6, disturbance7, and possibly failing to have enough birds settled in an area to make it attractive to others. A paper8 published in 2013 identified that hen harriers benefited from the control of predators, such as foxes and crows, by gamekeepers to protect red grouse. Another paper published in 2014 noted that over half the hen harrier breeding attempts on Skye9 failed due to predation. More research is needed.

            Q: Why are there so few hen harriers on English driven grouse moors?
            A: In addition to the reasons above, this is a case of genuine wildlife conflict. Hen harriers eat grouse. If there are too many harriers on a moor a shoot becomes uneconomic, the gamekeepers lose their jobs, and numbers of ground-nesting birds decline, including ones of conservation concern such as waders. The Joint Raptor Study (1992-1996) and subsequent studies at Langholm demonstrated that this situation can really happen, and is no exaggeration10.

            Q: So what happened at Langholm?
            A: Between 1992 and 1997, hen harrier numbers rose from 2 to 20 pairs in 6 years on a driven grouse moor. Shooting was abandoned because the hen harriers ate over a third of all grouse chicks that hatched. With no grouse shooting, the local culture, economy and employment suffered and the control of generalist predators ceased. By 2003, 20 harrier nests were back down to 2 and numbers of breeding grouse and waders had more than halved11. Predation was identified as the most likely cause of the declines. Grouse moor managers felt their worst fears had just been proven – this was a real lose/lose situation.

          2. Nigel – anyone can see that Society has already decided that killing Hen Harriers is not what it wants. Anyone can see that grouse managers are struggling to find any justification for the existence of their business and are getting increasingly worried that they have finally been rumbled by the rest of us.

          3. “Anyone can see it is about getting the correct balance. This needs to be refined and it would appear the Hen harrier needs a gamekeeper just as much as they do not need a gamekeeper.”

            The only reason that a harrier would need a keeper would be if it wanted to evolve into a new species. Ask Mr Darwin about natural selection.

            And to help Nigel set the above in its correct context …. ITS A JOKE MADE AT THE EXPENSE OF YOUR STATEMENT (as quoted!).

          4. @circus maximus – people can probably tell when you are joking – pointing out that something is a joke rather spoils it don’t you think?

          5. It was funny – but it’s over now and we’ve moved on – more fun awaits round the corner I feel sure.

      1. How is it ridiculous – all those examples have one thing in common – making deductions from specific cases to the general.

          1. Mark. Please accept my heartfelt apologies for incorrect phraseology and my sincere appreciation for you correction.

  3. Given most of upland moorland areas are not for driven grouse shooting why are the Hen harriers not breeding in these areas?

    1. Nigel

      Since you are an active habitue of Twitter you perfectly well know the answer to this. And your comment is on a post where the GWCT’s Andrew Gilruth admits that illegal persecution by gamekeepers is why HH are so rare. So why are you asking this old chestnut? But for new readers:

      On a large scale, the world – they are! Hen (and Northern) Harriers live with Red (and Willow) grouse right across their world ranges. they don’t need to be cuddled by ‘keepers! How do they survive in the rest of the world that doesn’t wear tweed? How did they survive for thousands of years before driven grouse shooting was invented?

      On a smaller scale, the UK – they are! Hen Harriers are almost absent from precisely those areas of the UK where driven grosue shooting is a major land use (northern England, south and east Scotland) and are doing much better in precisely those areas (Wales, IoM, NIreland, Orkney, Western Isles, northwest Scotland) where grosue shooting is rare. they don’t benefit from being cuddled by ‘keepers!

      You amy now ask why there aren’t any HH on the RSPB nature reserve at Geltdsdale (so I’ll save you the trouble). They used to but they were persecuted on the boundary of the reserve: poisoned baits were found and a manin a balaclava was filmed shooting at HH whilst I was RSPB conservation director. That might have something to do with it but since there are only 3 pairs of HH in England this year most places, most NNRs, most NT land, most grouse moors don’t have HH – those three pairs can’t live everywhere can they? There should be 300+ pairs of HH in northern England and there are three. the reason there aren’t more, as the GWCT admit, is that upland keepers kill them & see http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/pdf/jncc441.pdf

      Now you might ask why they aren’t nesting on Exmoor or Dartmoor – not enough HH to go round. Stop the killing and let’s see where they spread.

      1. In upland Wales I believe there are no large commercial shoots as we see in the north of England. However what we do have is intense fox culling going on with fox destruction clubs. No surprise to see Grouse breeding here.

        Well I never – Another paper published in 2014 noted that over half the hen harrier breeding attempts on Skye9 failed due to predation.

        So have you thought who is going to control foxes and crows in upland England and protect the hen Harriers if driven grouse shooting is banned?

        1. Nigel – funnily enough, I have. The north of England would have HH densities a bit like the northwest of Scotland. Or even Wales where there are far more HH than in England. Or maybe Canada or Russia. The ‘Hen Harriers need to be cuddled by a ‘keeper’ argument is so ridiculous that I really do wonder why anyone persists with it – probably because most who now propose it here and on Twitter hide behind anonymity so that they don’t have to carry the can?

          1. So no plan?

            29.1% due to persecution? You have to be careful with this figure it also means 29.1% are now not available to predation.

            So whats the plan? LACS believe foxes control their own numbers are you prepared to go along with that seeing as you are a member now?

            23.6% of harries in one study lost to predation. Hopless you cant even control your pests. Compared to farmers who lose 2% of lambs to fox predation due to their control methods.

            Your plan please?

      2. World scale – Irrelevant we live on a confined island where we have to manage our wildlife; other areas of the world may be more of a natural habitat without major roads driven through them, Irrelevant.

        “On a smaller scale, the UK – they are! Hen Harriers are almost absent from precisely those areas of the UK where driven grosue shooting is a major land use (northern England, south and east Scotland) and are doing much better in precisely those areas (Wales, IoM, NIreland, Orkney, Western Isles, northwest Scotland)”

        IOM, no foxes
        Upland Wales, extensive fox control
        Orkney, no foxes
        Western Isles, no foxes
        NIreland, Interview with Don Scott, 2010.

        What is the current status of the Hen Harrier in Northern Ireland?
        Don Scott: In Northern Ireland there are probably no more than 20-30 breeding pairs? In my study area of County Antrim (which was always regarded as their stronghold), where I have monitored breeding Hen Harriers for the past 25 years, numbers have been declining rapidly there since at least 2001.

        “There are also numerous Red Foxes in our uplands and they heavily depredate the nests of Hen Harriers and other moorland dwelling species”

        Can’t be asked to investigate North West Scotland, evidence so conclusive. As stated to you two months ago you need to get a grip on your pests. Harriers should be breeding in areas of moorland with no driven grouse shooting. Unfortunately in the most bizarre twist imaginably you joined the LACS who want to preserve your pests.

        1. Nigel – in so many ways you have a small view of the world. You are ecologically clueless in fact. How does the HH survive right across North America and Eurasia without funny men in tweed giving it a cuddle? And how did it manage in the thousands of years before before we invented tweed? Please do keep posting here – you are a gift!

          1. As explained, have you been on the whiskey?

            World scale – Irrelevant we live on a confined island where we have to manage our wildlife; other areas of the world may be more of a natural habitat without major roads driven through them, Irrelevant.

          2. Nigel – that’s not an argument. That’s a vote for UKIP. The whisky I drink does not have an ‘e’ in it (not very often, anyway). You aren’t a Yank are you? Irish? So difficult to tell with you chaps who hide behind an alias in the shadows. You might be giles for all I know.

          3. Ecologicically cluless from a mna comparing the UK to North America,

            Granted in a natural environment without man’s interference and foxes having their own predators and competition to worry about then you would be correct as may be the case in North America where the UK can nearly fit in to the state of Kentucky. Not on this Poxy little island fruit, look how berserk they go when a fox is sighted in the Orkney/Western or IOM, what we don’t need to intervene?

      3. Mark, as regards Geltsdale, you continue to argue that the reason it doesn’t have any successful nests again this year, notwithstanding the fact that it boasts prime hen harrier habitat and is so close to Langholm where there are 11 or 12 active nests, is due to historic persecution. You will recall that a few posts ago I postulated a number of explanations which I suggest are more persuasive on ecological grounds, but you prefer to hark back to the the guy in the balaclava. Can you remind me when that incident occurred?

        1. I wouldn’t have thought the effects of historic persecution would last that long providing there were Hen Harriers near by. Surely the persecuted Hen Harriers are dead anyhow and newly hatched ones wouldn’t know anything about what may have happened in the past.

  4. “Given most of upland moorland areas are not for driven grouse shooting why are the Hen harriers not breeding in these areas?”

    Given most Grouse Moors are generally bordered at some point by Farm land why aren’t Red Grouse breeding on the farm land as well? just the same as Partridge and Pheasant are! once you know why please come back to the table, oh and pass the information on to the Moorland Ass, its relevent to Merlins also

  5. “Ultimately it’s not driven grouse shooting that kills hen harriers – it’s criminals. Of course we need to break any connection between the two but it is wrong to attack an entire section of society on the basis of a few (or even most) of their number being criminals. We need to attack the crime.”

    can you tell me any other section of society that kills hen harriers? are the criminals involved directly linked to driven grouse shooting or not?

    “Yes upland keepers kill harriers – yes black people deal crack, jews lend money and tories dress up as nazis &c &c but going from such statements to generalities about groups of people is plain wrong.”

    A remark in very poor taste I thought but do you think we should offer drug dealers a licensing system? ask them to comply to a code of conduct! and if so do you honestly think it would make a difference and do you believe they would change their ways?

    recent events have given me a slight hope that one day I might witness hen harriers , merlins, short eared owls and goshawks over my native moors where they rightly should be. this is how I get my enjoyment, you get your enjoyment from shooting grouse or being part of the social aspect of the day, beater picker up or whatever, you can shoot without having to break a record everytime you go out, but because you want to do this members of your shoot disregard my rights and the rights of others to enjoy the uplands. what has also heartened me is that some crimes committed 30 to 40 years ago have been finally brought to book, there might be some people committing crimes in our uplands today thinking they have got away with it but who knows what the future might bring

    1. And when they have predated and wiped out all other species do you intend to leave them a Macdonalds on a daily basis?

      1. Nigel – not keen on artificial feeding then? Not signed up to that element of the unpublished ‘unjoint’ ‘unplan’ then?

      2. can you give any specific point in time and location were this has happened in the last millennia or is this the same old scaremongering garbage

        1. …… and numbers of ground-nesting birds decline, including ones of conservation concern such as waders. The Joint Raptor Study (1992-1996) and subsequent studies at Langholm demonstrated that this situation can really happen, and is no exaggeration10.

      3. So all the predators are going to kill off all the prey species? Really? Can you be that ignorant of basic ecology? How are these predators going to survive if they kill everything they rely on for food?

        1. ……….. and numbers of ground-nesting birds decline, including ones of conservation concern such as waders. The Joint Raptor Study (1992-1996) and subsequent studies at Langholm demonstrated that this situation can really happen, and is no exaggeration10.

          1. so that is it, the total sum of your evidence that raptors will increase year on year and will eat everything is based on one short experiment on a moor in a small area of south west Scotland, a small country in Europe in the northern hemi-sphere were this didn’t actually happen, amazing!

          2. I suppose you are right…Lions are the only mammal in Arica, great white sharks are the only fish in the sea and timber wolves are the only mammals in north America……. what do you mean there are white tailed deer in Canada, seals in the Indian ocean and zebra on the plains? How can this be? Oh I know- you are actually wrong and seem to know absolutely nothing about population biology…..

          3. Lions, great white sharks and timber wolves are naturally apex predators if you know anything about population biology you will realise that such apex predators often limit the population of meso predators and thereby actually increase the populations and sometimes diversity of the species that the meso predators themselves prey on.

            Classic three tier trophic cascades include Wolves – coyotes – foxes in the USA and they are also often observed in marine ecosystems.

            Interesting study here wrt wolves/lynx and foxes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17305803

            and here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17305803

            Where apex predators have been removed from an ecosystem there is an argument that that ecosystem may be further impoverished in terms of bio diversity unless some kind of predator control is performed to replace the missing effect of the predator.

    2. Merlin….you have missed out golden eagle! They are also a significant “missing component” of the moorland mix to which we should all aspire. Even the keepers.

      The presence of a pair of eagles can have a dramatic impact on harrier behaviour. Harriers may be a predators…but they are not the top predator.

    3. ” do you think we should offer drug dealers a licensing system?”. absolutely. Not only people who deal in drugs but people that develop drugs, manufacture and distribute them. The whole thing needs to be and is tightly regulated in all sorts of ways including with licensing. Are you suggesting we shouldn’t?

  6. The words Aiding and abetting
    Aiding and abetting is a legal doctrine related to the guilt of someone who aids or abets in the commission of a crime. It exists in a number of different countries and generally allows a court to pronounce someone guilty for aiding and abetting in a crime even if they are not the principal offender.
    Not one game keeper is guilty. It is their ‘master’. Reason – because they want big Red Grouse numbers and they pay ‘cash free back hands’ to make the keepers do the killing during and at the end of the shooting season. You can name the few estates that insist that their keepers do not kill BOPs. The jokers that come on here have not got a clue and that includes Avery. Go on hit the dislike button and see if I care.

    1. “Not one game keeper is guilty”

      This is nonsense John as well you must know. If an individual decides to work in a profession where criminality is part and parcel of the job then when they commit these crimes they are guilty. It is no more complicated then that.

      I do have some sympathy for the keeper that who works for an estate that changes hands and finds themselves suddenly working for an employer that expects them to carry out illegal activity e.g. raptor persecution. In this situation the keeper could be in a very difficult position, tied cottage, limited opportunities to move to another employer/estate, a family to feed, I do get that – it must be incredibly difficult situation. But ultimately the law of land is still the law of the land and we are all judged by the choices we make.

      Ultimately the “my boss made me do it” line is a poor defence for criminal activity.

  7. Mark Avery’s recent petition calling for driven grouse shooting to be banned has highlighted the wide divide that still exists between the game shooting estates, conservation organisations and the general public in this country. In my opinion no matter which scheme is adopted it is unlikely to bring an end to hen harrier persecution upon all shooting estates in England.

    If the scheme proposed by Defra’s is adopted, at what stage would egg clutch and brood manipulation begin? Do we wait until hen harriers numbers reach the saturation target level of 340 breeding pairs for suitable heather habitat in England? What would happen to any surplus chicks which are translocated that return to moorland from where they had been removed? Would estates be licensed to kill them, and would anyone know if they did? How would the scheme be policed and where would the funding come from covering the whole of England’s uplands, and how long would it last until the cycle of killing began again?

    Like most individuals I have spoken to I am very sceptical about Defra’s objectives which seem to provide the grouse moor owners and gamekeepers with a get out of jail card. Should we be talking about legalised controls at this stage when only 3 breeding pairs of hen harriers remain on England’s uplands?

    In my view before any agreement can be reached Defra must at least instruct Natural England to make public those locations where all previously satellite tagged harriers have disappeared. Tax payers money purchased these state of the art units which were deployed to discover where hen harriers were disappearing wasn’t it? What is the point of satellite tagging more hen harriers if those locations where they disappear is then kept secret?

    1. yes they should make everything public as well as the joint/non joint plan/non plan or whatever it is.

      1. Like the numerous estates in receipt of public subsidies or welfare payments conduct their business, that is to say in an open and transparent way by making everything public?

        As for the ‘plan’ of seven years gestation, I wonder if it will ever fledge let alone get to maturity.

        1. No not like that . Private individuals organisations and companies have very different responsibilities with regard to publicising things than Governments do. I’d have thought that was blatantly obvious.

          1. Well I’ll give you an example – I recently conducted a meeting with a member of my family about their homework performance. This meeting was completely un minuted and proceedings will not be made public nor do you have any right to find out what was said.

            On the other hand many meetings between civil servants and ministers do have to be minuted and often we have all sorts of rights to find out what happened at them.

            This is because Governments and other public bodies often have to meet completely different requirements with regard to making all sorts of things public and giving members of the public information about their activities and proceedings than do private bodies and individuals.

            If you don’t believe me try sending me a freedom of information request and see how far you get.

          2. Estates in receipt of public funds are surely answerable and accountable, everyone else is who receives welfare benefits, so why are they any different?

  8. It is not often that I agree entirely with Terry but I must say here that I do. Terry has hit the nail on the head when he says at what population level will brood management apply? i think also crucial here is at what density of harriers, the suggestion in the GWCT document is the objective will be a pair per 100 sq km, which is way way below any natural density and way below the 2 pairs per 5000 acres that Steve Redpath’s team at Aberdeen showed grouse moors could support without damage. I can answer one of Terry’s questions, lethal control will not be allowed but reading the GWCT document they believe at density of about 40 pairs on English grouse moors is the target density with that number again elsewhere in England, sorry chaps not good enough and if thats in the plan no wonder RSPB won’t agree to it and the shooters organisations love it!

    I have said earlier I don’t think this plan will work because any such scheme cannot be adequately policed and what are the immediate targets? I’d like to know where in the northern English uplands there is a large amount of suitable harrier NESTING habitat that is not grouse moor because I think the answer is almost none. Ther’s lots of feeding habitat with voles etc but UK harriers want and seem to need heather to nest in.
    There is a very simple way that grouse shooting can help the harrier, STOP KILLING THEM NOW!
    Then there are all the other raptors and protected wildlife routinely slaughtered on grouse moors, emotive word, yes its an emotive subject for some of us. What is quite quite clear is the harrier recovery plan includes a quota by a different name, will we be offered quotas for Peregrines, Goshawks, Short-eared Owls, Badgers, Polecats etc. The harrier plan is a slippery slope we need to be very wary of it cannot be allowed to be the first of several plans to limit natural densities of native predators on grouse moors or anywhere else.
    The simple solution is ban driven grouse shooting, so if you haven’t already, sign the petition.

    1. “Steve Redpath’s team at Aberdeen showed grouse moors could support without damage”. – without damage to what? The driven grouse shoot? If that’s what you mean then surely there is potentially a way forward whereby grouse shooting could co exist with hen harriers.

      Have you a link to that research?

        1. Only a bit Mark – but always keen willing to learn. If my understanding is right and there is research that shows hen harriers can exist at these densities without damaging grouse shooting interests then that would suggest you might be wrong when you say grouse shooting estates cannot sustain themselves without persecuting them. So obviously the such a study might be quite important don’t you think?

          1. giles – they can exist at these densities without harming grouse bags too much. We’ve known that for more than a decade. in fact closer to two decades. But despite knowing that, grouse managers still attempt to wipe out the protected hen harrier – do you begin to see why wee can’t trust them an inch?

            The GWCT haven’t had any influence on grouse moor managers despite the science. BASC are largely irrelevant in the uplands. All the money has moved to the Countryside Alliance over the last decade – and science doesn’t count at all with them (see their view on lead levels in food for example). Grouse shooting has made the wrong political choices, ignored the science, ignored public opinion and shows no sign of becoming the least bit reasonable -so we should ban it. After all, who would miss it?

          2. @Mark – ah ok grouse shooting isn’t dependent on HH persecution. That’s good news.

            Personally I don’t think anyone is going to ban it. I might be wrong but if they might not then clearly getting it to change in various ways might be a good thing.

      1. Unfortunately the work was done under the auspices of the Hen Harrier dialogue run through the now defunct Environment Council and I don’t think its publicly available. Funnily it was the Moorland Assoc that provided the grouse densitiea for the modelling, modified them and Aberdeen did the modelling again but the MA and NGO really did not like the answers they got and promptly ignored the work, as it seems have DEFRA.
        Its not that simple Giles, if only it were, the grouse shooters have demonised this bird for so long that they will not listen to good science or reason which answers their problems realistically, its as if the Hen Harrier were the devil incarnate. Thats why this so called plan may well not work and why any sort of licencing of grouse moors cannot be properly policed, a licencing system only works if the licenced broadly accept the provisions, I suspect it would be business as usual sadly. Remember whilst the harrier is the bird in most trouble they have a similar attitude to Peregrines, Golden Eagles, Goshawks, Short-eared Owls and for some strange reason Red Kite. Thats why many of us are signing Mark’s petition, as the only logical answer is a ban.

  9. The most amazing part of the ‘plan’ is that GWCT and the other shooting organisations are pinning their colours to the mast of a method some of their own scientists rejected less than a decade ago. The paper published in 2006 clearly states translocation is not a sustainable solution to reducing predation and that it is not suitable until levels of illegal killing have been markedly reduced. Can anyone tell me what has changed? It is clear that illegal killing continues, no new evidence has been put forward to suggest a sustainable brood management system has been discovered. GWCT , BASC et al are clutching at straws, unfortunately their failure to change the behaviour of the criminals in their midst has brought us to this point. How many of the ‘honest majority’ who I regularly hear ‘know the names of the keepers and estates involved in the illegality’ have ever come forward to the police?


      1. Translocation and brood management are not the same thing. Translocation was originally suggested as a solution to high harrier densities— move the “excess young away” to use them to introduce birds elsewhere. Not allowed under IUCN guidelines as it is designed to reduce the density of the donor population. In brood management the birds would be released at or near the nest site, its a way of reducing grouse predation by the parents.
        Then again neither would work if persecution continued and I believe that it would, especially as most killing is post breeding and at winter roosts.

        1. Paul,

          I’m intrigued by the winter roost killing charge. Do you have any links or references where I can read up on it? The only thing on subject I have seen is the quote from the 2008 NE paper, posted by Mark, that correlated radio-tracking information with anecdotal evidence of persecution from a northern England roost site.

          “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.”

          This was somewhat qualified by a more recent NE statement when Mark called for Defra to publish satellite tagging data.

          “We expect the study to provide much new information about the movements and ranging behaviour of Hen Harriers in England, but it would be a mistake to think that the data will shed much light on the main causes of hen harrier mortality.”

          Or is it all anecdotal evidence? Genuinely interested in this and not ‘chaffing’ as Mark would have it.

          On translocation (or relocation), presumably the idea was to export surplus young HH (those likely to bring HH numbers over and above SPA designation figures for respective areas) to suitable, but HH free areas and imprint/heft them to these new areas, thus minimising the chance of them returning to breed in their natal areas? Have I got this right or was there another aim/goal?

          1. Keith,
            you are right much of the evidence is anecdotal but there is much much more to the NE data than has been divulged and suffice to say that quite a few of those birds have disappeared at roosts ( some of them previously known) and when visited there is no evidence of natural predation or a tag off and birds are never heard of again. ( tags have a very very low failure rate, less than 2%) Keepers have been seen at some of these roosts waiting with guns.
            Bowland has always produced enough young to maintain population and from what little we know from radio tracking/ sat tags is most of those birds winter in the grouse moor areas of the Dales or at least start off there and quite a few have disappeared several at the same roosts. It is over winter survival or lack of it that has hampered the Bowland population. we are talking here of roosts on grouse moors. There is also some local “talk” even bragging that lends support to the idea. indeed there has been enough talk to suggest that visiting areas on your moor where harriers have or might roost has become routine on some estates.
            Translocation was not targetted at SPA designations but was a suggestion discussed as a solution to higher than acceptable (to moor owners) harrier densities. birds to be released where they were currently absent, failed IUCN guidelines and who would take them in grouse moor areas?

          2. Thanks Paul,

            The more I hear / read, the more I am convinced that all this sort of information from the various processes (suitably redacted) should be put in the public domain, in order to inform, better, the current debate / discussions.

            A Hen Harrier truth and reconciliation commission can follow in slower time, once a start has been made, preferably through the implementation of whatever version of the plan can be hammered out / agreed, between the various engaged parties.

            Who would take translocated youngsters? I’m pretty sure that suitable, vacant, non-grouse moor areas could be persuaded to take them – Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor & Exmoor for example

          3. Keith – but that’s the point. There isn’t a hammered out version. there is a version that one side is hammering on about a lot.

    1. It says a number of things one of which is that it may be an interim measure to aid the recover of hen harriers in the UK.

      People seem to be very against the plan being made public but my understanding is that it is a hen harrier recover plan and not a hen harrier predation reduction plan.

      If so then although I am sure there are arguments for and against translocation I am not sure that that particular research paper which clearly states that translocation could aid hen harrier recovery is entirely inconsistent with it’s inclusion in a plan aimed at hen harrier recovery.

      1. giles – look how old that paper is. You are so off the pace you could work for the Countryside Alliance (maybe you do). Carpe diem – too late, missed it. The rest of us have moved on. Lost the patience we never should have had in the first place, and found a whole bunch more arguments why grouse shooting is unsustainable. Remember? Probably not. Carbon storage? Water quality? Flood risk? Damage to blanket bogs?

        Let’s not argue – let’s just draw a line under two centuries of unsustainable upland management and move on.

    2. Fascinating blog comments. Many of them could be answered by publishing the Defra hen harrier recovery plan.

      I feel Alan’s comment, above, illustrates my point. In the Defra led recovery plan some felt that an engagement study that looked at bringing, say, French lowland hen harriers to our lowlands should be undertaken. There are many questions about doing this; so hence it can only be a study. It is referred to as translocation. In this plan it has nothing to do with reducing predation on grouse moors.

      For those interested – the ‘2006 translocation’ comment comes from a GWCT paper published in Animal Conservation (Watson & Thurgood 2001). An abstract can be read on our website here http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/scientific-publications/2000-09/2001/watson2001/

      The brood management scheme (BMS) on the other hand is intended to reduce predation. That is in the plan too. It is also unproven in the UK (but is in France) so is only a trial. It would give the keepers confidence to allow hen harriers to settle without fear that they would become unemployed (as a result of shooting being abandoned – as demonstrated between 92-97 at Langholm) and wader bird populations tumbling. Some may feel that this is too high a level of intervention. I feel that most would be interested in reading about something that works in other countries.

      I remain mystified as to why anyone would not want to read a Defra recovery plan for hen harriers.

      If you would like to read it, even out of curiosity, you can let Defra know by signing this petition here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/67527

      1. Andrew – how many Hen Harrier pairs would GWCT envisage in the north of England under the ‘unjoint’ ‘unplan’ please? Is it around 40?

        1. Mark for someone who appears to be against people being allowed to read the joint/non joint recovery/non recovery plan/non plan you seem mightily interested in its contents. Wouldn’t the best way to find what it contains be to read it? But for people to be in a position to read it surely it would have to be published?

          I bought a copy of your book recently and I’m looking forward to reading it – I can do that because you’ve published it. If you hadn’t then alas I would have to forgo this anticipated pleasure at your ornithological erudition.

          1. giles – you keep putting words into my mouth. I’m not against people reading the ‘unjoint’ ‘unplan’ – except they can’t – because it isn’t published yet. Do I think the late arrival of a government mediated report is something to get very excited about? No. And I’d rather see the long-stumbling report on Lead Ammunition than any other report.

            I’m glad you’ve bought my book. If you had asked to see it before it was ready then it wouldn’t have yet been published and so you would have had to wait. If it had been written with several other authors and we were having a big argument over the words then you would have to wait. I guess we’ll have to wait.

          2. giles – I’m not against people reading the ‘unjoint’ ‘unplan’ – it’s just that they can’t because it isn’t published yet. the late (according to some) arrival of a government-led plan is hardly news. I’d be very keen to see the report of the Lead Ammunition Group – they’ve been cogitating for c5 years now. Maybe they should go for a joint launch?

            Thank you for buying my book – you had to wait until it was ready didn’t you? that’s what happens when things are published. And if it had had several authors and we had all been arguing about the words then you would have had to wait even longer.

          3. Mark, if I was paying for that book then I’d quite like to be seeing a draft especially when it’s such a controversial subject.

      2. Andrew, why is it that when you or Ian Coghill are asked often awkward questions on this blog you never answer them?

  10. Andrew,really bringing French birds to Englands lowlands is a separate issue entirely.The issue is that illegal killing of raptors needs to be stopped.
    It may take decades or even a century but if illegal activity carries on eventually public opinion will in the end ban shooting of wildlife completely if history of cruel sports being banned is anything to go by.Guess many may scoff at this but we have gone from a really brutal way of life and sentences to people who simply poached a rabbit being transported to Australia when any wildlife brutality was commonplace.
    Eventually things like Cock fighting,Bull baiting,Badger baiting were all banned and probably in future this path will continue so I think those interested in shootings future need to find a way to stop these crimes.

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