This man was spotted and filmed on a Peak District grouse moor, owned by The National Trust, in late February. The full story is on the Raptor Persecution Scotland website (NB guys – the Peak District is not in Scotland – when are you going to get around to changing your name?) and the guys there had to get up earlier than usual to post this story today!
Much kudos to RPS – a great blog with, today, a particularly fascinating story. See their site for the full details. But the gist is that there was this bloke with a shotgun sitting in the heather near a ‘model’ male Hen Harrier.
The British are an eccentric bunch. But even for us, it seems odd that a man would take his model Hen Harrier out for a day on the moors and sit guarding it with his gun. But that could be what was going on, I guess. What do you think?
- And what do you think, Rory Stewart (junior DEFRA Minister)?
Remember you signed this off: ‘The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 affords protection to all wild birds; despite this, incidents of illegal killing of birds of prey continue, so we have identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority. ‘ but then this man was guarding his model Hen Harrier wasn’t he?
2. And what do you think, Philip Merricks (Chair of the Hawk and Owl Trust)?
Remember you wrote in a comment on this blog on 20 January 2015 ‘Should any Moorland Association, Game & Wildlife Trust, or National Gamekeepers Organisation member be proved to have illegally interfered with a Hen Harrier nest or to have persecuted a Hen Harrier on their grouse moors, the Hawk & Owl Trust would pull out its expertise from the brood management scheme trial.’ but then this man was guarding his model Hen Harrier wasn’t he?
3. And what do you think, Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association, and member of the Peak District Raptor Forum)?
Remember you said ‘We are renewing our action plan and redoubling our efforts to ensure that this brings improved results. The partnership has also agreed that this work needs to be extended to cover other species, notably goshawk and hen harrier, and to include the South West Peak.’. Was this man a part of a Moorland Association initiative to guard model Hen Harriers as a first step to having some real ones on English grouse moors?
4. And what do you think, Sarah Fowler (Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park who are represented on the Peak District Raptor Forum)?
Remember you said ‘We will be using the new rigour and energy recently brought to the project to seek to restore breeding success of our iconic bird of prey species in the National Park. We will be seeking a greater level of commitment from partners in the Initiative to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey.’. Was this the level of commitment you sought? Going above and beyond to guard model Hen Harriers in your National Park?
5. And what do you think, Dame Helen Ghosh (Director General of the National Trust much of whose land in the Peak District is let out for grouse shooting, and who are represented on the Peak District Raptor Forum)? This was on your land, after all – I would like to know what you think as I am one of your members.
These are quotes from the National Trust High Peak Vision:
- At present we believe that birds of prey are under represented on the NT HP estate. NT is clear that bird of prey persecution on its land is illegal and completely unacceptable. We will be working with future tenants who share this view and are working with us to ensure that birds of prey are successful. Sustainable populations of birds of prey will be a management objective of future tenancies”
- We will be working with tenants who share our aspiration for healthy bird of prey populations and this will be a key factor in determining whether we wish to have a partnership relationship going forward. We will then be judging the success and future of the tenancy relationship in part on the breeding success of birds of prey.
But then this man was guarding his model Hen Harrier wasn’t he?
6. And what do you think, Mike Clarke (Chief Executive of the RSPB)?
Remember you said at the last Game Fair ‘But the longer it takes any industry to address its problems, the stronger those calls [for a ban on driven grouse shooting] will become. We will speak out and act on the impacts of that activity when they have a negative effect on biodiversity and the natural environment. And we believe that current behaviours require stronger regulations to ensure responsible practices.‘. Only yesterday I wrote on this blog ‘What if evidence emerges of killing of, or attempts to kill, Hen Harriers on grouse moors this season? What will be the RSPB response?’ but of course this man was guarding his model Hen Harrier wasn’t he?
Although this man with a gun on a grouse moor, was clearly doing his best to implement Defra’s grouse moor managers’ plan (which they wittily named a Hen Harrier Action Plan) that had been published a month before this event took place, I fear it won’t do much good.
But then he is doing about as well as the list of people named and quoted above, who appear to be giving the men in tweed just one more chance again and again.
So let me tell you what I think (even if the man was guarding his model Hen Harrier).
The National Trust and RSPB should pull out of the Peak District Raptor Forum and make a strong joint statement on how it has been a complete and utter failure. The RSPB should state that the Peak District has a long and undistinguished history of bird of prey persecution (see here and here and you could take a look at p183 and p202 of Inglorious) and that they feel that the only way to end this is if grouse shooting ceases within the National Park.
The National Trust should, reluctantly if they like, agree, and say that they are going to end grouse shooting on their land in the Peak District National Park by…? They should name a date – and one not far away.
The Peak District National Park should welcome these statements and say they mark a new future for the UK’s oldest National Park.
You have to wonder how many more people, perhaps in the Forest of Bowland, the Durham Moors, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, are taking model Hen Harriers out for the day and guarding them with shotguns, don’t you?