This man was not breaking the law

Fake Hen Harrier (1) - Copy

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?

  1. 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 2015Should 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 saidWe 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 saidWe 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?

The email addresses of the representatives of the Peak District National Park Authority are available here.  The RPS blog has some other useful email addresses.

Photo: Gordon Yates
Photo: Gordon Yates








61 Replies to “This man was not breaking the law”

  1. Agree. The ‘Faking It’ blog is excellent and — damning. Always amazed by the perseverance and observational powers of such groups like the RPS. But why did the man run away when he was doing nothing wrong?

    Alone out in the vastness of the blasted heath and that coy man with decoy didn’t even wave.
    But it’s lovely to have those chance encounters and conversations in the great outdoors; there are so many things to discuss and share. Failing that, just to shoot the breeze in all that solitude is surely good thing? Admittedly things can be a bit awkward, especially when caught trespassing, but a useful opening gambit in this situation might be:
    ‘’Good morning, is that a fake gun in your pocket or are just pleased to see me?’’
    Then, if he likes you having such sport with him, things could get really interesting – such as exploring the efficacy of those plastic Henry toys for adults.

  2. Could it be possible for the national parks authority to issue some kind of guidance regarding the health and safety of photographing camouflaged men guarding their model hen harriers, I am aware to get a gun licence someone of reputable standing has confirmed the person with the gun to be of sound mind but I am worried as I walk on the moors alone

  3. Well done lads out there risking life and limb, do take care. Hopefully the registration was passed to the police as well.

    Gilruth’s response, classic just absolutely classic!

    How embarrassed ‘they’ must be? Did we come up with a collective noun for such folk?

    That he then passes the baton to others is also typical?

        1. Thanks, seen it now. Encouraging to hear from him that wildlife crime is practically a thing of the past. I suppose if thugs like the one with the Hen Harrier decoy succeed in their mission it will help the crime stats as there wont be any Harriers left to persecute and Gilruth will be able to say ‘look Hen Harrier persecution incidents are down to zero!’.

  4. As posted on the RPS blog “I predict that the National Gamekeepers Organisation, BASC, Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association and their fellow travellers will attempt to dismiss this footage first by claiming that there’s “no evidence” that the person involved is linked to the grouse shooting industry and second by suggesting it’s a fake, a ‘put up job’ by “the antis”. Fortunately, in doing so they will only reveal that in their obdurate refusal to acknowledge the blindingly obvious they are tacitly supporting those who break the law and that the support they profess in public for protecting raptors is no more than a cynical PR ploy”. I fear that unwilling to ‘rock the boat’ and offend a wealthy, powerful and unscrupulous lobby, the National Trust and RSPB will hide behind the fig leaf that as technically no law was broken (debatable) and no prosecution brought to court, it would be wrong to take action. All very cautious, measured and ‘political’, but the trouble is the ‘other side’ took the gloves off long ago; they’re playing a very different game. To use the vernacular, it’s time to grow some balls.

  5. Smart thinking Mark, a ban on driven grouse shooting in selected areas where Persecution is especially high, wouldn’t avoid an awful lot of Grouse Moor come to think of it, but should give RSPB etc a bit more flexibility. I hope those birdwatchers did get the registration and yes they are brave. Too many stories coming out of areas like this of people being intimidated and worse. Not surprising I don’t think the guy in camouflage is a volunteer for the Salvation Army in his spare time somehow.

    1. I’ve been in touch with the National Trust directly. They have been made aware of what the response is going to be. An invite to all readers; there will be protests at every grouse shooting day held on National Trust land in Derbyshire this season (and continuously thereafter), please consider joining the events. Details will be published on Facebook over the next few days.

  6. Could this illegal activity witnessed and filmed on this grouse moor explain how the five missing male hen harriers were dealt with last year in the Forest of Bowland and at Geltsdale?

    1. Terry – I think you mean ‘legal’ – but if it turned into an illegal activity then it most certainly could.

      1. What on earth makes you think he meant legal? He typed illegal. I’m sure that’s what he meant.

      2. Surely if the chap was on the NTS with a gun…without permission, then it was illegal?

    2. Terry – I think you mean ‘legal’ – but if it turned into an illegal activity then it most certainly could.

  7. Utterly unacceptable! But this powerful evidence demonstrates the disturbing level of arrogance and dishonesty within the shooting fraternity. Their leaders are treading a very dangerous and dead-end path that, sooner or later, will cause their so-called fieldsport to be demolished by public opinion and consigned to history. Their actions and inaction are causing increasing numbers of people to step off the fence and to stand firmly against them. There is still time for them to reflect, to bring their business model into the 21st Century, to accept lower profits and to remain within the law. But unless they act swiftly to change their ways they will be recorded in history as the leaders who failed to adapt and who were ultimately responsible for ending their preferred pastime, forever.

    1. The biggest threat to shooting isn’t the ‘fluffies’ or the ‘antis’ or the ‘townies’ or the ‘lefties’ or the ‘bloody RSPB but these f*****g idiots within the field sports community. And I’m including ‘our’ so called spokes people in this, the Bonners and the Bothams et al. Wake up chaps. Intensive shooting has been rumbled and rightly so. Put the house in order and continue to shoot or keep up the bollocks and downright lies and jeopardise our right to shoot. Your choice.

      (OK I feel better now!)

  8. Whilst all the organisations and bodies mentioned should be taking action, the lead should come from the National Trust; after all, it is their land. Their spineless attitude to hunting on National Trust land in general, and raptor persecution in particular, is the entire reason they no longer have me and my family as members.

    And yes, the word ‘lead’ in the first line is intended to be pronounced ‘leed’, not ‘led’!

  9. Legal? If I sat in my front garden with an exposed shotgun ‘guarding’ my garden gnomes, would I be acting legally? I don’t think ‘guarding’ inanimate objects is a premitted use for a shotgun certificate

    1. That depends whether there’s a garden gnome predator which is legally whackable with a shotgun.

  10. I’m slightly confused – given that this man is up to nefariousness (and I’d agree it looks like he is) that doesn’t make all attempts to combat and reduce such nefariousness an abject failure.

    Laws are broken that’s a (sometimes bad, but in the case of the Hunting Act good) fact. But just because laws are broken and sometimes people get away with breaking them does not make them or attempts to enforce them or to reduce crime an abject failure.

    People steal things, rape and murder other people. But that doesn’t make the anti theft/rape and murder laws an abject failure nor does it make attempts to reduce rape/murder/theft and abject failure.

    The results of the joint raptor scheme and attempts to better enforce (some) wildlife crime laws will be seen. Lets hope we see hen harrier and other BOP numbers increasing.

    1. Giles – of course examples of failure do not make total failure. But examples of failure can add up to systemic failure – as in the case of the National Trust to stop raptor persecution on their land over the years? And as in the Peak Raptor Initiative to increase raptor numbers. Do try to keep up please.

  11. Crows attack raptors and the most common used decoy to draw in crows for shooting is a raptor (legal predator control – like it or not). You could find someone “guarding” a hawk or owl decoy in hundreds of places on a daily basis in order to draw in corvids to a gun. None of them would be shooting raptors. Do we have the picture with him actually shooting at a Hen Harrier or is this all just pointless supposition?

    1. Bruce H – we have as many photos of this guy shooting at a raptor as we do of him shooting at a crow. I suppose yours is pointless supposition?

      We have crows here in Northamptonshire too – I’ve never seen a model Hen Harrier sued to attract them round these parts. Of course, a model raptor might attract a crow but it might also attract another raptor. Don’t you think? And a model Hen Harrier might well attract a live Hen Harrier, mightn’t it?

      Welcome, and thank you for your comment.

      1. It’s an interesting point though – i did have a google and came up with a few links about using raptor decoys to shoot crows one of them suggests they are the most common type of decoy used!

        video here

        apparently using a raptor is known as the fighting setup

          1. Mark shooting any BOP is a crime. If it was a peregrine decoy would it be less/more suspicious? I have to say I feel a little cheated here. My blood was up a little as I thought it was a clear cut case of someone stalking HHs I didnt know about raptor decoys being used for crows. So now I just feel well he may or may not have been up to no good.

          2. This was indeed a traditional way of shooting both Crows and Raptors but keepers have used Larsen and multi catch crow cages to such effect I doubt that this sort of crow shooting is commonplace in the busy life of a keeper. Incidentally the ” usual decoy” for this type of shooting now is a live tethered Eagle Owl. Also if what he was doing was entirely legal why did he beat a hasty retreat as soon as he realised he’d been seen.

          3. I can imagine there are lots of crows defending territories on well run Grouse moors, honestly do you think before you write this? what shall we use to draw the crows in, Eagle Owl, Goshawk or Buzzard decoy, all known to have taken Crows and their young, no we’ll use a male Hen Harrier decoy today instead and see what that brings in

  12. It’s impossible to draw any conclusion from this footage other than this character was up to something nefarious and, had his plans come to fruition, likely to be illegal too. Thus, I’m not surprised that (as I write) 75 people have given the article a ‘thumbs up’. What intrigues me, though, are the four people who gave it a ‘thumbs down’. What do they think he was up to? What elements in Marks carefully crafted response do they find objectionable? It would be fascinating to read their reasons, but, as so often, they seem not to have the courage of their convictions and have failed to post their rationale here.

      1. giles – there is only one comment I haven’t posted in the last month or so – and it’s one of yours which I couldn’t be sure wasn’t libellous. And after all you have had scores published, many of them off-topic, repetitive and frankly dull, in that time. Be careful – you are stretching my patience.

        1. Oh you mean the link to a letter sent and published by one of the UKs most senior libel lawyers. You thought that might be libellous!!!! LOL

          1. giles – well, that wasn’t the entire content of your comment, was it Giles? Don’t be a prat, please!

          2. I accept you are generally good at publishing things but I note the discussion about what the law you are campaigning for would actually contain on the previous blog post was abruptly bought to a halt. One of the many questions you cannot answer.

          3. giles – it wasn’t abruptly brought to a halt. It was brought to a halt after over 140 comments – many of them by you repeating yourself. You see – you can’t quite stick to the facts can you?That is irritating and makes your contribution here much less valuable than it would otherwise be.

        2. Oh you mean the link to a letter sent and published by one of the UKs most senior libel lawyers. You thought that might be libellous!!!! LOL

          1. giles – yes, you said that. And I said ‘giles -well, that wasn’t the entire content of your comment, was it Giles? Don’t be a prat, please!’

    1. John,that is hilarious it gave me such a laugh.Think you really mean yellow bellied cowards.Seems my views have almost persuaded you to join me.

  13. Could it be an owl decoy painted white like a snowy owl so crows can spot it from distance? The picture isn’t the best but the head looks quite broad for it to look like a harrier.
    Just a thought.

  14. I think I know what the man “Guarding” the model harrier is doing. I don’t think his intention is legal but if a real harrier had happened along at the time I think my suspicions would have sadly been confirmed.
    What do I think of this man, easily summed up CRIMINAL SCUM.
    Do I think it common?
    Not sure about the use of decoy male harriers although I know a keeper in Bowland who has in the past used a metal decoy harrier.
    Am I appalled, YES, am I surprised, NO.
    I think killing harriers especially at this time of year is “ROUTINE” and “NORMAL” for almost all those grouse moors where harriers occur.
    Do I think DEFRA’s Hen Harrier plan will change that, NO.
    Do I think the MA, NGO, GWCT and some in BASC know this, YES.
    Do they care, as long as it remains undetected, NO.
    If it’s detected, they will present to the world with false indignation and much wringing of hands, but essentially do nothing.
    Does Philip Merricks of HOT care, despite having fundamental differences over brood management with him, YES he probably does. Whether this is enough for HOT to withdraw their cooperation and “expertise” from brood management, I don’t know, perhaps somebody should ask Philip.
    Do I think this is evidence of why we should not trust these people at all, YES.
    Do I think the National Trust, Peak District NP, RSPB and local Raptor groups should withdraw from the Peak Raptor Monitoring Initiative? It’s their decision, theirs alone, but I know what I would do.
    Should NT try to end this tenants shooting tenure, YES.
    Should this be the start of the ending of all such shooting tenures on NT, water company and National Park land, YES.
    Why do I think this?
    I’ve been heavily involved in Hen Harriers for thirty years and in that time, to use local dialect “Nowts changed” and in my opinion nor will it change until driven grouse shooting is gone, gone, GONE..

  15. I’m guessing that this isn’t the model shooting tenant that NT are hoping works with them in partnership on its land.

      1. On a serious note will be interesting to see NT response to this. They might not ID the individual, but to be there with a vehicle and a firearm makes it unlikely that the tenant is unaware of their presence so will have had some pointed questions to answer. You would think that it’s hardly working in the spirit of partnership to achieving its High Peak vision. I wonder if the tenancy agreements are suitably effective to remove a tenant for this sort of thing? You would hope so given previous activities by employees of its shooting tenants. When will NT learn that it’s tenants are in control and take the piss?

  16. The level of cynicism on this blog is deeply divisive and not remotely helpful to the cause of the Hen Harrier.

    During 2016, several grouse shooting estates will be taking part in series of training exercises designed to encourage increased restraint and circumspection amongst adaptive wildlife managers.

    The video footage on the RPS website,and the images displayed here, simply show one of the exercises we are currently trialling. This particular exercise involves sending keepers out onto the hill with a replica model of a male hen harrier. The object of the exercise is to replicate a scenario where the armed keeper, lies within a shotgun blast of the bird but without pulling the trigger. The chap shown on this video footage is one of our stella participants, his trigger delay average is now well over 60 minutes! I wish some of the participants in the Yorkshire Dales could get close to even of half that – those buggers are costing us a tidy sum in decoy hen harriers! Anyway I gather his quick departure from the scene was simply due to the unfortunate after-effects of a dodgy mutton vindaloo from the Bengal Dynasty in Glossop and nothing more sinister than that. I’m sure we’ve all been there…

    Encouraging increased restraint and circumspection amongst our crack team of adaptive land managers is essential if we are to make the non-joint, non-plan work the success that everybody disbelieves it will be.

    Anyway, l’ll endeavour keep you posted on some of our other training excercises, one of which might involve sending keepers up onto the hill into into patches of mature heather with a box of matches, a copy of ‘Inglorious’ and a crack-pipe.

    Toodle pip!

  17. So what is the legal position here? He didn’t shoot or try to shoot a Hen Harrier, so does that leave him in the clear? If, for argument’s sake, it was established that his intention was to lure a Hen Harrier into gunshot range and then shoot it, he has committed an offence. Section 18(1) of the WCA 1981 states: ‘Any person who attempts to commit an offence under the foregoing provisions of this Part shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punishable in like manner as for the said offence’. Got ‘im, bang to rights Mi Lud!

  18. Can’t say I’m suprised. I walk a lot in remote areas of Teesdale and wonder how commom this type of thing is in these insular remote areas. I remember reading in a bird sightings log book at Hannah’s Meadow (a SSSI in Baldersdale) that a buzzard was for sale that someone boasted of having ‘winged’ whilst out shooting. Bastard! Tip of the iceberg.

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