This post starts with a simple round-up of who has said what since the breaking of the faking it blogpost on the Raptor Persecution UK (yes really!) website on Tuesday but ends with a challenge. Later today I will blog on the importance of the Peak District in the future of driven grouse shooting and of raptor conservation.
The main protagonists in the Peak District Raptor Initiative have pronounced as follows:
Sara Fowler, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park on Twitter (@PeakChief):
‘This video is alarming & suspicious https://goo.gl/6bepy1 It has been reported to @DerbyshirePolice & we will support any investigation‘
and then, yesterday:
‘There has been a great deal of comment on social media regarding the illegal persecution of birds of prey in the Peak District National Park.
Without getting into the details of the specific incident that sparked this latest debate, I want to make clear in the strongest possible terms that we are appalled by the persecution of any protected species, whatever the circumstances.
There is never any excuse for this behaviour and we will always work with the police and our other partners to support any investigation. But it is important to point out that we can only take direct action if the persecution takes place on land owned by the National Park Authority not just within the National Park boundary. In fact on land where we own the shooting rights we have not allowed shooting since 1981 allowing agreements to expire. This current incident was not on National Park Authority owned land.
We recently acknowledged the disappointing results of the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative and we are working with our partners to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey.’
The National Trust, as reported here yesterday:
“As part of our High Peak Moors Vision and as a conservation charity the National Trust is committed to protecting birds of prey and working closely with partners and tenants in managing the moors. We are aware of a report of a suspicious incident being investigated by the police, which took place in February this year on land in the Peak District which we own and lease out for grouse shooting. We have been awaiting the results of their investigation before following up ourselves. We now know the police have reviewed the footage but are taking no further action, so we will now be carrying out a full investigation of our own. We are treating this very seriously and will not be commenting further pending the results of that investigation.”
Martin Harper of RSPB commenting on the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog:
‘I have (as you hoped!) received a number of emails on the back of this story, so I thought you’d like to hear our perspective.
The RSPB is, of course, very concerned about this story.
While plastic decoys of hawks and owls can be used for lawful control of crows, the RSPB has received several reports, and indeed witnessed, the illegal use of these types of decoys to draw in protected species, such as birds of prey and ravens, so they can be shot. There was a report of a female hen harrier in the area the day prior to the incident that you report and consequently we are worried this may have been an illegal attempt to target this or other birds of prey.
There has been repeated and well documented problems with the illegal persecution of birds of prey in the northern part of the PDNP. If anyone has any information to clarify what was taking place or the identity of the individual involved we would encourage them to contact Derbyshire Constabulary.
I shall reply to individual emails in due course.‘
Amanda Anderson, Director, Moorland Association:
‘The Moorland Association condemns all acts of wildlife crime and supports the prosecution of those who break the law.
We were not aware of the events leading to the release of this video clip but understand it is alleged to have been filmed in February. We learnt yesterday that since then the police have conducted their enquries and have decided to take no further action. We were not contacted as part of that investigation. From the clip, it is very difficult to make out any detail at all, either of a person or a decoy.
The identity of any person allegedly filmed is unknown, as is the location. No crime has been committed as far as we can see. Making judgements based on assumptions of the content of this clip, or indeed the intentions of those who have produced it, would be pure supposition and not something we are going to enter into‘.
Natural England (whom I emailed yesterday):
Although NE has said nothing so far, the Moorland Association managed to say less than that in their ‘statement’. In fact Amanda is clearly rattled as she appears to doubt whether anyone was filmed when she says ‘allegedly filmed ‘ (haven’t we all seen the film?) and she appears to make a rather snide dig when she says ‘or indeed the intentions of those who have produced it’ – what is that all about? The Moorland Association statement is the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting La-la-la-la with their eyes closed.
The RSPB makes a rather bloodless statement, gives the impression that it has been dragged reluctantly into saying anything at all, and bends over backwards to say that it might not be as bad as it looks, and then forgets to say how very bad it does look, and what that should mean for the Defra grouse moor owners’ plan and the Peak District Raptor Initiative.
In contrast, the Peak District NP Chief Exec, Sara Fowler, seems to have been stung into a quite good response by the volume of emails and social media traffic that she has received. Well done to the guys at RPS for kicking all that off. The PDNP is not in charge of everything in the NP – but they are highly influential, and at least for a while this issue will be high in their minds, and their take on it will not have been dictated by a few shoot managers.
The National Trust is the organisation in the frame. This incident (of an armed man guarding his model Hen Harrier) took place on their land – as have many other incidents which have involved criminality and some of which have led to court convictions. No-one thinks that the National Trust wants raptor persecution to happen on its land, but many of us think that it should do much more to end the long string of wildlife crimes committed on its land in the Peak District.
There are so many reasons why the National Trust needs to end grouse shooting on its land that the weight of the argument is overwhelming. The NT is already lagging 35 years behind the National Park in its position on grouse shooting on its land. Why should we, your members and the public, support you if you dedicate our land to this field sport at the expense of the wildlife and environment that you should be protecting? Your own High Peak Vision recognises this and needs to become a reality very soon. And why should we, your members and the public, trust you if you don’t get on with it with enthusiasm and the professionalism.
And so, to the extent that the NT acts feebly or with little decisiveness over the next few weeks, it is culpable too. The spotlight is on what the National Trust says and does. We will wait with interest, and I speak as a NT member, to see what happens. This is a crucial point in time, not because of this one incident, but because the National Trust must decide which side it is on.
Note to Henry: save the date of the NT AGM in November but also note that the closing date for receipt of members’ resolutions for that AGM is 5pm on 1 June.
14 Replies to “Peak District – what they say”
The response from AA quite one of the poorest she’s ever provided but then again what else might we expect from her?
She/they has/have a profile to maintain & is continuing to do that which is encouraging for those of us who use such material to real conservations advantage?
“Allegedly filmed” – must be that toxic lead again, it seems to have undue influence in some of the twaddle pedalled by the ‘driven’?
Mmm – what does Sarah Fowler mean by ‘not just within the National Park boundary’?! ‘Just’ within a National Park – is that all it was, obvious intent to kill a protected species, but ‘just’ within an NP. A National Park isn’t just any old area, it’s a National Park, a national treasure. And, OK, the NPA may not be able to ‘take direct action’: ‘direct’, no, but they could simply ‘take action’! It’s a bleeding national park, and they’re the national park authority – they are in a commanding position to take action, direct or otherwise! If this were a national park in, say Cambodia (where I’ve recently been advising anti-poaching teams), you have, well, anti-poaching teams, dense intelligence networks, those in charge leading a high profile campaign and forcefully demanding that illegal killing must stop. But of course this is merely a UK national park, not on land owned by the NPA, therefore they can’t really do anything of substance, directly.
The comment by the Moorland Association is an utter disgrace. There comes a point, as we have here, where denial in the face of clear evidence makes the denier equally complicit. It makes a mockery of the fig-leaf sentence stating the organisation’s condemnation of ‘wildlife crime’. Further, it insults not only those who took the footage but also the intelligence of the viewer. The only positive to be drawn from this is that it makes quite clear that the organisation is bending over backwards deny the evidence of would-be criminality and simply cannot be trusted.
Amanda Anderson’s mealy-mouthed response is pitiful.
“From the clip, it is very difficult to make out any detail at all, either of a person or a decoy.” You sound like Arsene Wenger commenting on a penalty incident, but surely you’re kidding Amanda? What do you really see when you watch this?!
“The identity of any person allegedly filmed is unknown, as is the location.” Allegedly filmed? You don’t think this is a film or you don’t think that’s a person Amanda? Is it the abominable snowman in tweed? Other than that you could say the same things about a Jihadi John video. Your point?
“No crime has been committed as far as we can see. Making judgements based on assumptions of the content of this clip, or indeed the intentions of those who have produced it, would be pure supposition and not something we are going to enter into.”
Sure, Amanda, ignore this and hope it goes away. Seems like a sound strategy. Plus of course there are a million legitimate reasons why an armed man in camo might lie up next to a hen harrier decoy, then run off when he found himself being filmed. For example, the so-called hen harrier decoy could be an evil spirit roaming the moor. This poor man saw it while taking his gun for a walk and quite naturally would have fainted, then when he came round he suddenly remembered he had left the gas on at home and so ran to his car. That’s just one plausible explanation for you. You can use it if you like, seriously, it’s yours. My gift to you in the warm, fuzzy spirit of cooperation we all share.
If we only had VL. They would soon get their act together.
If the ‘sportings’ are leased by the NT then it’s likely an expensive business extracting themselves from possibly 25 year leases. On the other hand, if they could say that it was their intention to do so, and to cease driven grouse management on their land, well, they may just get a successful appeal for funds going.
I would hope any leases would have clauses that allowed the NT to terminate any lease without any liability if the leasee breaks rules regarding proper usage of the land, damage to SSSIs, the observation of certain basic legal requirements such as not killing protected species (or by inaction which allows them to be killed) and so on. If they haven’t perhaps it ought to be strongly suggested that as leases come up for renewal such clauses ought to be inserted.
What will be important in any investigation is the threshold applied.
If the threshold used is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, which will be used by the CPS then there is little doubt nothing further will come of this.
If, on the other hand, the lower threshold of ‘on the balance of probability’, as used in disciplinary hearings for example, then there could be reason to consider that the NT will be able to pursue this further.
The footage, whilst clearly showing a human and a decoy, is insufficient to identify the individual. An obvious defence from the estate would be to assert it was not any of their employees or subcontractors. The higher threshold could not refute this; there is sufficient doubt. The latter threshold offers some balance, but even so, is it realistic to expect meaningful sanction to be applied? The balance of probability weighs against the estate (as say compared to a hairdresser from Birmingham); but is this sufficient to take action? What would be the likelihood of the estate taking defamation action against the NT; and winning? What would the collateral damage be in this scenario?
I’m not for one moment suggesting there is an innocent and entirely plausible explanation. Note that the Moorland Association didn’t even bother attempting to cite one which is telling. It is clear in layman’s terms what was hoped for; but we must extract ourselves from the quite reasonable emotive response and reflect on the realities. There is next to nothing in my opinion based on the evidence online for NT to act on. Of course I fully accept that additional eye witness accounts may add to the evidence base which may enhance the NT’s options.
Regardless of any outcome, this whole episode is nevertheless a damaging occurrence for the grouse shooting industry. Hence why the Moorland Association has tried to question it’s validity rather than an alternative. Very very telling.
It will be the body of evidence that does for grouse shooting, not each individual piece. Think of it like a landslide. Each individual pebble, boulder or grain will have little effect. But together, crashing down the hill, it will obliterate. The earth has started to move and the ground has become unstable; hence the grouse shooting fraternity are anxious. Like the frog in hot water syndrome, they are too conservative and too stubborn to move out the way. The inevitable will happen; that I am sure. What will happen first, banning or hen harrier extinction remains to be seen.
But we are in the protracted end game.
This BBC Derbyshire story [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-36141199] quotes the local Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Charles: “Although the man was caught on camera by two observers, they were, unfortunately, too far away to obtain film evidence of sufficient quality to enable a prosecution.” So he clearly thinks there was something worth investigating. While Amanda Anderson seems to be taking a leaf out of the South Yorkshire Police’s Book of PR by trying to smear the people reporting the crime.
There’s none so blind as those who will not see Amanda. Chickens that will surely soon come home to roost methinks.
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