In a blog post that should change the course of the summer, the RSPB reveals a case of three poletraps being placed on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
What the RSPB says:
Read it all here, but here’s a summary. Three set pole traps were found on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park by a member of the public in early May this year, and he (for it was a he) also saw a female Hen Harrier nearby. The RSPB leapt into action and with hidden cameras filmed a man with a gun…this man with this gun…
…setting the three poletraps which had been sprung.
Then North Yorkshire Police leaped into action and the traps were documented and removed. But strangely no prosecution is on its way as the man involved has received a police caution for his crime. The RSPB is seeking clarification of this.
The RSPB Investigations blog is forthright over the fact that this event happened on a moor used for driven grouse shooting and in the first year of the discredited Defra Hen Harrier Recovery Plan.
What the RSPB don’t say:
- the Mossdale Estate is owned, it seems, by the van Cutsem family, close friends of the Royal Family including Prince Charles, Prince Harry and Prince William (see here, here, here).
- this is not the first time that the van Cutsem family has been involved in a media story about dark deeds and raptors (see here and pp196-203 of Fighting for Birds and pp120-24 of Inglorious) although there is, of course, no suggestion being made that the landowner was aware of what was going on on their land.
- in Scotland, the landowner would be liable under the vicarious liability legislation for any actions of any employer (if that man in the video image is employed by the estate, of course) but the grouse-moor owning former minister Richard Benyon ruled that out for England several years ago.
- the Yorkshire Dales, like many other National Parks, is a hot-spot for wildlife crime. I would like to hear the Park authorities speaking out on this matter.
- given that the Royal Princes are keen to speak out on wildlife crime abroad, it would be fitting if they took this opportunity to condemn wildlife crime much closer to home, particularly because of their relationship with the landowner in this case.
- Philip Merricks of the Hawk and Owl Trust should now be polishing his statement saying that H&OT will have nothing to do with any Hen Harrier brood management scheme because the incidence of wildlife crime in grouse shooting areas is completely out of control.
- Natural England should make a statement confirming that the Yorkshire Dales area is a hot-spot for Hen Harrier disappearances
- Rory Stewart, Defra minister, really ought to say something about how his Hen Harrier plan is going when this sort of thing can happen in its first year, on a driven grouse moor, and in a National Park. The truth is that the grouse shooting interests who persuaded hm to launch his hopeless plan have no control over what happens on grouse moors and the minister is now looking foolish. He should be prepared to be made to look foolish again and again as the months unroll.
- the RSPB has promised an update on Hen Harrier status on Monday next week – the signs are not good for England when early signs were that the English stronghold for the bird had little evidence of nesting. It is time for the RSPB to take a very strong and public line on this matter.
What we need is a ban on driven grouse shooting in order to give protected wildlife some chance of surviving in our National Parks and elsewhere. Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.