Moorland Association – would you trust this lot with your Hen Harriers?


The Moorland Association is the trade union for moorland owners and managers in England.

Its membership must include most of the people from whose land 300+ pairs of Hen Harriers are missing because of illegal persecution.  They must all have sleepless nights over this (particularly with more and more Hen Harriers being satellite tagged).

The Moorland Association is finding it increasingly difficult to look remotely sensible in the eyes of the public as its public statements have become increasingly evasive and bizarre.

When a man was seen taking his model Hen Harrier for a walk in the Peak District National Park the Moorland Association said, in an Arsene Wenger-like way, ‘From the clip, it is very difficult to make out any detail at all, either of a person or a decoy.‘ when the rest of the world had no difficulty at all. This led those wags at Raptor Persecution UK to post this unkind, hurtful and mildly amusing post! Tut, tut lads! Play nicely.

At the same time the Moorland Association tried to cast doubt on the veracity of the film clip by using the word ‘alleged’ and  ‘allegedly’ when referring to it and came out with a corker in saying ‘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, thus being snide about some members of the public who quite rightly reported suspicious behaviour to the police.

Luckily, we now know that the NT is more clear-sighted than the Moorland Association (not very difficult, perhaps – see here and here). The recent news that NT are ending their relationship with Mark Osborne in the Peak District gave the Moorland Association the chance to say something sensible and what they said was:

The  Moorland Association is very sad that the National Trust has taken the decision to terminate a sporting lease early. This is the result of a breakdown in confidence in the current tenant’s commitment to the delivery of NT’s Vision and will take effect in April 2018.

We are, however, delighted that the NT has recognised the importance of grouse shooting to help deliver its High Peak Vision and is putting in place a new shooting tenant in order to deliver this.

The MA will do all it can to help this process.

The Moorland Association didn’t explain why it was sad, nor did it say whether the terminated tenant in question was a Moorland Association member or funder.  And this appeared under a headline ‘NT supports grouse shooting on its land‘ which is spin of the highest order (and least effectiveness).

As others have pointed out, the Moorland Association also misrepresented the National Trust by omitting the last para which is ‘We remain committed to the High Peak Moors Vision. As with all our conservation aims, we review and evaluate progress periodically. When considering renewals of individual shooting leases in future we will take into careful account the extent to which our objectives have been met, in particular relating to increasing raptor populations.’  This paragraph has now been added to the Moorland Association website but you can see why it makes uncomfortable reading for an organisation of grouse moor managers.

And the NT didn’t remotely support grouse shooting, in fact it seems as though they may be coming to the end of their tether about it, and did not say they would bring in another shooting tenant. They said they would ‘be happy to receive applications from partners who can demonstrate how moorland management and shooting can deliver great nature conservation in a way that is compatible with public access‘ in the same way that they might have said they would ‘be happy to receive applications from partners who can demonstrate how moorland management and Morris dancing can deliver great nature conservation in a way that is compatible with public access‘ – it doesn’t mean that that is what is going to happen, does it? People with vacancies often welcome applications for them.

So, the Moorland Association’s comment on the NT action (Hooray for the NT again!) had a misleading headline, missed out an important part of the statement, put words in the NT mouth and was strangely sad about things.  How can you take this lot the least bit seriously?

And only recently the Moorland Association were forced to make a statement on the pole traps found on an estate in the Yorkshire Dales NP – a crime committed by the employee of one of the Moorland Association’s members, the van Cutsem family, on the Mossdale Estate.  The Moorland Association couldn’t see ( they never can, can they?) how their member would have known about this offence nor how the head gamekeeper could have known about it and therefore took no action such as depriving the estate of its Moorland Association membership.   How can you take this lot the least bit seriously?

Defra, however, seem to regard the Moorland Association as a player in the Hen Harrier game – some of their members seem more akin to the hooligan element to me.  The Moorland Association were members of the ill-fated Hen Harrier group that came up with a plan for moorland owners that masqueraded as a Hen Harrier plan – what a surprise!  It’s fair enough to put the people causing the problems in a room with those who want to solve them but the outcome was not good for Hen Harriers.

It seems odd that with their poor eyesight and sadness the Moorland Association is still a part of the Peak District raptor forum – in fact it seems odd to me that anyone is as it has so far delivered precisely nothing at all.

And also bizarrely, the Moorland Association (and the Countryside Alliance, and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation) are on the Defra (And Welsh government?) Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group. Surely an organisation with such poor eyesight, and which is going through a tough time of deep sadness, should be spared being a member of this group. Although I see that the group hasn’t reported for years and doesn’t seem to do anything at all. Surely, this is some real red tape and bureaucracy that Defra has failed to excise from its work?

Maybe the Moorland Association should spend more of its time finding the bad apples within its own barrel and dealing with them. Since the Moorland Association is blinded with tears of sadness and has pretty dim vision at the best of times, here is a helpful guide for them to find a bad apple (the said apple might be wearing tweed, too).


PS – it’s the one on the left Amanda, though the one in the middle looks a bit dodgy, and I wouldn’t be too sure about the one on the right either (look round the back just to be sure).

PPS – please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting so that the Moorland Association can see clearly how popular their activities are.

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10 Replies to “Moorland Association – would you trust this lot with your Hen Harriers?”

  1. I've never understood why people use "just a few rotten apples" as if it were an excuse and the rest of the barrel is okay. Turning up a few rotten apples actually means "shit, now I got to go through the entire effing crate, one by bloody one, checking to make sure it hasn't spread through the whole goddamn lot, well there goes my morning plans because now I have this sodding thing to do, I am never buying from that see-you-next-tuesday of a seller again!!". When I left school I briefly worked at a greengrocer's. Despite the poor pay, it may actually have been my most enjoyable job, just not when we turned up a crate with some rot in it. That was tedious.

    1. When reading about Mark Osborne this morning i thought the bad apple metaphor, which is obvious nonsense, kind of works but it isn't apples but some kind of air borne disease of apples. These kind of spores could do an incredible amount of widespread damage but of course it would need the conspiracy with others for the organized crimes to occur.

  2. I wonder if the Moorland Association got the National Trust's approval for that press release?

  3. I was wondering if the MA, GWCT, SGA, GA, CA spin doctors uses 1984 as a PR manual or whether Orwell was just describing the logical consequence of a psychopathic institution.

  4. The pro-shooting lobby keep on telling us that gamekeepers
    a) are better field naturalists than birders/scientists
    b) have a more intimate knowledge of grouse moors in general, and their 'patch' in particular, than anyone
    c) are the best and most devoted conservationists
    d) utterly condemn illegal persecution (as do their employers) and
    d) that those amongst their number who set traps, lay poison, shoot protected raptors or destroy nests are just a 'few rotten apples'.
    The logic of this is that complaints to the police about any of the latter ought to come from gamekeepers disgusted by the disrepute into which such illegality by a small minority brings their profession and industry. Yet, with a few honourable exceptions, complaints come overwhelmingly from birdwatchers, hikers, dog walkers, etc.. Perhaps one of the handful of lurkers here who avidly vote down critical comments here about the industry might like to explain this strange anomaly. So don't lazily vote down my comment but have the conviction to explain and argue your case.

    1. Excellent point. We have had endless mealy-mouthed condemnations of raptor persecution from the various organisations representing shooting but the sincerity of these is invariably undermined by (a) the fact that as often as not they are followed by some feeble attempts to misdirect blame and pretend that any particular incident was nothing to do with shooting and (b) the fact you point out that the industry itself virtually never (I may be being generous to them) reports any incidents that occur. Their guys are out on the moor all the time but somehow they are always looking the other way when something bad happens to a hen harrier. Meanwhile, the estates where nests fail, corpses are found, buzzards are wacked over the head, pole traps are set etc etc continue to sit at the high table in these organisations.

      1. Thank you, Jonathan, both for your kind comment and for reminding us that the industry which is so keen to trumpet its abhorrence of illegal persecution is oddly keen to misdirect blame even where it is laughable to do so. I'm disappointed, though, that (as I write) four viewers have idly voted down my comment without having the good grace to offer any justification. Rather confirming the suspicion I have every time that they do so that they simply have none and are voting on tribal lines.

  5. The MA's headline reminds me of what Patrick O'Brian wrote about some 'port' in fact composed of vinegar, cochineal, molasses, raw spirit and sugar of lead: that the wine merchant who'd compounded it had added a false date and "a flaming lie by way of a label"!


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