Gems from the written evidence 6 – the raptor workers (1)

Raptor workers give up their time voluntarily to monitor the numbers of these fabulous birds. Their evidence on raptor numbers and raptor persecution should carry considerable weight. Here are some extracts from the evidence that has appeared so far (more is to come I am sure) and from a professional academic too:

North of England Raptor Forum:

  • Hen Harrier – now almost extinct as a breeding species across northern England and satellite tagging has revealed additional vulnerability to persecution at its upland winter roost sites (eg the case of the satellite tagged “Bowland Betty”).  Red Kite – there has been very limited expansion from the centres of reintroduction outwards to upland areas. Goshawk – populations in all areas of close association with grouse moor have suffered serious decline and are now critically low.  Peregrine Falcon – populations and breeding success is severely restricted in upland areas close to grouse moor. Upland populations are highly threatened and declining yet lowland populations are increasing.  Short-eared Owl – local examples of illegal persecution may be affecting breeding numbers.  Raven – very locally distributed and absent as a breeding bird across large areas of the uplands.
  • The North Pennine and Bowland Special Protected Areas (SPAs & SSSIs) each have Hen Harrier and Peregrine Falcon as citation species yet their respective populations now consistently fall well below the targets given and continue to deteriorate.  Clearly the UK Government has a responsibility to remedy this failing.
  • Responsible self-regulation by the grouse shooting industry has failed to deliver any tangible benefits. Changes in attitudes and legislation are now urgently needed to finally stop the illegal persecution of raptors in all its forms.  It is recommended that consideration be given to the formal licensing of shoots and in the case of proven transgression against licence terms, such as illegal raptor persecution, then the licence holders should face consequences including the withdrawal of any land use grant payments.

Calderdale Raptor Study Group:

  • I have been monitoring birds of prey for decades. During that time the local Peregrine population has fallen from six pairs to one, Goshawks are observed on the eastern fringe of the grouse moors at the beginning of spring but they have never been recorded breeding. We have ample habitat for Red Kites but they are absent and we had only one pair of breeding Raven in 2016. Hen Harriers do occupy winter roosts regularly but they have never bred locally. Whilst the absence of these species may not be attributable to local persecution the area is self-evidently a ‘black hole’ as far as they are concerned. The reduction of any species by persecution obviously has a negative impact on both the numbers and expansion of those populations and every grouse moor, whether directly involved in persecution or not, indirectly benefits from the actions of others.
  • In addition to my experience as a Wildlife Crime Officer, Operation Artemis Co-ordinator, Licenced Raptor Worker, including Hen Harriers, I live in Hebden Bridge. The village is nestled in the Upper Calder Valley in the Pennines. The valley is deep, steep sided and the bottom is very narrow. Hebden Bridge is at the heart of the South Pennines SPA. It is famous for being very beautiful. It is also famous for flooding. When the flood waters pours down Hebden Water there is only one place for that water to go; into people’s homes, the schools, the doctor’s surgery and commercial property; devastating lives and destroying hope. The village was destroyed in the Christmas floods of 2015, not for the first time, and it has still to fully recover. Scientific research paper after scientific paper lays the blame firmly at the door of local grouse shooting estates. Draining the moors, diverting streams, burning the moor, the construction of tracks and car parks on the Walshaw Moor Estate, at the head of Hebden Water, have apparently exacerbated the flood risk. These issues and the lack of supervision by Natural England are currently being examined by the European Courts of Justice.
  • My experience in law enforcement, raptor monitoring and interaction with the grouse shooting industry leads me to the unpalatable, but realistic decision that to remove all of the ills associated with driven grouse shooting, and for the benefit of our environment and the communities of both wildlife and people that enjoy our shared environment, the only solution is to ban the practice of driven grouse shooting.

Shropshire Peregrine Group:

  • The Group strongly supports the petition to ban driven  grouse shooting for sport on the grounds that the intensive management of grouse moors has an adverse effect on biodiversity and the environment, and frequently leads to the deliberate killings and organised persecution of protected birds of prey including Hen Harriers and Peregrine Falcons.

Manchester Raptor Club:

  • Thirty years ago, it was relatively common to see Hen Harriers wintering on Chat Moss, a large area of farmland and former peat workings in the west of Greater Manchester, part of which is a SAC. Today it is a rarity, reflecting the dramatic decline due to the extermination of this wonderful bird by grouse shooting interests.
  • Grouse shooters  have grossly abused the upland countryside, and it has been proved that “management” is causing serious damage, notably increasing the frequency and intensity of flooding (eg Hebden Bridge) and releasing carbon through burning. And they are getting a government subsidy of £56 per hectare for this!  This tiny, wealthy minority apparently have the resources to flout the law. But the will of the majority of the people of this country must prevail. Grouse shooting should be banned completely and the law of vicarious responsibility, already in force in Scotland, extended to England and Wales.

Dr Arjun Amar:

  • I am a Conservation Biologist, with over 20 years of research experience on birds of prey and the British uplands, including a PhD from Aberdeen University on the conservation ecology of hen harriers. I have published over 65 peer-reviewed scientific papers in some of the world’s leading ornithological and conservation journals. I am currently employed as a Senior Lecturer at the FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town, a world renowned ornithological institute at the University of Cape Town. I was previously employed by both the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), where I conducted research on raptors in the British uplands.
  • Thus, this paper showed that breeding performance of Peregrine Falcons was considerably lower in areas managed for grouse shooting in northern England and that direct persecution was the most likely cause for these differences. These results therefore suggest that contrary to the assertions of many associated with grouse shooting, persecution is not isolated to one or two ‘rogue’ estates but rather that it is systemic within the grouse shooting industry.
  • In this paper, we show that on driven grouse moors in the UK in the absence of persecution we might expect there to be around 500 successful pairs of hen harriers. This estimate is based on the known hen harrier densities on grouse moors where persecution was relaxed and the approximate amount of land managed for driven grouse shooting in the UK. However, in 2008 there were only 5 successful hen harrier pairs on driven grouse moors. Thus, only around 1% of the potential number of successful pairs that might be expected in the absence of persecution. This again shows the extent of illegal persecution of raptors that occurs in the British upland managed for driven grouse shooting.
  • I think it needs to be made very clear that this issue is with driven grouse shooting, which requires very high densities of grouse to operate. Other forms of grouse hunting, such as walked up shooting, do not require the same densities of birds, and therefore do not require the same level of intensive management or the same levels of illegal practices.
  • I believe that there needs to be more regulation of the grouse shooting. The UK is one of the only countries in the world where shooting is not tightly regulated, as a result we (the UK government, the statutory nature conservation agencies, the police, and local communities) have very little control over land owners and managers who damage the environment and undertake illegal activity. I would therefore support the suggestion that a licensing system for grouse shooting be adopted

Dr Ruth Tingay:

  • It is quite clear that the driven grouse shooting industry is unable and/or unwilling to abide by the law. It is also eminently clear that the statutory authorities are unable to enforce the relevant legislation effectively.
  • It is my view that introducing a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would be futile. It is already illegal to kill birds of prey, although this is happening with impunity across the UK uplands and the statutory authorities consistently fail to enforce the law. There is therefore no reason to expect them to effectively enforce a licensing system. For this reason, I fully endorse a ban on driven grouse shooting.
  • Mark writes: have a look at the Appendix in Ruth’s evidence of 252 wildlife crime incidents in grouse moor areas over the last 10 years for an eye-opener of the tip of the tip of the iceberg.



You could write to your MP about the debate on driven grouse shooting today (see here).




8 Replies to “Gems from the written evidence 6 – the raptor workers (1)”

  1. Mark – I’m assuming that you are sending these selected gems from the written evidence to MPs (perhaps including those who have shown support for the LACS). It would be a shame if they got buried in the mountain of documents that most busy MPs will not take the time to wade through.
    The piece by Alan Stewart was particularly compelling.

    1. I too was struck by this submission as it blows a rather large hole in the claim that moors managed for grouse shooting are havens for waders.

    2. I like their suggestion of holding a referendum! That would really get the shooters worried.

  2. Slightly off topic, I received an email from the RSPB today asking me, among other things, to write to my MP with a request to attend the DGS debate. At the very bottom it states: ‘You have received this e-mail because the e-mail address [my email address] is subscribed to RSPB e-mails.’ People occasionally comment on this blog that the RSPB doesn’t email them. If you don’t currently get emails from the RSPB, and would like them, you can amend your contact details or the way they contact you via the Contact Us link at the bottom of the main RSPB web page.

  3. Great to see Dr. Arjun Amar dismembering the Countryside Alliance/ Scottish Land & Estates with such laser-like precision.
    Not that denialists will care or notice or even understand but great to get it on record. I think we are taking part in history here.
    Interesting science article in the Guardian yesterday that gives an idea of what we are up against.

  4. “The North Pennine and Bowland Special Protected Areas (SPAs & SSSIs) each have Hen Harrier and Peregrine Falcon as citation species yet their respective populations now consistently fall well below the targets given and continue to deteriorate.”

    During her recent foray into Europe Mrs May was at great pains to stress that up to the moment that we actually leave the EU, the UK will be full and active members in every respect. This must therefore include meeting our environmental commitments and it may be worth people writing to the European Commission and European Parliament in support of RSPBs formal complaint about UK government failure to properly implement the Habitat & Birds Directives.

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