Dr Therese Coffey is the junior minister at Defra. When Gavin Gamble’s e-petition in favour of banning driven grouse shooting passes 10,000 signatures then Dr Coffey will need to sign off a government response.
In order that she does not make Defra look even more foolish than they do already I am providing a reading list for the minister to inform her response.
Let’s look at the Peregrine Falcon (as featured on today’s Tweet of the Day by the way).
It was all of six years ago that a paper was published which analysed long-term datasets from the North of England Raptor Forum (Calderdale Raptor Group, Cumbria Raptor Study Group, Durham Upland Bird Study Group, Manchester Raptor Group, Northumbria Ringing Group, North York Moors Upland Bird (Merlin) Study Group, Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group, South Peak Raptor Study Group, South Ryedale and East Yorkshire Raptor Group and Yorkshire Dales Upland Bird Study Group) which showed that Peregrine Falcons nesting in the uplands of England fare far less well on grouse moors than just down the road on moors not managed for grouse shooting.
This is the paper; Amar, A., Court, I.R., Davidson, M., Downing, S., Grimshaw, T., Pickford, T. & Raw, D. (2012) Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations. Biological Conservation. 145: 86-95.
Here is the written evidence submitted by the senior author of the paper ahead of last year’s debate on grouse shooting.
Here are quotes from two of the authors at the time of publication (2011);
Dr Arjun Amar, of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute for Ornithology – formerly an RSPB scientist and also formerly a scientist at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust – is the paper’s lead author. He said: “I was shocked at just how low the bird’s breeding output was on grouse moors; they were significantly less likely to lay eggs or fledge young.” He added: “The few birds that did lay eggs or fledge young on grouse moors did just as well as those breeding off grouse moors, which suggests that a shortage of food supplies can be ruled out of the equation. The only logical explanation for these differences is that persecution is rife on many driven grouse moors.”.
Paul Irving, chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum, said: “To people who visit and live in the uplands of northern England, the peregrine should be a familiar bird in an iconic landscape. However, the guilty few deny the pleasure of many.” He added: “Now it’s up to the Government and the Police to turn fine words into action. So far, there has been little real progress in tackling bird of prey crime and this needs to change urgently to help species like the peregrine.”.
These data are not explicable by the ‘a few bad apples’ hypothesis – they indicate widespread, routine and systematic wildlife crime associated with grouse moors in the north of England. The published analysis used data from 1980-2008 and things have not improved since then – in many areas they have got worse. So, for 40 years or so we know that grouse moors have been depleted of a protected bird which should grace our National Parks and AONBs but instead is illegally persecuted.
Government has not addressed this problem and in Dr Coffey’s ‘nothing to see here’ speech last October she did not even acknowledge that there was a problem that government should address. Clearly the Defra Hen Harrier Inaction Plan will not help Peregrine Falcons (and hasn’t and won’t help Hen Harriers either). Nor will funding of the NWCU deal with this issue – it hasn’t so far and it can’t in future.
So, minister, what’s your plan?
Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and to put Dr Coffey on the spot.
The government response should:
- be published within 2 weeks of Gavin Gamble’s e-petition reaching 10,000 signatures
- announce that vicarious liability for wildlife crimes will be introduced in England because of the unacceptably high levels of wildlife crime
- announce that Defra will ask the RSPB to come forward with proposals for licensing of shooting estates within a month and that Defra will respond to them by Christmas
- acknowledge the level of concern about driven grouse shooting which led to 123,077 signatures being gained last year for an absolute ban on this hobby (I’m not expecting Dr Coffey to say anything nicer than that about a ban)
- confirm that Defra is looking at removal of farming subsidies from grouse moors in its post-Brexit agricultural strategy
- confirm that the evidence for wider environmental damage of heather burning has increased recently and that this is an issue that government will address and that this will require widespread changes to grouse moor management (burning and draining)
- mention where the government is with dealing with the RSPB complaint to the EU over unsustainable moorland management due to grouse shooting practices
- acknowledge that the plight of the Hen Harrier has not improved in two breeding seasons since the Defra Hen Harrier plan was launched and that the grouse shooting industry has not cleaned up its act and is on a last warning
- announce that the details of the 15-year Natural England Hen Harrier study will be published by Christmas 2017 in a government report with further recommendations for Hen Harrier conservation
- acknowledge that wildlife crime applies to many other protected species other than the Hen Harrier
- announce that the National Capital Committee has been asked to compile a report on ecosystem services and grouse moor management
- announce a review of the economic costs and benefits of intensive grouse moor management will be carried out by independent academics and published by Christmas 2018.
The government response should not:
- say that funding of the NWCU is a sufficient response to combatting bird of prey persecution in the uplands (because nobody who knows has ever suggested such a thing)
- say or suggest that grouse shooting provides a nett economic benefit to the nation (because there are no such figures)
- suggest that the current Hen Harrier Action Plan is remotely fit for purpose
- praise gamekeepers
- conflate benefits of all shooting (economic or environmental) with benefits of grouse shooting (because it makes the government department and/or its ministers look either stupid or biased)