Dr Coffey’s reading list (9)

Therese Coffey

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 (and it stands at over 9600) 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.

Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and put Dr Coffey on the spot.

Today Birdlife International has published a review of illegal killing of birds. It should form uncomfortable reading for Dr Coffey and Michael Gove who now occupy Defra but also such recent responsible ministers as Rory Stewart, Richard Benyon, Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsom and Owen Paterson.

Notice the report has images of hen Harriers on its cover and that the UK account makes considerable mention of driven grouse shooting alongside other game management but doesn’t finger any other sector of society or the economy. It’s clear where the problem lies and it’s clear that it is a UK problem that is scandalous when set in a European context.


Here are some quotes from the report (I have highlighted some areas in red):

While the  problem  is  widespread,  it  is  particularly acute in areas associated with driven grouse shooting in the north of England and large parts of Scotland. Over a fifteen-year period (2000-2014) the five worst sites for the largest number of confirmed incidents were the Angus Glens in the north  east of  Scotland,  the Peak District  in  the  north  of England, South Lanarkshire and the Scottish Borders in the south of Scotland, and Aberfeldy in the north of Scotland.’

Retention  and  fully  implementing  the  legal protections  for wild birds enshrined in the Birds and Habitats Directives will be  essential  to  address  impacts  to  wild  birds  from  illegal killing in the UK. Raptor persecution was set as one of the UK governments wildlife crime priorities in 2009 but remains an ongoing problem. This can involve organised crime  and  a  higher  standard  of  statutory  enforcement  and  prevention  are  required,  with  more  effective structuring and targetting of this work. Industry self-regulation and voluntary schemes have repeatedly failed to  address the problems  of  raptor  persecution  in  the  UK  and  associated  wider  issues  of  damaging management affecting protected species and habitats. High values attributed to game birds via both shoot income and associated asset value of land and shooting rights present significant barriers to voluntary action.’

Existing sanctions have very limited deterrent effect, with high levels of recidivism and a lack of acountability for landowners and managers whose staff commit offences.

Regulatory interventions are required, including the introduction of a robust licensing system capable of governing driven grouse shooting. This should be supported  by  a  statutory  code  of  practice,  including  a  requirement  to  submit  bag  returns.  Legislation  in Scotland which has introduced ‘vicarious liability’, as a measure to increase accountability for the actions of staff  working  on  estates  should  be  extended  to  the  rest  of  the  UK.  There  also  needs  to  be  increased investment in monitoring, such as the use of satellite tagging, and improved recording of raptor persecution, and  enforcement.’


So Dr Coffey –  you are being told by everyone except the friends of the recidivists that you must do more. You have the chance to announce action to deal with wildlife crime on grouse moors in your response to Gavin Gamble’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.  Are you, like your predecessors, going to pretend that there isn’t a problem here, and that even if there is, Defra is going to do nothing about it? We’ll soon see.  You are the one sitting in the hot seat.


Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and 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)
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