Yesterday Natural England announced that it had issued licences for Defra’s highly controversial Hen Harrier brood management scheme (but this blog by Raptor Persecution UK is a much better description of what is going on).
Natural England was once a statutory nature conservation organisation of high repute but it is no longer fit for purpose. All NE staff should hang their heads in shame today, either because of their actions, or their inaction or simply because their organisation has moved beyond the pale. Those paid Natural England board members who regard themselves as conservationists should consider their positions.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Regular readers of this blog will know, but it’s probably worth a quick summary. The Hen Harrier is a rare bird which ought to be much commoner but its numbers are greatly suppressed by illegal persecution by grouse shooting interests. Hen Harriers eat mostly voles and small birds but they can reduce the numbers of Red Grouse which are shot for fun on upland heather moorland. Killing of Hen Harriers to protect grouse shooting incomes is systematic, ruthless and entirely illegal – it has been illegal for more than 60 years.
That is the situation and that’s not under dispute. Under such circumstances one would expect a government department responsible for nature conservation to be tackling the wildlife crime which has driven down Hen Harrier numbers but instead this government has colluded with the criminals and come up with a bizarre scheme called brood management.
Grouse shooting interests don’t like Hen Harriers and break the law to kill them but the government reaction is not to enforce the law, it is to give the criminals what they usually get through crime by a government-funded scheme which takes nestling Hen Harriers away from the grouse moors and keeps them in cages during the summer months so that they are not fed grouse by their parents. They’ll then be released back on the grouse moors later in the season (where they will be persecuted as normal). This is a taxpayer-funded scheme that gives the criminals what they want without them running the risk of getting prosecuted.
Defra is soft on crime, and not so much soft on the causes of crime but more like completely in bed with the criminals. Natural England’s job is to plump up the pillows, smooth the sheets and supply hot water bottles.
This annoucement has stung the RSPB into using strong words to condemn it. The RSPB official Twitter account, @natures_voice, with 282,000 followers (that’s around 3-4 times the membership of the Conservative Party these days) said this late last night:
If you feel the same then please act today to send a strong signal to Michael Gove and Defra, and the strongest signal that you can send is to sign Gavin Gamble’s e-petition which calls for a ban on driven grouse shooting.
What will be the responses of the Labour Party? Liberal Democrats? Greens? SNP?