Government promoting William Powell Sporting Agency

The government website is promoting William Powell Sporting Agency through a link on their website to Snilesworth Moor.

If you click on Snilesworth Moor in the above link you are taken to the William Powell website…

Days of up to 250 brace can be shot here which, at £150/brace comes to a cool £37,500 for the day’s shooting (over £4,000 each gun).  And although this is said to be a very poor year for Red Grouse shoots, don’t sob too much for Snilesworth since in the last four years they have brought in £300,000/year through grouse shooting  – and then there are all those Pheasants too.

On the William Powell website you can click on ‘Information’ and then ‘Meet the Team’ to find out exactly which members of the shooting industry are being given this public relations boost by the government website and which were the choice of our wildlife defenders Natural England for this bonding event.

The name that leaps out is that of Mark Osborne – a well known name in shoot management – indeed perhaps the most familiar name in shoot management to those of us who do not shoot. A quick search for Mr Osborne’s name on the encyclopaedic RaptorPersecution UK website throws up an awful lot of mentions of Mr Osborne; here are some;

The Mark Osborne coincidences continue – March 2010

Mark Osborne on Hen Harriers, Mark Avery and Chris Packham – July 2017

Interesting bedfellows 4 – November 2017

There are plenty more mentions of William Powell and Mark Osborne going back years to Glenogil Estate etc etc and even some of those in the shooting community have pointed to the coincidences linking Mark Osborne to dead raptors – see this from James Marchington way back in 2009. And Mr Osborne’s name has cropped up in this blog too (see here and here).

Here is something from the shooting press On Snilesworth Moor from Shooting Sportsman, August 2015.

Much more recently of course William Powell are the shooting tenant whose tenancy was terminated by the National Trust in the Peak District: this year a pair of Hen Harriers nested on NT-owned land for the first time for ages and ages.

NE must have known of Mr Osborne’s and William Powell’s reputations and that must have led to NE choose this estate, managed by this sporting agency, for their bonding event with grouse shooters.

At a time when Defra Minister, Therese Coffey, is promoting round-up …

… I suppose it should come as little surprise that the Westminster government website is promoting this firm and this moor. What next – Natural England staff wearing badges saying ‘I LOVE Jimmy Shuttlewood’, ‘Mark Osborne taught me all I know about upland management’ or ‘We have shared outcomes with grouse shooters’?

I’m getting more and more cries of anguish and cries for help from NE staff stuck in this organisation that is no longer fit for purpose. Here’s one I got yesterday evening after first posting about the Snilesworth event (slightly edited to protect the sender);

Hi Mark, I’ve just seen your NE grouse moor tweet & I am utterly appalled by what I’ve read. When I joined English Nature it was to do nature conservation, I believed in what I was doing and think we did actually achieve something. Now under NE we have become poodles of Defra, run by a significant number of useless managers, policy wonks and a totally inadequate chair. Not a day goes by when I don’t look for a way out. Quite honestly if it wasn’t for [the need to earn a living] I’d be off. It’s ironic when our training budget has been slashed that NE has sorted out this freebie. I mean, let’s get down & dirty with the gamekeepers et al on the day we discover our native mountain hare population has crashed. Ffs to say I’m angry doesn’t even go there. Ashamed to show my face at Birdfair. Right rant over.




5 Replies to “Government promoting William Powell Sporting Agency”

  1. If I was an NE manager and I really felt that staff needed to understand the practicalities of management for grouse shooting ( that itself would be unlikely) there are some estates that would spring to mind, others that would not and some that would come to mind in that they would be outstanding candidates to never be considered. Where do NE go? To one of those never to be considered, William Powell Agency and Mark Osborne, DEFRA and NE top brass have truly gone completely mad, flushing what little is left of NEs reputation down the toilet and not a very salubrious toilet at that.

  2. In principle I don’t have a problem with NE working with gamekeepers. Given its role as a statutory body it has to work with the law as it is and not what we might wish the law to be and as things stand gamekeeping is a lawful activity (at least those parts of it that fall within the ‘official’ job description). Consequently NE can’t simply treat all gamekeepers as the enemy but must engage with them like any other land user. Working positively together with gamekeepers to achieve ‘shared outcomes’ could in principle be a helpful approach (although of course this should not compromise the enforcement role of NE).
    Having said all that, this event seems to have been an ill-considered venture. The choice of partner seems to have been especially ill-advised and rather than a simple working together along the lines I refer to this does come across as part of a cosying up with the grouse industry (especially when taken alongside the flawed management agreements with shooting estates and the recently reported meeting between senior government officials and representatives of grouse shooting) that can only undermine trust with other stakeholders in upland management.

    1. I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with your argument. If the HRMC are testing for red diesel they are not treating goods vehicle drivers as the enemy. A speed camera does not treat motorists as the enemy. The existence of the police force should not mean the public is seen as the enemy. It is simply about upholding the law. There is no reason whatsoever that gamekeepers, landowners etc, should be treated in any favourable way. What you posit is an entirely false dichotomy, where it is not either treating gamekeepers or landowners as the enemy, or pandering to them.

      It is about seeing them in a neutral way. If there is considerable evidence of raptor persecution on managed shoots, then taking measures to check if they are sticking to the law is not treating them as the enemy, any more than a police traffic patrol vehicle is treating motorists as the enemy.

      This whole concept of NE working together with landowners you present, is not neutral. NE should treat all members of the public in a neutral way simply looking for compliance with the law on the basis of evidence.

      In 2008 the Natural England report “A Future for the Hen Harrier in England” and the research upon which it was founded, stated this on their web page at the time: “Detailed monitoring work since 2002 has shown that the critically low breeding numbers and patchy distribution of the hen harrier in England is a result of persecution – both in the breeding season, and at communal roosts in the winter – especially on areas managed for red grouse or with game rearing interests.”

      In 2008 NE presented considerable evidence of persistent persecution of Hen Harriers across areas of managed grouse shooting. This was neutral. They were simply presenting the facts. The job of a statutory body presented with evidence of a general pattern of non-compliance with the law is to investigate and uphold the law.

      1. First of all I do not consider the current relationship between Natural England and the grouse shooting industry to be neutral – like you I believe the industry exerts undue influence on NE and its political masters. My second paragraph sought to make that clear and I am sorry if that did not come across.
        However, this does not mean that it is impossible in principle for NE to work positively with shooting estates without compromising its neutrality and I think you are creating a false dichotomy by seeming to suggest that anything other than ‘taking measures to check if they are sticking to the law’ is ‘pandering’ to the industry.

        You appear to believe that the only role of NE should be “looking for compliance with the law on the basis of evidence” and, presumably, prosecuting whenever non-compliance is found. That is certainly part of of its role but it is not the only way to ensure the law is upheld and neither is it the whole of NE’s legal remit which is specified in the NERC act :
        “(2)Natural England’s general purpose includes—
        (a)promoting nature conservation and protecting biodiversity,
        (b)conserving and enhancing the landscape,
        (c)securing the provision and improvement of facilities for the study, understanding and enjoyment of the natural environment,
        (d)promoting access to the countryside and open spaces and encouraging open-air recreation, and
        (e)contributing in other ways to social and economic well-being through management of the natural environment.
        (3)The purpose in subsection (2)(e) may, in particular, be carried out by working with local communities.. ”

        You are quite correct that there is a mass of evidence of wildlife crime occurring on grouse moors and addressing this should be one of NE’s main priorities but there is not necessarily only one way to address a crime spree. The police and other agencies rightly endeavour to arrest and prosecute young offenders, for example, but in areas of high crime they also seek to engage with the (potential) offenders with positive schemes that seek to turn them away from crime. It would be absurd to suggest that these schemes call in to question the ‘neutrality’ of the police or other agencies with respect to youth crime. By the same token the authorities responsible for upholding wildlife law in the uplands should certainly work hard to identify and prosecute those guilty of crimes but – in principle – can also at the same time attempt to find more positive ways to try to influence the industry to change its ways. Do you think it was wrong – in principle – for the RSPB and others to work in cooperation with the grouse industry on the Langholm studies, for example?

        So, just to make myself entirely clear:
        1) I do not think it is wrong – in principle – for NE to work positively with shooting industry to promote nature conservation;
        2) “Working positively” does NOT in this context mean ‘turning a blind eye’ or allowing corners to be cut, legal requirements to be by-passed or anything similar. It could, in principle, involve participation in training of gamekeepers (I am aware that the training referred to in Mark’s post was the opposite way round with GKs training NE!)
        3) Working positively should in no sense compromise the organisation’s duties to uphold the law including investigation, and prosecution.

        Notwithstanding the above
        4) I do not consider that the recent specific actions of NE in relation to the shooting industry give any confidence that it is neutral. The training event and the way it has been publicised is a case in point where a significant PR coup was handed to the industry in exchange for rather dubious conservation benefit.

        I hope this helps to clarify my thoughts.

        1. My points were purely about one part of your argument as your yourself presented it. I made no points about your supposed personal position etc, only about the form of one particular point of your argument, as you presented it.

          You say “You appear to believe that the only role of NE should be “looking for compliance with the law on the basis of evidence”. I do not believe this at all and it was not tacit in my points.

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