The walk-out of shooting organisations from the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (revealed by this blog on Friday) is very much to be welcomed. They have played an almost entirely negative role in this group. In my opinion, justice, birds of prey and the group’s work are all better off without their presence.
We heard last week that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation had actually resigned from the group whereas the position of the Moorland Association, Countryside Alliance and BASC is less clear – maybe they think they’ll be back around the table at the group’s next meeting? I also gather that the absence of the Country Landowners Association was fortuitous and not part of the coordinated absence (which is good to hear).
Gamekeepers make up the majority of those individuals successfully prosecuted for crimes against birds of prey in recent years and so the NGO has, potentially, most to offer the police in pointing them in the direction of those in their so-called profession who are breaking the law. I don’t know of any cases where current gamekeepers have given the police information that has led to a prosecution. There might be a case of which I am unaware but the last I can remember was at the Shropshire Kempton Estate which came to court in 2008.
The NGO’s aim is;
To promote, improve and protect gamekeeping in the United Kingdom, thereby securing a thriving long-term future for the profession.https://www.nationalgamekeepers.org.uk/about
That one aim has three parts which must be difficult to reconcile when it comes to wildlife crime. How to promote a way of life which quite clearly is the one most heavily involved in crimes against protected birds of prey and where those crimes are being more and more highlighted in the media? And what steps has the NGO taken to improve gamekeeping in respect to wildlife crime? Perhaps leaving the RPPDG in a hissy fit is their greatest contribution so far? But how does the organisation protect gamekeeping and secure a thriving long-term future if it doesn’t cut out the cancer of criminality from its own body? That’s a nest of conundrums on which I hope they will ponder.
The Moorland Association has the same problem, of course, but they have the brazen Amanda Anderson to deny everything (except for the odd slip, ‘if we let the hen harrier in…‘) and to be the buffer between the rich and titled landowners who are ultimately responsible for what goes on on their land (and would be legally responsible under vicarious liability in Scotland, but not in England) and the difficult questions about the fact that intensive grouse shooting is underpinned by wildlife crime. This is an industry that cannot exist in its present shape unless widespread wildlife crime continues – read Chapter 3 of Inglorious – and so wrecking tactics of denial and disinformation are its only survival strategy. They won’t work for ever. If Amanda comes back into the room of the RPPDG then the way to wipe the winning smile off her face is to ask her for full commitment from her members to:
- publicise wildlife crime through all possible measures
- fund rewards for information from whistle-blowers that leads to convictions
- provide access to the best lawyers for any prosecuting authorities or individuals
- provide blanket permission for investigators from the RSPB Investigations Section to place covert cameras on their land
- provide any evidence or intelligence they possess to the police to direct their investigations better
The Countryside Alliance are not of any value to the group as their membership overlaps so much with that of the much more reasonable CLA and the no more reasonable Moorland Association.
I’d be sorry if BASC really intend to walk out with the others – they are the most reasonable of the pro-shooting organisations – although that is a low hurdle. They might be able to take a lead for shooting as a whole – they’ve been rather quiet since this excellent episode. Their new Chief Executive hasn’t impressed yet by taking any sort of a public stance on wildlife crime. Maybe he’d like to write a guest blog here?
Having all these pro-shooting organisations in the room in their current frames of mind is a bit like having the Krays in the room when discussing reducing violence in the East End of London. It could work, but only with a massive change of heart and attitude which has not been signalled and needs some solid signs of having happened before it could possibly be believed.
The definition of a stakeholder is ‘a person with an interest or concern’ in an issue. That certainly applies to the shooting organisations when it comes to wildlife crime. Some, perhaps quite a few, of their members have a vested interest, not a public interest, and they are right to be concerned, and even to feel guilty that they have done too little and they are responsible for too much. Maybe they misunderstood the name of the group: the ‘priority’ is to reduce ‘raptor persecution’, maybe that should be made a bit clearer for some bodies.
I did say that 2019 was going to be a bad year for grouse shooting – see here fourth bullet point.
NOTE: I will write a few words about Thursday’s day in court soon, but, as you will have seen, Friday was quite a busy one for news, and I am expecting some interesting news to break later today too… Watch this space.