The non-attendance of the pro-shooting organisations at last week’s Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) meeting (you read about it first here but see also my further blog, the coverage in RPUK here, here and here and The Times) was a big miscalculation on their parts, and one from which their reputations are unlikely to recover in the short term.
Given the prominence of gamekeepers in the roll of dishonour of those convicted of crimes against birds of prey, and the far from prominent roll that the gamekeepers’ representative organisation has played in tackling wildlife crime, it is perhaps understandable that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation felt a bit uncomfortable sitting on a group whose aim is to tackle the illegal killing of raptors.
I’m glad that the CLA still intends to be a member of the group and also that BASC seems to have quickly decided that a boycott of this group would be a public relations disaster. I don’t agree with BASC about everything, and I don’t think they behave entirely properly on all matters, but if the shooting industry is to be represented on a group dealing with wildlife crime, as surely they should be, then BASC is surely the best organisation to take on that position. BASC will have to raise their game if they are to play a more meaningful part in tackling wildlife crime but this is their opportunity to show leadership and to help the shooting industry to get to a better place.
Losing the Moorland Association and the Countryside Alliance is no loss at all. In fact, if they are thinking of coming back to the group then they ought to pay an entry fee! Their past behaviour, their public pronouncements and their ‘contributions’ to other similar groups such as the Peak District Raptor Forum and the Lead Ammunition Group suggest that neither is best suited to working to a collaborative agenda. I made some suggestions yesterday as to what the Moorland Association should be asked to contribute as their re-entry fee to the group (see here) and if I were Supt Nick Lyall I’d be inclined to tell the Moorland Association’s Chair, Nick Downshire, also known as Arthur Francis Nicholas Wills Hill, the 9th Marquess of Downshire, that he should come along to the group’s meetings himself to demonstrate the Moorland Association’s true commitment to the work of the group and tackling wildlife crime. I’m sure Nick Downshire would want to contribute fully and constructively to tackling wildlife crime.
Surely, at the next meeting of the group the analysis of the Natural England Hen Harrier satellie-tagging data will have been published? But since the results were presented to the world, secretly, at an ornithological conference in Canada last August, it should be possible to have a presentation of what the data demonstrate at the next meeting of the RPPDG, whoever is sitting around the table then, in April. The findings of that long term study are thought to be highly relevant to wildlife law enforcement in the English uplands. In fact, so relevant that maybe the NGO and Countryside Alliance should be asked along just for that item. Maybe they’d have lots of suggestions for tackling wildlife crime against hen Harriers that they have been too shy to suggest to date?