GWCT plumbs new depths

Here are some quotes from a press release from Abzed’s Ian Gregory which was released yesterday morning:

From: Ian Gregory <[email protected]>
Sent: 27 January 2019 09:58
Subject: Official Figures Reveal RSPB’s “Increasing Failure” To Protect Endangered Birds
Embargo 00.01 Monday 28 January 2019

Government data shows the RSPB is four times less successful with hen harriers than other land managers

Only 13% of RSPB nests succeeded last year as the decline in the charity’s performance worsened

Conservationists say the RSPB needs to choose between “fatter foxes or more hen harriers

The RSPB receives substantial taxpayer funds to support hen harriers. It is also spending substantial sums on lawyers taking the government to court to block its plans for the species. Yet where it matters – on RSPB reserves – the breeding success of hen harriers is falling behind. I am sure taxpayers would like an explanation,” said Andrew Gilruth of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The increasing failure rate of hen harrier nests on RSPB reserves may be because there are a lot of foxes raiding the nests. The hard choice for the RSPB is between fatter foxes or more hen harriers. You can’t have both,” said Mr Gilruth.

Andrew Gilruth, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust: 07900 *** *** and 01425 651 ***
Ian Gregory, Abzed Communications: 020 7112 8680 and 07930 352 333

This is the same old nonsense and spin that always emanates from You Forgot the Birds. Abzed has grouse moors as its clients and one of the better known supporters of YFTB is Crispin Odey a supporter of the Conservative Party who can’t decide who he wants to be its leader except that they must be a hard Brexiteer (see here).

Blah blah blah. It’s really not worth going through this pile of ordure. I notice that YFTB still has images of Montagu’s Harrier and Pallid Harriers on its website, but not of Hen Harrier.

A stunningly beautiful male Montagu’s Harrier that has been mis-labelled as a Hen Harrier on the YFTB website for months.

It will be interesting to see whether any newspapers print any of this guff today. Ian Gregory peddles these stories often but is ignored by most journalists.

Andrew Gilruth’s quotes make no sense at all – unless they are designed simply to slag off the RSPB. Surely not? Remember, the GWCT is a charity.

The collusion by the GWCT in this nonsense plumbs new depths. GWCT has now put itself beyond the pale, and it is surprising that its new Chair, Sir James Paice (an ex-Defra minister), has allowed standards to drop even further than the low level set by his predecessor Ian Coghill.

It’s not surprising that scientific staff at GWCT are very miserable when their decent work is put in the shade by the spin of their Director of Membership, Marketing and Communication.

It will be interesting to see which statutory agencies and NGOs feel able to work with GWCT in future.


25 Replies to “GWCT plumbs new depths”

  1. As you say Mark , how much lower can these people sink? The answer is, really no lower. What a very nasty lot these shooters can be.
    However I think all this is showing that your campaign to ban driven grouse shooting and all the efforts of the RSPB and others, are making them really worried such that the days of their nasty practices are numbered.. It also reveals how much shooting our wildlife for fun is very much integrated into the vested interests of most of the Tory Party.

  2. “Conservationists say…”

    Odd – it implies that Mr Gilruth is a conservationist and that there is more than one of him.

  3. I find it strange that media organisations are prepared to peddle what is obviously public relations spin by PR professional specialists without taking time to consider that the intent is to divert attention from criminal acts and the organised criminal activity or wilful blindness often associated with driven grouse moors.
    Oh, just wait a minute.
    Media organisations surely could not be repeating such spin because they are an active supporter of the organised criminal activity, are they?
    They could not, surely, be displaying their wilful blindness to public scrutiny?
    I wonder?

  4. “The RSPB receives substantial taxpayer funds to support hen harriers.”
    There is that, of course.
    There is also the fact that driven grouse moor owners receive even larger amounts of taxpayer funds which allows their sport to take place, These same government funds may perhaps also be being used to support spurious claims by professional PR firms.

    1. As you say, there is no data source given to support this assertion but IF it is true we might suppose it is because many upland RSPB reserves are near/adjacent to grouse moors where HH are increasingly often bumped off? RSPB reserves do not exist in a vacuum, much as everyone might sometimes wish they could…

      If I was RSPB I’d be tempted to release figures showing which of their reserves support lots of HH (e.g. Loch Gruinart, well away from any grouse moors) versus those that struggle to sustain them (e.g. Geltsdale surrounded by grouse moors)…

  5. Foxes according to Mr Gilruth eh!? Strange isn’t it that the body of a dead Osprey can be located the other side of the world in Africa by the attached tracking technology and yet the same technology fails to find dead Hen Harriers which go missing in the vicinity of grouse moors! Even tracking devices disappear. So, foxes are the root cause. I should have realised because as we all know-being ‘countrymen’ and not ‘townies’ – foxes have a peculiar penchant for electronics and prefer this material even to grouse meat! Their alimentary tracts have evolved to completely metabolise the materials these devices are made of without any trace left in their excreta and this explains why such devices are infrequently found. Mention should also be made of the fact that the tracking devices are rapidly biodegradeable,much like empty shotgun cartridges and plaswads which are an extremely rare sight in the countryside these days. Despite their enjoyment of feasting on electronics Foxes do shun the bodies of Hen Harriers which contain lead shot- they are extremely fearful of going loopy from lead ingestion so any Hen Harrier which their keen senses detect as harbouring lead they avoid. I would point out that the lead shot found in dead Hen Harriers is easily explained by their own penchant for eating spent lead shot because as all good ‘countrymen’ know, Pb is an important element in a healthy diet for all birds of prey. They gorge on it to the point of dying from over indulgence!
    Yes, foxes are most definitely the culprits and those wonderful people BBC Countryfile applauds so frequently, the Gamekeepers, must up their game and shoot, snare, poison and club to death even more and then maybe,just maybe we will see one or two more Hen Harriers about. I suggest the RSPB disbands and we all join the Moorland Association.

    1. “Yes, foxes are most definitely the culprits” IMO we have two much use of the definite article and not enough of the indefinite. It’s perfectly possible that there may be more than one cause of breeding failures. It’s also perfectly possible that causes overlap. It’s perfectly possible imo that some predator control might help hen harriers.

      1. Giles, has any serious commenter ever suggested that Hen Harriers never die or their breeding attempts never fail from causes other than persecution? Of course sometimes these things occur as a result of natural causes. Hen Harriers have evolved in an environment that includes ground predators and in which natural prey varies in its availability from year to year but that is typical of ecological communities and predators and prey coexist over time in dynamic equilibrium. In the case of hen harriers that equilibrium has been well and truly knocked out of kilter by game management and there can be no serious doubt that the predicament of the hen harrier in this country is squarely due to this.

        1. I don’t know I was merely commenting on the use of ‘the culprit’ which indicates an implicit assumption that there is just one.

          However if more predator control would mean more hen harrier breeding success then surely that is a relevant fact.

          1. I think you will find that (a) Bill Kusiar’s comment was satirical in intent and (b) that the intention of messers Gregory and Gilruth is indeed to suggest that the problem faced by hen harriers is too many foxes and to deflect attention from the fact that the actual problem is too much illicit killing by gamekeepers.

            It is generous to say the least to suggest that YFTB’s press release is an honest attempt to advance the debate on how to save the hen harrier rather than a scurrilous bit of mud-slinging in the direction of the RSPB but in making that suggestion you are either deluded or indulging in mischief making.

          2. “However if more predator control would mean more hen harrier breeding success…”

            I would add that more predator control would undoubtedly benefit the hen harrier if the predator in question is the gamekeeper and ‘control’ means better policing and more effective prosecution of raptor persecution crimes.

          3. There is of course one predator of Hen Harriers and their nests that much as we might wish cannot currently be controlled despite the law being on our side and that is the Gamekeeper and those who instruct him, but last fix satellite tag data patterns condemn them.
            I can remember many years ago being on a private estate with the owners permission, his keeper was less than happy about it and suggested that he would like to set man traps and spring guns to deter us. They come from the era these people hark back to, hence the Edwardian fancy dress when they shoot grouse. They haven’t caught up yet with the Protection of Birds Act in the 1950’s, it passed them by never mind more recent legislation. Gilruth et al are just nasty little mouth pieces from cloud cuckoo land for those that wish the wildlife protection laws didn’t exist and behave accordingly. Tactically I think they are arrogant fools who if they had got rid of the criminals and criminality in their midst shooting may have had a future, that they have chosen a different route means all are complicit and condemned with their criminal element and shooting will have no long term future at all as a result.

          4. “you are either deluded or indulging in mischief making” – not really I was just suggesting that maybe predator control had a part to play in increasing hen harrier numbers

  6. I hadn’t realised that the atrocious Gilruth or is that guttersnipe Gilruth could get any lower but he has succeeded in doing that whilst dragging GWCT along with him.
    Like you Mark for me there was a time when they occasionally did some good science, Dick Potts especially. I didn’t always agree with their interpretations but they are after all about shooting, fishing and the idea we control the wild world. These days they are in the same bracket as YFTB, Countryside Areliars, NGO, the even lower SGA and Amanda’s coven, otherwise known as the Moorland Association at the very bottom, amongst the dregs of a very murky barrel.

  7. “The hard choice for the RSPB is between fatter foxes or more hen harriers. You can’t have both”

    If the RSPB has both foxes and successful breeding Hen Harriers on its land, then it is quite obvious that you can have both.

    The Gilruth approach to science is astoundingly bizarre, and utterly nonsensical!

    1. well I think he was suggesting that they didn’t have so many as they could have – because they aren’t controlling predators

  8. Mark, could you address the point about the RSPB please? Is it true that hen harriers on RSPB reserves only have a one in eight success rate, and if so why?

    1. Andrew – I think it would be difficult to know, and even more difficult to know what the average success of all the other Hen harriers in the UK would be in comparison. And what are RSPB nests? Are the nests not on RSPB land, but protected around the clock by RSPB staff and volunteers, RSPB nests? and what is the definition of grouse moor? It seems to change a lot to suit some people? IS the UU land on Bowland grouse moor? Some grouse are shot there but that isn’t its main economic activity and it isn’t managed in the way that neighbouring grouse moors are. This was a press release not a scientific paper – and a press release largely ignored by the world.

  9. It is criminal that the RSPB takes huge amounts of tax payers money to “save” hen harriers whilst at the same time has such a poor record of success of successful breeding hen harriers and is the only charity wasting huge sums of charity money on lawyers try ing to stop the governments successful hen harrier brood mgt. programme.

    1. Mike – you are such a wag!

      How much taxpayers’ money are you talking about? Is it the voluntary donations from the public? Or is it the EU money which was in the form of a grant that was competitively won against all sorts of other projects? Or what? Do you actually know what you are complaining about?

      And I assume that if the RSPB wins its case and gets costs awarded then you will retract every word and crawl away under a stone?

      And, by the way, have a go at explaining how the government brood meddling scheme is successful – go on – just have a go.

    2. O Reilly? More like Oh dear!

      Not content with posting false accusations on other sites, he now comes here with his unmitigated nitwitery. Once more: do these half-wits really believe the rubbish they come up with, or are they just shameless liars?

  10. I know this is old now, but sadly this PR “story” is still circulating social media thanks to it being picked up by The National at the time ( After recently getting into a twitter exchange about HH I have seen DGM defenders sharing this story as vindication that they are “right” and the RSPB are failing. I’ve tried to determine the origin of the data in order to see for myself and hopefully undermine it but it seems to be totally made up. A prime example of fake news when the supporting data (i.e. fabrication) cannot be scrutinised by others.

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