Our big brother blog, Raptor Persecution UK, has done a great job in documenting responses to last week’s damning scientific indictment of the role of driven grouse shooting in causing the near-absence of the Hen Harrier from the English uplands.
Here are the links to the various blogs so far and some additions from me;
Moorland Association: the Moorland Association has to deny the facts because their members own the land and employ the people who must be largely, probably wholly, responsible for the problem. They have close access to Michael Gove, of course. Marks out of 10? – I’d give Amanda and her lads 0/10
Game and Wildlife so-called Conservation so-called Trust; RPUK haven’t blogged about GWCT yet – they are probably having a little sit down and taking a deep breath before doing so [now they have – it’s here]. But GWCT wrote an excruciating blog on the science last week. The GWCT Chief Exec, Teresa Dent, is a Board member of Natural England and yet her organisation’s spin doctors are trying to undermine NE’s own study! If only NE were promoting the findings of their own study themselves then they could give Teresa a ticking off but they are too compromised to do that and so it comes as no surprise that GWCT feels free to attempt to rubbish what is a top-quality analysis of the data. Marks out of 10? It’s hard to give anything other than 0/10 – so hard, that I won’t.
Therese Coffey: this is the minister in Defra whose job it is to protect Hen Harriers and the rest of our wildlife. Coffey is nothing if not consistent – she retains her position of wildful blindness and wilful indolence in response to the problem. Marks out of 10? – I’d give Dr Coffey 0/10 and so that applies to the rest of Defra too.
Natural England: RPUK haven’t really got to NE yet, but I have (see here). Yes, this was their research study but they have handled it very badly. Back in 2008 NE said all the right things about their findings to that date but we have had little sense out of them since. They handled the research project badly – the PhD never emerged from years of study and the findings were only produced (after lots of nagging by this blog and RPUK) by bringing in a bunch of academics to rescue the study. And when the paper was published NE said it would work with all landowners as its response. That’s worked so well for the past decades hasn’t it? Marks out of 10? 3/10 – there is no real condemnation of wildlife crime in what NE said in response to the paper (based on their study – so they have to get some marks for it) which confirms its widespread existence.
BASC: best of a bad bunch and we all approve of recycling, don’t we? Marks out of 10? It must be worth 4/10 for being more outspoken than Defra and NE!
RSPB: the RSPB response has been a bit low key – why does RSPB always seem rather diffident on this subject? The blog was not published on Martin Harper’s blog but that of Chris Collet on the Skydancer project blog (a bit dificult to find). What it says is fair enough but hardly quickens the pulse. The blog says ‘it’s clear from this study and other supporting evidence that self-regulation from within the driven grouse shooting industry has failed to stop illegal and damaging practices‘ and then promotes licensing as a solution. It’s not exactly clear how licensing would make much of a difference in cases where Hen Harrier bodies are not recovered and their exact locations when they disappear are not known. Marks out of 10? I feel 7/10 is fair, we should expect more from the RSPB.
Supt. Nick Lyall: very good to see that the top copper who might actually do something about wildlife crime appears to be well and truly up for it. Marks out of 10? Can’t be faulted as far as the words go; 10/10.
North of England Raptor Forum: devastating critique of Natural England, Defra and the grouse shooting industry based on years of experience in being fobbed off by the organisations within which the criminal elements are based and talking to the statutory sector staff who are paid to resolve the issue. This is more outspoken than I have ever seen NERF before. Marks out of 10? At least 10!
I’ve not seen anything from the Labour Party – remember them? The Opposition? But maybe I have missed it…
And Angela Smith MP (former Labour, now Independent Group), whose constituency of Penistone and Stocksbridge is part of the wildlife crime hotspot of the Peak District highlighted in the paper, and who is the Westminster Parliament Hen Harrier Champion, has not, as far as I can see, said anything either. I’ve contacted Angela and will let you know what she does say, if she says anything.
But at the moment it looks like there is a great divide. The divide is between the shooting organisations within whom the criminal elements responsible for Hen Harrier killing must reside and the enforcement agencies, raptor workers and conservationists. Maybe that isn’t too surprising, but rather strangely, the English statutory agency and government department in Westminster who have responsibility for sorting this mess out seem, to me at any rate, to be more aligned with the shooting organisations in their condemnation and failure to act decisively than they are with their natural allies of nature conservationists. Funny that. It’s really odd. Don’t get accustomed to it – it is most peculiar.