How many bad apples?

When Charlie Jacobey was telling me what I thought, and occasionally letting me get a word in edgeways, he reckoned that there were just a few bad apples in the shooting industry. I reckoned there were lots.

The latest very sad news of a Hen Harrier caught in a trap on a grouse shooting estate is terrible. It’s terrible because this general area has a history of raptor persecuution. Go to the RPUK website and just put ‘Leadhills’ in the search engine (quite low down on the RHS) and you’ll find quite a lot of past misdemeanours. No-one, least of all I, knows who is responsible for them. Are there wildlife crime tourists heading for Leadhills every year as their chosen holiday destination to kill some raptors? They might even be the English nipping over the Border – crikey! Who knows? Who could guess?

Where else has been in the news recently? Strathbraan – yes! Wasn’t Ian Thomson waving around a map with lots of coloured dots on it showing wildlife crime cases in Strathbraan? Yes he was! Good heavens – have we stumbled across another place with a very active resident or visiting bad apple (or apples) by any chance?

Where else has been in the news recently? Nidderdale! Surely River was just a one-off? Well, a one-off apart from Bowland Betty. And apart from all those Red Kites that were known to have been killed illegally and those Hen Harriers that are known to have disappeared so unexpectedly that a bunch of boffins put their deaths down to illegal persecution. Crikey we’ve found another wildlife crime hotspot. Another incredibly active bad apple or pile of bad apples. Here’s the map of the apple’s or apples’ activities which are known to be just the tip of the proverbial.

Then there are the North Yorks Moors and the Peak District National Parks – known from the science to be the homes, or perhaps the visiting places, of some more bad apples since these are the places where Hen Harriers disappear ( = die due to illegal persecution) the most quickly.

Hang on, aren’t all these hotspots in the uplands? They are! And aren’t they all packed with grouse moors? They are!

And they are scattered quite widely and we could make a long list of them couldn’t we? We could!

Now birds of prey tend to die by being shot, poisoned or trapped. Who would have the expertise to use that type of equipment? I don’t know really – we probably need a review group to spend a year or two working that one out.

And these birds have died in remote parts of upland Britain – what type of people have the opportunity to visit the uplands regularly and perhaps even at will to carry out widlife crimes? It must either be nature conservationists (no, I’ve heard them mentioned), ramblers or people who work for a living in remote upland areas – unless it’s busloads of nurses from the towns of the north and Scotland?

But would a busload of nurses have the motive to kill lots of birds of prey year after year in the same area? They might, though I can’t quite see it myself.

It’s a great puzzle to me. If only some bright people were thinking really hard about it.

What we need to find the bad apple or bad apples is to identify those people spending a lot of time in wildlife crime hotspots with the motive, means and opportunity to commit such crimes. If only we could figure it out then I’m sure we could get these crimes much reduced in number. And we could prove Charlie Jacobey wrong – for he is wrong. The uplands of Britian have an awful lot of bad apples in them. But our government agencies aren’t doing a very good job in finding them.

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7 Replies to “How many bad apples?”

  1. Oft we hear this old chestnut about a bad apple, as if it is a single entity. I wonder how many good apples have applied themselves to identify the bad one/s? Could it be the bad apple/s has spread its rottenness to infect the good ones? Wouldn't it be in the best interests of good to recognise bad and report it/them?

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  2. I too have recently been told that anti Grouse entities are really behind this , ‘blackening the sport ‘ is the phrase !! Your name was mentioned too Matk as being a possible culprit , along with Mr Packham, you two must be running up the mileage I think, covering the entire north of the UK!! Seriously though, I was of the belief, or maybe had some small hope that there was a workable solution, as loathsome as I find DSG, my empathetic side still thought of the livelihoods of the Keepers!! That empathy is as active now as a lost Harriers Sat tag, I have had many discourses with ‘the Apple barrel’ of late and the mentality of some of these people is beyond any reasoning, this is echoed in the various shooting agencies that spit out the same rhetoric and denials over and over again. Licensing the black art of Grouse annihilation is the very least we should battle for, a complete ban would be the best result.

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  3. Meanwhile the new CEO of Scottish Natural Heritage, just after spending a week with volunteers on the Isle of May is now spending a few days with volunteers of The Conservation Volunteers. Not that volunteering isn't vitally important but it seems an interesting choice of how to spend time when the natural environment is crying out for a leader to actually deal with crises

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  4. There are bad apples in fact I strongly suspect a whole bloody barrel of them. It is the only explanation of the widespread disappearance of those satellite tagged Hen Harriers, Red Kites, Golden Eagles in Scotland, all the empty or failing Peregrines in grouse moor areas, complete lack of Goshawks away from state forests ( although I suspect many of those are killed by pheasant keepers!) and much declined Short-eared Owls. I'm sure I could name a few of these "apples" but they aren't really "apples" at all, they are bloody criminals, persistent and well organised criminals. We all know in principle who they are and so does Charlie Jacoby, all the shooting organisations ( damned lying apologists!) and the police, proving it in law is a little more difficult. Perhaps we shouldn't bother with that just ban driven grouse shooting, bet that should solve it.

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  5. When all of the Hen Harriers are sent down to Somerset to save their lives ( anybody still believe this tosh?), perhaps the bad apples will follow them. Down there they crush them and make rather a nice drink out of them.

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