Raptor Persecution UK does a fantastic job of keeping us all informed about raptor persecution, and their Twitter profile‘s words of ‘Think illegal raptor persecution is a thing of the past? Think again!‘ are just spot on.
Last week and last night RPUK brought us all news of two alleged observed shootings of ‘protected’ Hen Harriers in North Yorkshire, both on grouse moors, and both leading to arrests. The first of these cases was in the Forest of Bowland AONB, whose logo is a Hen Harrier, back in October and the second in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in January. Read the RPUK account for details.
I’ll just add or expand on five points here.
First, brood meddling of Hen Harriers, whose legality we were challenging in the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday (see here, here and here) wouldn’t, indeed didn’t, save these birds. The level of wildlife crime is massive and that is what needs to be tackled by Natural England, DEFRA, the police and others. It looks as though North Yorkshire Police are taking these issues seriously, even if they are a bit slow at telling the world what they are doing. Still, they are certainly doing something and that is to be applauded.
Second, this wildlife crime against a so-called protected species occurs in our so-called protected landscapes. These protections are a joke – a sick joke. Fully protected birds brought to the edge of extinction as an English breeding bird by widespread illegality which Natural England’s own data has demonstrated (see here). And what sort of protected landscape has as its logo a protected bird whose breeding population is systematically wiped out? And what sort of review of protected areas dodges this issue almost completely? Only in England is wilful blindness such a common sight impediment.
And third, as Ruth and RPUK point out, the second Hen Harrier shooting, witnessed by two members of the public apparently, was on Threshfield Moor which is believed to be owned by ‘Herbie’ and Heather Hancock. Mrs Hancock has featured on this blog on several occasions and I’m sure she must be very concerned at the report of the gunning down of a Hen Harrier on her local patch. Heather Hancock is a former Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (a wildlife crime hotspot), wrote a report on the BBC’s coverage of rural affairs which seemed to think that nature conservation got too much of a mention on the airwaves compared with real country people, was Chair of the Food Standards Agency during the time when it failed, in my view, to do enough to highlight and publicise the health impacts of lead shot in game meat, and will soon be taking up her post as Master of her old Cambridge college, St John’s. And now a second Hen Harrier has disappeared on or very near her land. Isn’t it odd how some names keep coming up? We can be quite sure that Mrs Hancock will be using her privileged position embedded in the establishment to bring the issue of wildlife crime on grouse moors to everyone’s attention.
Fourth, although these events happened in England, they absolutely mirror what is happening in Scotland and we have to hope that, unlike DEFRA and Natural England, the Scottish government acts soon to clamp down further on the ills of driven grouse shooting. A rapid introduction of licensing for grouse shooting would be a good start.
And lastly, I hope coronavirus impacts don’t delay a debate on banning driven grouse shooting too long – there is much to talk about as the evidence for the need for a ban grows all the time.