Silence over hen harrier carnage – now updated

One week on from the publication of the Hen Harrier Conservation Framework, leaked by investigative journalist Rob Edwards on 16 January 2011, here are the published responses from the shooting lobby and from those with a statutory duty to protect this species of high conservation concern:

Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association – silence

Scottish Rural Properties & Business Association (SRPBA) – silence

Scottish Estates Business Group (SEBG) – silence

Scotland’s Moorland Forum – silence

Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) – silence

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) – silence

Partnership Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAWS) – silence

National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) – silence

Interesting. Perhaps they’re all hoping that if they keep quiet, everyone will forget about the damning evidence presented in the report? It is, after all, only the 5th scientific study published since 1997 to demonstrate the indisputable link between hen harrier persecution and heather moorland that’s managed for red grouse shooting. Here’s a quick summary for anyone who missed the latest scientific facts:

  • The potential national Hen Harrier population for Scotland is estimated to be within the range 1505 – 1790 pairs.
  • The most recent national survey of Hen Harriers in Scotland (2004) was estimated to include 633 pairs.
  • This means that 872 – 1,157 harrier pairs (1,744 – 2,314 individuals) are missing.
  • The areas from where these birds are missing are areas managed as grouse moors.
  • Illegal persecution of hen harriers is particularly prevalent in five areas, where the majority of breeding attempts fail. These five areas are: Central Highlands, Cairngorm Massif, Northeast Glens, Western Southern Uplands and Inner Solway, and Border Hills.
  • At a national scale, the hen harrier in Scotland is not in favourable conservation status, largely due to illegal persecution. Ditto the English hen harrier population.
The future of the hen harrier on Scottish grouse moors is stuffed

So, up to 2,314 hen harriers are missing in Scotland, and no-one has anything to say about it? Think about that number. It’s not 23, it’s not even 213 – it is two thousand, three hundred and fourteen birds. This is wholesale destruction on a massive scale! Are we to believe that “just a few rogues” are responsible?

How much more scientific evidence is required before we see the effective enforcement of our wildlife legislation? How can those people who own and manage the sporting estates still be getting away with this level of illegal activity? Why is the Environment Minister still set against the licensing of sporting estates, when it is blindingly obvious that they are unable to self-regulate?

In light of the contents of the leaked report, it is to be hoped that the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs & Environment Committee will once again push for an amendment to the WANE Bill for estate licensing. Stage 2 of the Bill was completed on Wednesday 19 January and there was no mention of the Hen Harrier Framework during that meeting, probably because the RAE Committee hadn’t had time to read the report in full. Stage 3 begins in several weeks and by that time the Committee and the Environment Minister should be fully conversant with the extent of illegal raptor persecution on Scottish grouse moors.

UPDATE: 28 January 2011. SRPBA denies extent of persecution (yawn)

The SRPBA has written a letter of response to The Sunday Herald, dated 16 January 2011. I’m not sure if it was actually published by The Herald, but here it is as a PDF – SRPBA response to killing fields article 16 Jan 2011

UPDATE: 19 February 2011. See our blog entry on 19 Feb 2011 for an update on this story.

7 thoughts on “Silence over hen harrier carnage – now updated”

  1. I don’t suppose there’s much they can say other than admitting responsibility and they’ve always denied it so I doubt they’ll start now. The silence does speak volumes though doesn’t it?

    By the way, I read a disturbing post on the raptor politics website that they are threatening to blow the whistle on anyone who makes a comment that they don’t like from an official email address. Sounds quite sinister. Are you doing the same on this site?

  2. Hi SecretScooby,
    Thanks for your post. We’d rather not comment on the actions of other blog administrators. For the record though, no, we do not intend to reveal the identities of any of our contributors, whether they are using a personal or work email address. We do sometimes edit comments, especially those that we consider are potentially libellous. Other than that, contributors are welcome to comment freely and without fear of retribution from us.

  3. This silence actually speaks volumes from the game lobby. It really does mean if we (they) keep quiet about this they hope to lessen the impact because only those with a keen interest will know of the report or bother to read it and we are in a minority. Their other tactic in the past has been to rubbish those reports they don’t like but which they think will only have a moderate impact. So may be we should be out there shouting about this report, because what this report reveals in all its grisly glory is not just a national but an international scandal of huge impact. Perhaps a report and complaint to the EU that UK governments are failing in their duties under the birds directive to harriers or to solve raptor persecution might wake them up!
    I believe and have for some time that either driven grouse shooting’s house is put in order within a reasonable frame of time( pretty damn soon) or it cannot and should not have any long term future.

    Paul Irving

  4. The tactic that has been appearing recently, is to rubbish anything which relies on absence of birds – which is of course a well recognised and respected scientific technique – and say that there is no proof of killing.

    That kind of rhetoric appeals to the rather simple minded people involved with the killing, of course.The cynicism of those doing the killing,[and their employers and supporters] who then turn around and say “its not happening because you have no hard evidence”…is of course , total.The morals and language of your average petty criminal, in fact.

    “It wisnae me, my QC proved ah wis innocent, someone set me up, Im just a poor honest working man…blah blah blah”….you know the sort of thing.

    What is most worrying, is that some of our politicians seem to believe their nonsense.Although, most politicians of course just want an easy life – and you wont get that by standing up to the landowning/shooting/legal establishment in Scotland…at the present time.

    On a serious tactical note – you will never get any of these organisations responding in public to a leaked document which criticises them – whats in it for them. What is needed is to keep pushing the story with the Press and Media, until their silence itself, becomes the story.

  5. Agree with Dave Dick except for one thing and that is saying the people involved and doing all the killing of Hen Harriers are simple minded, I would say they are single minded, in that there only abiding aim is to keep there shooting,(SPORT) BUSINESS/HOBBY call it what you will, going at all costs. They have plenty friends in high places who are either involved or support shooting and it seems are very organized. Obviously the jungle drums have been beating and the message is keep quiet don’t rise to this leaked document it might die a death if we say nothing. Hopefully our politicians will see through this, at least the ones who care, and start to do something about it. With an election coming up later this year this may serve to concentrate there minds a tad. Won’t hold my breath.

  6. I must say that I think Dave and Stewart are right these people have a simple philosophy, keep the sport! going at all costs and they believe that cannot be achieved without persecution. This is their single minded objective, one hears the argument time and again “well if you can give us a safety net whereby raptors and harriers in particular will be prevented from damaging the sport /industry we will stop persecuting.” There is no acknowledgement of the fact that their sport is dependent on illegality. There is a school of thought that we should investigate such methods because only by offering an alternative will we show that they would probably rather persecute (it will probably be cheaper). I’m not opposed to this view although I know many are, but we must not rely on it entirely, it is right and proper that we should use all means at our disposal. I’ve often thought there are many papers and reports that allude to this problem of grouse moor management for many species, why has nobody combined them all into an even more hard hitting summary report? Now that really would help in convincing the politicians to wake up and DO something. We down here in England currently have a government unlikely to listen but we are encouraged by current events in Scotland and should all hope and work towards a good result and that means lots of noise from us all about reports like this.

    Paul V Irving

  7. Such reports as this one are very useful in countering those who say “wheres your proof?”…however, no matter how tough your reports are [imagine a report which accurately reflected the real numbers which have and are being killed!] – they wont change anything.

    What is needed is tough investigative reporting – to flush out the real agendas here [preferably by getting actual film/recording/quotes] and to show the hypocrisy of people who sign letters and make statements condemning poisoning and general persecution while obviously profiting from it.

    If weve learnt anything from the last three decades its that simply listing the crimes does nothing to stop them.

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