Big decision for Hawk & Owl Trust

Most of you will be aware of the Hawk & Owl Trust’s terrible decision to support the brood meddling part of DEFRA’s doomed Hen Harrier Action Plan.

The Hawk & Owl Trust was on the receiving end of much criticism for that choice (e.g. see here, here, here) and it even resulted in the resignation of their President, Chris Packham (see here). The Hawk & Owl Trust attempted to defend their decision by saying there were “three immoveable provisos and conditions” for taking part. These were:


We’ve highlighted one of those “immoveable provisos” in red.

Now, given today’s news that the criminal gamekeeper who was recently filmed setting illegal pole traps on a grouse moor, in the vicinity of a female hen harrier, is employed by a member of the Moorland Association (see here), can we now expect a statement from the Hawk & Owl Trust saying they’ve pulled out of supporting the brood meddling scheme because one of their “immoveable provisos” has been broken?

If not, why not?

Emails to:

28 thoughts on “Big decision for Hawk & Owl Trust”

  1. Looks like checkmate, RPUK. Lets see if they will stay true to their word and if those individuals who led them to participate in what was always going to fail, will now fall on their sword.

  2. Via the Moorland Association statement the estate owner and head gamekeeper have both expressed their shock and horror at such a dreadful occurrence which they indicate was carried out by a rogue employee operating at his own initiative. That may seem improbable to you or me but the high level denial of involvement will no doubt provide the wriggle room necessary to maintain a ‘no change’ position by the H&OT.

    1. The clear point that HOT need to take from this is that the Moorland Assocoiation has absolutely no control over the standards of its members nor is it willing to try to exercise discipline. As a result, its promises and commitments are therefore nothing more than unsubstantiated bluster.
      The future of our moorlands seems ever more fragile.

      1. Was the rogue keeper a member of the National Gamekeepers organisation…..? They are also included in the HOT’s exit clause? Have they disowned him as a rogue member?

  3. I’m expecting a Clegg-pledge moment coming with how they explain this immutable line was really rather mutable and this really wasn’t a breach anyway.

  4. The devil’s advocate in me compels me to point out two things. Although we all know that if a HH had been caught they’d have been satisfied, pole traps are indiscriminate, so pedantically it’s impossible to prove anyone “illegally interfered with or persecuted a Hen Harrier”. Secondly, has the brood meddling trial actually started? If it hasn’t, they can’t possibly pull out of it.
    Still, they should never have signed up in the first place as this was always going to happen. And if it was a political decision, simply to be seen to be “constructive”, they should have already pulled the plug very loudly and publicly to prove the point that we simply can’t trust the Game ‘Industry’ and that a ban or at the least, licensing, is the way forward.

  5. True, Liars or Weasels?
    HOT should remember that the people they want to serve classify the weasel as vermin and try to kill it at all times.

    Just be true and redeem your credibility.

  6. So “junior” either took those posts up on the moor and erected them on his own, and all at his own initiative, or there just happened to be a set of isolated posts up there twiddling their thumbs – pull the other one! They really are making themselves look silly.

    Meanwhile I’ve written to the H&OT, stating the obvious, that the foundation of any partnership or working relationship must be trust, respect and truthfulness – and these seem to be sadly lacking in this case…

    1. Yes, there’s so much more to investigate that wasn’t or doesn’t seem to have been done; how old were the posts, how long have they been in place what species were the feathers on the trap from, was there any bird or human DNA on either the trap or the posts? The police said they were going to investigate wildlife crime in a professional way and in the same was as other crime.

      A ‘cough’ and a wagging finger from a sergeant and Job’s Done. I don’t think so.

  7. The possession, or maintenance of these traps needs to be an offence that carries an automatic custodial sentence + lifetime ban of firearms certificates. The estates have had over 100 years to ‘clean out’ their sheds, so no excuses, no cautions or community service, time served.

    Any estate where these things are found, should face a complete loss of all subsidy and grants, for say…. 100 years? that would concentrate the owners attention, the ban to continue regardless of the owner, so the ‘value’ of the land would plummet.

    The same should be the case for carbofuran, and that family of poisons, and I personally believe that snares should also be outlawed and treated as above.

    All the different conservation bodies should be working together on this, not simply burying their heads in the sand, and protecting their little fiefdoms, there is strength in numbers, and I believe that their membership would agree.

    Working with the estates is a joke, they have not, and will not change, they have no intention of changing! Our ultimate aim has to be, to stop all ‘so called’ sporting shooting, and the ‘management’ of ‘vermin’, we should look on this behaviour in the same way that we regard bear or badger baiting, with disgust and derision.

    1. Really good point about possesssion of illegal traps and poisons should be illegal – snares are disgusting and should be illegal too. One proviso though..wouldn’t it be good if pole traps were shown to the public with safe demonstrations as to what happens to birds when they land on them, maybe with a stick? Broken, maimed legs and if the bird is ‘lucky’ the keeper comes round quick to put it out of its misery. If particularly unlucky a long lingering death. There is something here beyond the irrational and selfish idea that BOPs need to be killed to get big bags of gamebirds, there’s sadism and utter contempt – is there jealousy and bitterness because raptors are genuine hunters? Wouldn’t be surprising the whole idea of killing as big a pile of birds as possible for fun is twisted in the first place. They’d still be sticking dead raptors up in rows along fencing if they could get away with it. The use of pole traps seems to be rife, would like to know how a 23 year old got his hands on three of them. Public displays and presentations about the real ‘heritage’ of sporting estates wouldn’t do them any favours (man traps, vermin books, bounties on dippers and kingfishers….). Given how popular falconry displays and stands are a pity more isn’t done alongside them to show how badly some think of BOPs.

      1. Hi Les,

        There have been a lot of questions on social media about how this young gamekeeper got his hands on illegal pole traps. There seems to be some confusion.

        The traps used are called Fenn traps, and are LEGAL to use under certain circumstances. They are supposed to be covered (e.g. in a tunnel with restricted entry/exit holes to reduce the chance of non-target species getting inside the tunnel).

        Where the traps become ILLEGAL is when they’re set out in the open, without being covered. For example, when they’re nailed on to the top of a post to become a pole trap.

        So this young gamekeeper, and every other gamekeeper in the country, has legitimate access to these traps. It’s how they decide to use them that counts.

        1. The idea of a small mammal writhing in pain for hours / days, with broken legs fills me with disgust, and loathing for the sadists that use these traps. They need to be banned, and criminalised.

          As Les says, show all school children film of these traps in use, ( with a stoat or weasel screaming in pain, and counter that with a family group playing ) for gods sake, show adults ! Why does this not come under Cruelty to Animals ???

          I do hope the Scottish Government reads these posts, and acts upon them, they will have the backing of the vast majority of the Scottish public.

          1. A Fenn trap, properly set ie covered, in a tunnel, is designed to break an animal’s back and kill it instantly.

            1. Re Dave Angel’s clarification: Thank you!

              I agree with those contributors such as Les who suggest the public needs to know what gamekeeping really involves.

              People might have a TV- type impression that gamekeepers are lovable rogues, pinching the odd rabbit from the squire – so good luck to them!

              In reality, there seem to be those who are experts in futile cruelty, engaging in criminal activity with almost complete impunity.

        2. Thanks for this – I’ve heard of Fenn traps and various others, in this case it became a pole trap through the way it is deployed – thanks for the clarification. Maybe underlines the point that being able to show the public what keepering is really about would be a big step forward.

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