Natural England issues licence to kill buzzards to protect pheasants

BZ front coverNatural England has just issued a licence for someone to kill up to ten buzzards “to prevent serious damage to young pheasants”.

Here is their statement:

29 July 2016

Natural England issued a licence last night permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.

The licence is time-limited with stringent conditions and is based on the law, policy and best available evidence. It follows rigorous assessment after other methods had been tried unsuccessfully over a 5-year period.

It is stipulated that the licence must be used in combination with non-lethal measures and only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds. These conditions are designed to make the licensed activity both proportionate and effective and we will continue to work with the applicant to assess this.

Killing wild birds without a licence from Natural England is illegal.


We’ve been here before (in 2012, see here) when Natural England/DEFRA proposed a ‘trial’ to ‘control’ buzzards to protect pheasants but then Natural England/DEFRA did a u-turn after a huge public outcry (see here).

We’ve also been here before in 2013 (see here) when Natural England/DEFRA issued a licence to destroy buzzard eggs and nests to protect pheasants.

We’ve also been here before in 2014 (see here) when Natural England/DEFRA refused to issue a licence to kill buzzards to protect pheasants.

This time, Natural England/DEFRA have decided to issue a licence to kill buzzards, presumably based on the findings of last year’s Judicial Review which ruled that Natural England’s/DEFRA’s decision to refuse a buzzard-killing licence the previous year was unlawful (see here).

Natural England’s statement about this year’s buzzard-killing licence lacks transparency and detail. We assume (but it is only an assumption at this stage) that this licence has been issued to the same gamekeeper in Northumberland who has been applying for licences since 2012, with the support of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (see links above). We, and probably others, will be pressing Natural England for more detail in the coming days.

In the meantime, we urge you to voice your opposition by emailing Natural England and DEFRA (because Natural England is operating under guidance from DEFRA).

We know, according to 2011 figures, that over 50 MILLION non-native gamebirds (pheasants, red-legged partridge) are released into the countryside EVERY YEAR, so that those in the game-shooting industry can shoot them for fun. We also know that the buzzard is a native, protected species, still recovering (in some areas) from decades of illegal persecution. We also know that the game-shooting industry relies on criminality (the illegal killing of raptors) in order to provide for excessively large numbers of gamebirds to be shot. For fun.

Emails to Natural England:

Emails to Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment:


Bowland Brewery subjected to hate campaign for supporting hen harriers

Bowland brewery HHEarlier this year, the Bowland Brewery in Lancashire committed to donate a proportion of the proceeds from the sale of its Hen Harrier beer to the RSPB’s hen harrier conservation projects (see press statement here).

James Warburton, owner of Bowland Brewery said: “The hen harrier is a living symbol of Bowland Brewery’s intimate connection with the landscape where we produce our beers.

The very real prospect that this beautiful bird of prey may disappear from the skies above the Forest of Bowland is unthinkable. That’s why we are committing to donate a significant sum of money each year to safeguard the future of one of Bowland’s most iconic residents.

As the harriers return to the Bowland Fells to nest this spring, we hope to see nature-lovers visiting the area to marvel at their amazing skydance and celebrate with a pint of the beer these rare and precious birds inspired.

By buying Hen Harrier by the pint or in bottles, locals and visitors alike will be making a positive contribution to hen harrier conservation in Bowland – and ultimately helping the population to grow.”

bowland breweryRecently, this photograph of Chris Packham and Mark Avery enjoying a pint of Bowland Brewery’s Hen Harrier beer, was posted on the Bowland Brewery’s social media platforms (twitter and facebook). As a result, some individuals from the grouse-shooting industry have launched a hate campaign aimed directly at the Bowland Brewery.

Bowland Brewery’s facebook page was targeted with a torrent of fake reviews, resulting in a drop in their overall review rating. Comments posted on facebook by the grouse-shooting trolls included:

“Get this off tomorrow or we will hound you”.

“They drink with the devil. Destroy the business!”

“Side with Packham and the knife comes out”

“They thought going with Packham was good. Now they must feel the pain”

“Shut them down. Anti shooting”.

“You can run but not hide. Hammer em!”

“Shut down the business. Shut down, boycott, whatever. Get Bowland Brewery outed”.

“Get hold of the boss and tell him to mend his ways. Otherwise we will crush em”.

Nice guys, eh? Wonder how many of them making threats have a shotgun/firearms certificate? There are some known gamekeepers involved in this hate campaign, including the Head Gamekeeper of Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, Bert Burnett from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (who wrote “Well done everyone”) and some of the comments have been ‘liked’ by the official facebook page of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

All slightly ironic from an industry that has recently accused Chris Packham of ‘celebrity bullying’ (see here) just because he’s politely asking Marks and Spencer to be transparent about their claims that their red grouse are produced ethically and sustainably (see here).

It’s also ironic that this hate campaign against the brewery comes from an industry that purports to be interested in protecting rural jobs. The Bowland Brewery is a small business, employing local people, in a rural community.

If you want to show your support for the Bowland Brewery and their ethical and charitable support of hen harrier conservation, please consider buying their beer. It’s available in various local outlets (see here) and can also be bought online (see here).

If you want to support the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting, because it’s the only way hen harriers will be allowed to thrive in the English uplands, then please join 65,000 others and sign THIS PETITION.

Grouse shooting industry hoping you’re as stupid as they think you are

dunceFollowing yesterday’s news that the RSPB has walked away from the Hen Harrier Inaction Plan (see here), the grouse shooting industry has responded.

Statement from the Moorland Association here

Statement from BASC here

Statement from the Countryside Alliance here

Here are the comedy highlights but you really should read the statements in full to appreciate their mastery of illusion:

According to the Moorland Association, the crimes which the RSPB listed as evidence of lack of progress (see here, here, here, here) ‘did not directly involve birds of prey and certainly not hen harriers’. And further, ‘using decoying is a legal method of corvid control’.

According to BASC, it has spent the last twelve years ‘building confidence and ensuring the future of hen harriers’.

According to the Countryside Alliance, the RSPB has ‘retreated from the task of saving the hen harrier’ and grouse moors are ‘sanctuaries for many endangered bird species’.

What these three organisations all have in common is a shared hope that you’re as stupid as they think you are.

The grouse shooting industry thinks you’re too stupid to have read the reports of raptor persecution crimes that have taken place on grouse moors this year (or those that have happened every year over the last few decades). The grouse shooting industry also thinks you’re too stupid to have read the catalogue of scientific papers and government reports that show a clear relationship, time and time again, between raptor persecution and driven grouse moor management. The grouse shooting industry thinks you’re so stupid that you’ll believe its lies, its insincerity, and its claims of victimisation. The grouse shooting industry really thinks you are very stupid.

The grouse shooting industry won’t tolerate hen harriers on the moors. Not one single hen harrier nested successfully on an English driven grouse moor this year. This is a landscape that has the capacity to support hundreds of breeding pairs. The English hen harrier breeding population has virtually collapsed, as has the credibility of the grouse shooting industry, which has more bits falling off it than a clown’s car. Hen harriers will not recover in England until the grouse shooting industry has been closed down.

64,500 people are smart enough to understand. Are you? If you are, please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE

RSPB walks away from Hen Harrier Action Plan

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLThe RSPB has decided to ‘withdraw its support for DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan’. See Conservation Director Martin Harper’s blog here for the full explanation.

This is very welcome news – well done RSPB!

Some will say the RSPB should never have supported it in the first place (and we’d be in that camp). The Hen Harrier Action Plan was never a plan to help hen harriers, even though it was dressed up as such. What it actually was/is, is a plan to help remove hen harriers from driven grouse moors so that there are more red grouse available to be shot by wealthy gunmen (see here).

Others will say that the RSPB has played a clever game by initially supporting the Action Plan, knowing full well that the grouse-shooting industry would never be able to deliver on its promises to stop the illegal killing of hen harriers. By giving the industry the time and space to fail, and then by walking away from it, the RSPB is able to make a strong political statement and still come out of this looking like the reasonable and rational organisation we all know it to be.

By supporting this ridiculous Action Plan, the RSPB came in for quite a lot of criticism from ‘our side’. Many of us were frustrated that, at best, the RSPB was sitting on the fence and at worst, legitimising the ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting and all its associated environmental damage. The dark side used the RSPB’s involvement with the HH Action Plan as a PR stick with which to beat detractors of the Action Plan: those of us who support a ban on driven grouse shooting were painted as ‘extremists’, a bunch of unreasonable radicals unwilling to engage in partnership working to find a solution. There’s an element of truth in that, because, unlike the RSPB, our patience with the grouse shooting industry expired a long time ago. We already know that this industry is either incapable of, or unwilling to, abide by the law and so negotiation with them is futile. But we wouldn’t describe that as being unreasonable or extreme; rather it’s more of an obvious next step in the face of blatant ongoing criminality (and subsequent denial) from the grouse shooting industry. It’s good to see the RSPB catching up.

Although, the RSPB hasn’t caught up entirely. Now it has withdrawn its support for the HH Action Plan, it looks like the RSPB has at least swung its legs back over to our side of the fence. But it still hasn’t jumped from that fence. With its steadfast refusal to support a ban on driven grouse shooting, the RSPB is still perched atop that fence and is looking down at the ground trying to judge whether the distance to jump is too far. The RSPB thinks licensing is the way forward, rather than an outright ban. There are merits in that approach, of course, but to be successful, licensing will require effective enforcement AND a willingness from the grouse shooting industry to abide by the licensing rules. We’ve seen no evidence to suggest that either of these two elements will work.

But for now, let’s applaud the RSPB’s withdrawal from the HH Action Plan, let’s enjoy the increasing isolation with which the grouse shooting industry is bringing upon itself, and let’s push on with our aim of getting 100,000 signatures on THIS E-PETITION to trigger a Westminster debate on the future of driven grouse shooting.

Horrifically injured buzzard found on grouse moor in North Yorkshire

The following words and images are from Jean Thorpe, a lady who runs Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation in North Yorkshire:

“Juvenile buzzard found at Westerdale, North Yorkshire grouse moors [in the North York Moors National Park], with a leg missing. Put to sleep, x-rayed, shotgun shot in the leg. This young bird barely out of the nest was targeted and maimed by shooting and caught in a Fenn trap. The bird had frantically tried to get free, badly abrading its flight and tail feathers, the leg was trapped at the joint and the bird was freed after severing its leg from the trap at the joint. This is the reality of grouse shooting in North Yorkshire”.

Westerdale BZ2

Westerdale BZ1

It’s not just the reality of grouse shooting in North Yorkshire. This is the reality of driven grouse shooting across northern England and Scotland. Inside the ‘safety’ of a National Park? It doesn’t matter. Remove all predators, by whatever means, and at any cost.

Its barbaric.

The grouse shooting industry is out of control. It needs closing down.

Please, sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE

The real price of grouse: episode 2

NotsoGlorious-black-bg - Copy

In the run up to the Inglorious 12th (the opening of the grouse-shooting season on 12 August), you’ll be able to watch a series of videos hosted by Chris Packham about the #NotSoGlorious damaging management practices associated with the driven grouse shooting industry. Episode one (an introduction to driven grouse shooting) can be watched here. Here’s episode 2:

Over 63,000 people have joined Chris and signed the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. You can too. We need 100,000 signatures to trigger a Westminster debate. Please join us and sign HERE 

Thank you!

SGA statement re: illegal traps found on Invercauld Estate

sgalogorevisedFollowing the news that illegally-set spring traps were found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has issued a statement.

Are you ready for this?

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “This is the first we, as an organisation, have heard about this so we will take time to make the appropriate inquiries. The SGA is an organisation which advocates best practice and condemns wildlife crime.”
Not exactly an unequivocal condemnation of this wildlife crime, is it? This case is a little bit awkward for the SGA, given their close ties to Invercauld Estate (SGA Vice Chair Peter Fraser worked on Invercauld Estate for 43 years).
Perhaps, like Invercauld Estate, the SGA is going to deny this crime ever happened, a bit like they did when they ‘investigated’ another disgusting wildlife crime (here is the crime, here is the SGA’s response) and another disgusting wildlife crime (here is the crime, here is the SGA’s response).
Or perhaps this time they will admit the crime happened but will suggest that the ‘evidence was planted’, a bit like SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser did in this interview when asked about the discovery of three poisoned buzzards and a poisoned raven that were found on Invercauld Estate in 2005 (no prosecutions, natch).
And talking of the SGA condemning wildlife crime, we’re still waiting for a statement from them about the conviction of Scottish gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick, successfully prosecuted for killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate by throwing rocks at it and then repeatedly stamping on it (see here). At the time of Dick’s conviction, the SGA refused to comment until Dick’s appeal had been heard. As you know, Dick’s appeal was rejected a week ago and his conviction still stands (see here), so where’s the SGA’s condemnation of this gamekeeper’s crimes and where’s the information about Dick’s SGA membership status? Was he an SGA member? Is he still an SGA member?
The SGA’s commitment to condemning and tackling wildlife crime doesn’t look at all convincing, does it? And if it doesn’t look convincing to us, how does it look to the SGA’s membership? Will they think their great leaders are standing strong against illegal raptor persecution and doing all they can to apply peer pressure to eliminate it? On the above evidence, that’s unlikely.
More on the Invercauld Estate case to come….

Statement from Invercauld Estate re: illegal traps

In relation to this morning’s news (here) that illegally-set traps have been discovered on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, the following statement from Invercauld Estate has just appeared on GWCT’s twitter feed:

Invercauld statement

This is staggering! In one paragraph the estate is denying that this crime ever happened, but then in the next paragraph suggests that if it did happen the evidence was probably planted by someone trying to discredit the grouse shooting industry. Really? Really? Seven hours to think about it and that’s the response? Really?

The RSPB, the SSPCA, and two witnesses (the hill walkers) say it happened (full statement here).

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham believes it happened and has said, “It is difficult to see their use [the illegally-set spring traps] as anything other than a blatant and criminal attempt to target protected birds of prey” (full statement here).

Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority also believes it happened and has asked for a meeting with the Head Trustee of Invercauld Estate, the Sporting Partner on Invercauld Estate, and Police Scotland to improve enforcement measures (full statement here).

So, Police Scotland, over to you. Was evidence of illegal activity found on Invercauld Estate? Emails please to Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham who leads on wildlife crime for Police Scotland:

When you’ve sent your email, please consider signing THIS PETITION calling for the licensing of all gamebird hunting in Scotland.

When you’ve done that, please consider signing THIS PETITION calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting.

Invercauld gull

Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate: part 2

Further to today’s news that illegally-set traps have been found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), we are interested in the SSPCA’s role in this investigation.

As you’ll recall, RSPB Scotland notified the SSPCA about the severely injured gull caught by both legs in two spring traps. An SSPCA Inspector attended the scene (utilising powers under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act) and was able to put the poor suffering bird out of its misery. However, the SSPCA Inspector did not conduct a wider search of the area for evidence because their current powers do not permit that.

Invercauld gull

Instead, the wider search was delayed until Police Scotland could attend (Police Scotland does have the authority to undertake searches of land to look for evidence of offences committed contrary to the Wildlife & Countryside Act). Now, this delay is NOT a criticism of Police Scotland’s actions in this case (they were on site relatively swiftly and invited both the SSPCA and RSPB Scotland Investigations to assist with the search. That’s a big improvement on some previous cases).

But, the problem of the SSPCA’s limited powers are clear in this case.

When the multi-agency search did take place ‘a few days later’, ‘clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.

Whichever criminal had set these two traps that caught the gull was given the time to remove those further eight traps before the Police turned up.

How ridiculous is it that the SSPCA Inspector wasn’t allowed to walk two hundred metres across the grouse moor to retrieve those eight additional traps (and any other evidence that the criminal may have left lying around)? It’s plainly bonkers! Instead, there was an inevitable delay while the Police sorted themselves out (again, not a criticism in this case), allowing the criminal to distance him/herself from the crimes.

As many of you will know, on 1 Sept 2016 it will be two years since the closure of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on increased investigatory powers for the SSPCA. Three Environment Ministers later and we’re still waiting for a decision (see here). It’s pathetic.

More on this Invercauld case shortly…..

Illegally-set traps found on Invercauld Estate grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has today issued a press statement about the discovery of illegally-set traps found on a Royal Deeside grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

On 27 June 2016, two members of the public found a Common Gull that had been caught by the legs in two spring traps that had been positioned next to a dead rabbit that had been used as bait. The gull was distressed and bleeding profusely. The hill walkers called RSPB Scotland, who immediately alerted Police Scotland and the SSPCA. An SSPCA Inspector quickly attended the scene and the gull was found to have two broken legs. The bird’s injuries were so extensive it had to be euthanised.

Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘where clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.

The press statement continues, ‘Police Scotland officers later spoke to a number of people involved with the management of the land on which the traps were found, but the identity of who had set the traps could not be established‘.

According to the press statement, the two hill walkers had found the distressed gull on “the northern slopes of Geallaig Hill, a few miles north west of Ballater“.

According to Andy Wightman’s fantastic website Who Owns Scotland, Geallaig Hill lies within the boundary of the Invercauld Estate. Using Andy’s data, we’ve created this map to show the position of Invercauld Estate within the Cairngorms National Park and the location of Geallaig Hill within the boundary of Invercauld Estate.

Cairngorms Invercauld - Copy

This is not the first time illegally-set spring traps have been found on Invercauld Estate. In 1997, a gamekeeper was fined £120 after admitting to illegally setting a spring trap to catch a rook (see here).

Spring traps can (currently) be used legally to catch stoats, weasels, rats etc BUT ONLY if they are placed inside a natural or artificial tunnel with a restricted entrance to minimise the risk of catching a non-target species. There are frequent reports of their illegal use on some shooting estates to trap birds of prey (e.g. set in the open next to a bait, or attached to the top of a post to turn them in to pole traps) – some recent examples can be found here, herehere, here, here, here, here, and of course the recent and now infamous Mossdale Estate traps here.

There’s a lot to discuss about this latest crime, and we’ll be doing just that in a series of blogs later this afternoon.

In the meantime, well done to the two hill walkers who reported this crime, well done to the SSPCA Inspector for a quick response, well done to the Police Scotland wildlife crime officers for a quick, multi-agency follow up and search, and well done to RSPB Scotland for a timely press release.

More shortly…..

UPDATE 2.30pm: Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate part 2 here

UPDATE 4.45pm: An astonishing statement from Invercauld Estate here

UPDATE 23 July 2016: SGA statement re: illegal traps found on Invercauld Estate here