Philip Merricks moves his “immoveable conditions”

Back in June, we blogged about the Hawk & Owl Trust’s supposed “immoveable provisos and conditions” that had been set, by them, as part of their agreement for taking part in DEFRA’s brood meddling plan (see here).

Here they are, as a reminder:


We were interested to hear whether the setting of three illegal pole traps on the Mossdale Estate grouse moor would cause the Hawk & Owl Trust to pull out of the brood meddling scheme because it seemed that one of their “immoveable provisos and conditions” had been broken. The Hawk & Owl Trust didn’t respond.

But now they have, in a comment written by Philip Merricks (Hawk & Owl Trust Chair) on Mark Avery’s blog today (see here), and the response is astonishing.


According to Philip, those “immovable conditions” only apply “when all actions of the DEFRA Hen Harrier Recovery Plan are underway“. As two elements of the Plan have yet to begin (brood meddling and the southern reintroduction), apparently the “immovable conditions” are not yet applicable.

But that’s not what the Hawk & Owl Trust said in their original statement about those “immoveable conditions“. Have another look at the Hawk & Owl Trust’s original statement (top image above). The first line reads:

‘Before agreeing to talk with DEFRA about the details of a trial, the Trust created three immoveable provisos and conditions for taking part in a brood management scheme trial’.

What a total bloody cop out! Philip has demonstrated that the Hawk & Owl Trust’s intentions are just as disingenuous as those claimed by the grouse-shooting industry at the beginning of the year when they professed tolerance to a limited number of hen harriers on their moors. Philip knows and accepts that since the DEFRA plan was launched in January 2016 (here), illegal hen harrier persecution has taken place – he acknowledged this throughout his presentation in Sheffield at the weekend (see here), and yet here he is, suggesting that this year’s persecution incidents ‘don’t count’ because the full plan has yet to be launched.

This isn’t conflict resolution, this is the Hawk & Owl Trust acting as apologists for an industry which relies upon the illegal killing of birds of prey. It’s shameful.

15 thoughts on “Philip Merricks moves his “immoveable conditions””

  1. I specially asked off the NE representative at the conference what is the start date for the action plan. He replied that it had already started.

  2. It is sometimes terrible to be proved right.
    It was obvious that Merricks would go ahead with the brood persecution even though raptor crime continues on estates which are members of MA.
    It was obvious that Merricks would go ahead with the brood persecution without any of the required pairs on grouse moors.
    It was obvious that Merricks would go ahead with the lowland re-introduction even though the reason for the re-introduction i.e. raptor killing on grouse moors has not been stopped.
    It was obvious that Merricks was in it for personal gain (ego boosting) although he is going to look like an idiot to everyone but himself when the lowland birds are shot on the grouse moors.

    Wish crystal ball gazing was as easy with other things as it is with Merricks.
    Will he kicked out his chair of HOT? Crystal ball is clouding up but sincerely hope so.

  3. When Merricks had his ludicrous article in the Telegraph about ‘Eco zealots’ who were going to supposedly wreck conservation in the uplands because of their stance against grouse moors it was posted on the Songbird Survival FB page and given a thumbs up. This is the Songbird Survival that claims we can’t have good numbers of songbirds and good numbers of birds of prey, then spends a lot of time saying how good grouse moors are for conservation. When the head of an organisation involved in bird of prey conservation gets a pat on the back from them it’s hard to see how it can sink any further.

  4. I agree with the Defra rep: the plan, whatever you think of it, started this spring and 2016 was the test season. We know what has happened, no concession whatsoever to Hen Harriers and, of course no ‘brood management’ without broods to manage.

  5. ps I should say that I wrote an open letter to Phillip suggesting a move was essential – out of the Defra HH plan which clearly is going nowhere and I believe HOT must withdraw asap.

  6. Back in June I did raise this same point. Pedantically, his immovable points relate to the trial not the plan and they can’t pull out if it hasn’t started. However, the only chance that H&OT have of retaining reputation and some degree of respectability is to (belatedly) pull out of the whole thing and get rid of Merricks.
    Does anyone know a member? Can they be lobbied to remove Merricks? The Trust may still want to compromise with people who have no interest in meeting halfway on the plan, but surely the eco-zealots slur is enough to have brought H&OT into disrepute?

    1. In order to remove Philip one would need someone to stand as an alternative Chair and get elected on a pro-raptor, anti-brood-removal ticket. Philip is up for re-election at the next HoT AGM.

      1. And don’t forget the Vice-Chairman of HoT – Colonel Robin Rees-Webbe, ex-Director of CLA Gamefair.
        He is also up for re-election, I think?
        Also, I think it was him who promoted Mr Merricks for Chairman in the first place. Wonder why? Like minds?
        Looks like the HoT has been taken over.

  7. The implementation of the plan…. Philip…. when are the keepers supposed to start to stick to the law? Clearly you must know the date when the killing is supposed to stop?

      1. I wonder if he really knows what he is doing…..
        He won’t start till they stop.
        There are no criteria for defining when they have stopped.
        They have already said that they have stopped.
        So taking them at their word, he could start.
        But they have not stopped so there are no birds, so he couldn’t start even if he trusted them enough to take their word for it.
        So how will he know when to start?
        1 year without incident? 100 breeding females in England? When he is told?

        Somehow I think we will all be retired or dead before it will be safe for him to start…..

        The HOT are just dim-witted pawns in the long game of procrastination chess being played by the moor owners. They are simply delaying the end game.

  8. Can I make an impassioned plea via your site RPUK? . Can I ask everyone not to confuse the Hawk & Owl Trust with my own owl conservation charity the WORLD OWL TRUST. We certainly do not support the ludicrous brood meddling plan and as a long standing member and former trustee (along with Rod Leslie) of the HOT I am appalled by their current stance in support of it and the incoherent attempts by Merricks to justify it at the Sheffield conference and in the merdia. Rod and I served under the chairmanship of the much missed doughty conservationist Barbara Handley who had a major part to play in the protection and recovery of the Red Kite in central Wales when it was in grave danger of extinction in Britain. I cannot speak for Rod , but personally I am sure this HOT stance would not be happening if Barbara was still with us and at the helm (and incidentally, they added the ‘Owl’ bit to their title after I gave a presentation at one of their AGM’s a long time ago!). I am equally sure she will be incandescent if she is watching the current situation from above. However, let me put one thing straight. The HOT has done brilliant work for birds of prey and owls over the years, in particular the Barn Owl. But frankly, I no longer recognise it as the organisation I served and admired. Although still a member, I will be watching the results of the forthcoming HOT AGM (which unfortunately I am unable to attend due to the serious illness if my wife) with interest before deciding whether to continue my support. Since I am sure he must read this site I now call on Philip Merricks (and Col. Robin-Reese Webbe?) to do the decent thing and withdraw their re-nominations as Trustees, and in particular their current standings as ‘officers’ o the HOT. I will also write to the Trust to request this motion.

    To return to my own organisation the World Owl Trust. Following the failure of two Eagle Owl nests in 2013, in January 2014 we were asked by the United Utilities Estate and RSPB to take over the monitoring of Bowland’s last remaining breeding pair of Eagle Owls to allow the seasonal RSPB warden to concentrate his efforts on the other threatened species (Peregrine, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl) and any other species normally breeding in this area such as Buzzard and Kestrel. We knew this would be a big challenge since a Pheasant shoot and Grouse moors adjoin the area in question and frustratingly UU would not agree to withdraw the lease of the Pheasant shoot tenant. We (and in particular our fieldworkers and the RSPB staff) also had to face considerable (sometimes libellous) criticism in the media from people with their own agendas but purporting to be raptor and owl conservationists. We also had the on-going problem of the BOU not accepting the European Eagle Owl as a genuine British species which has returned unaided as a breeder in recent years. They claim all of the UK birds are escapes or deliberate releases, but of course with no proof that this is the case.

    Sadly, in 2014 and 2015 the Eagle Owls, despite trying, once again failed to rear any young, the third consecutive year this had happened after 6 years of success during which time 15 owlets fledged successfully. During this time two of the breeding females ‘disappeared’ and were almost certainly shot. Unfortunately, as usual, first-hand evidence to confirm this was the case has proved impossible. What we do know is that another major factor was regular disturbance by the people mentioned above as well as egg thieves and birdwatchers understandably anxious to see these magnificent birds. Needless to say, the ‘Right to Roam Act’ does not help us to prevent this, which is very frustrating for the fieldworkers to say the least.

    It is therefore with great delight that I can now announce that thanks to the incredible dedication of our team and the placing of Trail Cameras in strategic places we now have a better knowledge of what occurs in our area of work – and better still, I can give you the wonderful news that 3 healthy owlets have now fledged safely and this event is to be featured on the BBC TV ‘The One Show’ at 7pm on Monday 19th. The million dollar question now of course is what fate awaits these youngsters and are they the only ones in the UK now? We all know the problems facing Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Buzzards, Golden Eagles and Short-eared Owls once they disperse and move to what they believe to be perfect habitat to breed in (i.e. Grouse Moors) – and this Mr Merricks is the reason the hair-brained scheme to ‘meddle’ with breeding Hen Harriers is ‘cloud-cuckoo’ thinking!

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