Shot hen harrier Rowan: no further metallurgical tests

The farcical reporting about the shooting of young hen harrier Rowan continues.

As you’ll recall, Rowan was satellite-tagged by the Hawk & Owl Trust / Natural England at Langholm in 2016. His corpse was discovered, in suspicious circumstances, in Cumbria /Yorkshire Dales National Park in October 2016, shortly before the Westminster debate on banning driven grouse shooting.

A press release issued by Cumbria Police (after consultation with Natural England and possibly the Hawk & Owl Trust) stated he was ‘likely to have been shot‘. We questioned that phrasing and a series of FoIs revealed that Cumbria Police had changed their statement from ‘was shot‘ to ‘was likely to have been shot‘. Why did they introduce an element of doubt? Was this a political move?

We asked Cumbria Police and Natural England to publish the post mortem report and the x-ray of Rowan’s corpse – they refused, saying it ‘might affect the course of justice‘. This made us even more suspicious as police forces routinely publish x-rays of shot birds as part of their appeals for information. By not publishing Rowan’s x-ray, it was almost as though they had something to hide.

Then on 3 February 2017, the RSPB published an image of Rowan’s x-ray on their blog. The image was clear: Rowan had suffered gun shot injuries to the leg and metal shot fragments were visible at the fracture site.

Later that day, the Hawk & Owl Trust issued a statement saying ‘the initial post mortem results were not wholly conclusive and further metallurgical tests were required‘.

We asked the Hawk & Owl Trust, several times, who had decided the post mortem results were inconclusive, who had decided that further metallurgical tests were required, had those tests been done, and if so, what were the findings?

The Hawk & Owl Trust did not respond.

So in March 2017, we submitted an FoI to Natural England to ask about these ‘further metallurgical tests’. Here’s their response:

You’ll notice that our questions about whether further metallurgical tests were ‘required’ and if so, who deemed them a ‘requirement’, were carefully dodged. The response to question 1 should really have been the response to question 3.

But that little anomaly aside, it’s clear from Natural England’s response that further metallurgical tests are not being undertaken. Does that mean that it is now accepted that Rowan had been shot? And if so, why all the obfuscation in the earlier press releases? To us, it looks remarkably like a cover-up job, albeit a bodged one.

Meanwhile, in the March edition of the RSPB’s Legal Eagle newsletter, it was stated that ‘the Zoological Society of London post mortem examination, including a radiograph of its fractured left leg, showed the bird’s injuries were entirely consistent with it having been shot‘.

And what of the Hawk & Owl Trust? Well, last week they published a statement on their website, out of the blue, about this case:

Why did they publish this statement last week? Was it because they’d been tipped off by Natural England that an FoI had been submitted seeking clarification on the claim that ‘further metallurgical tests were required‘? It certainly looks that way. So now they’re trying to put responsibility for this claim back on to Natural England! (“All subsequent statements from the Hawk & Owl Trust were based soley on information provided to them by Natural England“).

So, was it Natural England who determined that ‘further metallurgical tests were required‘ and if so, why haven’t these tests been done? Or was it the Hawk & Owl Trust who determined that ‘further metallurgical tests were required‘ in an attempt to introduce an element of doubt about the circumstances of Rowan’s death, to justify their continued involvement in the DEFRA Hen Harrier Inaction Plan, even though they’d previously stated that they’d pull out if criminal activities continued?

29 thoughts on “Shot hen harrier Rowan: no further metallurgical tests”

  1. Excellent work. There appears to be a good deal of squirming going on here and it all looks grubby​ to say the least. Your tenacity is to be applauded and I am very grateful for what you do.

  2. What an indictment of certain organisations who should be acting in the interests of these birds. How squalid are they?

  3. Chris Packham had the right idea about HOT.

    Sounds like they are desperate to be part of the gang.

  4. I think there’s a real and urgent need for a ‘Friends of the Hawk & Owl Trust’ group of members to scrutinise the behind-the-scenes behaviour of certain trustees and bring some accountability and transparency. The organisation appears to be being used by two or three individuals to pursue their own hen harrier removal agenda at potentially great cost to the overall mission of the organisation. I’d like to see published minutes of meetings and the last AGM; a published corporate strategy for H&OT; a clear statement as to the H&OT strategy for dealing with all birds of prey persecution and the mismanagement of driven grouse moors. I’d like t know exactly what Philip Merricks, Jamima Parry-Jones and Steve Redpath are doing with my membership fees and the credibility of my charity.

    1. Charity Commission state that members of the public can ask to see the AGM minutes but there’s no requirement for HOT to make them available or publish them. But if you’re a member you should be able to see them. I’d be very interested to see what went on at the last meeting. It does appear that a clique has taken them away from their original aims. Supporting brood meddling serves only the interests of grouse moor owners and certainly not Hen Harriers, or any other raptor.

      1. Indeed Chris, although I gather resisting release of AGM minutes and other materials can only really be done by a charity if they have a good justification. After a while, if a pattern of secrecy begins to emerge in the face of legitimate questions about the ‘fit’ of particular activities to their governing documents, one might question whether they’re genuinely pursuing a charitable purpose. The Charity Commission tends to be scrupulous in investigating such matters if requested to do so by members, donors and other interested parties. For now, though, I’d like to see their long-term conservation strategy and how brood removal fits into it as a tactic.

  5. The real issue here is less their public obfuscation than the message they have sent to Cumbria Police that their lack of public accountability is an acceptable norm. Clearly, organisations who seek the truth are just troublemakers who deserve to be blocked and obstructed.

  6. Surprisingly (you’ll notice the CA never makes this mistake) it is possible to comment on the HOT statement on its website – for the time being at least ! – which I, as a former Trustee have done, and would reccomend others might like to do. Also, current Vice President David Cobham (see mark Avery’s blog) is in the process of writing a book on Bowland Betty. I have a sneaking suspicion he will be no more supportive of the ‘official’ Trust position than he (or I) have been previously.

  7. You could simply FOI the phone call/vc records between NE and HOT. Not the content of the calls simply the times and duration within the last two months.
    Also the times of any meetings in the last two months (and minutes if they exist..even in note books or post- it notes.)

    Their fig leaf is wearing so thin…the truth is about to pop out.

  8. I think you might be crediting NE and HOT with too much intelligence. I somehow doubt that they’re tipping each other off or carefully dodging the questions, they are just incompetent. You should send the FOI request back to NE, because, as you have pointed out above, they haven’t answered the questions. But I don’t think they are dodging them, to me it’s more like the person who was given the task of responding doesn’t understand the subtleties. And the HOT statement is so poorly written, I don’t think they have a clue what they’re on about!

  9. Unlike this website, HOT are on holiday – but if my comment hasn’t passed moderation by close of play on Tuesday I’ll post it here.

  10. From what I can see:-
    Philip Merricks has been President of Kent CLA; (Trustee HoT)
    Henry Shaw – chairman CLA Bucks; (Trustee HoT)
    Henry Robinson – ex-President CLA; (Trustee HoT)
    Col. Rees-Webbe – ex- Director of CLA Game Fair; (Vice President HoT)
    Mr Thomasin -Foster, Chairman of CLA 1995-9; (Vice-President HoT)

    Is this charity a subsidiary of the CLA perhaps?

      1. I think it is or used to be Country Land and Estates.
        I think that must be right because Henry found Merricks there at the address on the webpage below.
        It seems like they want to die their name as it pretty well hidden.
        Now they seem to call it Country Land and Business Association Limited

  11. Not a lot of credibility left in the HOT neck of the woods methinks ?!

    As I previously commented – the whole brood meddling nonsense will evaporate without leaving a ripple on the surface of the real issue of driven game shooting criminality & unsustainability.

    The real fight remains the same & will be pushed forward by increasingly large numbers of like – minded people.

    You can fool some of the people some of the time……

    Keep up the pressure !

  12. It’s very easy for a small group of activists with an agenda to take over a charity and direct it in one way. Most members are passive and believe the charity shares there objectives. I’ve seen it happen in other sectors, and the change happens very quickly before people have the chance to stop it. If HOT members object to it’s current direction, they need to work within the rules and remove the trustees

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