GWCT back-pedalling on hen harrier cull idea

So, further to our last blog about the GWCT calling for a ‘limited cull’ of hen harriers in response to the news that hen harriers have sunk further in to decline, the GWCT is now saying (on Twitter) that we have deliberately misrepresented their position and that they are NOT calling for a cull of hen harriers.

Let’s just be clear here. If we have misrepresented their views (and we don’t believe we have – see below), then it certainly wasn’t done intentionally. We’re not in that game, unlike the GWCT who are the masters of misrepresentation (e.g. see here for just one of many examples).

The GWCT argues that we “spliced together” two parts of their statement “to misrepresent our position“. It is fair comment to say we spliced together two parts – we did. But not to misrepresent the GWCT’s position – it was because we believed they were specifically referring to hen harriers in both parts of their statement.

If we were deliberately trying to misrepresent the views of the GWCT, why would we have published their entire press statement? We published it for precisely the reason NOT to misrepresent – it’s there for all our blog readers to view and to make up their own minds. Judging by the public reaction both here and on social media, we’re not the only ones who thought the GWCT was advocating a ‘limited cull’ of hen harriers.

So why did we think they WERE advocating a hen harrier cull? Well, it’s mostly down to one paragraph:

Dr Adam Smith said: “We need an adaptive approach whereby agreements are reached between landowners and government, allowing sustainable numbers of both raptors and prey to be achieved. We welcome Defra’s plan to study how to regulate the impacts of harriers on grouse in a non-lethal trial in the interests of both species. This is overseen by Natural England and supported by many organisations including the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, who first suggested licensed control in 1998. Grants, intra-guild effects, limited culls, target predator densities and other mechanisms should be used in this way to serve the long-term interest of raptors as well as game species and other wildlife.

In this paragraph, the GWCT are specifically discussing the management of hen harriers. They talk about DEFRA’s (ridiculous) Hen Harrier Action Plan, and in the same sentence mention that the GWCT  “first suggested licensed control in 1998“. The sentence that immediately follows is where they advocate, amongst other things, “limited culls“. In our opinion, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that they were still talking about hen harriers, especially as we know that the GWCT has previously advocated a hen harrier cull (see here).

When GWCT said on Twitter that they were NOT advocating a hen harrier cull, we asked them for which raptor species they WERE advocating a cull. They responded by saying they weren’t advocating a cull of any raptor species, but claimed, “The line refers to possible research into effects of raven population on wading birds. The line refers to all wildlife, not just raptors“.

We’ll leave the reader to decide whether this was a case of genuinely mistaken misinterpretation (on our part) of a poorly-articulated  GWCT press statement, or whether this is the GWCT furiously back-pedalling in the face of a public backlash to their long-standing calls for a hen harrier cull.

The rest of our original blog remains unchallenged by GWCT (the bit about there being an over-abundance of red grouse and a lamentable lack of hen harriers) and all this argument about whether they currently want to cull or not is acting as a nice distraction from the REAL issue, which is the continued illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors.

17 thoughts on “GWCT back-pedalling on hen harrier cull idea”

  1. For those whose memories go back that far, the GWCT statement is prime “Harris Reg of reincarnation”

  2. I read the sentence “In other places reducing the predation pressure by raptors, including hen harriers, on wildlife using the most satisfactorily humane methods will encourage their protection and conservation” to mean the same thing. ‘Reducing…by…humane methods’ normally means only one thing.

  3. I fully sympathise with RPUK’s interpretation of GWCT’s statement, but to give them possibly too much benefit of the doubt, the construction of the the statement is both highly misleading and ambiguous. If scrutinised carefully, it does not state explicitly that harriers should be culled, but by the narrowest of margins! It appears to have been cobbled together in a bit of a hurry, which seems odd as I’d have expected GWCT to have prepared it well in advance of the harrier national survey announcement. Being a subscriber to the GWCT newsletter, I find them to be quite a sinister organisation, often manipulating the truth to justify their rabid anti-predator agenda. Unfortunately they seem to be far better funded than most conservation groups, and are not critiqued enough by RSPB, due to the kowtowing approach towards the shooting community by that million member society. By pretending to be neutral or impartial, the Government advisory bodies, principally Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage, bury their heads in the sand or under piles of bureaucratic paperwork. GWCT also has the support of a number of wealthy landowners, some of whom have joined in with so-called scientific research on various demonstration sites across the UK, which purport to be saving breeding waders but are effectively run as partridge shoots. Even more so they have the support of powerful individuals on the political scene, and could more appropriately include the word “Royal” in their title than RSPB. The GWCT research always comes to the same conclusion – more predator control required – typical of their narrow-minded philosophy and misconception of ecological reality.

    I note that they continue to repeat the mantra that Buzzards and Ravens are commoner than they ever were. This should be effectively challenged. In the case of both species, it is true that currently their distribution is more widespread in the UK, but Buzzard in particular has actually significantly declined since the turn of the century (along with Kestrel). No longer can we fully justify referring to the recovery of the Buzzard as “a conservation success story.” There is evidence that the expansion of range and increased population densities were caused by natural phenomena rather than the protection afforded by statutory legislation. The subsequent decline has been quite severe in some parts of the country, including very large areas of Scotland. In an area extending from Argyll to Ayrshire, including the Clyde valley, a decrease in territories of around 67% occurred between 2007 and 2014. Non-breeding flocks of immature Ravens, which also increased concurrently with Buzzards, also declined during the same period. On the positive side, these phenomena left behind a legacy of an enhanced breeding population of both species compared to that prior to 1990.

    1. I agree that Buzzards have declined in Scotland, when I first started visiting, you saw them everywhere, when I visited last year I only saw a few and about 3 years ago I only saw about 4 Ravens, last year 2. Their probably counting the same bird time over. If you look at the recent killings there have been Kestrels shot, owls. It seems anything that looks like a bird of prey is targeted. Let’s hope that Cuckoos are not being targeted, one could mistake that for a bird of prey.

  4. I read it as culling Hen Harriers, would have put a comment on another blog, but work got in the way. I was ready with guns blazing, to ask how they could cull an endangered species on the brink of extinction in England and Scotland, if persecution continues.

    Why don’t they just let nature do its thing, Before man started interfering, species were in abundance, predator prey were balanced. They won’t do that though will they because it’s all about the money, money, money.

  5. It’s all kill kill kill, raptors, fox, stoat, hares, ravens, and of course grouse, the answer is simple, stop the bastards shooting, we don’t need brood meddling, action plans etc etc , it’s a Victorian dinosaur which should be resigned to the history books, the whole sorry story makes me sick

  6. As I’v e commented before…..” if it walks like a duck & quacks like a duck ” ……….

    Any organisation that is unwilling to accept the uncomfortable truth that grouse – killing raptors are demonstrably massacred on driven grouse moors & have their range limited to non – driven grouse shooting moors cannot be taken seriously.

    All such organisations should start to move rapidly away from the driven grouse shooting industry since they risk being seen as supporting the criminals therein & the UK public are not fools ……. the game is up !

    Or maybe they’re proving themselves to be an integral part of the problem that needs to be solved ?

    Keep up the pressure !

  7. But actually nothing has changed – there are no Hen Harriers in England and grouse shooting is determined to ensure ideas on management remain pipe dreams.

  8. The relevant paragraph seems to me to contradict itself by advocating “a non-lethal trial” but then gratuitously mentioning “limited culls”. If their intention has been misinterpreted, as they claim, then they only have themselves to blame. They seem to be experiencing such a high level of cognitive dissonance that they are unintentionally leaking the reality behind their tortuous justification of the unjustifiable.

    1. I think that is exactly it. Even quite uneducated people can express their meaning clearly if their meaning is clear.

  9. I like to think of myself as being able to understand that which I am reading. And reading the statement of the GCWT without bias I understood the text to be advocating a cull. Any further statement to the contrary by them does not change my view on that. I do not think they have been misinterpreted, not misrepresented.

  10. I’m all for reasoned and balanced discussion, but it is clear to me that the deliberate misrepresentation of a serious scientific organisation’s words i.e. the GWCT’s simply makes you – Ruth – and your peculiarly obsessed acolytes, seem unhinged, dishonest and reprehensible,

    If, as you have repeatedly stated, the science is flawed, then state exactly how it is so. When you sidle into one of many GWCT events around the country, no-one cares that you are there. Speak up, ask your questions, and get your answers. You aren’t some sort of dangerous radical – you are a tubby middle-aged woman with too much time on her hands.

    Retreating onto the internet to make up lies just makes you look utterly ridiculous, and it makes the cause you, and many others, believe in look ridiculous as well.

    1. You started off well Mike Perry, but went downhill soon after when you referred to GWCT as a “serious scientific organisation.” Only one of their devoted members could think such a thing. The basic flaw in credibility is their never-ending, not very well hidden agenda that controlling predators is the ultimate solution to everything. You then descended into the gutter by singling out a conscientious and highly respected individual for totally unnecessary personal abuse. Someone who has the intelligence and resilience to shrug off your unpleasant remarks. In fact you’ve only succeeded in making yourself a laughing stock, a grumpy grouser shooting himself in the foot!

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