Raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park: last night’s programme

The BBC’s Inside Out programme last night featured an excellent piece on driven grouse shooting and its association with illegal raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park.

If you missed it, it’s available to watch on BBC iPlayer here for the next 29 days.

There were some great quotes, that we’ll record here for posterity:

Tim Birch (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust): “People love this place. And it is a national disgrace that we do not have the kind of birds of prey that should belong back in this landscape“.

Mistress of the understatement, Blanaid Denman (RSPB Skydancer Project): “Six years ago in 2011 there were four successful [hen harrier] nests in England. This year there were three. So I think it’s safe to say things are not going very well“.

Mark Avery (talking about driven grouse shooting): “More and more people are becoming aware of the problems and agitated about what’s happening in our National Parks“.

Andy Beer (Midlands Director, National Trust) talking about the NT’s advertisement for a new tenant on the Hope Woodlands & Park Hall Estate following the imminent removal of their current tenant:We won’t settle for a partner who we can’t have 100% confidence in. We haven’t been prescriptive in our tender about whether it should be driven grouse shooting or not, but certainly very intensive forms of land use are difficult to square with our outcomes, including increasing numbers of birds of prey“.

The current shooting tenant at Hope Woodlands & Park Hall Estate (believed to be Mark Osborne) apparently declined to comment about the removal of the shooting lease.

Steve Bloomfield (Director of Operations, BASC), talking about raptor persecution: “We’ve seen people that have broken the law. There’s always a minority in any profession that brings it in to disrepute, and we want to get rid of them from our profession“. Fine words, but what action, exactly, has BASC ever taken to oust the criminals from the grouse shooting industry? Perhaps if BASC spent more time focusing on that instead of campaigning with the Countryside Alliance to get Chris Packham silenced (e.g. here, here, here), or if the BASC Chairman (in his capacity as a lawyer) hadn’t defended the right of a gamekeeper to keep his firearms certificates even though the keeper was known to have placed poisons in an underground stash on a grouse moor (here), Steve Bloomfield’s statement might be more credible.

Surprisingly, the Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners, did not make an appearance in this film, but apparently told the BBC it “fully supports efforts to encourage numbers of hen harriers“. Really? Is this the same Moorland Association whose Director said last year,

If we let the hen harrier in, we will soon have nothing else. That is why we need this brood management plan“.

One other interviewee worthy of mention here was a chap called Ian Gregory, listed as ‘grouse shooting spokesman’. We don’t know if this is the same Ian Gregory as the Ian Gregory from You Forgot the Birds but judging by the poor quality of his comments in last night’s film, it may well be.

Commenting on footage of a Moscar Estate gamekeeper trying to release a badger from a snare by shooting at the snare, Ian Gregory said:

In these pictures we’re seeing a badger being released from a trap which was intended for foxes. Foxes are a nightmare for ground-nesting birds and that’s the reason that gamekeepers try to reduce the number of foxes that we have“.

Apart from revealing his woeful ignorance of ecological food webs, Ian Gregory forgot to mention that snares must never be set on runs where there is evidence of regular recent use by non-target species such as badgers, as they may be caught or injured by the snare. And, according to BASC’s Code of Best Practice, ‘Knowledge of the tracks, trails and signs of both target and non-target species [i.e. badgers] is essential. If you are not competent in identifying the tracks, trails and signs of non-target species, you must not set snares‘.

As an aside, it’s worth reading former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart’s blog about the CPS’s decision not to prosecute the Moscar Estate gamekeepers, here.

Ian Gregory had more unsubstantiated tosh to impart to the viewer. Talking about hen harriers, he said:

There is a problem about their populations in the UK. Some of that may be down to illegal activity but it’s also down to the pressure of human beings wanting more places for recreation, more countryside for recreation, more for their homes, so it’s not just a question of persecution, this is a much more complicated issue“.

Ah, so the demand for new housing on driven grouse moors is responsible for the catastophic decline of breeding hen harriers in England? And the scientific evidence for that claim is…..where, exactly? We had a look in the Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers which set out very clearly that illegal persecution was the biggest single factor affecting the hen harrier population’s chance of survival. Funnily enough, new housing estates being built on grouse moors didn’t feature.

All in all, this was an excellent film by the BBC’s Inside Out film and even more members of the public will now be aware of the disgraceful activities of the grouse shooting industry.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing this new e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. PLEASE SIGN HERE.

20 thoughts on “Raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park: last night’s programme”

  1. I seem to remember that there was some kind of scheme with regards to birds of prey in the Peak District, presumably they had nothing to say about the issue? If that is the case I think that is very disappointing.

    I can find a summary report for 2012-2015 on the Peak District National Park website http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/655771/PDNP-Birds-of-Prey-Report-2012-15.pdf

    And I can find a BBC report where Mr Thomas can’t seem understand why birds of prey in the Dark Peak don’t do as well as other areas of the Peak District National Park http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-34877869

    There is even a quote from Amanda Anderson to the Moorland Association website offering some hope that the scheme was going to ensure improved results.

    Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorlands Association, said: “We are renewing our action plan and redoubling our efforts to ensure that this brings improved results. The partnership has also agreed that this work needs to be extended to cover other species, notably goshawk and hen harrier, and to include the South West Peak.”

    Is the scheme still in existence or did it just float off and die like the local raptor populations and the previous nestwatch scheme which I did managed to find details of. http://birdingfrontiers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/peak_nestwatch_2010.pdf

    Maybe we should send an FOI asking about 2016 and 2017?

  2. Well covered and commented RPUK, if the likes of Attenburgh and Bellamy were even remotely as interested in the welfare of British wildlife these grouse moor bandits might have gone long ago. Also supports my assertion that, despite the occasionally documented concerns of some wildlife sympathisers, the BBC is by and large a neutral observer, a fact often born out by the whingeing CA . Excellent stuff RPUK, and thank you.

    1. To be fair the BBC should be a neutral observer, and just report facts. How ever I support your point regarding the celebrity naturalists, they should be more vocal about issues at home. Yes Rhino and Elephant persecution in Africa is a disgrace, but what about illegal persecution at home?

      I note that Bellamy is the poster boy for the NGO.

      1. Is what Ian Gregory said a fact or is a fact just something that someone speaks?
        Does the main stream media bring out a flat-earther everytime they mention the weather or a creationist everytime they mention evolution?
        I suspect that if main stream media was around at the time, the Enlightenment would never have happened.

      2. I heard Bellamy give a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2003 and he spoke about the time he was a boy and a gamekeeper showed him a birds nest with chicks, claiming if it wasn’t for his ‘work’ it wouldn’t be there – Bellamy fell for it!!! At his best he was brilliant, but I feel he’s now just a contrarian.

        1. Shame about David Bellamy. He was an inspirational Botany lecturer at Durham University. However, I realised he had “lost the plot” when he started advertising Dettol. Perhaps his links with the NGO mean he is short of money or maybe he is ill?? I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt but wish he had stuck to botany!

          1. I totally agree he was my hero when I was a kid, I thought he trumped David Attenborough even though I really liked D.A. Attenborough was never very good at explaining exactly how we are affecting the natural world and what we could do about it – Bellamy was, linking the human consumption of natural resources to the environment and wildlife like nobody else did. At his best he is a truly wonderful writer his books on the Irish peat bogs and America are absolute classics. For years I’ve had many of his books on my shelves, it’s only very recently they’ve been joined by a David Attenborough one. Bellamy is poisoning his own legacy which is a tragedy.

  3. What a disgrace that that gamekeeper, shown in the footage taken by the HIT will not be prosecuted.

    For what its worth this is the advice the GWCT gives for releasing badgers from snares:

    A badger caught by the neck is relatively easy to handle. In most circumstances all you need to do is insert your hook into the noose and pull the running eye towards you, thereby opening the noose. As the noose is being opened the badger will typically shake its head, aiding release. If this does not work, drop the tines of your garden fork over the snare wire and run it out along the wire until you come up close to the animal, then push the fork down into the ground. (Don’t use your foot to stamp it in, as that will bring your foot too close to the badger’s teeth! Also be careful to avoid the badger’s feet with the fork tines.) Use the fork to pin the snare still; but avoid tightening it, which will cause the cable to tighten and be lost from sight in the animal’s fur. The badger is now pinned down by the neck and will usually keep its head down.

    It’s often possible to slip the hook between the noose and the badger’s neck as described above. This is obviously easier if the snare is properly free-running and the stop position has been set such that the noose is not tight. If the hook stick cannot be used, snip the NOOSE of the snare with wire rope cutters. NEVER cut the snare anywhere else in the hope that ‘the noose will fall off later’. Do not underestimate a badger’s power, or the damage it can do to your hands. ”

    But what did the game keeper do? He shot at the snare to release the animal, then shot at the next snare it then ran into then smashed the snare with a spade to break it. As the GWCT stated these are powerful animals. Those snares will have been tight around that badger’s neck, and frayed, so locked around its throat. The animals ears may also have been damaged from the gun shots.

    There were clear breaches of the Animal Welfare Act and Badger Act. Once again, video footage of an apparent obvious breach of wildlife law seems to count for nothing. And, where is the condemnation of the gamekeeper’s actions by the GWCT?

    It’s utterly sickening. Wildlife law and the law on video evidence is failing us and, more importantly, our wonderful wildlife.

  4. Noticed the BBC didn’t show the footage of the badger being shot xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx (it did show the the dead badger being dragged away at the beginning of the programme) . I wonder what xxxxx xxxxx Gregory would have to say about that.

    [Ed: Be very careful about throwing around accusations. If the snared badger was shot, it wasn’t necessarily “totally illegal” to shoot it, as you suggest. The snare operator has a duty to either immediately release a snared, non-target species, or kill it on humane grounds if the animal is severely injured. Given that we don’t know the full circumstances in this particular case, and the footage isn’t clear enough to determine what injuries the badger had, or clear enough to make a judgement on any pain and suffering it was subjected to, your allegation isn’t supported].

  5. In a way it’s reassuring to see the BBC producing a fairly well balanced programme on this subject. Unfortunately allowing equal weight to those on both sides of the debate, without aggressively challenging the lies and ignorance coming from the shooting side, must make it difficult for the average viewer to discriminate. Of particular interest was the statement provided by the Moorland Trust that it “fully supports efforts to encourage numbers of hen harriers“. That sounds like a thoroughly sensible and reasonable statement superficially, and most viewers would probably go along with that, but in fact it is highly disingenuous. We know what it really means – that they are happy to go along with the Defra “Hen Harrier Action Plan,” and that their idea of managing numbers of harriers would involve reducing the natural breeding population to no more than a quarter of the species’ potential. The brood meddling proposal, if ever introduced, will ensure this happens. And how gullible is anyone who believes the sanctimonious statement by Steve Bloomfield of BASC that they intend (NB always in future tense) to get rid of the few bad apples in the gamekeepering profession? Why do these trained members of the industry, many of them scientists who have undergone academic training, have such a poor understanding of fundamental ecology, as demonstrated in the ridiculous statement “Foxes are a nightmare [sic] for ground-nesting birds…”? To even start to make progress, we need to be vigilant in the campaign to end driven grouse shooting. Personally, I don’t believe the real nightmare will go away until all grouse shooting is banned, for starters.

  6. One possible reason Alan Stewart gives for the non-prosecution on the Moscar Estate is that the event was filmed covertly. I really would like to know what would happen if I ‘covertly’ filmed something whilst out walking on a footpath, on private land, where a person was attacked/injured and my film showed who did it! Would that not be admissible or does the law change depending on whether it is animals or humans involved?

    1. I’m curious about the legality of DashCam videos (in-car cameras, currently easily available), which seem to be valuable to the Police occasionally. They to are used covertly, and without anyone else’s permission.

      1. My understanding (not a lawyer) is that video camera evidence is only admissible if it backs up a witness. So in dashcam footage it is just backing up what you saw- likewise the if you filmed an assault. Please anyone feel free to say this isn’t the case

        1. Then why are certain TV channels awash with documentaries about criminals being caught in the act by CCTV cameras?

  7. My dog recently found a stolen wallet in the Snowdon foothills & returned it to the owner. When the Police interviewed me, the only thing they wanted to know was if there were any cameras nearby. There’s a big anomaly building up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s