Grouse moor owners want licences to kill Marsh harriers

Yes, you did read the headline correctly.

We’ve received reports from a number of independent sources that at the November 2017 meeting of DEFRA’s Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the Director of the Moorland Association (the mouthpiece for grouse moor owners in England), Amanda Anderson, said that grouse moor managers would be submitting applications to Natural England for licences to kill Marsh harriers.

[Photo by Markus Varesuvo]

That’ll be the Marsh harriers that are Amber listed on the UK Birds of Conservation Concern.

The Marsh harriers that are recovering from a virtual population wipeout – down to one known breeding pair in 1971 thanks to a combination of illegal persecution, habitat loss and DDT and currently with an estimated breeding population of 400-450 pairs.

The Marsh harriers that are locally common in some areas such as East Anglia but still extremely rare or absent in many other areas.

The Marsh harriers that most commonly breed in lowland wetland habitat, particularly reedbeds but increasingly on farmland too.

The Marsh harriers that very rarely breed on upland grouse moors although when they do, they are illegally targeted by men dressed as gamekeepers.

[Photo by George Reszeter]

It’s hard to comprehend the news that grouse moor owners want licences to kill this species. It’s so utterly ludicrous to think that a handful of Marsh harriers would pose any serious threat to the hundreds of thousands of red grouse that are raised on grouse moors just to be shot, for fun.

And yet these are the grouse moor owners who claim to want breeding Hen harriers back on these moors!

This latest move makes it quite clear that the grouse-shooting industry is beyond redemption. There’s no reasoning with people who think that Marsh harriers need to be killed because they’re perceived to be a threat to the viability of an upland grouse shoot.

If you’ve managed to pick up your jaw off the floor, you might want to consider signing this e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. It really is time to throw this filthy, regressive, Victorian ‘sport’ on to the bonfire of history.

UPDATE 30 November 2017: More on the grouse-shooting industry’s desire to kill Marsh harriers (here)

UPDATE 19 January 2018: Update on claim that grouse moor owners want licences to kill Marsh harriers (here)

UPDATE 12 November 2018: Licences to kill Marsh harriers on grouse moors – an update (here)

137 thoughts on “Grouse moor owners want licences to kill Marsh harriers”

  1. My god! Please name and shame the bastards if you ever find out who they are! These animals are sick beyond saving. They need to be euthanased – all of them -end of problem!

    1. The problem then is you risk gamekeepers and the like becoming amber and then red listed….oh yeah…ok, I’m with you!

      Seriously, it’s worrying as you never know how the authorities will answer the application.
      Any comment from those applying?

      1. The license has been granted for 8 marsh harriers and 12 hen harrier nests to be culled next spring. This cull will take place on langholm moor.

        1. I’m finding it quite funny, that you, Norman, the professional peddlar of pish that you are, can come on here screaming about “fake news”!

          Let’s have a wee recap of some of your recent proclamations, that at best are utterly ridiculous. Shall we? Yes!

          “hen harriers have done excellent on managed (keepered) moors this year by keeping their location secret from ringers ,taggers and raptor botherers.”
          “nowadays managed moors have outstripped unmanaged moors for BoP ,hen harriers especially”
          “Orkney Islands do have grouse shooting but not the same pressure on grouse and a lot less pressure from predators on Orkney ,but they still had to bolster the hen harrier numbers by introducing captive bred birds.”
          “The Orkney Hen Harriers could have done better if it was not for animal rights activists releasing stoats,polecats and badgers on the Islands.”
          “Orkney hen Harrier were doing really well until The RSPB took over  and stopped any predator control,I wouldn,t call it a success as numbers dropped to the point where they introduced captive bred harriers this year.”
          “Ross Euan McIvor Do you happen to know who was all involved in the release of the captive bred hen harriers released on Orkney this year”
          “Many birds have been claimed to have being shot only to be X-rayed and there was no shot present”
          “Well now going back to the often quoted stable population of Hen harriers [on Orkney],why were they releasing captive bred birds into a  stable population”
          “suggesting that the Orkney population has been artificially kept stable,you have to ask why for what reason ? Could it be because of wind turbine mortality ?”
          “Do the maths Marco they can,t be the same the % had to change there is 5 more years added to it?”
          “But Marco you quoted a report 1990 to 2012     68% which you said was from 1990 to the present, I checked it myself,so you and rspb are still saying 68% which is wrong because there are 5 Years to add plus one conviction which is under appeal,the % can not stay the same or are you not very good at arithmetic”
          “In just 2013 -2014 there were 18 convictions for wildlife crimes none involving keepers so the 68% quoted is nonsense .made up percentages.”
          “Not guilty means no crime,simple as that I,m afraid.I know that is why I didn,t mention a jury.”
          “You better tell that to the marines,of course they want to ban grouse shooting,they want to ban all shooting,all fishing and any other country pursuit that was made plain many years ago”
          “How clever of the BTO you wouldn,t need a degree to work that out ,habitat loss has affected some species but the curlew has more than enough habitat and with being a bird that changes it,s feeding habits to suit the seasons is not short of food, so predation has to be a large factor in the decline of the curlew and many other waders.”
          “This habitat loss that is quoted by the BTO in many cases apply to Many RSPB reserves in that the habitat is not lost but that the keepers were sacked/paid of and predator control was abandoned”

          Of course, it must be stressed that this is a fraction of the nonsense you spouted on just one RSPB topic on their Facebook page, so who knows how much lies you have told in your lifetime. However, as you repeatedly refused to provide a single piece of independent evidence for all of your guff (as did every single one of your imbecilic, pro-hunting friends), you have another chance to redeem yourself here.

          Over to you, Norman!

          1. Your point being what,they are verifiable as a matter of public knowledge a lot of it,so what of it,it all true ,so what.s your problem Marco,you could not prove me wrong before,so what makes it different mow Marco !!!

            1. No, Norman, you could not provide a single shred of evidence for all of your nonsensical claims, so I have given you another opportunity to do so. Ignoring the request, will prove to the readers of this blog, that you are just a complete and utter moron, who will lie his way through any given discussion. If your claims are verifiable, then please provide some independent evidence to support your arguments.

              You couldn’t do this during the discussion on the RSPB Facebook page, so please provide your evidence here.

                1. I have mentioned that these are all comments that you made on a single RSPB Facebook topic. And the fact that you have not been able to provide a single, independent link to support your claims, proves beyond any doubt that you are an imbecilic moron and liar.

                  You have stated on here that “they are verifiable as a matter of public knowledge a lot of it, so what of it, it all true”, yet you refuse to provide any evidence.

                  Go on, provide some evidence!

          2. Marco are you still pissed off at not being able to count,that is your own fault ,have you got to grips with it yet,where was I screaming on here that is in your own imagination Marco,this site who was spreading the Fake news were merely informed that it was fake and they were inflaming a non issue.

            1. And I suppose you will be able to provide the evidence that I am not able to count? Or is this yet another of your blatant lies? I gather that this belief of yours, stems from the recent discussion on the RSPB Facebook page, so please alert me to any example from our discussions when I got my figures wrong.

              Considering that you have used the term “fake news” on your first three posts on this page, and have contributed nothing else, then that could easily be deemed as “screaming”, but just in case you don’t believe me, the following is a definition of the word “scream”;

              “urgently and vociferously call attention to one’s views or feelings, especially ones of anger or distress”

              But then again, that probably was a waste of my time, because no matter how much evidence is placed in front of your face, you won’t believe it.

              As for your belief that the story is “fake news”, would you be prepared to provide your evidence for that one? No doubt, your “evidence” will be based on Amanda Anderson’s tweet, but perhaps you were present in the room, and you have valuable information that could lead to clearing up this whole story.

              I look forward to reading your explosive exposé!

              1. Your counting ability is limited as shown by your own account.So your deeming it screaming well that will be a first. Probably is a waste of your time,certainly wasted mine with your anti attitude,you were destroyed and had to go running back to cry about it to your mates on hereabout it.The report on here was based on hearsay,where as my statement was based on an email from Amanda Anderson not a Tweet. And I won,t be wasting my time explaining myself to a bunch of agenda led anti,s on this site,I may have done if you ever use the truth and facts which appears to be a rare thing indeed on this site.You may be a legend among the weak minded on this site ,you may as well enjoy it as your nothing beyond here.

                1. Well Norman, Marco McGinty certainly seems to have provoked you into revealing your true colours. Your general rant against “agenda-led antis” who never use the truth is an insult to the honesty, diligence and scientific approach of those who administer this group.

                  1. Ian you know fine I always showed my true colours,there was nothing to reveal, I don,t know where you see “never” in my statement Ian

                    1. Norman, that’s a bit pedantic. Okay, you never actually used the word never, but you came pretty close to implying it by saying, “…if you ever use the truth and facts which appears to be a rare thing indeed on this site.” As for knowing you always showed your true colours, I have to admit I’ve never noticed you on this or any other site before your recent altercation with Marco McGinty. You seem to be paying undue attention to trivia. I’d say the jury is out on what was or was not said at the meeting in question, and RPUK are adopting the right approach in waiting for the minutes to come out. However I won’t say never, but there’s rarely smoke without fire, and so far the denial is not unanimous.

                    2. Wether it came up in the meeting or not we are not privy to that,I can only go by Amanda Anderson,s denial by email,I certainly would not have released it to the public before it was substantiated by the minutes,unlike this site who could not wait to release it,as far as I can see as you do yourself the jury is in recess and we have to wait.Why did RPUK not contact Amanda first instead ,or do they not care if it was true or not,just seeing it as ammo for their agenda ?

                    3. Norman, this is getting a bit tiresome to be honest. If you had read RPUK’s blog you would have seen that they did contact Amanda Anderson, who initially rebutted the allegation, but when offered further evidence she declined to reply. Let’s just wait for the final explanation.

                2. “Your counting ability is limited as shown by your own account”

                  Again, I asked you to provide some evidence for your nonsensical belief, and again you have failed dismally. Just because you say something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true, especially as you are a proven liar.

                  “you were destroyed and had to go running back to cry about it to your mates on hereabout it”

                  Oh dear, Norman, you really are excelling in your quest to become the master of moronic misinformation, and you appear to have an unassailable lead in that respect. How could my argument be destroyed, when not a single pro-shooter could provide a single piece of evidence? I gave up posting on that particular Facebook topic, simply because the account is unmoderated, and every single pro-shooter was providing lie, after lie, after lie. As previously mentioned, I provided independent evidence to counter your claims, and all of your friends claims, but as you and your friends refuse to believe evidence, and I had better things to do with my time, I called an end to it. But then you resurfaced on here, making claims about “fake news”, so I thought it best to alert the readers of this page, that you are a liar of great magnitude, a complete stranger to the truth, and you should never be trusted.

                  “And I won,t be wasting my time explaining myself to a bunch of agenda led anti,s on this site”

                  Or is it the case that you can’t explain yourself, simply because your entire argument is based on lies and misinformation? You have had plenty of opportunity to gather your evidence and provide it, but you have repeatedly failed to do so. Furthermore, you seemed to be perfectly happy to continue the debate on the unmoderated Facebook page, with the support of your pro-shooting friends/trolls, but I am wondering if your reluctance to continue the debate on here is because this page is moderated, and won’t tolerate the catalogue of lies that you and your friends rely upon?

                  “You may be a legend among the weak minded on this site ,you may as well enjoy it as your nothing beyond here.”

                  No, I don’t believe I am a legend to anyone, but if you consider me to be one, then fair enough. I have never admitted to being anything of the sort, so why you would consider it worthwhile to mention this, only shows you up for the pathetic being that you are.

                  “where as my statement was based on an email from Amanda Anderson not a Tweet”

                  So, are you prepared to divulge the information contained within Amanda Anderson’s email? It could put the whole story to bed. Or is it another lie in the life of Norman Murray?

                    1. That’s a shame, was quite amusing.’ How many ways to call someone an idiot’– could be a book title….

    2. How can you compare these types as animals, they are humans. I would have thought thay you would as a bird lover never compare a human to an animal. Get with it.

  2. What’s next? Fishery owners seeking licences to kill Ospreys? Let’s just hope this is a classic case of things getting worse before they get better. There’s certainly no doubt in my mind, from conversing with shooting enthusiasts and reading their various blogs, that we are currently experiencing a concerted campaign of killing on the basis of revenge, as hunters and shooters join together in a determined effort to promote their hideous ‘sport.’ From competitions to win expensive shotguns in prize draws, to running courses in shooting for schoolchildren, we can’t deny that they are seriously getting their act together, to strengthen their movement, in defiance of scientists and conservationists who are increasingly critical of the whole concept of killing wildlife for sick pleasure. They also have the financial resources to run a fairly efficient public relations exercise, influencing politicians and some naive members of the public alike. However there does appear to be a growing tend of increased awareness. We need more good and sincere people like the bloggers of RPUK to stand up for the welfare and conservation of species which continue to be persecuted for the sake of man’s own selfish pleasure seeking. I continue to dream of how much progress could be made if the RSPB were to take a positive stand on such issues, rather than constraining their own staff to skirting around the controversy, as if to avoid upsetting the establishment. They need to rediscover their founding spirit and make it more appropriate to the modern world. Neither is society’s attitude towards “management” of nature helped by the Wildlife Trusts encouraging hooligans to take up the cudgel or the gun in an attempt to exterminate the demonised Grey Squirrel, based hugely on ignorance of the science regarding their impact on Red Squirrels. Man’s obsession with violence and primitive tribalism still hangs on, and aspiring dominant males just can’t resist taking sides for the slightest excuse. A true empathy with nature is the missing factor.

    1. Heavens, Iain, don’t give fishery owners ideas! Remember 9/11? Hollywood made films about skyscrapers being targeted, and then they were! Although of course it really all started with Kissinger’s betrayal of Assad and the evolution of suicide bombing. Adam Curtis’s ‘HyperNormalisation’ is an excellent one to watch, if anyone hasn’t, about how we got to this fake and fearful place.
      Marsh Harriers cannot in any circumstances pose a threat to these rich fools shooting their highland chickens. They should be taxed to the hilt on their land ownership; and any prosecutions for Hen Harrier or any other raptor killings should carry far heavier penalties.

      1. Sadly, these rich fools shooting their highland chickens are subsidised at our expense to do all the horrible things they do.


    2. I’m not sure that demonising a wildlife charity that works tirelessly for birds (RSPB) is terribly helpful – especially when you don’t understand what a charity can and cannot do. It’s equally unhelpful, I think, to champion an alien invasive predator. Let’s hit the right targets here; Grouse moor owners, government apologists (individual or departmental) for wildlife crime and criminals.

      1. Yes, the RSPB does lots of fantastic work, but that shouldn’t mean it’s beyond criticism. Also, there is nothing in the Charity Commission guidelines to prevent it campainging for a ban on driven grouse shooting.

      2. Andy, I respectfully suggest it’s way over the top to accuse me of “demonising” the RSPB. I have very high regard for that organisation in many aspects of their work, and have particular admiration for their extremely hard working and diligent Investigations Officers. I wasn’t born yesterday, and am aware of the constraints placed on charitable organisations, but the blocking (by Royal Charter) of the Royal Society for the PROTECTION of Birds even commenting on the fundamentals of blood sports is a step too far, in my opinion. My criticisms of the RSPB could be counted on one hand. Also, I’ve had to read my own comment again in a quest to remember what “alien invasive predator” I was championing! If you consider Grey Squirrel to be a predator in the conventional sense, I think you have just illustrated the sort of prejudice that has led to its particular vilification. I may be in a minority just now, but I honesty believe that the general anti-alien rhetoric within conservation is in most circumstances misguided, a red herring in fact, distracting too many of us away from more important issues. Anyway, I’m glad that your final conclusion concurs with the very point I was attempting to put across.

        1. On the subject of non-indigenous species, what about the millions of pheasant released into our countryside every year just so they can be shot and often dumped. Many of those who escape the guns either get killed or injured on the roads and may cause accidents as people brake or swerve to avoid them. If anyone else were to release a non-native species they’d be prosecuted.
          Suzie B

    3. Well said, Iain. They are good at mobilising themselves. Better at it than we are – a loose confederation of nature lovers.

    4. This news is seriously bad, though not really shocking. It illustrates boldly and loudly why driven grouse shooting is, without any shadow of a doubt, a clear and present danger to the conservation of biodiversity and the natural environment generally.

      On the plus side the shooting lobby have also demonstrated, in the recent past a robust capability of running comically inept PR campaigns….

    5. Iain, as ever, your comment is inspiring and brilliantly said.

      RPUK – thank you for exposing the antics of these outrageous, disgusting organisations. The sheer level of their collusion, and arrogant expectation, that their demands will be met by government officials and supposed regulatory bodies is both shocking and depressing. Keep up the tremendous work! You get us riled up enough to act!

    6. Iain G – I totally agree with almost everything you say here. I especially like your comments that we should not underestimate the clout and the skill of at least some shooters. There is a tendency here to dismiss them all as ignorant and stupid. Some of them are – but others are very shrewd operators. What you say about macho culture and the absence of empathy with nature goes to the heart of all these issues.
      However, I have to say that my reading of the science regarding red and grey squirrels is different from yours (although I am deeply suspicious of those leading the charge to kill the greys). Perhaps at some other time I would love to hear your thoughts on squirrels at greater length.

    7. Re fisheries killing ospreys I think it might be bottle nose dolphins first, there’ve been a few comments on FB they need to be culled to protect salmon (a hen fish can lay a thousand eggs per pound!). There’s a lot of anti predator guff coming from various directions and it would be really good to turn the tables on it and have that propaganda countered in a concerted campaign from the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB etc. The predators that are showing some return to natural population levels – otters, buzzards, cormorant, merganser, goosander, pine marten etc are getting publicly and incessantly vilified by the idiocracy. Last year two dead otters, they’d been snared, were dumped on a public footpath in Bedfordshire – after all the anti otter hysteria and propaganda from some sections of the angling community that would embarrass Joszef Goebbels this was hardly surprising. We need more translocations of pine marten and polecat, more places putting up nesting platforms to help osprey and of course a desperate need to get the lynx back when we have a deer population going over the million mark, but not one single wild animal that can kill an adult deer – an incredibly unbalanced ecology. Goshawk and golden eagle are still missing over massive areas where they should be doing well, the expansion of red kite populations seems to be hitting a brick wall when they reach game bird shooting interests….

      I am extremely fond of and grateful to the RSPB, but I do wish they’d be more consistent, they can be forthright sometimes, but not as standard. A couple of months ago I was at an event and got talking to the guy manning a RSPB stall, I said I was really pleased they had a few graphic images re raptor persecution up – poisoned, trapped and shot birds of prey. He told me that they were considered ‘too strong’ for general use, but due to the nature of the event (Vegan Festival) it was felt they could do it there. A great bloke, but the remark was quite revealing and disappointing. I’m positive a lot more of the public would take an interest in the RSPB if they saw it taking more conspicuous action against as pointless and disgusting attack on the natural world as there can be – to kill one animal, ‘thinking’ it will help kill another for fun.

    8. Angling groups do openly call for culls on ospreys, as well as cormorants mergansers heron and otter, so this does not surprise me at all.

      1. The Angling Trust is the most militant in their attempts to protect “Their fish”???? Seals entering rivers, otters, goosanders (did you know that goosanders eat 98% of salmon smolt, according to AT?), even beavers???? are all on their list to be culled.
        I’m a canoeist that wants to canoe English and Welsh rivers, I cannot do it in peace because of AT. So, I go to Scotland and canoe there in peace. I can go to many other places in the world and canoe or walk in peace because land and water is shared. But our rich and selfish want to eradicate anything they conceive as injurious to their sick fun and that includes canoeists.

    9. Could not agree more Iain RSPB, SWT, and other wildlife charities not doing enough to publicize what is happening to Raptors. RSPB maybe frightened they loose their “ROYAL” warrant but it’s long overdue they started fighting publicly against this raptor persecution. Think RSPB terrified to loose support from their members, but they could gain more support if members new the truth and started to campaign against this persecution by Gamekeepers and shooting estates. The public needs to be more informed re this.

  3. well we can add this to the lbbgull list – as birds using our protected areas in The Gambia as UK Vunerable when not ! little surprise yr bird poplns are in decline …. do you shoot euro turtle dove ?

  4. Well done RPUK for exposing this and making it public. Unbelievable! These swines will stop at nothing. Fortunately the public are starting to wake up to this scandal.

  5. We need a revolution. While these blinkered morons own such vast swathes of our upland habitat no wildlife will be free from persecution, legal or otherwise. Shooting interests (both upland and lowland) are cleansing our countryside of all native wildlife and turning it into a wasteland inhabited by intensively reared birds that some idiot in tweed can blast away at for pleasure.

    Many ecosystems are on the brink of collapsing and may never recover.

  6. “What the f **k?” was my initial reaction and, I suspect, that of many. On further reflection, I wonder if this is the point at which the grouse shooting industry has finally “jumped the shark”. It’s so patently absurd that only those insulated by wealth, arrogance and an overweening sense of entitlement could come up with such a damagingly revealing idea. It blows out of the water any pretence that shooting organisations intend anything other than suppressing (by any means) the populations of protected raptors to a ludicrously low level.

  7. This is utterly appalling to hear and probably means that those few Marsh Harriers that summer on grouse moors and the even fewer that attempt to nest there will all be targeted licences or not. Here on the Nidderdale moors Marsh harriers have summered in small numbers (often just one a year) and been largely left alone as far as we can tell. This year we had the persecuted nest on Denton Moor and a nesting attempt on another moor failed under very suspicious circumstances. This means the cat is out of the bag and Marsh Harriers will be whacked as hard as Hen Harrier in future.
    These people have no shame and no intention of changing for the better, their professed desire to want more Hen harriers is shown for the sham many of us believed anyway. I am currently banished off one moor with a relatively sympathetic owner because of the videos I appear in to support Mark Averys’ last petition —— then it is open access! At the end of the day however reasonable they appear support a ” sport” pastime, business whatever that is beyond redemption, they all “benefit from raptor killing even when they don’t do it ( and few don’t) and the sooner it is gone the better.

    1. “they all “benefit from raptor killing even when they don’t do it”
      Absolutely. It is organized crime. Can’t think of any other crime which has shared profits for all.

  8. So if an estate submits an application to control (kill) hen harriers then there is a formal process that has to be gone through. This is a similar process that had to be completed for the successful licence applications to kill buzzards. However these, after careful examination, had inconsistencies and examples of non compliance with the requirements for a successful application. Surely there must be a way of legally challenging the applications at the application stage before any Marsh Harriers are needlessly killed. Answers anyone?

    1. Hi Roger,

      You are right. Anybody can submit an application to Natural England asking for a licence to lethally control any Schedule 1 species. Applying would not be an offence, it is an accepted legal process, as we saw with the buzzard licence applications to protect pheasants.

      Whether Natural England would grant a lethal control licence for Marsh harriers remains to be seen. Presumably they’d need to assess each individual application on its own merit.

      We’d be very surprised that if Natural England was to grant a lethal control licence, on the grounds of protecting red grouse reared for game shooting, it would remain unchallenged in the courts.

  9. The Moorland Association, along with other vested interest groups, have long ago forgone the mantle of legitimacy and I am still reeling from this latest news. Those of us who share even a passing care for wildlife, must act and come together against these evil people, who should long ago have been consigned to history. A good start is to actively promote the current petition to ban driven grouse shooting. I am expecting, through peer pressure, that the Moorland Association will deny this story, it is such a PR disaster.

  10. This is inconsistent with what’s gone before. Until now all the evidence suggests raptors are routinely dispatched on many grouse moors as reported so brilliantly in this blog. So why even consider asking for licences when the chances of being caught are so slim? And why advertise the fact that they want to kill raptors, in contrast to all the denials issued over the years? Does it mean they are beginning to see that their methods are ultimately unsustainable and that licencing will, in all probability, be imposed at some stage? Or is this another disingenuous move to pretend they are trying to do the right thing, the giveaway being that they’ve targeted a species which doesn’t have a significant impact on Red Grouse stocks?

    1. This is their way of eliminating wildlife crime.

      It’s time that the celebrity naturalist Attenborough et al started to highlight the ecological disasters that are happening in our back yards as well as the global issues. Or would that prevent nice cushy numbers being offered.

  11. It is not surprising that these people would try anything, but the real problem is the fact that those responsible for the decision making might actually go along with them.That is where our efforts need to be focused as it becomes more and more apparent just who the establishment looks after. And although I do not see the RSPB as the problem they do need to step up to be part of the answer. If being a charity stops them from protecting birds then they need to change their status!

  12. If this is true, it is so blatantly absurd that it can realistically only be regarded as a diversionary tactic! One more nail in the DGS coffin – or maybe two or three this time.

  13. My suspicious nature leads me to wonder if this is just a precursor for another assault on the buzzard – apply for a licence to control one species in hat is plainly unacceptable, then return with ‘ Well there are a lot more of these, and we have to do something to reduce predator numbers…..’

    1. If, buts and maybes.

      It seems to me there has to be a motive here. Is this to muddy the waters and cause confusion when the “other” licensing discussion comes under scrutiny ? – is it something to be taken off the table if other concessions are met ? – There has to be some logic in why they would even consider allowing such a story coming out. It would be helpful if we had minutes, when if it was raised, and in what context.

      You would have thought that organisations, who are in PR terms, “taking a bit of a beating” would be more likely to take a low profile for a while, or do they have a sense of what’s round the corner and arrogantly, as always, are choosing to attempt to steer the agenda ?

      It does appear to be almost an admission of guilt that illegal persecution is being carried out and is out of control.
      You have to wonder if this has arisen as a result of internal friction in these organisations. If you can imagine decrees from on high requesting that illegal persecution should cease and being met with resistance on the basis that owners and landowners had previously condoned their actions. This may be first stage at an attempt to draw a line for employees – a request for licensing for the removal of Marsh Harriers being a test request, in the knowledge, let’s presume, that it would be refused outright. If they are encouraged to proceed with further requests who knows where it would end. On the other hand if and when rejected, it would mean that disciplinary action could follow automatically, having at least attempted to magically make legally what is unquestionably criminal.

      If you were to look a this with a particularly cynical eye – Is the request motivated by the need to simply provide the more ruthless an opportunity to knowingly remove Hen Harriers and when caught, and only when caught, be able to fall back on a “mistaken identity” defence?

      Any request for a license to remove Marsh Harriers should be rejected on that basis alone.

      This may simply be an effort of last resort which I would hope would be shot down by public opinion anyway

  14. Not at all shocked by this. These people are still living in the Victorian era right enough.
    I’ve been told “ if it takes domestic stock it needs eradicated “ , “ the simplest way to get rid of your pine marten is to stuff apples with paracetamol “, “ don’t believe a word that a scientist tells you”.
    They still see the “ townie” as an enemy of the countryside way of life. It’s instilled from an early age.😢

    1. My only surprise is that it has taken so long – lots of us predicted this from the moment NE foolishly awarded the first buzzard licenses. I understand that some landowners in the south of England are also planning to apply to cull red kites (if they haven’t already done so).
      The attitudes that Stuart describes are rife among the hunting and shooting brigade, and so deeply rooted that no amount of ‘partnership working’ will achieve anything other than temporary appeasement.
      I don’t want to demonize the RSPB; I strongly support much of what they do. But on this issue they have been naïve at best, and terminally gutless at worst.

      1. I strongly agree with your comment Alan, particularly the reference to the RSPB, which I also generally support. It is noticeable that much of what we know about raptor persecution and the machinations of the shooting lobby does not come from mainstream conservation agencies or bird clubs. I’m never sure whether this is because of indifference, naivety or fear of upsetting shooters. I was shocked by the report in Les’ comment of the RSPB thinking that certain graphic images were ‘too strong’ for public use. A bit more hard hitting, campaigning spirit needed. Could do better, RSPB!

    2. they get rid of badgers the same way and of course if the keeper is stopped all he has is some apples to eat and paracetamol for headaches. A friend heard this from a prominent land agent in the Yorkshire Dales.

  15. I think it’s time we came out of the dark ages and chose sports that do not have a detrimental affect on other creatures we share our 🌍 with.

  16. WHAT!!! Comments from the Hawk & Owl Trust please. Do you still wish to work with this lot on the outlandish Hen Harrier Brood Management Scheme when you are trying to conserve nesting Marsh Harriers on Sculthorpe Reserve and bring back Hen Harriers to Fylingdale Moor while radio-tagged Hen Harriers are still being slaughtered on grouse moors? My membership hangs in the balance after many years and a term on your Board of Trustees. N.B. No reply and silence will be taken as a “yes”, in which case I will resign my membership and pass on your decision to the 2,000 members of the World Owl Trust.

      1. I’m afraid my Hawk and Owl trust membership went out of the window a long time ago even though I loke what they do on Fylingdale Moor. This may more down to local management that orders from their “head shed”. As to the Denton Moor persecution Paul,maybe they will ask for a backdated licence nowt would surprise me nowadays

  17. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this a direct consequence of the Hen Harrier Disastrous Plan. That plan’s aim is to get Hen Harriers off grouse moors and this is totally in tune with that. Although tune isn’t the right word, more like cacophony.
    That and the Buzzard killing licence.

  18. Curiouser and curiouser.

    [Ed: Dave, we’ve removed the live link you’ve provided to Amanda Anderson’s Twitter feed because it keeps posting every new tweet from her in this comments section. Instead, it’s just appropriate to post the relevant tweet to which you originally referred. The tweet in question (from Amanda) said: “Complete nonsense”]

    1. Speaking of membership, it makes me rather uncomfortable that the BTO are getting involved with shooting estates in this way.

      Does it really require an impartial scientific organisation (whose membership mainly consists of birders) to produce a report that finds that a) people with a bit of training can monitor wader nests b) there was no predation by foxes or crows (because they’ve all been killed by gamekeepers).

      This is not science, it is just the BTO giving some cover to shooting estates in return for a wad of cash.

      But then the yellowhammer page in the Atlas was sponsored by Songbird Survival…

      1. I too am a bit uncomfortable with BTO involvement with the environmentally and ecologically damaging shooting industry, but such reports do provide us with some truly fascinating information. Despite the Moorland Association proclaiming that “The gamekeeper’s work was found to be very similar to that of independent BTO staff.” (see here, the following excerpt from the report paints a very different picture.

        “However, the greatest differences in productivity estimates between gamekeeper and BTO surveys were for farm survey site C, the area of overlapping surveys discussed above, where the comparison for Curlew was 100% (gamekeeper suvey) – 55% (BTO survey), and for Lapwing 100% (gamekeeper survey) – 30% (BTO survey). The timing of survey visits may also contribute to differences (survey dates are shown in appendix B), though the lower productivity estimates were not always on later survey visits. This suggests that at least a component of this variation may be caused by differences in the interpretation of adult behaviours observed on June (and July) survey visits. This underscores the need to ensure that the information recorded and reported by fieldworkers is as consistent as possible, through the provision of training and guidance, verification processes and feedback to survey participants.”

        So, BTO/YDNPA staff surveyed a piece of land, and came up with the following breeding productivity results

        Curlew 55%
        Lapwing 30%

        And some gamekeepers surveyed the exact same piece of land, some of it at later dates than the BTO/YDNPA staff, and came up with the following breeding productivity results;

        Curlew 100%
        Lapwing 100%

        Something doesn’t quite add up with those results, and it could be gamekeepers lying, or being told to lie, about the results, in a devious attempt to play up their “management” practices.

        But there is more illuminating information in the text. Of the 34 nests that were able to be monitored throughout, the total failures amounted to 13 nests. Of those, one was abandoned, one failed due to corvid predation, one was predated by a pet dog, one was predated by an unidentified mammal, two each to Badger and Hedgehog predation, but by far the greatest culprit was the lowly sheep, which accounted for two nest trampling incidents, and three to actual predation!

        So there we have it. Pet dogs are as much an issue to upland wader survival as corvids are, raptors are not an issue whatsoever, but by far the greatest threat to wader populations comes from sheep! (yes, that last wee bit is a bit tongue in cheek, just in case any dim-witted, moronic, pro-shooting clown misinterprets it))

        Full report here

        1. Brilliant comment, Marco. I wrote above about the naivety (or worse) of our NGOs when dealing with shooters and gamekeepers.
          How many people with actual experience with these people can believe that the differences you describe are really due to ‘timing of survey visits’ and ‘differences in interpretation’?
          Wet behind the ears or what?

  19. Its a genius idea if this is true; get a license to kill Marsh Harriers and remove the stigma of illegal killing – the press won’t be interested in reporting the guardians of the countryside carrying out licensed activities. And at a distance, Hen Harriers can be mistaken for Marsh Harriers.

    With Brexit coming up, all the European protection will likely disappear and Defra will have free reign to grant licenses as they see fit, so this would be a good time to get in that license application as it will take a while to process.

    I see Amanda Anderson has tweeted that this is nonsense, but I’d tend to believe RPUK instead of vested interests. There is money to be made here, lobby groups to be funded, donations to political parties, all perfectly legal.

  20. Personally I wouldn’t read too much into this, “I’ll just throw this onto the table,” either as an act of spite, or as something that can be put on the table as a negotiating card. Problem is there is no-one sitting round the table with them except this doomed Tory government. The big question is whether a Labour Party will spend parliamentary time in banning DGS?

  21. Hello Raptor persecution, why have seemingly only fifteen thousand people signed the petition against driven grouse shooting /murder?

    1. Moore, the RSPB has a million members, and we might have expected a significant number of them to have signed the petition. But they obviously haven’t. The reason is easily explained – the RSPB has done virtually nothing to publicise or promote (heaven forbid!) the campaign. Even just raising awareness of the petition’s existence would be a step in the right direction. Perhaps it’s time for RSPB to ditch the “Royal” from their title, as it’s the terms of the Royal Charter which prevents them from criticising “field sports.” The Royals love to shoot grouse, of course, so would be most upset if the RSPB were to rock their boat.

  22. If this is true, and it does almost beggar belief, then hats off to the Moorland Association for being able to hammer nails into their own coffin.

  23. This is absolutely not true and you lot know it. Yet another piece of false news put about by the anti shooting lobby. Nowhere on Defra’s website is there a application from the Moorland Association to cull the Marsh Harrier.

    1. No but she said it would happen at the last PAW meeting, plenty of witnesses, several of them police officers. We are not or at least I am just anti wildlife crime and of course it won’t be from the Moorland Assoc it will be from individual estates.

    2. It WAS discussed there are plenty of witnesses, and by the way could you give some examples of the “pieces of false news “?? Its pretty rich when you bunch of lying bastards accuse us of false news.

  24. So they want to not only murder grouse but also Amber rated Marsh Harriers! I hope their applications are turned down, why does man have to kill every creature on the planet? It’s not our right to do so, especially when it potentially endangers the existence of a species such as these beautiful birds of prey 😡😡😡

  25. Unbelieveable!! Why on earth aren’t this Government considering a ban on Grouse shooting rathet than killing our endangered natural predators? I could probably answer that but don’t want to be rude.

    1. It is a great loss to them to loose someone so dedicated to conservation. Are these folk so intimidated by the rich, selfish and greedy?


  26. This is too awful for words, the beautiful Marsh Harrier, my favourite bird that I spend every weekend trying to get the perfect photo of. What is going on in this country. If it’s not microplastics and plastic rubbish in the rivers, seas and countryside, (labour-led!) Sheffield Council chopping down trees, now the magnificent MR. Whatever next.

  27. Look at the environment laws that have been rescinded by Trump in America to see where these ideas are coming from. Defra should never have entertained these idiots in the first place, but we all know that birds of prey are being persecuted on these grouse moors so why make it legal!!!!

  28. Horrible bastards the lot of them and as for that bumbling idiot Anderson I can’t put on here what I’d like to say. Ban the whole sordid excuse for a sport, it stinks.

  29. Totally agree absolute lunacy. I have already signed the e-petition regarding the banning of driven grouse shooting. It is a disgusting pastime, not even sport. It needs to end, it is a damage to the environment and contributes nothing significant to the economy of this country overall.

  30. The fundamental problem here is that those on the dark side come from a base where killing things is a normal everyday routine, which doesn’t even merit a thought that lives are being destroyed. Anyone who expresses a contrary view is regarded as an animal rights activist. A classic illustration of this was published in the Yorkshire Post last Saturday. It related to the situation on Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire. This moor is Council owned and there’s a debate as to whether driven grouse shooting should continue to be permitted. There are local people who believe that it should be ended. A certain (or maybe uncertain) Liam Stokes – he of the CA – chose to give us a lecture on politics and, in the process, referred to the Labour Party’s rural policy becoming increasingly synonymous with animal rights, with its lobby which has ‘fixations on the badger cull or propping up the Hunting Act’. He informs us that ‘These are issues that influence the votes of a minute number of people’. There’s more of this revealing sort of stuff to be found at:
    Goodness knows where the headline came from! It’s certainly not borne out by the facts.

  31. How stupid and sick are these people? They won’t be happy till the Earth is a barren waste land. Makes me so angry.

  32. I’m assuming that this is moderated before being posted because the Moorland Association have described the story as a complete fabrication.

    Do these idiots even understand that Marsh Harriers don’t even frequent Grouse Moors as it’s not the right habitat?

    1. Tis you who are the idiot I’m afraid Maxy boy , Marsh harriers often frequent upland areas, I see then fairly regularly when I am looking ( usually unsuccessfully ) for HH . If left to live their lives and not illegally killed by your gun, toting little mates HH ( that’s Hen Harrier Maxy) would thrive in many lowland habitats too.
      It may surprise you to learn that Coal Tits don’t live down mines, and the Reed Bunting might well be illiterate.
      Once again the shooting lobby show their deep knowledge of the countryside.

    2. There are plenty of witnesses that Amanda Anderson DID say this at the last RPPDG meeting. On the grouse moors I REGULARLY visit I see Marsh Harrier most years. Not for nothing was it known as the Moor Buzzard in the early victorian era, it is trying to reclaim lost ground and these F—— numbwits are trying to stop that.

  33. Having watched with pride the return to our Nothamptonshire skies the previously persecuted to death Red Kites, I am filled with horror at the fate being tabled for the Marsh Harriers.
    Money. It’s almost always about greed and big money, destroying all that might conceiveably stand in the way.
    I’m disgusted, horrified and incensed at this proposal to kill Marsh Harriers.

  34. I don’t understand why people are stupid enough to think this is true. The Moorland Association have already said that the story is absolute nonsense.
    If we look at the facts not only does the marsh Harrier not inhabit Grouse Moors anyway, no licence has ever been granted for any form of interference with raptors at all. In fact when a couple of pheasant shoots applied for licences to trap and relocate buzzards (not kill) as they had become overpopulated in one area and were causing significant damage even these were refused.

    I put to you that this entire story is designed to make you feel enraged, and it appears to be doing a very good job of making some of you froth at the mouth. One has to question your objectivity.

    1. Max,

      You’re a bit short on facts.

      You claim, “Not only does the marsh Harrier not inhabit Grouse Moors anyway”.

      You might want to look at this, and take note of what happened to the Marsh harriers that attempted to breed on this grouse moor:

      You also claim, “No licence has ever been granted for any form of interference with raptors at all”.

      You might want to look at this – a licence issued by Natural England to a gamekeeper allowing him to kill buzzards in order to protect his pheasants:

  35. The Hawk and Owl Trust would not normally comment on this or any other website but as this issue is of such importance and as Tony Warburton MBE has asked us to do so twice (see his comments above) we are now doing so now.

    To gain an understanding on what was actually said at the meeting, I phoned Martin Sims who was present at the meeting as head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. As a serving Police Officer he is acutely aware of the importance of correct evidence. And of correct information. His comments to me on which is very willing to be quoted are:
    + That he was present at the meeting and that nothing at all like what has been reported was said. And that he is outraged by what has been written on the RPUK website.+

    The Hawk and Owl Trust is determined to bring raptor persecution on grousemoors and elsewhere to an end. It sees the Natural England Hen Harrier Recovery Action Plan as the best means of achieving this. In the extremely unlikely event of anyone applying to NE for a licence to control Marsh Harriers the H&O Trust would very strongly oppose this.
    Philip Merricks MBE , Chmn Hawk and Owl Trust.

    PS – Tony I see that we both have the same gong. Mine was for services to wildlife conservation. Presumably for the management on our two National Nature Reserves in Kent. Where on the Sheppey marshes, I’m told that we now have the largest concentration of birds of prey in south east England. Including many Marsh Harriers. Would you like to come and meet me there. As a member you will know that we have put on a number of H&O Trust open days there and it would be good to see you.

    [Ed: Philip, thank you for your comment. In light of you attributing a statement to Martin Sims of the NWCU, we thought it prudent to speak to him ourselves, so one of our team phoned him this morning. Martin was friendly, open and happy to chat and clarify the discussion he’d had with you.

    Martin qualified the statement about him being “outraged”. He told us that he had no issue with the whole debate, and that he understood that we were entitled to report on what we’d been told. He said he had used the word “outraged” but only in the context of our use of the phrase “independent sources”. He didn’t like the use of that term because he felt that nobody attending the meeting was there as an “independent”, but rather everyone went there with their own agenda. We agreed about that, but this then led on to a discussion about our sources. Martin acknowledged that our sources were confidential and he said he wasn’t going to ask about who they were, but he had assumed that our sources had been present in the meeting. As an important clarification, we told Martin that people attending meetings such as the RPPDG did so as representatives of various organisations, and that it was standard practice for those reps to then report back to their organisations to brief tham on what had been discussed. That’s perfectly legitimate, and necessary, when discussions have policy or political ramifications. Those reps then have no control over how that briefing information is used. This was categorically not a question of someone attending the meeting then immediately getting on the phone to us to say, “You’ll never guess what, so-and-so said this”.

    Then we got on to the subject of whether the issue of Marsh harriers was raised during the meeting. Martin’s comment was, and this is a direct quote, “There was never ever any discussion about Marsh harriers. I’d have been shocked and appalled if that had been said and I’d have been the first to jump up and down about it”. We asked Martin to repeat this denial, just to be absolutely certain we hadn’t misheard him, and he said, “I’m not denying it because there’s nothing to deny. It didn’t happen”.


    So then we made a phone call to Bob Elliot of the RSPB, who had attended the RPPDG meeting via a phone link. Bob was also open and happy to chat. Bob’s recollection of the meeting was this (and again, this is a direct quote): “At the end of the meeting (so it wasn’t an agenda item) there was a discussion about buzzard licensing and then immediately after the Moorland Association said to Natural England ‘We’d like to talk to you about Marsh harriers disturbing grouse'”.

    Again, this is fascinating.

    Bob’s recollection was that the phrase ‘lethal control’ wasn’t used, but according to our original (multiple) sources, it was. It’s coming down to a ‘he said, she said’ argument. From one representative there is a denial that any conversation about Marsh harriers even took place, and from another representative there is confirmation that a conversation did take place, in the context of ‘licensing’ but not necessarily about lethal control, although that inference may be made.

    As we blogged yesterday, it would be helpful if Amanda would qualify/clarify her remarks, but as she’s refusing to do that we’re not going to get any further with this at this stage.

    We await the minutes with interest].

    1. It should be embarrassing to most Hawk and Owl Trust members that the first time that the HOT comment about upland issues in the last months / year (?) is to defend the Moorland Association.

      Where was the HOT when one of their harriers was found with shot in it? Where was the HOT when one of their harriers disappeared in the Dales? Where was the HOT when pole traps were found on the Mossdale estate?

      And have they said anything about the complete lack of breeding hen harriers on grouse shooting estates in both of the past 2 years?

      I guess they are too busy having lunch with their countryside alliance mates talking about how important their MBEs make them?

    2. Hi RPUK

      I am unclear whether you are suggesting that the discussion was a ‘private’ conversation between the NE rep and the MA after the meeting has concluded which was overheard by several other reps or a topic that was raised under AOB. Obviously, if the discussion took part as a private discussion, after the meeting, then it will not be in the minutes. I presume it was an AOB issue since you are awaiting the copies of the minutes.

      It’s good to know that Bob Elliot has confirmed that a conversation did take place between NE and MA reps regarding marsh harriers and their impact on grouse. I, personally, can’t think of any reason for a MA rep to approach a NE rep to discuss the problem of marsh barriers disturbing grouse unless that discussion involved licensed killing. If licensing was discussed then the NE rep would have been the obvious choice of expert for any MA rep to consult and (as I understand it) given that licences to kill are only issued after all non-lethal methods have proved unsuccessful, then it seems to me that your sources must be correct that lethal control was the basis of the discussion.

      Thanks too for the clarification about the substance of Martin Sims’ outrage with RPUK’s blog. For me, it puts another perspective on the objectivity of Philip Merrick’s reporting of conversations.

      RPUK – you’re brave, inspiring people! Keep up the great work!

  36. Clearly these people cannot be reasoned with – banning driven grouse shooting now appears the only way to stop this assault on our natural heritage

  37. Another load of rubbish.this is NOT TRUE and all it is doing is fuelling the dislike for hunting and shooting.the idiots who are making up this should be sacked from the bbc

  38. Lying bunch of cxxxs

    [Ed: You’ll notice that we’ve removed the fake name that you provided, which was both obscene and libellous, and replaced it with your IP address. This will now be our standard editorial policy for dealing with trolls]

  39. No animal going about its natural business, feeding itself and its offspring, should be hindered or killed.

  40. Philip, while I thank you for responding (unlike Amanda), and while I am of course delighted to learn that the HOT would be irate at any mention of’ ‘controlling’ Marsh Harriers, I am however disappointed that the HOT doesn’t seem to have the same disgust or stance against the killing of Buzzards, Peregrines, Red Kites, Golden Eagles and Short-eared Owls on Grouse moors and Buzzards and Goshawks on Pheasant shoots, not to mention Short-eared Owls and some of our Eagle Owls in Catterick and Bowland. I thought I would mention the latter two species since I got my gong for ‘Services to Owl Conservation’!

    I also thank you for the invite to join you on the Sheppey Marshes but I’m afraid that at age 82 with a seriously ill wife in palliative care here in the Lake District, such a jaunt is now out of the question. In truth this is possibly best, since I’m afraid also that my inability to remain polite about the HOT’s determination to support the Brood Management Scheme might sour our meeting somewhat! Unfortunately I still believe that this outlandish project is madness, doomed to (expensive) failure, and is pandering to the shooting lobby. I am also sure the late, great HOT Chairman Barbara Handley, under whom I served on the HOT Trustee Board, would never have condoned such an involvement.

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