More on the grouse-shooting industry’s desire to kill Marsh harriers

Following on from yesterday’s blog where we reported that grouse moor owners want licences to kill Marsh harriers (see here), this news has obviously stirred up a lot of interest and commentary.

We just want to clarify something here. We were not at the RPPDG meeting where this conversation took place; we simply reported information that had been sent to us, by a number of different sources. Obviously, we did a lot of background research before we published and although we can’t be sure of the actual words that Amanda used (because we weren’t there), we are confident that the conversation about grouse moor owners wanting licences to lethally control Marsh harriers did take place. We are looking forward to seeing the minutes of the meeting (probably not available until they’ve been signed off at the next RPPDG meeting early in the New Year).

Seeing the official minutes (assuming they haven’t been doctored) is one of three ways this news can be verified.

Another way would be for the representatives of the various organisations who were in attendance to actually confirm or refute that the conversation took place. There are a lot of organisations who send representatives to these RPPDG meetings, in addition to the Moorland Association, such as the Countryside Alliance, BASC, Natural England, RSPB, National Gamekeepers Org, Welsh Government, DEFRA, NERF, NWCU, CLA, various police forces, and the meetings are currently chaired by the Police Superintendent of Greater Manchester Police.

It’s quite telling that none of them has issued a statement to deny the conversation took place, nor indeed has the RPPDG as a collective umbrella group.

If we were at a meeting and an outsider claimed that something as controversial as this was discussed, when it actually wasn’t discussed, we’d be making it very clear that as a meeting attendee, the conversation didn’t happen.

The other way the news can be verified would be for Amanda Anderson to clarify what was actually said. So far, her only public response has been on twitter, where she wrote:

Unfortunately, when asked to clarify which part of the news article she deemed to be “complete nonsense”, she has refused to comment further. This is quite unhelpful. Surely, if she didn’t tell the RPPDG meeting that grouse moor owners want to apply for licenses to kill Marsh harriers, she would take every opportunity to be crystal clear about that? We’d be more than happy to retract the information if it can be shown that the conversation didn’t take place and that our sources have provided misinformation. Her refusal to enter into a discussion looks more like a damage limitation exercise than a desire to clear up a supposedly inaccurate report. That’s a shame.

We’ll be coming back to this topic in the New Year once we have the official minutes of the meeting.

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)

59 thoughts on “More on the grouse-shooting industry’s desire to kill Marsh harriers”

  1. Hope you aren’t holding your breath RPUK! With the exception of the RSPB the names you list for the members of RPPDG consist of the ‘Crazy Gang’ deniers! And by the way, I am an ex-pat Mancunian, and I can’t ever remember Marsh Harriers or other birds of prey flying over my head! So the choice of Chairman seems to be a bit odd to me!

  2. perhaps you should have waited for the minutes, rather than seeking to stick the knife in at any opportunity to sow further division and feed the Avery induced frenzy. ill judged on your part. (I’m wondering whether you’ll publish this…)

      1. Not connected in any way with the grouse shooting industry but if you publish complete lies about a group of people I can see why they would object! Surely any sane person would!

    1. Any “division” on this issue comes from those who are illegally killing protected raptors (apparently with impunity) and the apologists for them who consistently try to dismiss and minimise such criminality. As for ‘frenzy’, this better describes the actions of organisations like “You Forgot about the Birds” (bought and paid for by grouse shooting interests) who hysterically attack the RSPB and those who promulgate the most fantastical excuses for the continuing shooting, poisoning, trapping and mysterious disappearances of protected species.

    2. There has been time for anyone else attending to specifically deny what was said – hasn’t happened. We may just find that some sort of “shoot from the hip” comment had been made in the wrong setting and was justifiably picked up. If someone has been thinking out loud or has represented their organisation in a renegade fashion they clearly have some explaining to do. This isn’t unusual where an individual carries a “mental thread” from discussions they may have had “in house” and then regurgitates the contents in the presence of others with very different opinions. I suspect that the time taken here to put a lid on it does indicate that some form of remark had been made – perhaps in jest – but made nevertheless.

      There could be very good reason, in everyone’s interests, in the absence of minutes, to issue an agreed statement tout-suite.

    1. “Guilty”? Of what?

      If grouse moor owners want licences to kill Marsh harriers surely they should be open about it? Ah, but that would then blow their cover of wanting to be seen as progressive, harrier-loving conservationists.

      Yep, it’s clear why they would want this news suppressed.

      1. Ruth, Why don’t you name your source?!…. Or show us a license application! Total non story… But hey, got a couple of blogs out of it, & maybe a few more signatures!

        1. Ed, why don’t you do your own research and check out the facts for yourself, like we did, instead of thrashing around on here without any actual basis for your claims?

          And just to reiterate, because you seem to have mis-read what we actually wrote, as far as we’re aware no licence applications have actually been made, yet.

          Thanks for mentioning the petition, by the way. You did get that bit right, yesterday’s blog does seem to have generated a few more signatures. Here’s the link again for anyone who might have missed it:


              1. Perhaps you might consider it in the interest of transparency and clarity, in the same way you ask this of other organizations. Just a thought.

                1. Chris – the scenarios are completely different. Whistle blowers should be allowed anonymity. People who break the law should not be offered such protection and, where criminality occurs, organisations that profess to work on behalf of the victims should put out public statements of condemnation and appeals for information. This is a case of whistleblowing. RPUK is right to protect the identity of their sources.

                  1. A non provable statement from unknown sources, doesn’t seem much like whistle blowing to me ; more like hearsay. Of course RPUK have the absolute right to refuse to disclose any identities, but lets remind ourselves here, this is not about somebody breaking the law, it is about references to applying for ridiculous licenses which will almost certainly, I suspect, be refused.

                  2. I rather suspect the prime reason why the shooting people seek disclosure of such sources is so that individuals can be named, bullied and vilified at any opportunity. We’re dealing with a bunch of thugs, some of them posh thugs, but thugs never the less. They are best ignored.

        2. That’s right, ‘Move along, nothing to see here, let’s all work together etc etc’. Repeated so often I think some of you people believe it.

        3. A ‘non story’ to someone who is interested in sweeping wildlife persecution under the rug, sure. What a typically pathetic response from you.

    2. Guilty by historic, past, and recent evidence my friend. Unless you would care to publicly deny that a large body of these people have been associated with the shooting,snaring,trapping and poisoning of protected raptors relentlessly for years and years and years…….

  3. You can just imagine the pompous moorland owners meeting Amanda at a golf club or something. Pompous and self opinionated, they learned on the playing fields of Eaton that attack was the best defence. So when Amanda says she feels under pressure at the moment from certain quarters, Lord Pompous Git tells her to throw Marsh Harriers onto the table, “that’ll get the RSPB and their ilk running, scared, in blind panic, the cat amongst the pigeons.”

  4. It wouldn’t be the first time that a licence applicant has applied for the wrong species in ignorance. Some years ago I met a DEFRA wildlife officer on the banks of a river and fell into conversation with him. He was assessing the numbers of mergansers as the tenant fishing club had applied to cull them. I later learnt that he had seen no mergansers to the dismay the incredulous fishery managers. He had seen gooseanders and the licence for mergansers was rejected!

  5. You based your comments of yesterday on what you heard from a number of anonymous sources who possibly were not even present at the meeting.
    The minutes of the meeting have not been published and therefore, what you’ve heard is pure hearsay and nothing more.
    Rather than establishing the facts, you’ve gone ahead spreading unsubstantiated gossip.

            1. Oh dear, you’re not very good at this, are you, Edward?

              You’re wrong, again. I don’t think I’ve ever claimed to be a “serious academic”.

              Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’ve got better things to be doing with my time. Cheerio

            2. Edward,
              The credibility of this blog is impeccable, the scientific basis of information is sound, both proven over several years – so if one person who was at a meeting recounts something then RPUK is hardly likely to go into print on the basis of one account but to seek verification from other sources. It seems clear that this is what has been done, and having done so it matters not who the sources are. RPUK are hardly likely to disclose so that sources can be subjected to trolling and the like, which would seem the only reason someone might wish to know identities. We will see, with the passage of time, whether RPUK has scored a direct hit on this topic or not and I for one applaud them for covering the topic now so that we can get our heads around it rather than await a set of minutes surfacing at a future date and possibly masking what was actually discussed.
              Just face it the cat is out of the bag and you’re flogging a dead horse.

              1. The credibility of this blog is very good, but not impeccable. There is a degree of blinkered single mindedness, but hey, none of us are perfect!

            3. ‘Name your sources or it didn’t happen’ doesn’t work, naming a source or sources doesn’t change whether this happened or not, but you knew that, didn’t you?

              As for calling people childish, pot and kettle come to mind.

            4. I’ve just endured a ten minute trawl through Edward’s Great Vanity Project, sorry, Twitter account,[@eddcoles] The term extreme narcissist springs to mind! And Edward evidently thinks he has the most beautiful face in the world that must be photographed every day to remind everyone. The whole thing is like gazing into some parallel universe where dead birds, guns and flat caps fill every waking moment. Looks like Edward’s sole reason for living is to kill. Comments like “What wine do you have with lapwing?” dominate the witty banter. Fair-minded folk won’t be able to tolerate it for long but it’s worth a quick look if only to see what strange bubble some of these killers live inside and how they want to present themselves to the world. Psychologists could write books on it!

              [Ed: Thanks. We’ve removed the direct link to his twitter feed because otherwise we’d get a constant stream of updates being posted directly into this comments section]

            5. As you are probably aware, when organisations build up a reputation for quality work they sometimes get approached by whistleblowers with relevant information who wish to remain anonymous but who also wish to expose particular issues to public scrutiny. In such circumstances it is right to double check the reliability of the source and the accuracy of the information given and, if appropriate, to publicise the matter without divulging sources. It seems to me that that is the case here. It is a common practice both in the media and campaign groups. It helps build trust with useful sources.

              RPUK have, quite rightly, earned a reputation for accurate, academically outstanding work. I trust that is the case here.

              When organisations find opponents checking out their web sites, press releases and other sources then it’s a sure sign they are regarded as a worthy threat to the status quo.

              Keep up the great work RPUK!

        1. Edward – I followed these threads for very many months now and, compared to other sites, I’ve found this one to be quite credible and quick to put even errant supporters in their place. I can understand why you might ask the question just as much as why you clearly wouldn’t expect an answer – no more than why very many of the shooting fraternity, fed up to the teeth as they might be with some, only some, aspects of the criminality, would give up the names or expose the criminality on your side of the fence.

  6. Well I say, up the ante. Lets think about selling a complete ban on shooting birds to a labour government.

    Guns in society, how many of them would actually be needed in circulation if shooting birds wasn’t allowed?

    Predator control. Would this be necessary at all, if the game bird industry stopped feeding predators with naive young game birds?

    Water quality, Carbon sequestration, flooding, all covered adequately by Mark Avery in his book Inglorious.

    Lead shot being fired into the environment, need I say more?

    I think there are quite a lot of very strong selling points for an outright ban on shooting birds. If the game bird shooters don’t want us to collectively press the Labour government for an outright ban, they should stop bringing silly ideas to the table and instead bring XXXXXXX’s Head to the table on a plate.

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing, Gerard. It would have to be thought through carefully, and maybe kept at arm’s length from the HH issue itself.
      I think there might be huge support from the animal welfare people (of whom there are a great number). Many of them are reluctant to join in on purely conservation-based initiatives because they associate conservationists with culling and think they are too cosy with the hunters and shooters. But I think it could be ‘marketed’ appropriately. Incidentally, there are several ardent animal welfare people among the tory ranks, so it would be good to frame things so they need not be excluded.

  7. I think the “guilty until proved innocent” is an interesting argument from the shooters. Does this mean they intend to carry out specific scientific research into what real effect predators have on their grouse stocks and the real financial cost this involves? A rational and unbiased approach to reach an educated conclusion? Or will they be continuing to wipe out all predators (and others!) because that is what their pre-conceived bias leads them to believe? I know the answer really! Also, it is always an admission of guilt in effect, as they have various ways and means of demonstrating their innocence-if they were! Like breeding Hen Harriers on their moors or agreeing to CTV to show us their enlightened methods.They don’t take up those options-because they know as well as us what is happening. The law could also be stated as “guilty, but not guilty even when proved to be guilty by CCTV evidence” . Beyond parody to quote a legal system in your defence whilst treating the law with disdain.

  8. The MA would be mad to say that licence applications are not a potentially useful mechanism to deal with marsh harriers nesting on grouse moors. They want licensed solutions to sort out hen harriers so why wouldn’t they want a similar approach with another harrier that is likely to cause just as many problems for driven grouse shooting? If a denial is forthcoming they should be asked why they are willing to put up with marsh harriers when they apparently can’t live with hen harriers.

    1. In reality we know they are not prepared to tolerate either with or without the utterly useless DEFRA plan for HH ( really for grouse moor management!). But for AA to say in advance at an RPPDG that some moor owners would be applying for control licences for Marsh Harriers (1) shows their true contempt for raptors generally (2) their complete obliviousness to the modern era.( 3) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (4) their total selfish greed ( 5)xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
      Did she say it, absolutely YES from two sources at the meeting, ( despite an email to me denying it, which I do not believe) will I name them NO,will it appear in the minutes? As controversial things have been omitted before may be not. do I object to the very idea, you bet, just as I object to brood management, but then nobody on the conservation side is in favour of that ( even if I did the proposed density trigger is 30 times too low!, yes 30 TIMES) that is based on the MAs own grouse density figures. I have always said lethal control is a total no no, NE should be saying it too.

      Then the Buzzard licence fiasco is just that, as at least one estate has had licences two years running so the estate must be a local sink for buzzards and that goes against all the rules! Oh but then we have the positive outcomes approach for ” customers” . And I used to think NE s customers were the wildlife not the tossers who shoot wildlife and alien gamebirds for fun. Angry you bet I am .

    2. Ian, it is not that harriers of any kind cause problems with grouse populations but they have hooked bills and talons, therefore they are vermin, according to gamekeepers!

      This hatred of raptors is not justified by facts but a Victorian law that classed raptors as pests and gave freedom to eradicate them. They did a good job then and now they want to get back to Victorian raptor populations.

      In my early years the sighting of raptors other than Kestrels was nil. I remember the great excitement that a buzzard had been seen in Fylde, Lancashire, that was about 50 years ago.

    3. …. which could be why they’ve gone quiet, having realised the ramifications of what they are alleged to have said.

  9. Excuse my ignorance here but are Marsh Harriers particularly prevalent on grouse moors? Over the years I have seen plenty of Marsh Harriers in Yorkshire and Norfolk but never in the Yorkshire Dales. Obviously I am aware of the recent crime on Denton Moor.

    Why would the Moorland Assoc require a licence to kill Marsh Harriers in the first place? Everything else that is legally protected on the moors gets shot, poisoned or trapped with impunity. The only thing currently licenced on the grouse moor is the gun!.

  10. Good point Ian, Mike and others. And well handled RPUK. Put out the bait and sure enough, eventually the rats will come out and reveal themselves. If your report is all baloney like they claim, the answer is all too easy. Let Amanda break her silence regarding what she did or did not say. Her silence so far is damning and I am sure the RSPB representative will be more than happy if the minutes (when they come) are an accurate account of what was said, and by who. And if Edward Coles and W.T. Foster are so keen for the facts, can they please tell us if they were present at the meeting and if so, which organisation they were representing? Or are they too going to go silent on that one? If so, why?

  11. I know there’s little point in speculating before the minutes appear, but is it possible that Amanda Anderson made a slip of the tongue and said Marsh Harrier when she meant Hen Harrier? If a “conversation” on the subject did actually take place, then it should be recorded as such in the minutes. Should make fascinating reading!

    1. Yes Iain, and there’s good reason for clarification, not only to establish what happened to create this flurry of interest, but to move forward. Even if something had been said in jest out of earshot of some participants. Could the question be clarified by adding to business at the next meeting and minuted. Only then can the “he said”, “she said” be resolved.

  12. If i wanted to see a Marsh Harrier i wouldn’t go to the Grouse Moors. I think this is a case of if it fly’s i want to kill it, Is there no to these peoples depravity, I mean how long will it be before these people be allowed to break the law and get away with it. You know what they say money talks.

    1. They already break the law with impunity hence all the suspiciously disappeared satellite tagged Harriers and Eagles we know about. how do you think they keep our moors essentially free from Peregrines, Short eared Owls, Goshawks and Red Kites etc , it is not by asking them politely to go somewhere else.

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