Whernside Estate: more reaction to gamekeeper’s conviction for shooting owls

On Tuesday gamekeeper Tim Cowin was convicted for shooting, and then stamping on, two short-eared owls before then hiding the corpses on a grouse moor on the Whernside Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here).

[Gamekeeper Cowin being arrested on the Whernside Estate shortly after shooting and then stamping on two short-eared owls and hiding their corpses on the moor. Photo by Guy Shorrock, RSPB]

Cowin’s conviction was widely welcomed by the public, and there was also comprehensive revulsion at his criminal and sadistic behaviour after people were able to watch the extraordinary video footage captured on scene by the RSPB’s Investigations Team.

Several organisations involved in the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG – the PAW Raptor Group) have since published statements on their respective websites:

North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force’s statement can be read here, and it mentions how this conviction ‘should serve as a warning’ to others committing wildlife crime in North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire Police Crime Commissioner Julia Muligan, who had the foresight to establish the Rural Task Force in response to N Yorkshire’s reputation as a wildlife crime hotspot, has also issued a statement, here. Julia’s statement focuses on the value of the police working in partnership with the RSPB to catch the raptor killers.

The Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) has also published a long statement (here), also praising the efforts of the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police (and the CPS) and takes a justified side swipe at fellow RPPDG member, the Moorland Association, for its failure to do likewise.

And what about the other members of the RPPDG ‘partnership’? Three days on, what statements have been issued by the game-shooting industry’s RPPDG representatives about this successful conviction and the outstanding efforts of the RSPB, North Yorkshire Police and the CPS to expose yet another criminal gamekeeper? (Don’t forget, part of the RPPDG’s role is to provide publicity about illegal raptor persecution to ‘build trust and transparency’).

Moorland Association – we blogged about the Moorland Association’s statement on Wednesday (here) which was fully supportive of the Whernside Estate (allowing it to retain its membership of the MA) and didn’t mention the RSPB, Police or CPS at all.

National Gamekeepers Organisation – no statement

British Association for Shooting & Conservation – no statement

Country Land & Business Association – no statement

Countryside Alliance – no statement

Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust – no statement (GWCT isn’t a member of the RPPDG but we include them here because they have a prominent role in the game-shooting world).

This deafening silence comes as no surprise. We’ve seen it time and time again from these so-called ‘partners’ – we either get silence, or a demented attack on the RSPB.

For example, not one of them issued a statement after a gamekeeper was filmed with a poisons cache on the East ArkengarthDale Estate (here), nor after men dressed as gamekeepers were filmed shooting at nesting marsh harriers and then removing their eggs on Denton Moor (here).

We did get statements from the Moorland Association, BASC and the Countryside Alliance after the collapse of a prosecution against a gamekeeper who was alleged to have been filmed trapping a peregrine on its nest ledge on the Bleasdale Estate (here). BASC’s statement was pretty good (here) but the statements from the Moorland Association and Countryside Alliance were appalling.

We blogged about the Moorland Association’s statement on the Bleasdale case (here), which focused on trying to undermine the integrity and credibility of the RSPB.

The Countryside Alliance didn’t issue a statement on its website when the RSPB eventually published its Bleasdale video nasty, but what it did do was have an article published in the Shooting Times earlier in the year, when the Bleasdale prosecution case had collapsed. The article, attributed to Countryside Alliance CEO Tim Bonner, was basically a re-hash of an article the CA had published on its website the previous year, attacking the RSPB for its use of covert filming in Scotland (and incorrectly asserting that the RSPB and police should seek authorisation under the RIPA legislation for such filming, even though RIPA authorisation will not be approved as raptor persecution is not considered ‘serious crime’ by the Sentencing Council).

The title of Bonner’s re-hashed article published by the Shooting Times (June 2018) tells its own story of the game-shooting industry’s attitude to tackling illegal raptor persecution – smug, sniggering and sneering:

These aren’t ‘partners’, genuinely interested in stopping raptor crimes on land managed for game shooting. If they were, they’d all be falling over themselves to heap praise on the actions of the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police that resulted in Cowin’s conviction. None of them have.

They’d all have promoted the RSPB’s raptor crime hotline which allows people to report suspected raptor killers in confidence (here). None of them have.

They’d all be publicly blacklisting the estates and sporting agents known to be involved with the illegal killing of raptors. None of them have.

And they’d all be queuing up to ask the police and RSPB to install covert cameras to monitor the security of any Schedule 1 raptor species nesting on their land. None of them have, although they’re quite happy to install stealth cameras to film the visiting public.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

29 thoughts on “Whernside Estate: more reaction to gamekeeper’s conviction for shooting owls”

  1. It is my belief that the Moorland association should be expelled from the RPPDG with immediate effect. They are quite clearly not there to solve the problem of raptor persecution and as such have no justifiable place at the table. Those organisations that remain silent about this case and others should perhaps be challenged at the next RPPDG about their attitude not by NERF or RSPB but by the police themselves. A failure to go forward with a more appropriate attitude should get them also expelled. For many of us see their silence as complicit after the fact of raptor persecution, if they cannot condemn it WTF are they doing there!

  2. They won’t make a statement will they, because they think it’s their right to kill anything they want. The legal shooters are fed up with the DGS lot, because they are getting tarred with the same brush. They think they are above the law and it’s their right. Mr Bonner shows who he really is, there are plenty of videos circulating of him at fox hunts, says it all really.

  3. I strongly believe that in Scotland, the RSPB could write to all sporting estates and inform them that members will be undertaking a programme of private research involving the placement of concealed cameras on specially protected bird nests only (under licence). That should be enough to meet the obligations of the access legislation and it will also undermine any claim that they did not not know the cameras may be in place. It is the direct response to the Glenturret sign. (As a hillwalker on Glenturret, I have a reasonable right to know that I can go to the loo without being photographed.)

  4. Without doubt, these organisation are supporters of organised crime. I first noticed the term organised crime being used by Guy Shorrok. It stuck me then, and my feeling is still the same, that it is totally appropriate, and it has gained more devotees of the phrase. The majority of the media can realistically be defined as supporters of organised crime.
    I relation to video evidence I have a petition before the Scottish Parliament, which anyone can sign, requesting an increase of penalties for some forms of wildlife crime such that the police may treat the crime as serious and obtain authorisation. In addition, the petition seeks to prevent minor transgressions of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code allowing Scotland to become a persecution free zone as regards wildlife crime. The petition after over 2 weeks and less than 4 weeks remaining, has less than 200 signatures. I admit that I’m not an effective campaigner, but I really need over 1000 signatures in order that anyone wishing to stop the petition reaching the petitions committee and thereafter to other relevant committees cannot stop it. At that point I feel it can succeed simply due to the overwhelming evidence. Anyone can sign, even if not from Scotland or the u.k. The petition is at
    and my supporting blog is at

    1. Don’t despair Alex – you don’t need to get a big number with Scottish Govt petitions to make an impact – you may get a chance to speak to MSPs on the petitions committee at the parliament which are usually recorded – and I believe you should be able to take along other people who could back your case up – a big opportunity there for showing how ludicrous the present situation is. Although I really like the idea of attack coming from different directions at once there’s your petition, the one I’m flogging about uncovering the phony economics case put forward for DGS and also the one to ban DGS on land owned by Yorkshire Water. It would have been good if some bodies like the League Against Cruel Sports, Green Party etc could maybe pushed them as part of a package, a triple whammy if you like – which would have helped alleviate the small ‘problem’ of having three relevant petitions at the same time. There’s still more than three weeks till your petition closes so if some big hitters can get behind it before then every chance you’ll hit 1,000 plus. I would also add that if those who shoot, but claim they hate raptor persecution will look pretty bad for not signing it – there’s a particularly persistent and unpleasant troll on Chris Packham’s FB page I keep asking to sign, he never has and I keep reminding him of that.

  5. A small point but you state:

    “(and incorrectly asserting that the RSPB and police should seek authorisation under the RIPA legislation for such filming, even though RIPA authorisation will not be approved as raptor persecution is not considered ‘serious crime’ by the Sentencing Council).”

    It is the legislation itself which does not consider raptor persecution as ‘serious crime’, not the Sentencing Council.

  6. A well known saying around these parts comes to mind when you are talking about such people ie. “what does one expect from a pig but a grunt??”

  7. Can RPUK ask for a comment from these organisations……..I think we know what the response would be…..the same response that the common criminals gamekeepers use…………NO COMMENT!!!!!

  8. I have read everything about this case and know that others have commented about the retention of his gun licence. What I haven’t found is an answer to this.
    Can anybody tell me why his gun licence was not revoked. I know that it would need to be a custodial sentence to revoke a licence in other crimes, but in this case, the gun was used to commit the crime. He hardly needs it in his day job as a joiner.
    Somebody must know the answer to this one.

    1. I may be wrong, but I believe that the question of the possible withdrawal of the firearms permit is a Police matter. No doubt they will now be looking at this aspect in the light of the keeper having been found guilty of an offence involving the use of a firearm. No doubt the fact that he apparently left his rifle in an unlocked vehicle will also influence the Police in their consideration of this matter.

      1. I know over the years of four keepers leaving guns in unsecured vehicles, in each case the gun/guns ( and in this case it was a shotgun not rifle) were confiscated. One was taken by a police officer who took it to the station and locked it in their gun safe. It was about a week before the keeper came in to report what he thought was a theft from his vehicle. No as far as I am aware he did not get it back.

          1. Yes but legally they are different, for a shotgun you apply for a shotgun certificate . If you want anything else you need a firearms certificate.

      2. Unfortunately even if his shotgun licence is revoked he could still continue to use a shotgun due to the following anomaly in the law:
        Section 11(5) of the Firearms Act 1968, allows you, without holding a shotgun certificate, to use a shotgun when you are accompanied by the occupier of the land (landowner or holder of sole shooting rights) to shoot on his land using a shotgun borrowed from the occupier.

  9. Glenturret doing its best to make non ‘sporting’ people on ‘their’ grouse moors feel as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit? Maybe they are worried those pesky ramblers will drive away the birds of prey they love so much? If you’re not there paying to shoot something or being employed to help that take place you’re obviously not wanted. Wouldn’t it be dreadful if it was shown that trying to cater for the vast majority that could potentially get something out of visiting the countryside as opposed to the tiny minority that can participate in driven grouse shooting was a much better money spinner and job creator than this mullarkey? Add in that you could have more visitors and business AND less environmental damage and more wildlife then it would start hitting home for more people why no non UK country does it – it’s shite. https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/836774/Scotland-tourism-walking-tours-holidays-statistics-facts

  10. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that Whernside Estate took all reasonable precautions to ensure that their gamekeeper did not indulge in illegal activities in the course of his employment by them. Let’s also assume that the Moorland Association’s evaluation of that situation was correct and that it did not invalidate the estate’s membership of that organisation. Where does this leave us? Simple answer – these gamekeepers cannot be trusted. They are out of control and just do their own thing.

    Swinton, East Arkengarthdale, Mossdale, Denton Moor, Bleasdale and now Whernside.

    How much more evidence is required before the powers that be realise that they can’t bury their collective heads in the sand any longer?

  11. surely now that he has been convicted of a criminal offence involving the illegal use of a firearm, he now must fail the ‘fit and proper person’ test used by police to determine if a person should be entitled to posses a firearm/shotgun?

    1. Just another one of those things where there is no transparency.
      If a member of the public was disqualified from driving due to an offence then that is done openly and is usually reported in the media plus court records are available for scrutiny by anyone. Therefore anyone seeing a disqualified person driving can report the matter.

      There is no sane reason why someone having their guns removed should not be publicly identified. If any person is deemed unsuitable to have guns then the public at large should know about it for obvious reasons.

    2. Not necessarily, though most probably his certificates will be revoked. It’s at the discretion of the police, acting in accordance with the legislation and the guidance issued by the Home Office.

      1. Most probably……….!

        I would like to think so as this is common sense however where wildlife crime is concerned I bet you are wrong?

  12. Does anyone know who (now) owns the Whernside Estate or shooting rights on it? I am confident that I know with whom Natural England has stewardship agreements, but that’s not necessarily the same thing.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: