Countryside Alliance & GWCT comment on hen harrier brood meddling legal challenge

There was a reporter from The Times in court for day two of the hen harrier brood meddling legal challenge and he wrote a piece which appeared the next day:

It’s a very short but accurate account of what was going on in Court 18 of the Royal Courts of Justice.

However, this article has prompted two response letters, one from the Countryside Alliance and one from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) as follows:

It’s hard to tell whether these two are being deliberately disingenuous or simply don’t understand what’s going on. Perhaps it’s both.

Adrian Blackmore (Countryside Alliance) claims the article in The Times “misrepresented the [brood meddling] proposals“. Did it? Not from where we were sitting in court. According to Natural England’s own technical assessment of the licence application the main aims of the brood meddling trial are to (a) investigate the effect of brood management on the perceptions and behaviour of the [criminals within] the moorland community, and (b) to test the practicalities of brood management to investigate whether it can rear hen harriers in captivity and then release them to become successful breeding adults in the English uplands. That’s what The Times reported, so which bit, exactly, does Adrian Blackmore think was “misrepresented“?

Both Adrian Blackmore and Andrew Gilruth point to the RSPB’s use of brood management as a conservation technique for other species, but importantly, both fail to mention that in the case of hen harriers, the threat to their survival and the cause of their decline (illegal persecution by gamekeepers on grouse moors, which, incidentally, was fully accepted as fact by all sides in the court), would still be present.

Everybody knows that hen harriers aren’t just being killed prior to or during the grouse chick-rearing period, but they’re also being killed in the months following. Just look at the results from the satellite-tracked hen harriers from August to October (beyond the grouse chick-rearing period) this year – ten birds have all ‘disappeared’ in highly suspicious circumstances, all either on or next to a grouse moor:

[RPUK map showing the last known locations of ten satellite-tracked hen harriers, Aug – Oct 2018]

If these ten birds had all been brood meddled (i.e. removed from the grouse moor as eggs/chicks, raised in captivity and then released back to the uplands in July/August), would that have prevented them from being illegally killed on grouse moors between August and October? No, of course not.

Despite the grouse shooting industry’s rather pathetic attempts to portray themselves as the saviours of hen harriers (ahem) and the RSPB as ‘hypocritical’ (i.e. fake) conservationists, it’s worth noting that this judicial review isn’t about the merits of brood meddling per se, but is focused solely on whether Natural England’s decision to issue the brood meddling licence was lawful or unlawful. Although it’s worth mentioning a comment made by Ms Justice Lang when she learned about the widespread illegal persecution of this species on grouse moors and the authorities’ complete failure to enforce the law, which went along the lines of, “Well if this is a national wildlife crime priority god help the species which are not prioritised”!

Judging by their standard of correspondence, perhaps Messrs Blackmore and Gilruth should stick to their areas of expertise (i.e. the land of make believe) and just write letters to Santa instead.

UPDATE 15 Dec 2018: An idiot’s guide to hen harrier brood meddling FAO Countryside Alliance & GWCT (here)

26 thoughts on “Countryside Alliance & GWCT comment on hen harrier brood meddling legal challenge”

  1. although I totally agree with what you are saying and the CA and GWCT are utter clowns in my opinion, could you please stop referring to it as brood meddling – it comes across so childish and unprofessional and I dont think language like that does anything positive in trying to influence decision makers – just a thought

    1. Maybe brood ‘abduction’ or ‘confiscation’ would be a more accurate description? Broods don’t get ‘managed’, they get ‘taken’, and both ‘abduction’ and ‘confiscation’ are synonyms for ”taken’ in most dictionaries for grown ups. Actually, ‘meddle’ and ‘meddling’ also appears in grown up dictionaries.

    2. Nothing childish or unprofessional. I just find it a bit too mild. I call it brood persecution but that doesn’t work either. Have you got a better term which describes both the absurdity and the moral-criminality of such a scheme.

    3. Brood meddling is entirely apt. Nothing childish about it at all, and given that the whole topic of persecution (and the lack of effective measures to tackle it) is so frustrating, so upsetting and so infuriating, the ability to still approach the topic with a degree of humour and wit, after all these years, is frankly remarkable…. and so very British.

    4. Merriam-Webster defines meddling as to “interfere without right or propriety” which seems to me to be spot on although, as others have observed, perhaps a little too mild.

  2. I can’t for the life of me see how removing eggs, raising the chicks and releasing them elsewhere could increase the population. It could certainly remove them from where they are not welcome, but that is hardly the same thing.
    I realise that I Iive on a different planet from NE, CA and GWCT, but wonder if they have any grip on reality at all.

  3. Why do we have to play this absurd game that the CA and GWCT might only be stupid rather than disingenuous, simply because it’s impossible to prove how much someone knows? After all before the present political regime, Natural England firmly concluded that the Hen Harrier decline was due to persecution by shooting interests in A Future for the Hen Harrier in England.

  4. This is standard stuff from GWCT and Countryside Areliars. They and indeed the MA when using the same sort of arguments are not stupid, it is much worse than that. They KNOW exactly what it is all about, exactly what happens to harriers ( and almost all other protected predators) on the vast majority of grouse moors, probably in some cases who, where and when, along with who issued the instructions, the whole thing is a sham, a pretence in an attempt to help themselves on what they know is a sticky wicket. They hope the gullible with no real grasp of the subject believe them. As such the organisations they represent and especially themselves are utterly beneath contempt. Next move—– get them off PAW.

  5. This was sent to the Times but not published

    Andrew Gilruth’s letter (Dec 10) regarding removing eggs or young chicks from hen harrier nests of moors that host Grouse shooting compares the proposal by English Nature with other schemes. The comparison made is not relevant as there are different reasons applying to each of the species he mentions; Cirl Buntings and Corncrakes have declined due to changes in agricultural practices. It is because of the planting of arable crops in autumn that there was a the lack of seeds in stubbles during the winter and hence a high mortality during the winter in the case of the buntings. Ensuring sufficient food during winter months has been the main driver in increased numbers.
    Farmers did not break any law by autumn sowing rather than in spring however there is extensive evidence that hen harriers are illegally trapped and shot and this needs to cease to enable numbers to increase.

  6. CA and now it seems GWCT get their ideas or inspiration from far right wing/christian fundamentalist/GOP organisations in the USA. Just about every bit of spin is entirely predictable if you know how these organisations act in the USA. They have meetings and brainstorming sessions, to come up with new ways of trying to undermine things like the theory of evolution. They even commision research into intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, but you have to understand that they are playing a tune for an audience that wants justification for their opinions. In every way the arguments of such as the Behe Foundation are based on fallacious reasoning, but to them it doesn’t matter. for example if you read Behe’s only paper, a mathematical model that proves that evolution isn’t possible, it assumes a rate of point mutation in DNA sequences. If the value is different to the ASSUMPTION, the argument simply doesn’t work, but the howling mobs of christian fundies, uphold this one paper of unequivocal proof of the failure of macroevolution, despite this one paper being weighed against the entire evolutionary biology content of somewhere like Harvard Library. It’s truly staggering what people will uphold as the gospel truth, if it suits their argument. Supplying the arguments to justify untenable positions secures the powerbase that they rely on. On the positive side, it’s a bloody excellent source of comedy, if you can bring yourself to laugh at it.

  7. Laughable stuff from the usual suspects – let them keep insulting the publics intelligence, it simply hastens they day they are kicked out of our NP’s for good!!

  8. Both letters completely avoid the identification of criminal gamekeeping community in the first sentence of the article. If they dont challenge that surely this means that they are acknowledging it to be true?

  9. The CA’s Liam Stokes has expressed ‘astonishment’ that the RSPB, an organisation established to protect birds, objects to a scheme that transparently seeks to reward criminality and divert attention from illegal persecution of Hen Harriers. Anyone who is genuinely astonished by the RSPB’s position is, at best, either a fool or takes the public for one.

    1. Spoon-billed Sandpipers which are critically endangered are taken from their nests and reared nearby and then released in the late summer. The adults have a chance to relay. It is highly successful but i don’t believe it can help in the long run unless their migratory stop overs and wintering grounds are protected and restored. Some were brought over to Slimbridge to rear in captivity with the aim of releasing offspring later but the last i knew none had survived. So i presume that part of the experiment has been abandoned.
      This was all last resort stuff. The bird was teetering on extinction. The only similarity is that there was a loss from hunting but not on the breeding grounds and to some extent this seems to have been addressed. If our Hen Harriers were all being killed abroad there might be some parallels as it is is it is just a pathetically desperate comparison.
      There must be tons of stuff on Spoon-billed Sandpipers on the web thingy.

      1. Sorry when i say none had survived i meant chicks. From what i can gather there are still some adults and it is possible they may succeed in the future but so far there have been no chicks that have survived.

  10. The GWCT shows once again that it is a propaganda machine doing “science” that only benefits its paymasters and that it is prepared to sacrifice any credibility in doing so.

  11. BBC Radio 4 has been running an interesting lunch time series ‘A history of delusions’. They surely missed a trick by not looking at the CA, GWCT etc!

  12. There are some odd similarities in the letters (spoonies) but also a notable contradiction. Blackmore says that brood meddling works elsewhere in Europe for hen harriers, whereas Gilruth says ‘we don’t know…if it will work for hen harriers’. Perhaps their phone connection dropped at a bad moment. Of course, neither mentions the particular and very different circumstances in France – which make it OK under the IUCN guldelines there and (as others point out here) not OK in England.

  13. Curlew eggs can now be taken under licence and then either put back into the nest at hatching stage or reared on and released as fledged birds, this has been done in Shropshire, see curlew crisis, Mary Colwell, on the web.

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