Gamekeepers resign from DEFRA group established to tackle illegal raptor persecution

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) has formally resigned from the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) because it ‘doesn’t like the direction of travel’ of the group.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the RPPDG but for the benefit of new readers, here’s a quick recap. The RPPDG was established in 2011, a so-called ‘partnership’ between the police, representatives from the game-shooting industry (e.g. National Gamekeepers Organisation, Moorland Association, BASC, Countryside Alliance etc), and representatives from the raptor conservation community (RSPB, Northern England Raptor Forum), along with some government agency reps from Natural England, DEFRA, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Welsh Government. It was tasked with the ‘delivery’ of action against the raptor killers in England & Wales (in Scotland the ‘delivery’ group is the PAW Raptor Group).

It would be fair to say we’ve been highly critical of the RPPDG over the years, and justifiably so. Until recently, this has been a partnership in name only, which has been useful for certain organisations and DEFRA Ministers to hide behind on the pretence of tackling illegal raptor persecution but the stark reality is that the RPPDG has contributed absolutely nothing of value towards the conservation of UK raptors in all the years it’s been operating, largely because the group’s membership has been dominated by representatives of the game-shooting industry (i.e. the industry most responsible for the continued illegal killing of birds of prey).

The RPPDG has been secretive, unaccountable and has suffered from a chronic lack of leadership, as evidenced recently when we blogged about how the group had deliberately produced apparently inaccurate and contested minutes relating to the Moorland Association’s interest in obtaining licences to kill Marsh harriers to stop these birds allegedly ‘disrupting’ shoot days on driven grouse moors.

In September 2018 Police Superintendent Nick Lyall took over the role of the RPPDG Chair and this led to cautious optimism amongst conservationists. Open, inclusive, hard-working, transparent and willing to be held to account, Nick Lyall brings everything to the RPPDG table that has previously been missing. Last month he blogged in more detail about his plans (here) and the first RPPDG meeting with Nick as Chair took place last Wednesday (16 Jan 2019).

This was an important agenda-setting meeting, as for the first time, at Nick’s invitation, it included representatives from the wider conservation community. However, interestingly, four long-standing RPPDG members didn’t turn up for that meeting – the Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Countryside Alliance and BASC – as reported by Mark Avery (here), and there was much speculation on social media about why those four members chose to boycott the meeting.

Well now we know why at least one of them made that decision. The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has since formally resigned from the RPPDG, and, interestingly, a copy of its resignation letter has been leaked to The Times and we believe this is due to be published tomorrow, quite possibly in an attempt to undermine Nick Lyall’s integrity and credibility.

It’s our understanding that the gamekeepers are ‘unhappy with the direction of travel’ of the RPPDG under Nick Lyall’s leadership. That would be an interesting position, given that all Nick Lyall has done is focus his efforts on getting the RPPDG in to a position where it can actually tackle illegal raptor persecution, which is, after all, er, the purpose of the RPPDG. If you’re representing an organisation that is purportedly dedicated to tackling the illegal killing of birds of prey, what’s to dislike about that?!

As for the other three groups who chose not to attend Wednesday’s meeting, we’re waiting to hear what they’ll do in the longer term. We understand they are ‘considering their positions’. Will they behave like the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and boycott future meetings but still maintain their membership of the PAW Raptor Group, picking and choosing their own terms of engagement? Hopefully Nick Lyall won’t permit that to happen. Group members should either be committed to participating in full or they should be booted off;  they must not be allowed to disrupt progress from a distance. Strong leadership will be required and it’ll be Nick Lyall’s first real test if that’s the scenario presented to him.

But surely the Moorland Association, with its recent statements about “working together constructively” and its support of “widespread collaboration” (see here) won’t walk away from an opportunity to tackle the rampant criminality within the grouse shooting industry, right?

UPDATE 21 January 2019: Seriously? Supt Nick Lyall’s integrity challenged by pro-game shooting groups! (here).

UPDATE 21 January 2019: Back-pedalling, BASC? (here).

UPDATE 21 January 2019: National Gamekeepers’ Organisation resignation letter in full (here)

18 thoughts on “Gamekeepers resign from DEFRA group established to tackle illegal raptor persecution”

  1. It’s hard to see how the Times could undermine Nick Lyall’s integrity and credibility, but you have previously reported on more glaring events. Interesting times (with a small t).

  2. What is very apparent is that if/when the shooting interests cannot control the output of any of the groups they are invited to join, they simply spit the dummy out.

    The lead ammunition group is one such forum, I recall a blog about the Peak District in 2017 where they tried to undermine that group and now this instance (there may well be more that you are aware of).

    It seems to me that there is a real air of arrogance and expectation within these shooting groups. Is it really too much to ask that this minority interest group support the rest of society in their efforts to see an end to the criminal behaviour?

    I am quite happy for them to continue to destroy what tiny bit of credibility the industry may still have (does it have any left?), but that will only make a difference if the UK government and it agencies stop with their willful blindness.

    What should happen next is the group should set a deadline for the other NGO’s that didn’t turn up to make their mind up whether they are in or out, but moreover if they are in they should have it clearly stated that being in means supporting the groups efforts, to tackle wildlife crime not looking after their own self interests,

    Then maybe that group can do what it was supposed to do 10 years ago.

  3. From personal experience I know that they set out to disrupt and distract. The rep of Scottish gamekeepers’ literally said it at a PAW meeting I attended. The same meeting where the SLE rep sought to have the group focus attention and efforts on roadside litter!

  4. Excuse my ignorance but as politely as I can ask, is RaptorPersecutionUK a partner in the RPPDG and if not why not?

    1. Hi Ian, no, we’re not, because we view it as a sham partnership.

      As it stands, the so-called partners do not have shared goals or even common objectives so its utterly futile.

      Our view will likely change once the remaining disruptive influences have either walked or been booted off, and been replaced by organisations committed to tackling the criminals instead of shielding them from view.

  5. This is hilarious! Don’t like the direction of travel? Why not simply say they want to kill birds of prey without hindrance from anyone else?

    1. Yes my reaction entirely; I burst out laughing. The hunter rightly becomes the hunted . They are sensing the “Writing on Wall” or what was it now Corporal Jones used to say ?

      However these are individuals who for many many years have had it all their own way (200 years?) and today live within a wider countryside culture that has always received state subsidies for its activities. Many amongst this community have never felt any obligation to deliver the wider objectives that society has requested or even display open contempt for the officers and individuals that deliver those objectives although sometimes that can be understandable in the bureaucratic world we live in and answer to.

      One might even interpret this action by the Keepering fraternity as disrespectful to the rule of law ?

  6. The moorland association won’t have a choice, they are hand in hand with the keepers so they go where they go. True colours and all that, what a shower of ********

  7. Conservation groups managed to cope with the ‘direction of travel’ (i.e. inaction) of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) for years so the departure of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) under the mildest of pressures (scarcely more than being expected to support and promote the idea that the law should be obeyed) only serves to remind us of the overweening sense of entitlement by shooting interests.

  8. I’ve never understood why representatives of the sector from which the criminals perpetrating this wildlife crime are found, are involved in these types of bodies. Even if you hypothesize that only a minority of those these organizations represent are engaged in illegal raptor persecution, it is still a very sizeable minority. These organizations are essentially gaining intelligence on how those trying to uphold the law operate, and what they are planning. This information is invaluable for those involved in illegal raptor persecution. In fact the very strong circumstantial evidence indicates illegal raptor persecution is on the increase, yet those detected, and those charged decreases. Which is hardly surprising given that the information gained by shooting interests on these bodies, is invaluable in helping those involved in illegal raptor persecution to evade detection and therefore avoiding getting caught perpetrating these crimes.

    There is incredibly little evidence of the shooting world self-regulating and clamping down on members of this group involved in wildlife crime. These lobby groups constantly try to hinder the detection of illegal raptor persecution. Those involved in these bodies should be limited to organizations solely dedicated to trying to detect illegal raptor persecution. There is not one shred of evidence that these shooting organizations are in any way contributing towards the detection of illegal raptor persecution. As soon as these shooting organizations see any evidence that the authorities will take a stern line on raptor persecution, then these shooting organizations don’t want to be involved. This pretty much confirms that the participation of these shooting organizations is not to help the law be enforced, but to hinder the enforcement of the law.

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