Back-pedalling BASC?

Earlier today we blogged (here) about the apparent boycott by several pro-shooting organisations of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the so-called ‘partnership’ tasked with tackling the illegal killing of birds of prey on game shoots in England & Wales.

According to an article published in The Times, we learned that the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation had resigned from the RPPDG because, hilariously and without the merest hint of irony, it had “lost faith in the integrity” of RPPDG Chair Supt Nick Lyall.

We also learned, according to that article, that the other pro-shooting organisations that had failed to attend last week’s RPPDG meeting (Moorland Assoc, BASC and Countryside Alliance) stayed away because they had complained it (the RPPDG) “now favoured anti-shooting groups”.

Perhaps senior staff at BASC have realised that this is a monumentally idiotic position to cling to as these organisations have become a laughing stock on social media this morning. The following statement has just been posted on BASC’s website:

The statement repeats the quote reported in The Times, that “BASC remains committed to constructive dialogue with all sides” but it has added three important words: “BASC remains committed to constructive dialogue with all sides of the debate….”.

It’s not a debate, BASC. Raptor persecution is a crime. And not just any old crime, it’s a national wildlife crime priority. There’s no “constructive dialogue” to be had within the RPPDG other than “What can we do to help eradicate these criminals from within the shooting industry“?

And that dialogue is hard to have (or believe) when you refuse to turn up to meetings.

Sort yourselves out or shove off and make way for those who genuinely want to tackle this.

Oh, and one more thing. The content of RPPDG meetings is not confidential. We’ve got copies of the minutes of all the RPPDG meetings which we obtained via FoI requests. One of the things Nick Lyall has promised us is that in future, minutes will be be made readily available so we don’t have to spend months chasing DEFRA via FoIs. It’s called transparancy and accountability – you should try it sometime.

Seriously? Supt Nick Lyall’s integrity challenged by pro-game shooting groups!

This is quite spectacular.

Further to yesterday’s blog (here) where it was revealed the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation had formally resigned from the DEFRA group established to tackle illegal raptor persecution (the RPPDG – Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group), there’s a piece in today’s edition of The Times explaining the gamekeepers’ decision, and also explaining why some of the other game-shooting organisations had boycotted last Wednesday’s RPPDG meeting. It has to be read to be believed:

Let’s start with the resignation of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation first. It says it resigned from the RPPDG because it has “lost faith in the integrity” of the new Chair, Police Supt Nick Lyall.

Oh god, the irony.

And what had Nick Lyall done to earn such a slur?

Had he ignored the NGO? Nope.

Had he excluded them from RPPDG planning discussions? Nope.

Had he dismissed the NGO’s ideas without a second thought? Nope.

Had he slagged off the NGO in public? Nope.

It turns out Nick’s integrity was apparently compromised (according to the gamekeepers) when he invited representatives from the Wildlife Trusts, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Birders Against Wildlife Crime to join the RPPDG! Seriously, that’s it!

And what of the Moorland Association, BASC and the Countryside Alliance (and apparently the Country Land and Business Association)? Why did these pro-game shooting groups boycott last week’s RPPDG meeting? According to this article they complained that the RPPDG “favoured anti-shooting groups”. That’s bloody hilarious. The RPPDG has been top heavy with pro-game shooting representatives ever since the group started (hence no progress on tackling wildlife crime after all these years) but now that a few conservation organisations have been invited to the table to join the discussions, the shooting groups feel it’s all a bit unfair and unbalanced? You couldn’t make this up.

Oh, and they’re also a bit upset (“betrayed”?!) because our research revealed that the Moorland Association had been asking about licences to kill Marsh harriers at a previous RPPDG meeting, even though the majority of RPPDG attendees ‘couldn’t remember’ this discussion (see here).

The quotes at the end of the article are indicative of just how easily these organisations can churn out meaningless soundbites. BASC says it is “committed to constructive dialogue with all sides…..” and Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association says she was ‘committed to tackling the issue’.

Er, how does that work if you’ve boycotted a meeting where discussions took place on how to tackle illegal raptor persecution?

Nick Lyall’s quote reveals his integrity is fully intact. “I am a new chair, with new and fresh ideas that require the involvement of all members of the group, new and old, to pull together to deliver”.

We’re looking forward to finding out what happens at the next RPPDG meeting, scheduled for April. As we said yesterday, this will be a real test of Nick’s leadership skills. If those raptor-hating groups are still boycotting the RPPDG on such spurious grounds and are still intent on disrupting the progress of the RPPDG, they need to be booted off with immediate effect, no more messing about.

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

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

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)

RSPB job vacancies: raptor monitoring & protection, northern England

The RSPB is advertising a number of job vacancies to help monitor and protect birds of prey in England this year, with a particular focus on the beleagured hen harrier.

This is an opportunity to work on the very frontline of raptor conservation in the UK.


The RSPB is looking for a skilled and dedicated Field Officer to help monitor and protect birds of prey on the United Utilities Estate in the Bowland Fells. Located in Lancashire, the Bowland Fells are designated as a SSSI and SPA for their blanket bog and upland heath habitats and for the suite of exciting species that breed there.

The focus of this role is on monitoring and protecting Hen Harriers, Merlins, Peregrines and Short-eared Owls. Historically, Bowland was at one time the most important area in England for Hen Harriers, and the RSPB is working with Unitied Utilities and other partners to restore the population of this species to its SPA designation and back towards its historical population level. Excellent field skills and experience of monitoring and protecting upland birds of prey (including nest finding) are essential, particularly of the four named focal species. You will also have a thorough understanding of bird of prey ecology and the challenges associated with bird of prey conservation in the uplands, and apply this knowledge to your work accordingly.

Reporting to the Project Officer, you will work with him to organise the field work schedule following best practice monitoring protocols as well as health and safety protocols and have the leadership skills required to oversee the project in the event of his absence.

Closing date: 1 February 2019

For further details and how to apply, please click here

[Hen harrier photo by Mark Hamblin]


RSPB Northern England region is looking for six seasonal flexible contract staff for the overnight nest protection of hen harriers. The posts will most likely be based in Northumberland, Cumbria or Lancashire, but with the flexibility to move elsewhere dependent on the location of a nesting attempt. The contract will be over 5 months starting around April but this will flexible depending on the nesting.

The main purpose of this team is to monitor nesting attempts to ensure the hen harrier nests have the best chance of success. This may involve carrying out overnight shifts, the time and length of these shifts to be coordinated by the line manager for the site.

Work will require long and unsociable hours in the field, often in adverse weather conditions. The nest monitoring team will need to work closely with volunteers, stakeholders, farmers and landowners on whose land part of the work may be carried out, as well as members of the general public. The nest monitoring team will need to ensure that this work is carried out in a safe manner which minimises any disturbance to the birds.

Closing date: 25 February 2019

For further details and how to apply, please click here

An evening with Iolo Williams

Join conservationist and broadcaster Iolo Williams next Wednesday evening as he talks about his passion for birds of prey and highlights the ongoing illegal persecution of these special birds.

He’s a brilliant speaker – not to be missed!

Tickets cost £16.31 (a bit of a weird price but breaks down as £15 for ticket + £1.31 Eventbrite admin fee!) and all proceeds will go to campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC).

Date: Wednesday 16th January 2019

Time: 7.30 – 10pm

Venue: Village Hotel, Chester St David’s, Ewloe, Deeside, CH5 3YB

To buy your tickets please click here

Additional notes from the 2nd Goathland meeting on grouse moor management

Earlier today we blogged about the second local community meeting held in Goathland on Wednesday night, where more concerns were discussed about grouse moor management in the area (see here).

For convenience, here are the notes we published this morning, written by meeting attendee Richard Gray:

We’ve now received some additional notes from another blog reader who attended that meeting and these add a bit more detail to proceedings:

Guest blog: Les Wallace – petition to assess economic value of driven grouse shooting

The following is a guest blog contributed by Les Wallace, whose Westminster petition (‘An independent study to find if driven grouse shooting is of economic benefit’) is due to close on 2 February 2019.

So far his petition has attracted 4,166 signatures. DEFRA will have to respond if the petition reaches 10,000 signatures.

NOTE: Les’s petition relates to driven grouse shooting economics in England and Wales. The Scottish Government is already assessing the economic value of driven grouse shooting in Scotland, the results of which will be fed in to the Werritty Review, due to report this spring.

There’s now less than a month until Gov.UK Petition 226109 ‘An Independent Study to Find if Driven Grouse Shooting is of Economic Benefit’ closes on the 2nd of February. If the petition can reach the 10,000 signature mark by that time the Westminster Government will be required to make an official response which is potentially a very interesting development indeed. When the previous petitions to ban driven grouse shooting from Mark Avery and Gavin Gamble reached the same point the government response typically included references to the supposed contribution driven grouse shooting makes to the economies and jobs available to fragile rural communities. However, with this petition they will need to provide proof of that in the response if they wish to deny the need for a comprehensive study – frankly they won’t be able to. What were the original claims based on – wishful thinking, the word of vested interests? There’s scope here for some significant political embarrassment given the amount of public money that’s been given and sycophantic support from MPs as seen at the parliamentary ‘debate’ on the 31st October 2016 after Mark Avery’s petition to ban DGS hit 123,000 signatures.

The core issue is not how many jobs DGS provides, but how many it drives away – what other activities and associated business opportunities are incompatible with both the extensive area and intensive ‘management’ for DGS? The answer is virtually all of them, a hell of a bloody lot. Every form of forestry including wood lots to provide those without access to mains gas cheaper fuel, natural flood alleviation projects involving riparian woodland and the return of the beaver, then there’s fully fledged eco tourism, wildlife photography courses, conservation working holidays, pony trekking etc, etc. It’s only because the grouse moors have been there so long, often for generations, most of us find it difficult to visualize what could and should be there instead that rural communities haven’t risen up and demanded change themselves. Looking at it from another perspective there should be no technical reason why driven grouse shooting couldn’t be developed in Norway with their subspecies of the willow grouse – but it’s never going to happen. Doing so would massively impoverish and restrict the rural communities there – loss of valuable woodlot forestry, restricted and less pleasant walking and camping, plus the loss of the type of hunting Norwegians do already, for eating rather than trophies There is a reason that Norway and the other countries that could have DGS don’t and never will.

Of course if the proponents of DGS are confident their claims it’s a lifeline for fragile communities are strong an independent and comprehensive government led economic study they should be welcomed with enthusiasm, their own efforts to justify their economic value haven’t been highly respected. Not unexpectedly they haven’t highlighted the petition and that’s something I have to confess I’ve exploited ruthlessly and gleefully (e.g. here). Even since the petition began there’s been a significant change in the tone of anti grouse moor campaigning – now their worth for rural communities is being publicly and repeatedly questioned. A few days after the petition opened Labour MP Sue Hayman called for a full study of grouse moors including the so called economics, since then more Labour MPs including Alex Sobel have made their objections known and the campaign to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire Waters properties is using the displacement of better job creating activities a core element of its attack. This includes promoting a type of clay pigeon shooting that replicates a flight of grouse! It looks as if it has potential, and can be done 12 months a year rather than 4. And of course up in Scotland Revive: the Coalition for Grouse Moor Reform has been launched with a bang publishing material to both sledgehammer the ludicrously inflated economic claims for grouse shooting and a start on the road to what can replace it. Underlining all of this of course is the the fact that the latest grouse shooting season was a ‘poor’ one with many estates not shooting at all – hotels and other businesses have lost money because they’ve found themselves tied to grouse chick productivity. The shooting estates still make their claims, but they ring increasingly hollow now and risk drawing attention to their opponents’ counter claims.

That the Westminster Government has unlike the Scottish one not already commissioned comprehensive studies on grouse shooting including its true economics does at least help the petition in that full attention can be focused upon the Achilles Heel issue that DGS kills rural communities as well as wildlife. You can get away with illegally killing raptors and slaughtering mountain hares as long as enough people believe families will be out on the street without it, but if the truth comes home they’ve had it. This is a golden opportunity to make a point, but the time to get to the 10,000 mark is shrinking.

Can I please ask each and every one of you to sign, share and promote the petition if you haven’t done so and if you can think of any organisations that should push the petition please pester them to do so (although I’ll have probably been there before). The RSPB officially endorsed it on their Skydancer Community Blog, but without giving it more profile that won’t help raise many signatures, although the endorsement was highly appreciated and I’m very grateful for it. Several people and groups have been very supportive and deserve thanks – Mark Avery (of course), Alan Cranston, James Common, Terry Pickford, Let’s Get Mad for Wildlife, the greatest living Welshman Iolo Williams (Diolch Iolo!), and many others who’ve been great. A special mention has to be made of the now late and very sadly missed Al Woodcock who founded the ‘We Support Chris Packham’ facebook page, he was not a frequent contributor on RPUK, but did a massive amount of work against the bad uns.

A slightly late Happy New Year to all and a pre emptive thank you, lets give the grouse moors a sticky start to 2019 –


Local community holds 2nd meeting to raise concerns about grouse moor management in National Park

In November 2018 we blogged about a local community in the North York Moors National Park that had called a public meeting to discuss concerns about grouse moor management in the area (see here).

This wasn’t just a flash in the pan, one-off event. Some members of this community in Goathland are clearly agitated about the damaging environmental impact of grouse moor management and are determined to do something about it.

Here’s Goathland, in the heart of this National Park and practically surrounded by driven grouse moors:

On Wednesday evening a second public meeting was held and the following notes were written and posted on Twitter by Richard Gray (@glaisdale1001) on Thursday:

Obviously these notes should be viewed as the personal opinion of one attendee and not as a formal record of what took place but nevertheless they make for an interesting read.

It’s really encouraging to see a local community willing to get together and speak out like this and it looks like this is just the beginning for Goathland.

Undoubtedly there are communities in other parts of northern England where the landscape is dominated by driven grouse moors that will share the Goathland community’s environmental concerns and “general feeling of no confidence in Natural England“. Hopefully those communities will now be inspired by Goathland and start to question and challenge the status quo in their own areas.

Well done, Goathland!

UPDATE 11 January 2019: Additional notes from the 2nd Goathland meeting on grouse moor management (here)

Raptor smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum receives 3 year custodial sentence

Following yesterday’s blog on serial raptor egg smuggler Jeffrey Lendrum’s guilty plea at Snaresbrook Crown Court (here), he has been sentenced to serve three years and one month in jail.

Press release from UK Border Force (10/1/19):


A man who tried to smuggle 19 rare and endangered bird eggs into the UK strapped to his body has today, 10 January, been jailed for three years and one month.

The smuggling attempt was uncovered by Border Force officers at Heathrow Airport on 26 June 2018 when officers stopped Jeffrey Lendrum after he arrived on a flight from Johannesburg.

Lendrum, 57 and of no fixed UK address, was wearing a heavy jacket which officers thought was unusual due to the very warm weather conditions. When asked whether he had anything to declare, Lendrum stated he had some Fish Eagle and Kestrel eggs strapped to his body. During a full search, he was found to be wearing a body belt concealing 19 bird eggs as well as 2 newly-hatched chicks.

Border Force specialist officers identified that the eggs were protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the import trade for which is controlled by the issue of permits. Officers ensured that both the eggs and the live chicks were kept warm and quickly transported to the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, managed by the City of London Corporation. The live chicks and the eggs were later moved to a specialist care facility at the International Centre for Birds of Prey.

Lendrum was arrested and the investigation passed to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Lendrum stated during an interview that his intention was to rescue the eggs after he encountered some men chopping down trees containing their nests. However in court, experts stated that a number of the eggs were from birds that nest in cliffs. Their values on the black market ranged from £2,000 to £8,000.

At Snaresbrook Crown Court on Tuesday (8 January) Lendrum, who has previous convictions for similar CITES offences in Canada, Brazil and Africa, pleaded guilty to attempting to import the 19 bird eggs.

Grant Miller, head of the national Border Force CITES team at Heathrow, said:

My officers are experts in their field and, in this case, their vigilance has stopped a prolific wildlife criminal in his tracks. Their intervention also ensured that the birds and eggs received the immediate care and attention that they needed.

Wildlife crime is a global issue and Border Force officers play a crucial role in preventing offenders from moving the products across borders, stripping them of their illegal profits.

We will continue to work closely with enforcement partners such as the NCA to tackle the international illegal wildlife trade which threatens the survival of endangered animals and plants“.

Chris Hill, NCA investigations manager Heathrow, said:

This offence was clearly no accident as Lendrum had gone to great lengths to both source and then attempt to conceal the birds eggs. His claims that he was engaged in an effort to save them from deforestation did not hold water.

Wildlife crime is a cynical business, indulged in by those who have no qualms about the environmental damage they cause as long as there is a profit to be made. This case sends a clear message that we are determined to bring cases like this before the courts“.

The importation of endangered species into the UK is strictly controlled by CITES, which is an international agreement covering more than 35,000 species of animals and plants. The Heathrow-based Border Force CITES team are specialist officers who work across the UK and who are recognised as world leaders in their field.

Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling and trafficking of any kind should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


Well done to all involved, especially the UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency. This is an excellent result.

Rattled? Much?

Have a read of Letter of the Month in the latest edition of Shooting Gazette (‘Driven shooting’s finest journal‘):

He wants the British game-shooting industry to emulate the NRA, one of the most ridiculed and dangerous bastions of far-right lunatics on the planet? And this is the star letter?!

Perhaps those Dubarrys should be swapped for a pair of jack boots.