Countryside Alliance agitated over Tony Juniper’s nomination for Natural England Chair

Earlier this month the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Michael Gove MP, announced that Tony Juniper had been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate to take up the post of Chair of Natural England, the Government’s advisor for the natural environment in England (see here).

This was a surprising but welcome announcement given Tony Juniper’s long-standing environmental credentials and Natural England’s long-standing environmental incompetence.

[Tony Juniper CBE, photo by Getty]

Not everyone’s happy with this nomination though. According to an article in the Sunday Telegraph, the Countryside Alliance has accused Tony Juniper of being “prejudiced against the countryside” and that his views on grouse shooting make him ‘unsuitable to run Natural England’.

Here’s the Sunday Telegraph article in full:

Natural England chief ‘biased’ against country sports

Campaigner who has been critical of grouse shooting ‘wrong for watchdog role’, says Countryside Alliance.

By Patrick Sawer

The next head of the country’s nature watchdog has been accused of being “prejudiced against the countryside” ahead of his appointment.

Tony Juniper, a veteran environmental campaigner and former Green Party candidate, is to be made chairman of Natural England by Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary.

But campaigners representing farming, countryside communities and businesses have said he is the wrong person for the job, claiming his views on country sports such as grouse shooting show he does not understand the importance of rural activities.

Mr Juniper has previously criticised grouse shooting, claiming landowners who run the sport enjoy the benefits of huge taxpayer subsidies. In his 2015 book, What Nature Does for Britain, he wrote: “One lever society has for influencing how the land is managed is the vast amount of money paid from our taxes to upland shooting estates….the sport of a privileged few will continue to be subsidised”.

The Countryside Alliance says Mr Juniper’s views make him unsuitable to run Natural England, which helps to protect England’s nature and landscapes and is the Government’s adviser for the natural environment. Tim Bonner, the chief executive, said: “Mr Juniper is simply wrong to claim that there is any subsidy for shooting. In response to an anti-shooting petition on parliament’s website in November 2017, Defra responded that ‘neither subsidies nor agri-environment payments are paid to farmers to support shooting activities”.

“His comments also reveal a worrying undercurrent of prejudice and completely misunderstand the importance of grouse shooting to many upland communities. It is extemely worrying that the nominee could have written this just four years ago”.

Mr Bonner added: “Grouse shooting alone supports 1,520 full-time jobs and is worth £97.7 million”.

The Alliance hit out ahead of a hearing on Tuesday of the environment, food and rural affairs committee, where Mr Juniper will be questioned about his suitability for the role.

In 2010 Mr Juniper stood as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Green Party on a manifesto that pledged to extend the ban on hunting with dogs to other blood sports.

Defra said he had not declared any significant political activity in the past five years. A spokesman said: “Tony Juniper has a wide range of experience of working with WWF, the Prince of Wales, Friends of the Earth and many others, and the environment, food and rural affairs and environmental audit committees will soon have the opportunity to carry out further scrutiny on his suitability for the post”.

A spokesman for Mr Juniper said he would comment ahead of the hearing.


The pre-appointment hearing will take place today at 2.45pm and can be watched live here.

UPDATE 27 February 2019: Questions on grouse shooting for Tony Juniper but not on hen harrier persecution (here)


20 thoughts on “Countryside Alliance agitated over Tony Juniper’s nomination for Natural England Chair”

  1. We should not find it surprising that either the Countryside Alliance has reservations about his appointment, or that The Daily Telegraph should seek to swing the debate against his appointment.
    It is still a huge disappointment to me that his appointment might be placed in Jeopardy, and that such tactics would be possible should a reasonable person be appointed to a position in the statutory body that is likely to be placed in charge of environmental law. It will be interesting to see how many MPs will be concerned that control of a statutory body may be partially lost to them by this appointment.

  2. Tim Bonner, the chief executive, said …quote … “Mr Juniper is simply wrong to claim that there is any subsidy for shooting”;…… so he (TB) denies that some , if not many landowners receive Govt. stewardship money plus CAP payments for land management intended for ( proper) environmental benefit. That’s demonstrably wrong.

    1. Hello Simon. He was careful to say that these is no ‘subsidy for shooting’. And in that he is right – there are no direct subsidies for shooting unless you count the fact that the charge for obtaining a shotgun licence is less than the cost to the taxpayer. He is of course being deliberately disingenuous as shooting estates receive millions of pounds of subsidy for having a few sheep on the moors, albeit that their primary purpose is grouse shooting and shooting estate values benefit from the lack of inheritance tax on agricultural land.

      And, as Mark Avery ( has already pointed out, Tony Juniper never said that shooting was directly subsidised even in the bit of his book that quoted in the article – he said upland shooting estates received vast public subsidy!: “One lever society has for influencing how the land is managed is the vast amount of money paid from our taxes to upland shooting estates….the sport of a privileged few will continue to be subsidised”.

      I always think that, whether they knowingly indulge in this sort of dishonesty, is an easy test of a campaigner’s integrity (and implicitly the strength of their position). Bonner knows he’s talking bollocks! (‘prejudiced against the countryside’ indeed!) If Raptor Persecution or other environmental campaigners were that careless and insulting to their followers we’d soon stop reading them.

      1. Yes, but the key thing is that these are dog whistle comments aimed at the CA’s swivel-eyed followers who have been red-pilled into believing this guff through a lifetime of ingesting toxic Pb and reading in Shooting Times that the sky is going to fall in on country “sports”.

  3. Once again…. “Mr Bonner added: “Grouse shooting alone supports 1,520 full-time jobs and is worth £97.7 million”.. worth £97.7 Million to whom?.. the landowners?

    1. The £97.7 million does not cover the damage done by pollution, flooding, destruction of habitat and killing native species. Yet the subsidy was paid to enhance the precious moorland habitat not the red grouse.

      Of course when Cameron was PM he increased the subsidy for the uplands by 50%, a nice little backhander for his wealthy friends.

      Where does the money go? I think we know. Maybe offshore????
      1,520 jobs — the UK has lost, many times more than that in the last few weeks.

      I felt the questioning was clearly biased against Tony Juniper.


  4. The online version contains this para: “Responding earlier this month to a 10,000 strong petition calling for a ban on the activity, it [the government] stated: “The Government considers that shooting activities bring many benefits to the rural economy and can in many cases be beneficial for wildlife and habitat conservation.”

    I have made a complaint to the Telegraph, not just because of the lazy inaccuracy but because Les Wallace’s petition was for an independent review, which bears significantly on the discredited substance of Tim Bonner’s claims.

    1. Well the reply was prompt: “The article was about the appointment of Tony Juniper and the reaction of various bodies to it; it is not a detailed examination of grouse shooting, and the issue you identify is not significant in context. We have nevertheless made a small amendment to the article as a goodwill gesture.” So no admission of factual inaccuracy or poor journalism, just a ‘goodwill gesture’.

  5. I am totally fed up with the continuous claims from the field sports lobby to represent the countryside and rural populations. If anything their continual narrow rhetoric diverts attention from the real issues facing rural people and unfairly prejudices urban people against the countryside. Their noisy protagonists are of a class that feels entitled claim they speak for people they simply don’t and even within their own constituency many are worried by their tone and stance but don’t speak out in public through misplaced loyalty.

    1. I have recently heard that the Countryside Areliars may represent the views of as few as 1% of countryside dwellers, I myself would be one of the alleged 99%. Whilst I suspect that !% is a little too low there is little doubt that the CA represent the views of a minority of country dwellers as the majority do neither hunt nor shoot. This is a desperate undemocratic attempt by Tim (nasty but dim) Bonner et al to keep the status quo. I believe they have huge fear that somebody like Tony Juniper may attack the very foundation up on which driven grouse shooting is built, payments from the tax payer is their Achilles heel far more that regulatory control. Although the complete loss of rotational burning now seems likely. Juniper may even be able to rehabilitate the reputation of NE, something that is currently pretty damned low.

  6. What intrigues me here is that Michael Gove is reported as saying that Tony Juniper is the Government’s preferred candidate for this role. We don’t know whether there was a selection process but, irrespective of that, Tony’s track record as a trusted environmentalist would have been well known to all involved in the nomination process. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to hear this news, not expecting any such enlightened selection to be made. This morning we’ve had a North Yorkshire gamekeeper found guilty of a dastardly snaring offence. Let’s hope that there’s more good news this afternoon.
    Roderick makes a very good point regarding the sports lobby purporting to represent the countryside and rural populations. No doubt this is the way they see it through their blinkered view. I’m not going to hold my breath, but I’d like to think that Tony Juniper’s nomination for the role of NE Chair is a clear indication that the Government is not going to stand for any more of that nonsense.

  7. Well, Isn’t it just wonderful to read of ‘The Countryside Alliance’ accusing anyone of coming’to the table’ with preconceived ideas? Personally, I wish it were true, but Tony Juniper witll actually show them what honesty of thought and scientific justification, actually means.

  8. As long as everything proceeds smoothly and Tony Juniper becomes Chair of Natural England, of course it’s good news, however, his hands will still be tied by the government that pays his wages and what they will, or will not, permit him to change; and it would be interesting to know: who does actually benefit from the £97 million grouse-shooting and ‘other’ shooting activities brings…?

  9. I found his answers enlightening and felt a fair degree of honesty from Tony Juniper. I do hope he gets the post and makes moves to clean up the country pursuits and all their misdoings.

    I enjoyed the badgering he got about the badger cull, he is clearly going to look at the science behind it. He was not giving way to the bully tactics used in this instance. Hopefully he will show the cull’s failings to reduce BTB. The problem exists because husbandry is not up to the task.

    I look forward to Tony Juniper sweeping NE with his new broom.


  10. I wondered how one could be ‘prejudiced against the countryside’. Prejudiced concerning the countryside perhaps?
    Or prejudiced against the Countryside Alliance?

  11. Watched the video of the proceedings last night. Disappointed that it did not include the outcome. Presumably he got the job. Whilst clearly his hands are going to be tied to some extent regarding what he can say or do, I would regard his appointment as a very encouraging move. Along with Nick Lyall’s appointment as Chair of the RPPDG, things are definitely looking up – though I doubt that those parties who are accustomed to ruling the roost would agree!

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