Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: Moorland Association

The publication of the hen harrier satellite tag paper on Tuesday (here) that provided compelling evidence to highlight, yet again, the link between grouse moors and the illegal killing of hen harriers, has resulted in a flurry of responses from various individuals and organisations.

We’ll be looking at these responses in turn.

So far we’ve discussed the responses of Supt Nick Lyall (Chair, RPPDG) (here), BASC (here), Dr Therese Coffey (DEFRA Wildlife Minister) (here) and the Northern England Raptor Forum (here).

This time we’re examining the response of the Moorland Association, the lobby group for grouse moor owners in northern England.

The Moorland Association couldn’t be arsed to publish a statement on its website, nor to tweet about this important scientific publication nor to mention it on its Facebook page. Blimey, anyone would think that grouse moor owners aren’t at all bothered that hen harriers are ten times more likely to be killed on a grouse moor than anywhere else, or that 72% of satellite tagged hen harriers had either been confirmed or suspected of being illegally killed on grouse moors.

And let’s not forget, the Moorland Association is supposedly a willing ‘partner’ on the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), where it’s supposed to be using every opportunity to raise awareness about the illegal killing of birds of prey and stopping these crimes from being committed. Really impressive partnership work, eh?

We did find a quote from the Moorland Association’s Director, Amanda Anderson, in this brilliantly headlined article in The Independent (“Massive wildlife crime scene” is a Mark Avery quote from a couple of years ago).

Here’s Amanda quoted in The Independent article:

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners and managers in England and Wales, said the study data, gathered between 2006 and 2017, was before a management scheme put in place as part of Defra’s hen harrier recovery plan.

She said keepers had engaged with tactics such as reporting and monitoring nests and roost sites, as well as reducing conflicts between the birds via feeding strategies.

Ms Anderson said that 2018, the first year of the brood management scheme, was “the most successful hen harrier breeding season in England for over a decade”, continuing: “We know from evidence gathered on the ground there are many areas on grouse moors where hen harriers – with or without satellite tags – are currently thriving.”

But she added: “We want to see more hen harriers on grouse moors. Persecution should not occur and must cease in order to give hen harriers the best chance of survival. Seventy per cent of hen harriers perish in their first year from natural causes. However, when a satellite tag fails unexpectedly, persecution may be a factor.


Wow. What’s that saying? More front than Blackpool?

It’s all ok, folks, no need to worry about the extraordinarily high percentage of ‘missing’ (presumed killed) hen harriers on grouse moors, because all that took place before DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan was put in place. Er, except that in the year after the paper’s data were gathered and the so-called Action Plan was in place (2018), at least 11 satellite-tagged hen harriers all ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, most of them either on or near a grouse moor, between the months of August and November. How do you explain that, Amanda?

[RPUK map showing the last known locations of 11 satellite-tagged hen harriers that ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances between August – November 2018]

Also according to Amanda, ‘keepers had engaged with tactics such as reporting and monitoring nests and roost sites’. Ah, would that ‘monitoring’ of nest sites include the tactic of repeatedly driving up towards a nesting attempt on a quad bike, disturbing the birds so much that the nesting attempt was abandoned? There are certainly reports of that happening on one particular grouse moor (which was reported to the police).

And would that ‘monitoring’ of roost sites include the tactic of turning up with a gun and a couple of dogs at dusk, to walk around a roost site where three hen harriers had just gone to ground (see here)?

And where is this “evidence gathered on the ground” that shows “there are many areas on grouse moors where hen harriers – with or without satellite tags – are currently thriving”? Have those sites been reported to raptor fieldworkers from NERF, or the RSPB, or Natural England (all partners in the RPPDG), or is this yet another imaginary scene that Amanda’s viewed through her magical kitchen window?

Unfortunately for the Moorland Association, Amanda’s latest episode of propagandist nonsense is looking a lot like a rapidly disintegrating sand castle crumbling in the face of an overwhelming rising tide of evidence.

18 thoughts on “Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: Moorland Association”

  1. The Moorland Association could be a leading light in the fight against raptor persecution because it is the organisation of grouse moor owner and tenants, just imagine what a difference they could make if they tried. Instead they are very trying, each time AA makes a statement on their behalf about persecution or other wildlife crime on grouse moors it is quite clear that she and they are deliberately clouding the waters in an attempt to minimise the effect of persecution or wildlife crime. They are failing badly at that, this is a it used to happen but doesn’t anymore claim and it is utter utter xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    For Moorland Association read apologists for wildlife crime. No truth, no conscience, no responsibility, no bloody credibility but as you say more front than Blackpool. appalling

  2. I wonder sometimes what precisely is the stupidity of these so called custodians of the land.

    Is it that they genuinely do not understand the science? Or realise that sometimes science really is sufficient to trump common opinion and personal experience?

    Or maybe it is that they believe the rest of us are as stupid as they are, that they believe we will not see through their deceptions and downright lying?

    Perhaps it is the usual hubris of the privileged classes, expecting somehow that their efforts to project a particular version of the way things are in the world are universally acceptable, that us ignorant proles will of course defer to whatever they tell us about what is going on within the confines of their private property.

    The truth is now shouting so loudly at power that it is going to have to stop breaking the rules. From the evidence presented here, the reaction of the ones so obviously in the frame, whose conduct or neglect is directly responsible for the death of raptors, does not reveal any willingness for anything but further stupidity.

    Presumably in each case that is brought to court, patsies will be arranged in advance and stories told of rotten apples in barrels, hereby reproducing a profound structural stupidity, that were it not for a bunch of spoilsports, society would run smoothly for the benefit of us all, and natural levels of pests managed by those who know best about these things.

    With the right encouragement and further research it should also now be possible to begin to expose the complicity of the landowning classes not only with the murder of raptors, but with management practices and perforce economic relations that have their origins in feudal times and that are – to put it mildly – not fit for purpose.

    It is high time the land was removed from the hands of those who confuse self interest with ecological virtue, and who believe that because this is the way we do things, this is the ways things should be done.

    Thankfully we are not as stupid as they believe us to be and history always moves on.

    …. rant over :-)

    1. RPUK – an excellent blog. Duncan – a superb ‘nail on head’ response. Between you, you’ve said all that needs to be said to sum up this shabby MA charade!

  3. Up untill recently (the past 10 tears or so) environmental science has always been open to challenge(?) since there is never a suitable robust control mechanism. This leads to accusations of bias etc… The MA et al knew this and always claimed that there was no scientific proof of the hypothesis promulgated by the the conversationalists (and I don’t mean gamekeepers). Advances in technology have enabled environmental science to present more and more robust conclusions. The MA cannot say anything now to rebut this report (they could ask a barrister to give their opinion ), but they now know the science is robust and that they will have to change their narrative, to what – well we will have to wait and see but here are my starting prices:

    – raptors are vermin, think of the curlews – 1-100 odds on
    – raptors take jobs away from poor areas -evens
    – raptors take lambs -2-1
    -raptors take babies from arms of young mothers – 5-1
    -raptors responsible for the failures of brexit – 5-1
    -raptors kill grouse and we just want rid – 1,0000-1

    The thing is that how can this country (and the Royal Family) even start to lecture other countries about illegal killing of mammals in Africa, Commercial whaling in their territories..etc when this country enables the extinction of species in it’s national parks!

    1. If you look at the website or Facebook page of the North York moors moorland group they are already saying raptors take Curlew.

  4. The silence of the Moorland Association on this matter is deafening and tells us more about their actual priorities than their loudly trumpeted claims to be ‘conservationists’.

  5. How many Hen Harriers fledged on grouse moors in England last year? (oh and the year before and the year before that).

  6. “We know from evidence gathered on the ground there are many areas on grouse moors where hen harriers – with or without satellite tags – are currently thriving.”

    Does she quote her source for this?
    Or is this evidence gleaned from stink pits?
    How does she know whether or not these ‘thriving’ (!@#!) hen harriers have tags????

      1. No! its from the keepers in Nidderdale who walk into harrier roosts with guns and dogs.
        The nearest moors to her kitchen window are those of north east Bowland (the bit in Yorkshire) and harriers certainly haven’t bred there since the early nineties, wonder why!
        I suppose a thriving hen harrier is just one that is by chance a lucky one that avoids being killed by employees of her members, perhaps.

  7. Everything points, as always, to just one solution. An end to driven game shooting. Consign it to the dustbin of history, along with bear baiting, cock fighting and other non-sporting sports.

  8. “She said keepers had engaged with tactics such as …. reducing conflicts between the birds via feeding strategies.”

    Have they really? A Little birdie tells me someone may be fibbing as there does not appear to be that much in the way of uptake by grouse moors of Natural England’s diversionary feeding licences.

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