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.
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.