Hen harrier brood meddling has begun in England


At least one brood of hen harriers has been removed from a grouse moor and taken in to captivity today as part of DEFRA’s/Natural England’s scandalous hen harrier brood meddling plan (part of the Government’s useless Hen Harrier Action Plan).

How do we know? Has DEFRA and Natural England behaved with impeccable transparency and ensured that everyone was kept up to date?

Like hell.

The news has been slipped out by Natural England, buried away at the foot of an earlier blog post on the brood meddling scheme (dated 6 June), presumably in the hope that nobody would notice.

To give him his due, Natural England CEO Tony Juniper did share this information on Twitter late this afternoon, but only after being repeatedly prompted by members of the public who were seeking information.

Here’s the link to the news (scroll down to the bottom of the page and squint your eyes a bit and you’ll find it):


[Photo by Laurie Campbell]

For the benefit of new readers, here’s a quick overview of what hen harrier brood meddling is all about.

We don’t know how many nests have been plundered, or how many chicks have been removed, nor the location(s) of those plundered nests. We do know that at least one grouse shooting estate in North Yorkshire was hoping to participate, even though this particular estate has a long history of raptor persecution, including at least one wildlife crime conviction for one of the estate’s employees. Marvellous.

We also know, from earlier FoIs on this subject, that the practical aspects of raising those hen harriers in captivity is being coordinated by the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) in Newent, Glos (shame on them) and that the Moorland Association are paying for the expertise of the ICBP and also for the satellite tags that all brood meddled hen harriers must be fitted with before release later this summer (it’s a condition of the licence).

We have asked Natural England today what measures it has implemented to protect any brood meddled hen harriers from armed criminals on grouse moors when the birds are released later this summer, but answer came there none.

What a dreadful day for hen harrier conservation in the UK. We began by learning about the barbaric killing of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier on a grouse moor in Strathbraan, Scotland, and we’ve ended by learning that England’s statutory nature conservation agency (ahem) has authorised the removal of young hen harriers from at least one grouse moor somewhere in England just to appease the influential criminals within the grouse shooting industry.

32 thoughts on “Hen harrier brood meddling has begun in England”

    1. Given the history of Hen Harrier nesting attempts in the area that is a major concern, one I suspect that NE has not even thought to address. This is an area with a very high persecution rate of nesting Hen Harriers, although some nests 2002-2007 were successful but not since. This is the reality of BM appearing as it does to “reward” the criminals by removing any threat to grouse stocks long before there is such a threat because rest assured whatever NE might claim there is no scientific basis AT ALL for the whole process, it panders to the prejudice of the grouse cabal and perpetuates the idea of Hen Harriers being the bete noir of grouse moors. Something that in almost all circumstances is clearly not true. We wait and hope that each year brings an improvement of the status of Hen Harriers, even if that is true this year it will still be recorded as the year that NE finally caved in to the criminals and the great shameful threat of BM was finally carried out . At the end of the season the dark side organisations will trumpet this as a success, it is no such thing it is appeasement. The idea that BM will reduce persecution is one unlikely and two giving in to blackmail. NE you have sunk even lower than many of us thought possible and I’ve not heard of any of the promised resignations if this came to pass—- no personal credibility left either then!

  1. A: “Grouse shooting and hen harriers cannot coexist.”
    B: “Yes sir, sorry sir, we’ll get these pesky hen harriers off your grouse moor for you.”

    I can think of another solution to A.

  2. If the Moorland Association are paying for the satellite tags, will they be able to track the young harriers once they are released?

      1. Statistically it is highly likely that at least one of the brood will be shot, possibly all of them. What will Natural England do then?

    1. Yes, they will be able to track then down to the muzzle of a shotgun! Gamekeeper turned eh …. gamekeeper.

    2. Really hope not, but perhaps they will be able to and that’s their plan all along.

      Hypothetically speaking:-
      With access to the birds locations, they could theoretically notify their associates on the moors, and tell them to leave the harriers alone until the tagged bird has moved on. That way, because the tagged bird is still alive, they could then claim the scheme is working, all whilst non-tagged birds continue to vanish elsewhere.

  3. Natures Enemies proving who they work for while we all pay their salaries. If only I had the option not to.

  4. We should stop referring to these people as gamekeepers, they are criminals just like drug dealers etc and natural England are no better but the people I can’t stand are the moorland association, these people are slime.

  5. The whole issue of Hen Harrier protection not persecution is getting more and more desperate. So what happens to the brood meddled birds ? When released how long will they survive ? It is all pretty hopeless. People and the Harriers need action. Stop the killing.

  6. I presume the ICBP in Newent are getting well paid for this appalling charade?…..anyone involved here needs to be called out by the public and press.

  7. What really pissed (sorry) me off was Tony Juniper’s deliberate muddling of means and end objectives. In one tweet, he tried to compare brood ‘management’ for hen harriers with other cases where wild broods have been taken into captivity for subsequent release (e.g. head starting). Yes, ‘head starting’ can be a legitimate ‘means’ when the ‘ends’ are justified. It’s legitimate to take sea eagle chicks where your ends objective is to translocate them to establish a new population elsewhere. It’s not legitimate to take hen harrier broods when the ends objective is to facilitate the continuation of a terribly damaging land use – intensive driven grouse moor management.

    All NE is doing is solidifying and legitimising the position of over-intensive driven grouse moor management. It is dishonest of Tony not to concede this.

    The so-called hen harrier action plan is the worst sort of species-focused plan, because it treats intensive driven grouse moor management as a given, not to change, beyond reproach. It sees hen harriers as the problem, to be addressed by minimising their impact on intensive driven grouse moor management.

    I’m sorry, Tony, but your communications on this have been terrible. You had the opportunity to condition the NE licence with requirements to a) address the various other damaging impacts at participating grouse moors; b) ensure that brood management at a given site takes place only after other mitigation measures, such as diversionary feeding, have been shown to be ineffective and c) ensure that no persecution has taken place at participating grouse moors since the Defra HH plan was approved.

  8. I thought evidence that persecution had ended was a prerequisite? Its not science its politics….it will fail because its not science, its politics. But it satlls off any real decision for another 5 years.

    Its a disgrace. The politicians need to feel the heat.

  9. Unfortunately exactly the same is occurring with eels. The government licence the export trade, and then numerous self-appointed experts get paid to pontificate and surmise about projects to enhance eel habitat. Meanwhile they disappear from our rivers. We’ve banged on the door at Downing Street once, and we’re relaunching this petition to get a new target of 10,000 signatures. NEVER GIVE UP! https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop-the-commercial-export-of-baby-eels

  10. The whole premise of BM is that it will remove “the need” for persecution of Hen Harriers by the criminals within grouse management ( the vast majority) by keeping the breeding density lower than that which “damages” grouse stocks, ludicrously lower. Thus if persecution continues at all the experiment has failed. Even if this works in this case and it is a very big IF, can you imagine what happens next season when birds turn up in the same territory ( should they survive!) they cannot be BM’d again until after a “natural nesting event”, so what are their chances of surviving the keepers gun!!!
    Then again even in the very unlikely scenario of a degree of success and the harrier population does grow to say 40 or 50 pairs imagine the logistics of trying to keep track of a BM and the logistics of doing it to say 20 or 25 nests and increasing. The whole thing is impossible and shows the lack of real foresight and ambition by NE, this won’t give us a restored harrier population at anything like a natural carrying capacity. I for one will not accept a token population on grouse moors which is all that is practically possible with this scheme even if it were to work.
    Those proposing it as a solution are either liars, politically motivated or as ecologically and practically illiterate as those criminals currently killing harriers. THE WHOLE THING IS AS SCIENTIFICALLY VALID AND USEFUL AS THE STRATHBRAAN RAVEN CULL.

  11. It is crystal clear as the recent Hen Harrier satellite tagging paper demonstrated, that the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers is integral to the driven grouse shooting industry. As illegal persecution was revealed as “widespread” it illustrates just how dishonest, disingenuous and thoroughly untrustworthy the shooting industry is. For decades they have got away with peddling the lie about it just being a few bad apples, as if most shooting estates abided by the law, and just a few “bad apple” gamekeepers were killing Hen Harriers and other protected raptors without the knowledge of their gamekeepers. The thing is that as illegal persecution is widespread in the management of grouse moors there cannot be a single person involved in grouse shooting, from all those working in the industry, to the land agents, the landowners and the vast majority of shooters who cannot be unaware of what is going on. So every time one of them has trotted out the few bad apples argument, they were knowingly stating falsehoods to deliberately mislead the public.

    The primary tactic used throughout is plausible deniability. This is a strategy as old as the hills but formally worked out by the CIA in the 1960s, where those at the top should be isolated from the criminal activities of they order those lower down the chain of command to carry out. To ensure that there are no direct orders to carry out crimes, and it is simply made clear to those actually carrying out the crimes what is wanted, without a direct order. So if those actually perpetrating the crimes are caught, that those higher up the chain of command can “plausibly deny” any knowledge of the crimes that the lower level operatives were committing at the behest of those at the top.

    The whole law is deliberately weak as regards the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and other raptors. The punishments are weak and ineffective, ensuring if anyone is careless enough to get caught, that they will just get a fine, presumably paid off for them, and they won’t be induced into telling the truth about who put them up to their crimes and was aware of them. The powers of investigation are deliberately weak, and those in government have refused to make possession of banned pesticides like carbofuran illegal, to make it difficult to prosecute those with intent. The whole thing is very cynical. It’s well known that it’s practically difficult to detect illegal raptor persecution on private land in remote areas, and that a gamekeeper has to be particularly careless to get caught. The whole thing could easily have been remedied decades ago, by simply having a condition of only allowing game shooting on the proviso that the activities of gamekeepers could be monitored by the authorities and those involved in conservation. This is why you have the absurdity of gamekeepers being caught red handed on video, and then this video evidence being repeatedly ruled inadmissible because it was taken without the permission of the criminals committing the crimes. It’s a bit like CCTV being ruled inadmissible, because burglars object to it.

    We all know what this is about. It isn’t a gamekeeper problem, because almost certainly gamekeepers wouldn’t be taking serious risks breaking the law, without the direct knowledge and support of their employers. The owners of grouse moors and those involved in grouse shooting are extremely wealthy and powerful people, who include the most senior members of the establishment. These people are considered above the law, and it would be a major scandal if it was revealed that they were involved in this organized crime. So the authorities do their best not to look too closely, and if they do accidentally catch anyone in the act, to ensure that only those directly perpetrating the crimes are prosecuted, and that those perpetrating the crimes never get asked any awkward questions about why they were committing these crimes, who was aware of it, and were they asked to commit them. Can anyone thing of any other area of crime, where the authorities go to such lengths to avoid scrutiny of why these crimes are being committed, and at who’s behest?

    Why are we beating about the bush in carefully avoiding the dirty secret of who is behind this organized crime problem? Euphemisms are used like the “grouse shooting industry”. When in actuality these grouse moors are usually owned by identifiable single individuals, not faceless corporations. Yet there is this stupid pretence that it is some vague system where no single individual is responsible. Yet it’s difficult to think of a clearer example of a hierarchical system, where these crimes are being committed for the benefit of a very few clearly definable individuals, who we dare not mention because of their great wealth and power.

    1. Very well put, your points are exactly correct, it is obvious when reading any thing concerning brood meddling, where ‘illegal persecution’ is always quoted as the reason to move broods, obvious that this illegal persecution is a given on Grouse Moors, it is the cited reason to brood meddle !!! How can that be ? It’s because it’s semi acceptable by some, fully acceptable by others .

    2. Currently there are so few hen harriers breeding in England, surely it would be more cost-effective for Natural England to establish monitoring schemes to be funded at all known vulnerable harrier nests, i.e. those on grouse moors or nearby? This could be organised in cooperation with Raptor Study Groups and RSPB.

  12. If these chicks are taken from their parents who will teach them how to hunt? It shows us how these government agencies have to toe the line and do as they are told by the landowners. Just today the SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) came out and said that Trump`s golf course at Menie has become a disaster for the sand dunes etc. and ruined a SSSI. Where are the culprits who overturned a local planning decision to deny Trump his golf course hiding about ? They have no shame!!!!

  13. Was it not a condition of the licence that there must be a certain density of nests to enable a brood to be stolen, sorry, taken ? Do we suddenly have enough HH nests to meet this criteria ? In Yorkshire ? We know from the RSPB that there are 4 nests in the Forest of Bowland, have any broods been taken from there?

    1. Hi Philip,

      The licence condition rests on there being two nests within a certain distance of each other (10km~ish). In other words, even if there were only two nests in the whole of England that met this condition, one of them could still be brood meddled as long as the landowner agreed. That’s how ludicrous this scheme is.

      We don’t know how many nests have been brood meddled because NE is refusing to be transparent with the public.

      Nor do we know in which county (counties) the nest(s) were located, because NE is refusing to be transparent.

      What we do know is that at least one nest has been ‘done’ (brood meddled) and we suspect it’s in North Yorkshire, via various sources, but we don’t know for sure because, er, see above.

      We’re pretty certain no nests were brood meddled in Bowland because the HH nests there were on United Utilities ground – a company with integrity that has refused to sign up to brood meddling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s