How to discuss an illegally shot hen harrier, without mentioning that it’s been illegally shot

Yesterday we blogged that a young satellite-tagged hen harrier called ‘River’ had been found dead on a grouse moor on the Swinton Estate in Yorkshire with two pieces of shot in her body (see here).

Surprisingly, the grouse moor owner’s lobby group the Moorland Association has made a statement (more often than not any raptor persecution crimes are simply ignored by this group). Perhaps, with the newly reformed Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the Moorland Association is feeling under pressure to respond?

However, reading the Moorland Association’s statement is akin to watching a contortionist and wondering how the hell they got themselves in to such a twisted position.

The first we saw of the Moorland Association’s contortion was this, on Twitter, posted by the Moorland Association’s Director, Amanda Anderson, talking about the ‘recent incident in Yorkshire’:

‘The recent incident in Yorkshire’? Good grief. Do you mean ‘the recent illegal shooting of a hen harrier found dead on a Yorkshire grouse moor’, Amanda?

Then we read the actual statement:

Read this statement closely. You will not find the words ‘illegally shot hen harrier’ anywhere. Even the two pieces of lead shot in the bird’s body (as revealed by an x-ray) have been transformed in to “two metallic objects”!

How on earth do you expect an appeal for information about an illegally shot hen harrier to be seen as credible without actually saying it’s been illegally shot?!

There’s also a fascinating claim, attributed to North Yorkshire Police, that the estate has been informed by the police ‘that they are taking the matter no further due to lack of evidence and stressed that there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing by the Swinton Estate or its staff’.


Is that an actual statement from North Yorkshire Police, or is it an interpretation by Swinton Estate and/or the Moorland Association? Of course there’s going to be suspicion – how can there possibly not be when an illegally shot hen harrier has been found on the estate?! That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone at Swinton Estate was responsible for this crime, of course – there is simply no evidence to identify ANYONE as the culprit, especially when we don’t even know where or when the bird was shot – but to say ‘there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing’ seems to be stretching credulity a little bit too far.

It would be useful to see the x-ray of the dead hen harrier. We’ve been told it showed up two pieces of lead shot but no further detail than that. Had the lead shot smashed the harrier’s wing bones, rendering it unable to fly, then it might suggest the bird was indeed shot close to where its corpse was found. However, had the lead shot simply nicked, say, a leg bone, without breaking or fracturing it, then it would be supportive evidence to a theory that the harrier may have been shot elsewhere and was able to fly several miles before collapsing on this moor. North Yorkshire Police has not published the x-ray as far as we’re aware.

We’re also interested in the claim that the hen harrier’s body was “too decomposed to perform a post mortem“. Really? And who made that decision? Was it a pathologist? If you look at the photograph of the harrier’s body being collected from the moor by North Yorkshire Police, it looks to be in a condition that would permit a post mortem.

And if a post mortem wasn’t carried out, under what circumstances did North Yorkshire Police ‘later retrieve’ one of the two pieces of shot, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog?

There’s a lot about this crime and the subsequent investigation that just doesn’t add up. The situation isn’t helped by the PR contortions of the Moorland Association, whose appalling track record in tackling illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors renders them an organisation with zero integrity or credibility, in our opinion.

Let’s hope Police Superintendent Nick Lyall can use his position as Chair of the RPPDG to investigate the details of this case and report, as much as he is able, to what is fast becoming a disenchanted and angry public.

15 thoughts on “How to discuss an illegally shot hen harrier, without mentioning that it’s been illegally shot”

  1. It appears to me that the body, cabal, company or group of people who are now in charge of getting the driven grouse shooting lobby out of the predicament they are increasingly finding themselves in has issued clear guidelines as to how these types of statements are to be constructed. The words used, the words not to use, the admissions to avoid, etc., etc. all seem to be included.
    The problem is, however, that those issuing the advice will be specialists in their fields but those actually constructing the statements from Moorland Associations, Gamekeeping bodies etc., will not possess the same skill set so what we get is the ridiculous sounding pronouncements as evidenced above.
    That’s how I see it anyhow, and all it does is make it less believable.
    “I fear thou doth protesteth too much.” :)

  2. Thoughts and prayers to the estate’s management and staff at this difficult time who are greatly distressed by the discovery of the dead harrier. [Ed: rest of this comment deleted as defamatory]

  3. The Moorland Assoc diatribe talks about “breeding success this spring” presumably on the Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire. If so do you think they are/will be contributing to brood meddling in partnership with our friends at the Moorland Assoc?

    Isn’t this the same estate that has a history of finding dead Hen Harriers, in the not too distant past?

  4. By this they show their true colours. Any fair and reasonable person knows that a confirmed shooting of a Hen Harrier is a matter of concern, it shows a crime has been committed, about that there can be no dispute, but in this “statement of incident” they manipulate each an every fact to downplay their significance, thereby seeking to undermine and discredit any suspicion of criminality, before triumphantly concluding: “The police informed them that they are taking the matter no further … and stressed that there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing by the estate”.

    Amazing where we are finding all of these glowing examples of raptor conservation success, who have such wonderful reputations that the police are always swift to proclaim their complete innocence from the outset, regardless of any evidence and with no further need to investigate – recall we had the same statement last week on Strathbraan where the Metro printed a statement attributed to Auchnafree: “police were satisfied its employees were not involved”. What a relief!

    Personally I would not dream of suggesting that those particular estates were in fact involved in wrong doing, but in proclaiming them innocent regardless of any relevant facts The Moorland Association betray their real agenda, blind apologists for the real persecutors. Thus [in my opinion] they reconfirm what we already know, they could not care less about welfare of protected raptors and as long as they can be killed, strictly conditional on lack of specific evidence=without risk of prosecution, they will be delighted if that continues…

  5. The response of the Police, assuming the version narrated by the Moorland Association is accurate, is eerily similar to that in the case of the two eagles that went missing from the Auchenfree Estate.

    “We have been told by the police that neither the estate nor its staff were involved in their apparent disappearance. No-one knows what has happened to these birds.”

    Are the Police really saying these things?

    If they are, is it response to pressure, lobbying or prompting from any particular interesr group?

    1. A very good point. I would suggest that no notice should be taken of such assertions unless they are supported by official Police press notices. Maybe what has been said is that there was no evidence to link the incident with anyone at the estate, which is a different thing altogether.

  6. It’s rather telling that AA appropriates a Curlew as her avatar. What a crass attempt to con the public that the entire raison d’etre of her vile gang is conservation, when the truth is that they are its utter antithesis.

  7. Everyone involved in DGS is a compulsive liar.
    How else can you get by in an industry based entirely on crime. The fact that our government has done nothing about any of the issues just shows how corrupt they are.
    None of them can be trusted in any way.

  8. Where is Nick Lyall in all this? He has been very quiet this year. How many more dead birds do we have? Not even a statement released regarding the plethora of wildlife crime that has been committed over the last few months!
    Everything stinks of lies and corruption.

  9. Yes, thanks, I have caught up now.

    If the Swinton Estate and its activities wasn’t under the microscope before, it certainly is now. A major grouse shooting Estate in North Yorkshire, The Moorland Assoc and Natural England potentially working in partnership in the same location – how interesting.

  10. On the face of it the MA are busy digging an ever deeper hole for themselves but I doubt if it bothers them one jot. For their members, the rich, powerful and influential (in other words our “lords and masters”) it’s still business as usual, despite the fact that we are in the second decade of the 21st. century we might as well be in the 19th.! It depends who one works for as to how these criminal acts are dealt with when the local squire is on the bench, does that sound old fashioned or familiar?
    Could I be pedantic for a moment? In the original post from RPUK reference was made to “break and fracture” of a bird’s leg. It’s a common error to separate break and fracture as different levels of bone breakage, suggesting perhaps that a fracture is a crack rather that a break. In both human and veterinary medicine a fracture is a break!

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