Sixty six years after it became illegal to kill birds of prey in the UK, five pro-shooting organisations yesterday issued a statement professing ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution.
For those new to the subject of illegal raptor persecution in the UK this statement might look credible. For those of us who can spot sophistry at 200 yards it’s anything but credible.
You only need read as far as the second sentence of this joint statement to see straight through the greenwash:
“…….and while many reports of such persecution have proven to be false and confirmed cases are decreasing year on year……..” Really?
Actually, here’s an interesting graphic showing confirmed raptor persecution incidents in England & Wales over the five years 2014-2018 (2019 data not yet analysed), from the RSPB’s data hub and accepted by the National Wildlife Crime Unit:
In 2014 there were 58 confirmed incidents
In 2015 there were 58 confirmed incidents
In 2016 there were 69 confirmed incidents
In 2017 there were 62 confirmed incidents
In 2018 there were 72 confirmed incidents
And of course in Scotland we know from the Government’s most recent annual report (2018) that raptor persecution crimes more than doubled on the previous year.
The shooting organisations’ joint statement isn’t fooling anyone. And it’s not like the industry hasn’t claimed ‘zero tolerance’ before, e.g. see here, and yet what we see repeatedly are shooting organisation representatives sneering and ridiculing the RSPB when covert video evidence has been ruled inadmissible in prosecutions for alleged raptor crime (e.g. here), we see high-end barristers (often of QC status) brought in to defend the accused (who pays the legal fees, because they’ll be beyond the gamekeeper’s pocket?) (e.g. here), we get walls of silence from the shooting organisations when clear evidence of raptor crime has been uncovered (e.g. here) and instead of expulsions from shooting organisations following a successful conviction we see statements of support (e.g. here).
What’s probably the most amusing about this joint ploy is reading the ‘further information’ bit where we learn what measures the industry has planned to tackle illegal persecution:
‘Providing training opportunities for shoots to understand laws that protect raptors‘ – er, it’s pretty straight forward isn’t it? All raptors are protected, don’t kill them. How much more training is required?
‘Shoot owners, or their representatives, tenants and employees should attend a training course to familiarise themselves with laws that protect raptors‘ – you mean they’re not already familiar with the law that’s been enacted for 66 years?
‘Delivering a shooting sector awareness campaign on laws that protect raptors‘ – Yes, 66 years is nowhere near long enough for everyone to have got the message.
And perhaps best of all, this:
‘Continuing to support the collaborative efforts to resolve raptor persecution including as members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime and the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group‘
Would that be the same Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) that these five organisations boycotted last year because they questioned Police Supt Nick Lyall’s integrity as RPPDG Chair and didn’t like the idea of conservation-oriented organisations being invited to join? Is that what they mean by ‘collaborative efforts’.
If you really want to understand just how ‘collaborative’ these organisations have been on the RPPDG then have a read of this damning letter written by Steve Downing, Chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum, written to Det Superintendent Lou Hubble of the National Wildlife Crime Unit who is facing investigation after the Countryside Alliance’s nasty, vindictive complaint about her integrity earlier this month (gosh, anyone seeing a pattern here?). Steve’s letter makes it quite clear why no progress has been made on tackling raptor persecution via the RPPDG.
And hang on a minute – the National Gamekeepers Organisation is a signatory to this joint letter claiming to support the RPPDG but didn’t they actually resign from the RPPDG after the ‘collaborative’ boycott? Ah yes, so they did.
Sorry, BASC, Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation and Country Land & Business Association – but you’re going to have to do better than this to convince anyone that you’re serious about eradicating illegal raptor persecution. It all just smacks of desperation to avoid incoming regulation – a bit like we saw in Scotland in 2010 when over 200 estate owners wrote to the then Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham claiming to condemn raptor poisoning at a time when estate licensing was being discussed. Ten years on and Scotland is on the verge of enforced regulation because persecution has continued relentlessly….
UPDATE 12th March 2021: ‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one (here)