At the end of January 2020 several prominent organisations from the game-shooting industry (BASC, Moorland Assoc, National Gamekeepers Org, Countryside Alliance) and the Country Landowners Association made a huge thing about acknowledging 66-year-old wildlife protection legislation when they announced a professed ‘zero tolerance’ for the illegal killing of birds of prey (see here).
Since then police in North Yorkshire, the epicentre of UK raptor persecution, have issued two public statements (on 12th and 17th March) about the witnessed shooting of two male hen harriers, one on a grouse moor in the Bowland AONB (here) and one on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here). The illegal killing of hen harriers has been identified as a National Wildlife Crime Priority. This species is on its knees, thanks to criminals within the grouse shooting industry.
It was also revealed that, unusually, North Yorkshire Police had been able to make two arrests in relation to these reported crimes; this was welcome news and in both press releases the police asked the public to come forward with any further information as their inquiries continued.
[Conservationist Chris Packham holding the corpse of an illegally trapped hen harrier that was found on a grouse moor in Scotland last year. Photo by Ruth Tingay]
You might think, given the recently professed ‘zero tolerance’ of these offences, that police appeals for information about these two disturbing crimes reported on Yorkshire grouse moors would provide the perfect opportunity for the grouse-shooting industry to offer its full support to the investigations and to encourage members of the public to step forward with info, especially if there was concern about dangerous unidentified armed criminals running amok on privately-owned land, right?
Well apparently not. We’ve looked at the websites of the five organisations to search for statements and this is what we found:
Moorland Association: nothing
National Gamekeepers Organisation: nothing
Countryside Alliance: nothing
Ah, you may say, well they’re all too busy focusing on the coronavirus so haven’t had time to share information about illegal raptor persecution.
Well, that may have been a credible argument had we not found the National Gamekeepers Organisation and Countryside Alliance yesterday making urgent demands of DEFRA’s Secretary of State George Eustice to issue licences that permit gamekeepers to continue killing stoats and sidestep new restrictions (see here and here).
Meanwhile, with the hypocrisy knob turned up to high, BASC has been howling with moral indignation about the timing of Wild Justice’s decision to challenge the casual killing of birds in Wales (see here).
Zero tolerance of illegal raptor persecution? Yeah, right.