The Moorland Association, a lobby group for England’s grouse moor owners, has elected a new Chairman and its choice speaks volumes.
Mark Cunliffe-Lister (Lord Masham in some circles) owns the Swinton Estate in Nidderdale. This estate may sound familiar to some readers, and that’s because we’ve had reason to blog about it several times over the years.
The grouse moor on Swinton Estate is where satellite-tagged hen harrier Bowland Betty’s shot corpse was found in 2012 (see here) although there was no evidence to suggest her killing had anything to do with anyone on the estate, it was just rotten luck that she died there. The grouse shooting industry then pretended that she hadn’t been shot at all, even after forensic evidence confirmed she had indeed, been shot (see here). It was just rotten luck that people preferred the opinion of expert forensic scientists from the University College London Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science instead of the non-expert opinion of some non-expert, non-scientists at the Countryside Alliance.
In another example of rotten luck another shot hen harrier’s corpse was found on a grouse moor at Swinton Estate in 2019 (see here); this time it was a satellite-tagged bird called River who had disappeared on the estate in November 2018. The day after she vanished, at dusk an unidentified gunman had been seen with two dogs walking through a known hen harrier roost site on the estate (see here). Again, there was no evidence to suggest River’s killing had anything to do with anyone on the estate, it was just rotten luck (again) that she died there.
[Hen harrier River’s corpse being retrieved from a grouse moor on Swinton Estate in April 2019. Photo by RSPB]
[Photo of the illegal pole trap set by a gamekeeper on Swinton Estate, photo by RSPB]
Now, some might argue that the Swinton Estate should have been expelled from the Moorland Association after this gamekeeper’s conviction. However, that would have been most unfair – pole traps had only been banned in the UK for 110 years at that point, it’s not as though the poor fellow had had sufficient time to adjust to the new rules. So what better way for the Moorland Association to show its support than to elect the estate owner to become Chair? Bravo!
Swinton Estate was back in the news last year as it reportedly hosted successfully breeding hen harriers for the first time in many, many years. Swinton was so enamoured with them that it donated the chicks to Natural England’s brood meddling scheme which, according to this article in last weekend’s Yorkshire Post Country Week (see pressing below), is a ‘hen harrier conservation’ project which ‘alleviates the overpopulation of hen harriers in one area by redistributing them into unpopulated areas‘!!!!!!!!! Wow! Let’s just take a moment to admire the breathtaking distortion on display there.
Meanwhile, according to Lord Masham, ‘the project was working well‘….er, really? What a forgetful silly billy Lord Masham is – he ‘forgot’ to mention the difficulty in finding another land owner willing to host the brood meddled hen harrier chicks on release (see here), he ‘forgot’ to mention the suspicious disappearance of several of those brood meddled chicks after release (see here), he ‘forgot’ to mention the decision to use a new type of untested satellite tag on some of those brood meddled chicks (see here), he ‘forgot’ to mention the 31 (at least) hen harriers believed to have been illegally killed since 2018, the year when grouse shooting industry reps would have us believe that hen harriers were welcomed back on the grouse moors, he ‘forgot’ to mention last year’s scientific paper that demonstrated 72% of satellite tagged hen harriers were believed to have been illegally killed on or near grouse moors (see here), he ‘forgot’ to mention that far from being ‘overpopulated’, thanks to illegal persecution on grouse moors England has single-figure hen harrier nests where there should be 330+ (see here), he ‘forgot’ to mention the ongoing police investigations in to the alleged witnessed shooting of two hen harriers on grouse moors this year (see here) and he ‘forgot’ to mention the ongoing legal challenge against brood meddling by actual conservationists (see here) who can see it for exactly what it is – a Government-sponsored sham (see here).
Most of the article’s content is a re-hash of the Moorland Association’s press statement on Lord Masham’s appointment (see here – well worth a read for a good laugh) but there’s one statement in particular that appears in the article but not in the MA’s press release:
According to the Yorkshire Post article, Lord Masham said ‘there was still the historical perception that raptors were persecuted by gamekeepers….’
And there it is. That one single sentence tells us everything we need to know. An ‘historical perception‘? Yep, it’s clear to see why Lord Masham was elected; he’s going to fit right in. Moorland Association Director Amanda Anderson may well have some competition for the title of Top Contortionist in the coming weeks as we await details of the recent police investigations of alleged raptor persecution on a number of grouse moors….