Chris Packham in conversation with Alison Johnstone MSP

Yesterday evening Chris Packham was in conversation with Alison Johnstone MSP of the Scottish Greens, talking about the future of driven grouse shooting in Scotland.

This took place as part of the joint e-action campaign by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action to encourage UK voters to contact their elected representatives principally about tackling the ongoing illegal killing of birds of prey on driven grouse moors. Yesterday the total soared past 100,000 emails.

[Alison Johnstone MSP, photo via Scottish Greens]

This conversation between Chris and Alison is well worth a listen.

Here are some highlights:

Chris Packham:A 100,000 emails, Alison, what has this meant to elected representatives who’ve come in, opened their computer inbox and sat down and seen them?

Alison Johnstone:It’s left elected representatives like myself in no doubt whatsoever as to the strength of public feeling.

We know that people want action, they’re absolutely sick to the back teeth of hearing that another bird of prey has been persecuted. This afternoon I went in to my Parliamentary inbox and I would say every couple of minutes I’m receiving one of these emails.

In Parliament during the week, one of my colleagues said, ‘Oh, could you..’ (I would say not a Green colleague of course), one of my colleagues laughingly said, ‘Oh, could you not do anything to stop those emails coming in?’ And I said, ‘You know, I’d really like to claim credit for that fabulous campaign but that’s down to the RSPB, Wild Justice and Hen Harrier Action’. But there is no doubt at all the message is getting across loud and clear, so great work!

Incidentally, Alison’s colleague Mark Ruskell MSP tweeted this morning that he’d received ‘well over 500 emails’ from his own constituents on this topic:

Alison Johnstone: ‘I think the Scottish Government is beginning to understand now that this is actually a vote winner for them.

If they listened to what really concerns people in Scotland, the fact that they’ve received so many emails in recent days about the persecution of birds of prey, when you think about all the other challenges we’re currently facing with Covid 19 pandemic, with the potential of a looming no-deal Brexit, but people still want them to protect the environment, I think that says a lot‘.

The conversation, which also included issues such as the Werritty Review and Alison’s recent success at securing protection for mountain hares (here) but the Scottish Government’s subsequent ‘dragging of feet’ to enact it (here) can be watched in full below (if you can’t access it go to Chris’s social media pages to find the recording):

The e-action currently stands at over 117,000. It closes on tomorrow (Monday 31st Aug) at midnight. As Alison and other politicians have said, every single email counts so please consider joining in if you haven’t already – CLICK HERE.

Thank you

100,000 e-actions sent to politicians urging action on grouse moor reform!

Brilliant news!

The e-action campaign to urge politicians across the UK to take action on grouse moor reform has passed the 100,000 mark!

This campaign was launched just three weeks ago on Hen Harrier Day by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action and the response from the general public has been phenomenal. Massive thanks to everyone who has joined in.

Wild Justice has written a blog (here) outlining what will happen next. Information will be published via the Wild Justice newsletter so if you haven’t yet signed up for that here’s how to subscribe.

The e-action is open until Monday evening so there’s still time to take part and get your local politician involved – see here.

Chris Packham was live with Iolo Williams as the counter passed the 100,000 mark earlier this afternoon. You can watch a recording here:

This evening at 8pm Chris will be talking to Alison Johnstone MSP of the Scottish Greens. You can watch live on Chris’s twitter and Facebook pages.

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to this effort – change only happens when people stand up together.

Lamb euthanised after stepping on illegally-set spring trap in North York Moors National Park

A lamb has been euthanised after being found in the North York Moors National Park with an illegally-set spring-trap attached to its leg.

The lamb was discovered on 8th August 2020 and was seen by a vet, who reported a nasty bone infection tracking up the lamb’s leg from the trap injury. A decision was taken to euthanise the stricken animal.

The use of this type of spring trap (a Fenn trap) became subject to new regulations in April this year as it is no longer considered humane for killing stoats. Gamekeepers have been urged to stop using them altogether in most situations and switch to a trap with a different design (e.g. see here and here).

Nevertheless, even if the operator of this particular trap had a defence for its lawful use, it would appear that it had still been set illegally if this lamb had managed to get its leg caught in it. Spring traps have to be placed inside a tunnel (artificial or natural) with excluders at each end to prevent non-target species entering the tunnel and getting caught.

Of course, even though the police are investigating this incident the chance of anyone being prosecuted is absolutely zero because it would be virtually impossible to determine who had set the trap. Even if there was a lawful requirement for the trap operator to have an identifying tag on the trap (which there isn’t), the police would still have enormous difficulty finding sufficient evidence to demonstrate it had been set by the operator and not by a third party.

What the police can do, though, is to visit the landowners in this area and ‘give them advice’ about the lawful use of traps.

Interestingly, this lamb was found on land close to Hutton-le-Hole, which is remarkably close to where the suspected poisoned sparrowhawk was reported a few days ago (here) and where a satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘disappeared’ in 2018 (see here).

Anyone with information about any of these cases, please contact PC Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station on 101.


More on Leadhills Estate’s individual licence to shoot crows

Back in November 2019, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) imposed a three-year General Licence restriction on Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire following ‘clear evidence from Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on this estate’ (see hereherehere, here, and here).

Those alleged offences included the ‘illegal killing of a short-eared owl, two buzzards and three hen harriers’ that had been ‘shot or caught in traps’ on Leadhills Estate since 2014. SNH also claimed that ‘wild birds’ nests had also been disturbed’, although there was no further detail on this. The estate denied responsibility, obviously.

[This male hen harrier was found with its leg almost severed, caught in an illegally-set trap next to its nest on Leadhills Estate in 2019. Despite valiant efforts by a top wildlife surgeon, the bird didn’t survive. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

As regular blog readers will know, a General Licence restriction is supposed to prevent an estate from killing so-called ‘pest’ species (e.g. crows) that would otherwise be permissible under the General Licences but estates can still apply to SNH for an ‘individual licence’ to circumvent the General Licence restriction and continue killing birds, albeit with a bit more paperwork to complete.

This ridiculous situation is a legal quirk, outlined in a Judicial Review, and isn’t SNH’s fault (although SNH could be doing a lot more to point out the system failings to the Scottish Government). Basically if a penalised estate isn’t provided with an opportunity to apply for an individual licence the estate could argue the system was unfair and the legality of the General Licence restriction probably wouldn’t stand. If further wildlife crimes are discovered on the estate when an individual licence is in place, SNH can revoke the individual licence but the estate can simply reapply for another one. We’ve discussed how the General Licence restriction is a wholly ineffective deterrent plenty of times in the past, (e.g. see herehereherehere) and last year we even gave evidence to this effect alongside RSPB Scotland and others to a Scottish parliamentary committee (here).

In July this year we discovered via a freedom of information request that SNH had indeed granted an individual licence to Leadhills Estate that was valid between 27 April – 1 June 2020. It permitted the shooting of two species, hooded crow and carrion crow, in a limited part of the estate and apparently to protect lambs (see here).

One of the conditions of the licence was that the estate had to submit a return to SNH no later than 1 July 2020, documenting all shooting and scaring activities undertaken under this licence.

We wanted to see this return and we also wanted to know the details of the compliance checks undertaken by SNH. SNH has stated previously that any individual licences issued to Leadhills Estate would be ‘closely monitored’ and this ‘tighter supervision is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime’.

Another FoI was submitted and here is SNH’s response:

It’s all very interesting, isn’t it?

But not as interesting as the fact that Police Scotland are currently investigating a number of new alleged wildlife crimes on this estate (see here) including the alleged shooting of a(nother) short-eared owl by a masked gunman on a quad bike as witnessed by a local resident and his eight year old son (see here).

The question now is, in light of these new alleged offences and the obvious conclusion that imposing a three-year General Licence restriction did not prevent further wildlife crime taking place, as SNH thought it might, will SNH now extend Leadhills Estate’s three-year General Licence restriction as its policy allows if further evidence of wildlife crime is uncovered during the original three-year restriction period, and refuse the individual licence that the estate appears to want for next spring? Is there any point to further licence restrictions? It seems pretty ineffective, to be honest.

There are another couple of questions, too, but these are for Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the grouse shooting owners’ lobby group. We’ve been asking these questions for years but SLE hasn’t replied yet. Can’t imagine why. These are really questions that should be asked by the so-called ‘partner organisations’ that serve alongside SLE on the so-called ‘partnerships’ such as the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Raptor Group with its zero tolerance for raptor persecution. Here are the questions again, for old times’ sake:

  1. Is Leadhills Estate still a member of SLE?
  2. Is Lord Hopetoun of Leadhills Estate still Chairman of SLE’s Scottish Moorland Group?


If you’re concerned about the level of illegal raptor persecution in the UK, especially the high incidence of killing that takes place on or close to driven grouse moors, you can sign this e-action which urges your politician to take note and actually do something about it.

Launched two weeks ago by three organisations: Wild Justice, the RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, so far over 86,000 people have signed up. All you need to do is enter your postcode and a polite, pre-written email will automatically be sent to your parliamentary representative asking them to stop ignoring this issue.

If you want to add your voice and give your elected politician a polite nudge, please sign up HERE and pass this link on to others.

Thank you

Sparrowhawk dies in suspected poisoning incident in North York Moors National Park

North Yorkshire Police press statement (24 August 2020)

Police urge vigilance after sparrowhawk shows symptoms of poisoning

Police are warning residents near Kirkbymoorside after a bird of prey died in circumstances that could suggest poisoning

A very unwell sparrowhawk was found by members of the public in woodland, just off Gillamoor Bank, close to Gillamoor village near Kirkbymoorside in Ryedale.

The bird appeared to be experiencing seizures and clenching its talons, and was taken locally for care, but died shortly after.

The symptoms shown by the bird suggest that poisons could have been involved in its death.

[Sparrowhawk, photo by Markus Varesvuo]

Officers from North Yorkshire Police are investigating the incident, and the dead bird has been accepted onto the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) for testing to establish the cause of death.

The WIIS investigates the deaths of wildlife and pet animals and beneficial invertebrates in the UK if there is evidence to suggest that they may have been poisoned or put at risk by pesticides.

The sparrowhawk was found earlier this month in a location very close to the village of Gillamoor, in woodland which includes a public footpath.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “At this time, we are keeping an open mind as to the cause of death. However, toxicology results may not be known for a number of weeks, so we want to make the community aware so they can take precautions to keep pets, children and themselves safe.

Once the results of the tests are known we will update the community, but for the time being dog owners should take care to keep their dogs on leads when in this area, and remain vigilant.”

If you have any information about this incident, contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference 12200142198.

If you find a dead animal you believe may be contaminated, do not touch it – poisons can transfer through contact with skin – and keep children and pets well away. Instead, take photographs, obtain an exact location (for example, a grid reference or a What3words location) and contact the police.


Here’s the location of Gillamoor village and the surrounding woodland, right next door to an area that appears to be managed for driven grouse shooting on the edge of the North York Moors National Park:

Obviously, the results of the toxicology tests are awaited before this incident can be confirmed as an illegal poisoning but let’s be honest, given North Yorkshire’s appalling reputation for the illegal killing of birds of prey, including inside its two National Parks, either by shooting, trapping or poisoning (e.g. see here, here, here and here), yet another victim would come as no surprise whatsoever.


If you’re concerned about the level of illegal raptor persecution in the UK, especially the high incidence of killing that takes place on or close to driven grouse moors, you can sign this e-action which urges your politician to take note and actually do something about it.

Launched two weeks ago by three organisations: Wild Justice, the RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, so far over 84,000 people have signed up. All you need to do is enter your postcode and a polite, pre-written email will automatically be sent to your parliamentary representative asking them to stop ignoring this issue.

If you want to add your voice and give your elected politician a polite nudge, please sign up HERE and pass this link on to others.

Thank you

Protection for mountain hares kicked well & truly back in to long grass

Protection for mountain hares, slaughtered in their thousands on Scottish grouse moors (an estimated 26,000 each year), looks to be a long way off.

This is despite scientific evidence revealing catastrophic declines, despite the species’ unfavourable conservation status and despite the Scottish Parliament voting in June for full protection under the proposed Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act.

The Scottish Government is first insisting on undertaking a consultation with stakeholders to work out the details of how a licensing scheme will work, and has ignored the pleas of conservationists to bring in interim protection for mountain hares now that the open season for killing them has begun again (see here, here, here, here).

Instead, to the utter astonishment of the conservation community, as the hare-killing season opened on 1st August Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham asked the grouse shooting community to conduct voluntary restraint (see here) – an utterly futile and indeed facile request to an industry that has, for decades, proven itself incapable of self restraint.

[Shot mountain hares strung up in a chilling larder, screen-grabbed from a controversial feature on Countryfile (2018) showing mountain hares being shot on a Scottish grouse moor]

Meanwhile, a number of politicians have been putting pressure on the Scottish Government to pull its finger out and bring in measures to prevent the inevitable hare-killing sprees on grouse moors across the country, but Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon is trotting out the usual vague and non-committal responses we’ve come to expect from this Government.

For example, here are some pertinent Parliamentary questions from Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens) and Christine Grahame (SNP) and the Environment Minister’s responses:

Question S5W-30665: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party. Date lodged 13/7/20:

To ask the Scottish Government when it plans to commence section 10F of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act.

Answered by Mairi Gougeon (30/7/20):

The Scottish Government will set out its timetable for commencing all sections of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020, including Section 10F, in due course.

Question S5W-30899: Christine Grahame, Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, Scottish National Party. Date lodged: 23/7/20:

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of mountain hare culling restarting on 1 August 2020, when the licensing scheme in compliance with the Animal and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 will be enforceable. 

Answered by Mairi Gougeon (10/8/20):

I refer the member to the answer to question S5W-30665 on 30 July 2020. All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament’s website, the search facility for which can be found at xxxxxxxx.

Question S5W-30664: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party. Date lodged 13/7/20:

To ask the Scottish Government what measures it will put in place to prevent further mass culling of mountain hares when the mountain hare closed season ends on 1 August 2020.

Answered by Mairi Gougeon (10/8/20):

The Scottish Government has always been clear that any large-scale culling that threatens the conservation status of mountain hares is not acceptable. However, as I stated during the stage 3 debate in Parliament there are a number of issues that must be fully considered ahead of the introduction of a licensing regime. I am now giving careful thought as to how that regime will work and when the protection will come into force and I will be discussing that in detail with stakeholders over the coming months. We will be following the situation carefully for any indication of attempts to carry out excessive culls and will take steps to address this if necessary.

God this is tedious. ‘Over the coming months’ and ‘in due course’ and ‘we will take steps to address this if necessary’. These are holding statements designed to hide the fact that the issue is being kicked in to the long grass.

Do these phrases sound familiar? They should – these are the exact same lethargic, ambiguous phrases that have come to characterise the Scottish Government’s inaction over the ongoing and illegal killing of birds of prey on driven grouse moors.

So far this season there are no confirmed reports of mountain hares being culled on Scottish grouse moors (there were a couple of unconfirmed reports in early August but these proved to be unsubstantiated – see here). However, with the grouse-shooting season now open this isn’t the time when most hares are slaughtered. That bloodbath usually takes place in January and February, once the grouse-shooting season has ended, as depicted in this shocking video.

Can we expect to see more of the same this season?

Chris Packham talks raptor persecution with Caroline Lucas MP 8pm tonight

Chris Packham continues his series of chats on raptor persecution and grouse moor mismanagement, this time talking with Caroline Lucas MP tonight at 8pm.

You can watch live on Chris’s twitter channel (@chrisgpackham) or on Facebook:

The recording will be available immediately afterwards on both channels. You don’t need to have an account to watch it (see link below).

These recorded chats are in support of the Wild Justice / RSPB / Hen Harrier Action e-action, urging politicians throughout the UK to take a stand against the illegal killing of birds of prey and the other environmental atrocities associated with driven grouse shooting. This e-action has currently been signed by over over 77,000 supporters. If you’d like to join in, please click HERE

UPDATE: To watch the recording please click here.

Grouse moor report shows industry ‘out of control’ says Mark Ruskell MSP

Last week two new reports were published that suggested up to a quarter of a million animals are killed in traps and snares on Scottish grouse moors every year (see here).

Commissioned and published by the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) as part of the Revive coalition for grouse moor reform, the grouse shooting industry has responded as it usually does when anyone dares to question its shocking environmental and animal welfare record – by attacking the integrity of the reports’ authors.

However, Mark Ruskell MSP, environment spokesman for the Scottish Greens, had this to say about the new research:

This report is absolutely shocking and reveals an industry completely out of control. No amount of attempts to discredit it can hide the sheer scale of damage done to Scotland’s environment by this cruel hobby.

This revelation comes after yet more reports of birds of prey vanishing or found killed around grouse moors, and an open season on mountain hares that should never have gone ahead. The Scottish Government has failed to act, and has sat on its response to the Werrity review since February. It’s time for ministers to come out of hiding and call time on this annual damage, killing, burning, and degradation of our landscape.”

He’s right, of course. Except that the Scottish Government has sat on its response to the Werritty Review for longer than since February. The Werritty Review was submitted to the Scottish Government on 18 November 2019.

The two new reports, ‘Calculating Cruelty’ and ‘Hanged by the Feet until Dead’ can be downloaded below:

Calculating Cruelty

Hanged by the Feet until Dead


You can help apply pressure to urge political action be taken against the legal and illegal atrocities of grouse moor management. An e-action was launched two weeks ago by three organisations: Wild Justice, the RSPB and Hen Harrier Action. All you need to do is enter your postcode and a polite, pre-written email will automatically be sent to your parliamentary representative asking them to stop ignoring this issue.

So far, an incredible 76,000 people have signed up. The e-action expires next weekend. Please sign up HERE and pass this link on to others.

Thank you


Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham not standing for re-election

Scottish Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham will not be standing for re-election as an MSP at the spring 2021 election.

This decision was formally announced this morning, although it has been anticipated for some time.

[Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham with a golden eagle. She famously commissioned a review on the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland which reported in 2017 and demonstrated unequivocally that illegal persecution on or close to some driven grouse moors continues to suppress this species’ population in the central and eastern Highlands. Photographer unknown]

Here’s the official statement:

All eyes now on the Scottish Government’s long overdue response to the Werritty Review, expected to be announced ‘in the coming months‘ which is such a typically vague and lethargic commitment to an issue that should have been dealt with, robustly and decisively, years ago.

Will Roseanna Cunningham leave her mark by finally agreeing to implement a grouse moor licensing scheme without further delay?


You can help apply political pressure. If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging them to finally get a grip on this issue. Launched on Hen Harrier Day by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, so far over 64,000 people have signed up.

This means that over 64,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the UK. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you

Kestrel attacked with baseball bat: West Yorkshire Police seek witnesses

West Yorkshire Police’s Wildlife & Rural Team (Leeds) attended an incident in Bradley Park, Huddersfield where someone had attacked a kestrel with a baseball bat.

The date and time of the incident is not given in this police tweet posted yesterday but police are appealing for witnesses who haven’t already come forward to please do so now.

If you saw this incident or have information relating to it please call the police on 101 and quote ref # 13200421413.