Hunting suspended for five years on Spanish estate after mass poisoning uncovered – prosecutions pending

Earlier this year the Spanish authorities raided a hunting estate in the province of Castilla y León after suspicions of illegal activity were raised.

The estate was being managed by a society of farmers and ranchers at the time, in an area designated as a Natura 2000 Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds.

The multi-agency search, which included the deployment of specialist poison-detection dogs, uncovered a pretty grim scene. This included the discovery of four Spanish imperial eagles, one Cinereous vulture, one buzzard, two red kites, one fox and one dog. Post mortems revealed they had been illegally poisoned and/or shot.

[Some of the victims found during the search]

It’s reported that almost all the victims had been hidden/buried, leading the authorities to state that they couldn’t be sure that all the victims had been found and that these ‘deliberate’ attempts to hide the corpses indicated that the poisoners/shooters were aware of the illegality.

The original news report can be read here (translated from Spanish) and there’s an easier translation to read via the Vulture Conservation Foundation website here.

What’s interesting in this case is the authorities’ decision to impose an immediate five-year hunting ban on the estate, before any prosecutions have taken place, ‘to facilitate the regeneration of the area’s wild fauna’.

We know, from a suite of prosecutions in recent years, that tackling the illegal poisoning of birds of prey is taken seriously in Spain with a multifaceted approach including the deployment of specialist poison detection dogs and investigators given the authority to conduct unannounced spot checks in areas of suspicion. In recent years successful prosecutions have resulted in massive fines, custodial sentences and extended hunting disqualifications for those convicted of laying poisoned baits (e.g. see hereherehereherehere and here).

In previous cases the hunting disqualifications appear to have been applied to the individuals convicted of placing poisoned baits, rather than to the land where the offences took place, but this may be because those convicted were the actual landowners. This current case may differ in that the estate is reported to be managed by a society as opposed to an individual.

Whatever the circumstances, the five-year hunting ban is a very welcome move and hopefully criminal prosecutions of the individuals involved will also follow.

Compare and contrast to the illegal poisoning of birds of prey over here, which continues mostly without consequence.

These are some of the cases of illegal raptor poisoning reported this year alone, many during lockdown, and none of them are heading towards a prosecution:

The illegal killing of a white-tailed eagle found on a grouse moor inside the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland (here), the mass poisoning of 23 buzzards in a field in Co Cork, Ireland (here), the poisoning of four peregrines on Guernsey in the Channel Islands (here), the poisoning of a family’s pet dog, believed to have consumed a poisoned bait intended for birds of prey in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire (here), the poisoning of a buzzard found dead on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here), the poisoning of a buzzard in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire (here), the poisoning of a buzzard and a kestrel in Derbyshire (here), the poisoning of three peregrines and a buzzard in Staffordshire (here), the poisoning of a peregrine in South Yorkshire (here), the poisoning of two peregrines in North Yorkshire (here), the poisoning of a red kite in North Yorkshire (here) and the poisoning of a red kite found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland (here).

There may well be further poisoning cases that haven’t yet been publicised.

Let’s hope Scottish Ministers are paying attention to the Spanish model as they prepare to draw up the details of the new licensing regime for driven grouse shooting (here).

11 thoughts on “Hunting suspended for five years on Spanish estate after mass poisoning uncovered – prosecutions pending”

  1. I’ve often wondered if specialist dogs could be used to try and find illegally killed raptors in the U.K. It may allow the finding of some of the many birds shoved down holes, under rocks etc… and thus aid prosecutions (maybe, but not much seems to help in this regard).

    Does anybody know if any such dogs are in use in this country, and what the barriers might be to do so (other than cost)?

    [Ed: good questions, Chris, but for operational reasons it’s probably best not to publish any responses]

  2. this sounds familiar, such as Henlaw wood, on the Scottish Borders, where countless birds of prey and their remains were found and then the game keeper’s premises were searched and illegally kept poisons were also discovered, as well a a diary of ‘death’. In the log book of misery and destruction the keeper boasted of killing countless cats and wildlife such as hedgehogs. what did he get for his years of domestic and wildlife slaughter? a few hours of community service. He missed a custodial service because he was believed in court that he had to look after a ‘sick’ wife. He continues to xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

  3. “What’s interesting in this case is the authorities’ decision to impose an immediate five-year hunting ban on the estate, before any prosecutions have taken place…”. Spot on, and I’m sure, Wild Justice’s raison d’etre being what it is, you’ll be probing the differences between UK and Spanish law on such matters. As slight aside, I see that the LPO are promoting a winter monitoring weekend of Red Kites on 9/10 January. Poisoning remains a major threat to these birds in France but the initiative includes many European countries including the UK. Is that the reality, and if so who is in the lead?

  4. One or two well known English Sporting Agents have connections to some of the big Partridge Estates in that part of Spain, and offer shooting out there. I don’t know much more than what is put on their websites, but the “high-end shooting Estate” world is quite a small one.

  5. What are the chances that the Scottish Gov. will be moved to do anything because of an atrocity in Spain. ….NIL !!

    After decades of crime at the hands of the usual suspects (obvious to all except those who do not want to see) the Werritty “report” was commissioned in 2017 following from which in Nov. 2020 the Minister makes a statement about licensing which includes : “I believe that the Government needs to act sooner than this and BEGIN DEVELOPING a licensing scheme now.”

    “Begin developing” ……….. that sounds like another without limit of time journey to nowhere.

  6. The Spanish have never been good on animal welfare, therefore it is good nes that these people have been spotlighted. However the Spanish judiciary are, like the British, very weak on animal welfare, as Spain has a culture of animal abuse under the Roman Catholic church.

  7. When you have a royal family and the landed gentry supporting shooting andall this destruction in the UK do you really expect to get prosecutions for allthis barbarity because if you do you are completely deluded

  8. When you have a royal family and the landed gentry supporting shooting and all this destruction in the UK do you really expect to get prosecutions for all this barbarity because if you do you are completely deluded

  9. Could this story also be an indication that criminal behaviour is something which is endemic throughout the shooting and hunting community worldwide?
    Clearly the intentional and illegal killing of protected animals and birds isn’t just a phenomena demonstrated only in the UK, and is something which appears to be occurring within the shooting industry in other countries?
    It might make an interesting study for criminologists.

    Is there a link between a persons desire to want to kill and harm other species and a tendency to engage in criminal or other antisocial activity?
    Certainly academic studies in the USA involving police and FBI data have all concluded there is a link between animal abuse and a persons capacity to commit crime. Studies have shown that many who abuse animals also go on to commit other serious and violent crime.

    This then raises the question of whether such individuals should be given the right to posses firearms?
    Do we really want those in our society who may harbour latent criminal intent to be gun owners?

    Whilst in this Spanish incident, hunting licences have been revoked, unless the firearms are also taken away the action of revoking hunting licences won’t prevent those responsible from shooting wildlife illegally.
    It can easily be argued that if an individual has an underlying tendency to commit criminal behaviour, then they will simply ignore any ban and continue to shoot wildlife.

    Could the link also explain the numerous reports from members of the public of the abuse and hostility they experience when encountering some members of the shooting community? Is this just a manifestation of that latent antisocial behaviour coming to the surface?

    It also raises questions about the proposed grouse shooting licensing and whether licensing to shoot should be linked to gun ownership.
    Presently those in the UK who wish to own a shotgun or Sect 1 firearm have to apply for a licence. This process includes being visited by the police, answering questions about why the applicant wishes to own a gun and demonstrating a valid reason for that gun ownership. The applicant also has to demonstrate they are of sound mind, trustworthy and declare all previous convictions.
    If the ownership of the firearm was linked to participation in shooting game on a particular estate, and that estate has its licence to shoot revoked for wildlife offences. Would the individual who owns the shotgun then also no longer have a valid reason to own a gun; and should their right to posses a gun also be removed?
    Could this put additional pressure on shooting estates to act lawfully, otherwise those who shoot on that estate could also find themselves unable to own a gun?
    Is this something the Scottish parliament should consider when it is working out the terms of any game shooting licences?

    At the moment there seems to be a failure by the authorities to link a persons desire to harm animals with latent criminal tendencies.
    Surely, if the proposed licensing scheme in Scotland is really to reduce raptor persecution, then any scheme must also address the issues around these criminal tendencies of some of those who shoot or manage shooting estates? This will require not only revoking the licence to shoot game, but also removing the capacity to shoot and kill, and this amongst other measures will require the removal of the actual firearms from those who perhaps shouldn’t have been granted a licence in the first place.

    Those who shoot game lawfully, ethically and for food, as claimed by so many of the game shooting associations, should have nothing to fear from such a proposal, and perhaps might even welcome such an idea, as it would reinforce the position declared in so much of their publicity. It should also help eradicate the criminal element that blights their activities, and this must surely be something they want???

    It would therefore be very interesting to see the reaction to such a proposal should the Scottish government choose to go down such a route??

    1. You must be joking this lot will stick together like glue. Some of them do obey the law and feel completely safe because they KNOW that others are breaking the law for the sake of bigger bags and more profit but the last thing these rats want is for anything yo change.

  10. John L wrote:-

    “Certainly academic studies in the USA involving police and FBI data have all concluded there is a link between animal abuse and a persons capacity to commit crime. Studies have shown that many who abuse animals also go on to commit other serious and violent crime.”

    Correct, I have read of that.

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