Wildlife crime on grouse moors in the Peak District National Park – an illustrated talk by Bob Berzins

Bob Berzins is a conservation campaigner who has spent a number of years highlighting the ecological damage caused by grouse-shooting interests on the moors of the Peak District National Park (e.g. see guest blogs he’s written for Mark Avery here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Regular blog readers will be well aware that the Peak District National Park has been identified as a hotbed of illegal raptor persecution for many years (e.g. see here) and this reputation continued, in and around this National Park (!) even when the country was in lockdown last spring (see here).

[A shot buzzard found critically injured at Rushup Edge, near Mam Tor in the Peak District National Park on 13th January 2020. It had to be euthanised. Photo via Derbyshire Constabulary]

Bob’s willingness to speak out about his findings on these Peak District grouse moors has led to him being targeted, like so many of us, by a campaign of harassment and intimidation from members of the grouse shooting industry, presumably in an attempt to silence him.

It’s a measure of the man that he hasn’t quietly slinked off, even in the face of the most malicious abuse, but has instead stood his ground and continued to share his experience and knowledge.

A few days ago he gave an illustrated presentation (online, of course) to the Sheffield Green Party. His talk was entitled ‘Wildlife Crime in the Peak District’ and it’s now available to watch on YouTube:

22 thoughts on “Wildlife crime on grouse moors in the Peak District National Park – an illustrated talk by Bob Berzins”

  1. A most interesting talk. Bob has to be congratulated on his efforts. He needs and deserves all the support that can be given.
    When mention is made of intimidation from those who are behind all the hideous killing and environmental damage it brings to mind “organised crime”. That is how criminal gangs work. They use thuggery in an attempt to silence those who see the crime being committed.

    1. Indeed. I just looked at the sort of stuff that is going on. All it has done is make me resolve to talk to even more people about the wildlife crime that goes on in the PDNP. How the driven grouse shooting industry thinks that sort of behaviour helps their case is beyond me.

  2. I met Bob a few years ago when he came to visit Angus and I showed him around some local glens . I last saw him at the last Revive conference in Perth . A passionate man and dedicated to tackling wildlife crime on our uplands . It speaks volumes that certain groups are now targeting him for his public stance . xxxxxxxxxxxx have a hysterical post on their facebook page and , not surprisingly , this has been shared by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Moorland Group . Shameful .

  3. Can someone tell me how with all the scrutiny monitoring and reporting on raptors why there are very few arrests and even fewer convictions?

    What is the life expectancy of a raptor? How long do the live on moors that are not managed for shooting? I doubt they’d even exist!

    Many seem unable to accept the fact nature is brutal and animals die.

    The shooting community as a whole are united against raptor persecution. Please just accept that times and attitudes have changed. We no longer live in the Victorian era.

    What would be the normal rate of mortality without the so called illegal shooting?

    How many birds are lost to wind farms?

    1. Simon
      There are a number of reasons why there are so few arrests and convictions.
      The police may well have have a suspect for a wildlife crime, but it takes more than suspicion to arrest and convict a suspect.
      Before the police can arrest anyone for an offence they must have “reasonable” grounds to suspect that person is involved in a crime for which an arrest is necessary.
      “Reasonable grounds” is a legal test- suspicion alone is insufficient. It is well documented that wildlife offences are difficult to detect due to the remoteness of the crimes, the lack of witnesses, and the difficulties for gathering forensic evidence or physical evidence. Therefore meeting the legal threshold for reasonable grounds and affecting an arrest can be problematic.
      A “necessity test” is also linked to an arrest. It is now often the case that the police don’t arrest a suspect who has committed a crime, but make arrangements to interview a suspect at a later date about their alleged involvement in that crime.
      Wildlife crimes will often fall within this category- so there won’t be a high number of arrests for wildlife crimes.
      But that doesn’t mean a number of people won’t have been interviewed or investigated by the police.

      As for prosecutions- for a successful criminal prosecution the burden of proof is “beyond all reasonable doubt” . Because the current legal system doesn’t include wildlife crimes as indictable offences, then this severely restricts the investigative powers that are available to the police. A suspects “right to silence”, the lack of witnesses and /or or physical or forensic evidence often means the police are unable to meet high requirements of the CPS threshold test to charge a suspect, or the high burden of proof required to secure a conviction.

      This lack of arrests or convictions doesn’t mean raptor crimes aren’t occurring, it simply means the current legal system is not able to effectively deal with them.
      This needs to change.
      Hence the proposal towards licensing, which would allow sanctions to be imposed under civil law, where the burden of proof is lower.

      There is often substantial circumstantial evidence to link raptor crimes to game bird management. Gamekeepers are often the prime suspect in many police investigations into illegal raptor persecution incidents.
      This is recognised by the authorities, and is well covered in much of the studies carried out on wildlife crime.
      Sadly, it seems to be something that some of those in the shooting community fail to want to acknowledge.

      I find it very strange that those law abiding persons who participate in shooting direct their attention and anger towards conservation groups or well known conservation spokespersons, rather than at the criminals who are bringing such disrepute to the shooting industry.
      Certainly if the activities I participate in, had embedded criminality, I would be doing everything within my power to expose and bring those criminals to justice. I simply wouldn’t want criminality to be associated with what I enjoy doing.
      So the challenge is really back in the court of the shooting community.
      What are law abiding shooters doing to eradicate the criminals who are hiding within their midst???
      Rather than question what is overwhelming evidence that raptor persecution takes place, would you not be better demanding that those bodies which represent the shooting industry actually take proper effective action to deal with the wildlife criminals? “Effective” is the key word here. Words of condemnation are not enough. Effective means demanding that those behind the crimes are exposed, brought to justice and banned from ever participating in the shooting industry ever again.

      But, it maybe that driven grouse shooting, or intensive game bird shooting wouldn’t be able to function if it wasn’t for the criminals whose activities ensure that there are an unnaturally high number of gamebirds to be shot by a fee paying cliental?
      Could that be the reason why those within the industry who could take action don’t??
      The money which some of those in the shooting community are making would simply disappear. As we all know money is a major motivating factor in most crimes!

      As for your other question about bird deaths due to wind turbines. This is another smokescreen thrown up by the shooting industry to try and divert attention away from the illegal killing of birds of prey. From what I have read, most studies indicate the number of bird deaths caused by wind turbines is negligible compared to other causes.
      But if you have access to internet, you can carry out your own research.

      If you are genuinely opposed to raptor persecution then please open your eyes to the truth, and ask yourself whether those organisations which claim to represent you, really are doing enough to eradicate what can only be described as appalling crimes!! Or are they the ones still “living in the Victorian era” ??

      1. Thank you for your lengthy reply.

        There is no anger in my post just simple questions.

        Given the monitoring of these birds I find it hard to believe there is no evidence of illegal persecution. That seems to be the only question you’ve responded to, yet there were a number of other valid questions raised that have yet to be answered.

        As I stated we no longer live in the Victorian era and estate owners and employees are well aware of the laws. No one within the shooting community will tolerate or condone illegal raptor persecution. Anyone found guilty of doing so will lose their employment as well as their homes.

        It may be true that there is the odd rotten apple on one side, but it’s equally true the other side also has them!

        We are all conservationist we just come at it from different angles.

        It’s worth noting that this year has been an excellent year for Hen Harriers and long may it continue.

        1. The published evidence shows your assertions to be completely false. Do you really think that those here are taken in by such abject drivel?

        2. There might be an issue of people, like yourself, who do what they can for nature while managing their land feeling as though they are “tarred with the same brush” and under attack. I imagine it’s hard not to feel under attack when grouped with those who commit crimes and behave in such reprehensible ways. If this is the case, I hope you could think of yourself as separate to the criminal element and, rather than perhaps going on the defensive against those who wish the criminality to stop, understand that you’re not one of “them” and look again at where the issues are, calling the criminals out for what they are.

          It does appear that there are more than just the odd bad apple given the records of persecution.

          Just a thought – might be wide of the mark but just sharing ideas.

          1. There is no defending those that carry out illegal activity of any kind. Within my closer and wider circle I do not know of anyone who would condone or accept it.

            While I would not suggest it does not ever happen, it would be a tiny element and more than likely with no real association to formal game shooting or interest in conservation.

            Perhaps rather than a using a wide brush approach tarring all, perhaps organisations could work together to identify those on both sides who cross and the line and work towards a greater good.

              1. I’m neither deluded, a liar or new to the issue!
                If you wish to engage in personal insults and malicious accusations it says more about you than it does me.

                Interesting many on this thread talk about bullying threats and intimidation, yet this is exactly what you e tried to do on your reply.

                What exactly do you find so offensive about working together to identify a tiny element of those who cross the lines on both sides?

                1. All here can see that I’ve neither bullied or threatened you! If you feel intimidated by challenges to your distortions, then perhaps you’re in the wrong place. Play the victim all you want. You’re fooling nobody.

                  1. I never accused you of threatening me. You stated I was lying you’ve also now said this isn’t the place for me.

                    Yet you refuse to answer one simple question. Why is that?

                    I’ve no interest in debating with you, others can make up their minds in the rights and wrongs.

                    Let me spell it out for you as you seem to struggle understanding my comments.

                    There is no place for raptor persecution, the field sports community as a whole are against it and it will not be tolerated. Anyone who breaks the law will get no support or sympathy from anyone. If the odd individual believes he is exempt from this he will be hung out to dry once identified.

                    Now what is wrong with both sides working together to identify wrong doers on both sides? Are people still so blinkered, bitter and biased that they will allow this to stop them from working towards a greater good?

                    1. “I never accused you of threatening me”…

                      “Interesting many on this thread talk about bullying threats and intimidation, yet this is exactly what you e (sic) tried to do on your reply.”

                      “You stated I was lying”

                      “Are you completely deluded, new to the issue, or just dishonest?”

                      Q.E.D.

                      Hang about, I’m busy at the moment…

            1. Hi Simon. The validity of your point hinges on the depth of your own experience within your “closer and wider circle” and who this circle is. If this “circle” is inter-related to a DGS Estate(s) & it’s local helpers then i am curious to know which one area it is (e.g. Lammermuirs / Bowland / NY Dales, etc,etc) that you have found to be whiter-than-white.

            2. Yes, this is something that is essential, an approach which I think the RSPB have tried, perhaps more than once.

              This is a better approach than simply berating each other, I doubt one “side” will achieve exactly what they want and there needs to be joined up thinking. Ire on the internet, thankfully, doesn’t have anything to do with what happens in the real world!

              1. Yes, the RSPB have tried it for decades, only to be repaid with smears, lies, outright threats and continued criminality from the DGS mob. And insults to the intelligence from its proponents, who, despite knowing full well that their hobby is riddled with (and largely dependent on) wildlife crime, persist with the lame, discredited “few bad apples” argument; not to mention ludicrous claims of “wrong doers on both sides”!

                DGS is under the cosh. A cosh, not only of public opinion, but of incontrovertible, scientific fact. And so, as the pressure has increased, its participants and apologists have changed their tactics; from openly demonising raptors and calling for their “control”, to denial, then downplaying the level of criminality, moving on to a shoddy pretence of common ground with real conservationists, while being utterly incapable of admitting the scale of the problem within their own ranks.

                The truth is that one side (the side of common decency) wish to see our natural heritage protected, its abuse to cease forthwith, and the law of the land to be upheld. The other simply wish to maintain a crooked status quo. It’s often said of this issue that the time for compromise is long past. But, of course, criminals have no interest in such, and never have, despite pretences on sites like this.

  4. It was a brilliant talk, good to see the local green party is taking such an interest. I had forgotten Sheffield has been hit hard by flooding – definitely seems to be a common occurrence near grouse moors. Opposing any measures that would reduce it would be political suicide so I hope Sheffield Green Party and others raise the issue’s profile among the locals. I’m definitely going to get a copy of Bob’s book it seems to be genuinely well regarded.

  5. Bob

    I hugely admire your knowledge, guts and determination. It was an excellent talk. Thank you.

    It’s awful but it seems to me that the fact you’ve been targeted by shooting thugs simply demonstrates they think you’re persuasive and a real threat to their ability to maintain the status quo. Keep up the great work!

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