Swinton Estate owner (& Chair of Moorland Association) challenged by BBC about raptor persecution on his estate

This is worth a watch.

A BBC documentary series called Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby featured the Swinton Estate in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.

The owner of the estate, Mark Cunliffe-Lister (also known as Lord Masham) also happens to be the Chair of the Moorland Association, the lobby group for grouse moor owners in England.

As part of the programme, presenter Giles Coren visited Swinton’s grouse moors with Cunliffe-Lister and Coren asked him straight out about confirmed raptor persecution crimes on Swinton. The change in Cunliffe-Lister’s body language was quite noticeable – he went from confident, open, welcoming hotel owner to cagey, uncomfortable grouse moor owner.

Giles Coren:Have there been instances around here of raptors being killed?

Mark Cunliffe-Lister:Yes, there have been, there was one that was found on Swinton itself, it was found to have some lead in it so, er, clearly had been shot at some stage. There’s nothing that we’re culpable of but clearly there are still instances of it taking place“.

Just the one, Mark? What a forgetful silly billy (and not for the first time).

Kudos to Giles Coren and to whoever was the BBC executive producer of this edition. Good stuff.

The programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for a year (the grouse moor stuff starts at 39 mins 15 sec) HERE

12 thoughts on “Swinton Estate owner (& Chair of Moorland Association) challenged by BBC about raptor persecution on his estate”

  1. I watched this when it was first on the screen its a pity the subject was not pushed a bit harder. His lordship soon made a point of mentioning the hide at the Harrier watchpoint as if to say what a good bloke I am building this for birders to use. Like a few others using RPUK I have watched this area for years and I do not believe this change of heart

    1. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx as does their association with Natural England in the brood meddling scheme, a scheme designed to distract from xxxxx xxxxx behaviour towards hen harriers.

      [Ed: Thanks, Dave, parts of your comment deleted as libellous]

  2. Pleasantly surprised at how far and for how long the raptor persecution element was pushed in this BBC programme. A shame Giles C got the date wrong for when it became illegal to kill raptors – not 1981 (must be a reference to the Wildlife and Countryside Act). I believe it was 1954 they all got legal protection from killing (except the sparrowhawk, that got protection in 1964?). Not a pedantic point because it means the law has been flouted for a lot longer than 1981. The one bit that was frustrating was the predictable comment about how grouse shooting was controversial, but brought jobs into remote communities and contributed to local economies ‘fifteen million pounds in northern England’. That sounds like a lot until you realise that according to Guy Shrubsole’s work at FoE this is for an area of land roughly equivalent to that enclosed by the M25 – fifteen million quid from that is utterly pathetic!! It really is effing appalling. My local Tesco pulls in about one million quid per week. If Giles C had questioned his lordship about grouse moor economics in the same critical way he raised raptor persecution I wonder what the response would have been?

  3. I watched this on I-player and only the section on the moor. Yes there was a noticeable change in body language and then the xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Swinton estate is notorious both locally and regionally for the disappearance of raptors and their failure to breed successfully on the estate. As somebody who has followed the fortunes of raptors on the estate since the mid eighties there are for us ( and it has been supplied to the police/ RSPB investigations) a long string of suspicious incidents going back to then, birds ( Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Peregrine, Hen Harrier and Raven) suddenly developing “Malta moult.” A gas gun placed close to a known Goshawk site (EN as it was then, forced removal but the birds had already failed) That and another Goshawk territory were finally abandoned in the early 2000s after a total of 16 attempts with just one possibly successful. A Buzzard nest being completely removed in the middle of breeding. Hen Harriers failing in 1994, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2019 in circumstances strongly suggesting human interference, a well known grouse shooter on the estate bragging in the pub afterwards about shooting a harrier in a drive ( he still shoots there). The peregrine site on their moor occupied for 15 years and never rearing young. At least two poisoned Red Kites found on the estate, the first and second times the “Nidderdale cocktail” was found. An Eagle Owl shot in a grouse drive and there is more. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    One is led to believe that the current apparent change in tolerance to Hen Harriers is a fear of financial loss similar to that which happened at Denton after the Marsh Harrier nest and badger snaring incidents. The hide is a PR exercise. It will take an awful lot of naturally fledged Hen Harriers to compensate and we shouldn’t forget that this was until recently Nidderdale’s rotten Heart of darkness.

    1. Of course it could all be supremely rotten or unfortunate luck that Swinton have had but then the same sort of luck pertains to all the neighbouring grouse moor estates too. Begs the question as to whom may be responsible xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

    1. Me too, and the response (that golf courses are managed by lots of people, but on this moor it mostly falls to just “Gary the gamekeeper” on his own) was also interesting given how much the shooters bang on about the rural jobs they support.

  4. For a soft soap programme it was remarkable and to Gile’s credit that the issue was even raised at all. Many moors can just shrug this sort of thing off but when you are trying to sell a super-top-end hotel and countryside experience the risk of a bad reputation for raptor persecution surely massively outweighs the income from grouse shooting. And an interesting illustration of an alternative future for the uplands – how many people does the hotel & activities employ ? 100 + probably ? And the Grouse Moor ? Maybe 3 or 4.

  5. I long for the day when a production company has the guts to do a truly factual programme, with evidence, on this subject, though I doubt if any of the moor owners would agree to take part!

    1. You wouldn’t need the owners or keepers except for them to deny anything, just raptor workers, scientists, RSPB investigations, Wild Justice, RPUK and possibly NE and the police. After all when they make a programme about crime they rarely put XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  6. Perhaps Lord Masham should have a word with the owner of the Knepp Castle Estate and get into rewilding, they seem to be making it pay for itself. Imagine what he could do with all that land.

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