‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one.

In January 2020, five pro-shooting organisations issued a statement that professed ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution. Coming 66 years after it became illegal to kill birds of prey in the UK, this was progress indeed.

I said at the time it was a sham (here). I haven’t seen anything since that has convinced me of their collective sincerity.

Take the most recent, high-profile raptor persecution crime reported earlier this week – a gamekeeper on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park filmed using a tethered live eagle owl decoy to draw in two buzzards which he shot on sight (see here). North Yorkshire Police Inspector Matt Hagen said of these offences:

We conducted a search warrant and interviewed an individual in relation to this incident. Ultimately, however, the identity of the suspect on the film could not be proved, and it was not possible to bring about a prosecution. However this does not mean the event didn’t happen. We know that a gamekeeper on a grouse moor has been shooting buzzards, using a live eagle owl decoy to bring those buzzards into a position where they could be shot”.

Details of this offence emerged on the morning of Tuesday 9th March 2021.

There was silence from the major shooting organisations. And for most of them, at the time of writing this at six pm on Friday evening, that deafening silence has continued.

The three main ones that should have been at the forefront of vocal condemnations and a commitment to boot out the estate and the gamekeeper from any memberships they may hold within the industry, have said absolutely nothing on their respective websites:

The Moorland Association (the grouse moor owners’ lobby group in England) – silence

The National Gamekeepers Organisation – silence

British Association for Shooting and Conservation – silence

The Country Landowners Association (CLA) was also one of the original five signatories to ‘zero tolerance’ but they’ve said nothing either.

The only one of the five groups who in January 2020 professed a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for raptor persecution and said anything about this latest disgraceful display of criminality was the Countryside Alliance. They published this statement two days after the story hit the headlines:

Whether you believe the sincerity of this statement or not is another matter but at least the CA published something.

Of course, the three main groups that have remained silent are all members of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), whose objectives include prevention of, and awareness-raising of, illegal raptor persecution. Anyone seen them doing any of that? No. Once again it looks like they’re just using their membership of the RPPDG as a convenient cover to pretend they care. When are they going to be expelled?

Other members of the RPPDG, notably those who don’t have a vested interest in closing ranks and saying nothing, have issued statements on the crimes.

The Northern England Raptor Forum has published a characteristically damning statement (here) and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has done pretty well with this:

So, the illegal killing continues, the majority of the shooting industry organisations say nothing, and public anger grows.

Thanks, Moorland Assoc, National Gamekeepers and BASC – this is only heading in one direction and you’re all helping it reach the end game so much more quickly than we could get it there on our own. Cheers.

19 thoughts on “‘Zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution? They’re fooling no-one.”

  1. I ask again, why cannot the estate be named – if only for the RSPB to say ‘we were filming on the x estate when we saw this…..?

  2. Not much progress with their zero tolerance approach to raptor persecution.
    Not much progress with their phasing out of lead ammunition.
    Not much progress with reducing heather burning.
    There’s a pattern there somewhere

    1. ” Not much progress with their zero tolerance approach to raptor persecution.
      Not much progress with their phasing out of lead ammunition.
      Not much progress with reducing heather burning.
      There’s a pattern there somewhere”

      🐍 ………………. Old Indian trick – speak with forked tongue.

  3. Whilst I’m not surprised by the silence of pro-shooting groups I am pleasantly surprised by the statement from North Yorkshire Police Inspector Matt Hagen. It’s strong and it looks like their patience is wearing pretty thin.

  4. I was told it was on xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I don’t know who owns the land round there.

  5. It has been exceedingly obvious for many years that shooting oriented organisations and sympathisers simply want a presence on any committee, organisation or body that have potentially power or influence which migfht negatively affect their “interests.” This is to gain “intelligence” on any initiatives they see as threatening and to hamper progress through acting on any details they might elicit.
    The problem is, and always has been, how to stop them given they have all the money, influence and the political hegemony that accompanies it. No co-operation is a must but with all the unofficial access they have behind the scenes it isn’t easy as one of their primary aims would be to make look those oppsing them as “obstructive.”
    How o nearth they can oversee systematic criminality for 66 years and we are no closer tostopping it casts a dark shadow as to what democracy real means when the majority oppose the criminality of the minority and nothing seems to be getting done about it. How many others areas ……..

    1. Fully agree with that George…there is one organisation though that should be above and more powerful than all that “influence” – Parliament/Government. Its high time they ignored that “influence” and started banging heads together…every new bunch that gets elected, every new chief police officer put in post consistently underestimates the depth of criminality and organised law breaking that goes on surrounding game shooting..and if they do learn the truth, they run away from real confrontation. Its also high time raptor persecution became a real election/voting issue, then we might just see some effective action.

      1. “there is one organisation though that should be above and more powerful than all that “influence” – Parliament/Government. Its high time they ignored that “influence” and started banging heads together…”

        I assume you mean Her Majesty’s Government, where Her Majesty is the figurehead of all ‘country sports’ enthusiasts, and would have to give permission for her Parliament to bang anything together?

        You do realise she has the right to scrutinise all potential legislation?

  6. At least the National Parl authority had a comment in this instance. You’ve highlighted several instances of raptor persecution in the Peak District (where we are led to believe there is an initiative to help improve things for raptors) and I can’t recall seeing a single comment from anyone outside of the RSPB, Raptor study groups or RPUK and this includes the police forces in those areas.

  7. I am guessing that the level of the offence means they can’t access the phone records for the individual of interest and triangulate his position at the time of the alleged offence? Perhaps the local news papers should doorstep the landowner and ask his view on the matter and why his gamekeepers are keeping an eagle owl?

  8. It’s good, I suppose, that the Countryside Alliance issued a statement condemning the footage, but from the second paragraph onwards they undo themselves, becoming all mealy-mouthed.

    ‘’Although the RSPB says [but who believes them, certainly not us] it is in no doubt as to the identity of the person responsible, the evidence was sadly [ha, ha] insufficient [and we’ll continue to make it as hard as possible for the RSPB to obtain robust evidence] for the Police to prosecute the individual as he was not identifiable [not really unidentifiable you understand, just not identifiable beyond all reasonable doubt, but let’s stick to this line so everything can go on as normal].

    A reading of the RSPB blog shows that the perpetrator was sufficiently identifiable for the Police to obtain a search warrant and for Inspector Hagen to state unequivocally that the crime had been committed by a gamekeeper – i.e. the Police were confident they had the right man. Indeed the individual returned home with an Eagle Owl in the box of his distinctive ATV, whilst the search was being carried out. Little doubt then that the perpetrator was identified and not just to the satisfaction of the RSPB.

    You might hope that the Countryside Alliance’s statement would call out the estate and the gamekeeper’s colleagues and manager and implore them to come forward to the Police with any evidence they might have, or for the estate to take action against the gamekeeper, so as to end the CA’s ‘’incredible frustration’’ and their being ‘’appalled’’ and to ensure there really is ‘no place’ for such individuals to continue to taint the reputation of the sector that is ‘’overwhelmingly positive for the countryside and … our [sic] remote rural communities’’.
    But no, what we get is yet another bog-standard request to ‘’anyone’’ who is aware of ‘’any form’’ of raptor persecution, but not this particular incident obviously, to report it to their local Police or Crimestoppers immediately, whilst simultaneously failing to provide the RSPB’s wildlife crime hotline number (surely the most effective way to get such crimes investigated).

    Still, perhaps the Countryside Alliance is even now working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice. How likely is that I wonder? Certainly, the next meeting of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group would seem an ideal opportunity for the Moorland Association, the National Gamekeepers Organisation and the BASC to update the meeting on any actions they may have taken.

  9. Any organisation that fails to publicly express its condemnation of such an egregious criminal act morally loses its right to express its viewpoint in any debate on the underlying issues. You can’t have it both ways. But then I suppose this never was about ‘debate’; just the closing of ranks in the maintenance of the tired old order.

    1. I sometimes wonder whether the reality here is that these organisations have so little control or influence over their members that they choose not to lose face through making any pretence of publicly condemning their illegal actions. It also begs the question whether the offenders and their employers are actually members of any of these organisations anyway. Whatever the situation might be in this respect, there can be no doubt that the unabated repetition of these recorded and indisputable incidents is paving the way towards the demise of DGS. Prosecution or not, the evidence is there for all to see.- together with the gratuitous abuse of the decoy Eagle Owl.

  10. Raptors eat song birds,hence the growing raptor population and the declining garden bird population…. raptors eat their prey alive!!

    1. “Raptors eat song birds… raptors eat their prey alive!!”

      Indeed they do – but not exclusively.

      “hence the growing raptor population and the declining garden bird population”

      But that statement has not been shown to be true. Why did raptor populations fall from their historical peak? You fail to answer that. When raptor populations were at their historical peak, why were garden bird populations also at their peak? You fail to answer that, too.

    2. Do try to keep up. The bullshit you’re attempting to peddle was laughed out of town years ago…

      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00063659709461048

      https://www.bto.org/about-bto/press-releases/are-predators-blame-songbird-declines

      https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rspb.1998.0540

      And by the way, Blue Tits, Robins and Blackbirds also “eat their prey alive”. And have you ever watched a Song Thrush smashing a snail?

      Now, I suggest that you provide published, peer-reviewed evidence of…

      1. The exact species of “garden bird” that you claim to have declined.

      2. Whether these alleged declines are local, nationwide, and long/short term.

      3. The ultimate factors proven to have driven these alleged declines.

      Or are you just regurgitating the lies of vested interests that you’ve been fool enough to swallow?

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