Police investigating Swinton Estate for alleged hen harrier disturbance

The Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire is once again the focus of a police investigation in to alleged wildlife crime.

This time the investigation hasn’t been triggered by the discovery of a shot hen harrier corpse or two on the Swinton grouse moors (see here and here), nor on the use of illegally-set traps (see here) and nor by reports of an armed man walking through a known hen harrier roost at dusk (see here).

No, this time it’s been triggered after a recent Freedom of Information request revealed the estate did not have a licence when one of its employees was filmed allegedly disturbing an active hen harrier nest earlier this spring.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

You might recall I first blogged about this incident in April 2021, after footage was sent to me of two individuals who had been observed visiting an active hen harrier nest on the estate, and just prior to that had been observed placing out food nearby for the breeding adults as part of a diversionary feeding scheme (see here). It was claimed that one individual was a Swinton Estate employee and the other one was a Natural England employee.

There were questions to be answered about why the estate was apparently providing diversionary food so early on in the breeding cycle (incubation stage) when the licence permitting diversionary feeding is very clear that this is only permissible once the chicks have hatched (see info here).

So I submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to Natural England, which were met with NE’s standard unhelpfulness and obfuscation, e.g. telling me, after 20 working days had passed, that they needed an additional 20 working days to provide a copy of one licence return because apparently asking for this was unduly ‘complex’ (see here)!! I’ll come back to that particular aspect of this story in a separate blog because I now have a copy of the licence return and it’s quite interesting in itself.

At the same time as lodging the FoI requests, I also asked Natural England whether they were taking any enforcement action against the estate for allegedly breaching the terms of the diversionary feeding licence (known as a CL25 licence) – see here and here for previous correspondence.

To be fair, the Enforcement section of Natural England has been much more helpful and open than the FoI department. It’s been quite refreshing. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after chasing them for a while I received an email from the Enforcement team the other evening and to my surprise, this is what it said:

So, to clarify, Swinton Estate did not have a diversionary feeding licence in 2021 when one of its employees was observed allegedly providing diversionary food for hen harriers on the estate.

This means that technically there has not been a breach of the CL25 licence, because a licence hadn’t been issued. Therefore, Natural England are not in a position to take enforcement action and the case has instead been passed to North Yorkshire Police for investigation in to alleged offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

I have spoken briefly with a spokesperson at North Yorkshire Police who has confirmed an investigation has opened.

This is going to be really very interesting on all sorts of levels and for all sorts of reasons.

Not least because Swinton Estate is owned by Lord Masham, Mark Cunliffe Lister, who also happens to be the latest Chairman of the Moorland Association, the grouse moor owners’ lobby group in England.

But perhaps of most interest, I’m told that Natural England’s insane hen harrier brood meddling scheme has been undertaken on Swinton Estate in previous years and is apparently set/approved to have chicks removed again this year. How does that work, then, if the estate is under police investigation for alleged wildlife crime?

Ah, that’s right, it makes no difference whatsoever to Natural England’s sham conservation project – as we’ve seen previously on another estate, a police investigation in to alleged wildlife crime doesn’t stop NE from issuing a brood meddling licence and partnering with said estate (e.g. see here).

I’m pretty sure that Mark Avery, and perhaps even the RSPB, may have something to say about these latest revelations in relation to their respective legal challenges against hen harrier brood meddling. I’m pretty sure that the evidence uncovered so far suggests that NE’s so-called ‘rigorous scientific trial’ is not so rigorous after all – and that surely invalidates the so-called ‘research’? Let’s see.

More on this case, and on Swinton’s diversionary feeding licences from previous years, shortly….

UPDATE 14th June 2021: Natural England quietly alters terms of diversionary feeding licence (and hopes we won’t notice) (here)

45 thoughts on “Police investigating Swinton Estate for alleged hen harrier disturbance”

  1. In the past you’d be forgiven for reacting to this news with “Unbelievable!” but such is the dire state of things it’s more a case of “Only too believable!”

  2. It is beyond words. What is the point of Natural England and their actual role? It doesn’t seem to be protecting wildlife; especially raptors.

  3. Thanks so much Ruth for your investigations and your tenacity. Referral to the police is obviously good news, however, yet again this incident highlights the farcical brood meddling scheme not least because incidents such as this will not provide accurate scientific data.
    I really look forward to the outcome of the police investigation.
    The other issue is: why was a Swinton estate and a NE employee carrying out the diversionary feeding? Do we think this was part of the predator control/killing continually carried out by grouse moor estates?

  4. The Establishment have always believed themselves to be above the law – an attitude encouraged by the obsequiousness of official Public Bodies (and also evidenced by the BBC’s continuing reluctance to publicise anything adverse to the interests of shooting).

  5. On the 28th January this year Mark Avery wrote re his and the RSPB’s brood meddling appeal “Another good day in court. The three judges were engaged with the subject and asked quite a lot of questions (they seemed sensible questions to me).Now we wait until judgment is handed down which I guess will be at least a month away – maybe more”.

    I assume the long delay will have been caused by them not wanting to upset this season’s brood meddling whilst it is in progress? Either that or the Establishment’s usual use of long grass to deflect and obfuscate.

    Really good work Ruth – thank you.

  6. I know the moors of this estate well, and their attitude to raptors, between 2003 and 2012 there were quite a number of Hen Harrier nest failures with all the hall marks of human persecution on the estate, needless to say without a shred of evidence against any individual. Perhaps Swinton were just unlucky that a pair moved in 2003 due to a nearby gas gun, that several pairs in 2005, 06 and 07 disappeared whilst nest building, that a pair disappeared leaving an intact nest and clutch in 2007 in 2012 an abandoned nest found with eggs, close to where Bowland Betty was found shot.. That the Peregrine site on the estate, is currently unoccupied and in many years occupation never reared young, only hatching once when they were found to have been poisoned, Two early introduction Red Kites from Scotland seen regularly on the estate but never seen again, two more recent Red Kites poisoned, Two Pairs of goshawks disturbed with gas guns and now both territories are vacant, again they had poor breeding success, a number of Raptors seen over the estate with Malta Moult.

    xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx IS AN AGENT ON A MERLIN LICENCE, covering several estates in the area. The Harrier nest concerned is in a territory last used ( and successful) in 2005 when xxxxx xxxxx apparently didn’t twig because the male was brown.

    It will be interesting to see the outcome of this and any ramifications. Swinton to me are a classic example as to why DGS should be banned.

  7. It would appear to me that the Hen Harrier brood meddling program is nothing but a wheeze to allow grouse moor owners to legitimately interfere with Hen Harriers to ensure that they are never able to form conies or establish themselves on grouse moors, where their presence might interfere with the profitability of the grouse shooting.
    It is perhaps an example of how those with wealth, power and influence are able manipulate the political and legal processes to ensure their vested interests are protected, and their actions are not criminalised.
    It’s a disgraceful situation, and I would liken it to the “ethnic cleansing” of the grouse moors of raptors.
    What makes it especially abhorrent is that the Hen Harrier is critically endangered, grouse moors are frequently funded by public money though the various stewardship schemes, and there are specific projects being undertaken to help the conservation status of this species. All of which should make the moors a safe and natural habitat for the Harriers.
    Yet what appears to be happening are activities which are now being investigated by the police.
    Is this really what the government means when it claims one of its intentions is to protect and preserve our natural wildlife???
    Is the only way forward one where the public have to engage in some form of protest? So that wildlife legislation actually does what it is supposed to do, and protect wildlife and natural habitats?

    1. Consider, if you will, what happens if a hen harrier colony is established.

      Firstly, you get a lot of hen harriers exploiting the grouse chicks to the point at which no surplus of grouse is available for shooting. At this point, the grouse moor becomes economically non-viable for the owners. When the moor becomes non-viable, the gamekeeper loses his job and predator control stops as does rotational burning of heather.

      Now, as I am sure you are all aware, the UK is a mess of grossly distorted ecosystems and grouse moorland is just one more example of this, along with all of the rest of the country. There are no natural top predators in the country worth speaking of, just humans trying their best. In the case of a neglected grouse moor, the moorland will immediately start succeeding towards shrubby heath with patches of bog with only minimal heather. It will also rapidly acquire the usual superabundance of ground predators such as foxes, stoats, weasels, feral cats, rats and eventually even pine martens.

      And this will be the end of the hen harrier colony, scoffed by foxes in all probability.

      This is the predictable end state of not managing hen harriers. The question really is whether you have the common sense to realise this fate and avoid it, or not.

      1. First of all let’s establish once and for all Hen Harriers ARE NOT COLONIAL, in some years when all things favour them, prey density ( voles and Pipits NOT grouse) they will nest close together, in many p[laces this never happens and in others it does happen but not permanently, if prey density reduces the number of harrier pairs declines. There is also polygamy at higher densities where a male may feed several females with nests but this in a sense is also a population reduction mechanism as each male can, however good the hunting only provide enough prey to rear a finite number of chicks, some of these females fail completely others rear smaller broods than if they were the only mate of a male. HARRIERS DO NOT SPECIALIZE IN GROUSE CHICKS. Every grouse moor using the MAs own density figures could support 2 pairs of Harriers per 5000 acres without any measurable effect on grouse stocks going over the guns. If rotational burning stopped it would be a good thing provided moors were rewetted, some areas would be proper bogs, some heather and bilberry others grass and trees, a more diverse landscape and almost certainly more biodiversity. IF grouse stocks were natural and not at the gross inflation of numbers they are now there would not be the attraction to this so called surfeit of predators, the predators would be in balance with prey. Harriers don’t need managing they need as the law requires for them, to be left alone. Brood meddling is not the answer , how many broods could be meddled in a year, 5, 6 even 10, certainly no more, how is this going to lead to a full harrier population ,it isn’t. Feeding may be but with a licence in place and following the rules and paid for by estates not as now the tax payer. Dan Holdsworth as many who support grouse moor management cannot see beyond it, what the hell do they think these places and their wildlife coped in the eons before the breech loading gun made driven grouse possible? Time Harriers were left to their own devices and that DGS was confined to the scrap heap of history and its keepers found more worthwhile employment.

      2. Why does habitat conservation have to revolve around grouse shooting?
        It does not necessarily follow that if the grouse shooting stopped conservation work would cease.
        I agree that what little is left of our natural environment is under immense pressure from what little is left of our wildlife – with many species competing against each other to find a home in the small space available.
        This doesn’t favour some of our most precious and vulnerable wildlife, and I suspect certain species will need managing to ensure they don’t become over dominant.
        A lot of public money is already given to grouse moor owners through the various stewardship schemes to fund and protect the environment, as many grouse moors have SSSI status or similar. This funding for conservation work would not cease if the grouse shooting stopped.
        With the governments restructuring of rural payments there is also the scope to further increase funding for conservation of valuable habitats.
        There are far more people who go out into the countryside either, walking, mountaineering, mountain biking, horse riding etc than shooters.
        This vast body of people have an appetite for preserving and enhancing the countryside, and creating balanced and thriving natural eco systems; and understand that this probably does require human management and intervention. However, this conservation management work doesn’t have to undertaken by gamekeepers with their guns and traps, or rely on a heather monoculture susceptible to pests like the heather beetle.
        Have you forgotten the huge amount of work already undertaken by the Wildlife Trusts and their volunteers, or the national parks rangers, etc? Surely public funding could pay for proper conservation management of our natural environment? Yes, we might need to think about how we better fund our National Parks and AONBS, etc. But this is not an insurmountable problem.
        All of this should ensure that the moors are properly managed and Hen Harrier’s have a suitable habitat, along with all the other ground nesting birds such as Curlew and Lapwing.
        Common sense is to get rid of the driven grouse moors, and a system of land management based on producing an artificially high population of grouse, so that a small group of people who haven’t the ability to see habitat conservation beyond the end of their guns, can participate in a form of shooting, which can at best be described as clay pigeon shooting with live birds.
        By all means have sustainable walk up shooting, which puts proper conservation at its heart, and which doesn’t rely on distorted eco systems, exclusively favouring game birds at the expense of everything else.
        I am sure there are other contributors to this forum who will be able to add far more evidence as to why driven grouse shooting is preventing proper conservation of the Hen Harriers, along with the rest of our wildlife.
        If there is one thing we should have learned from the Climate Change emergency, the extinction crisis, and the Covid pandemic- that carrying on as we have done is no longer an option- and that includes how we mange our uplands and wild places.

      3. “Consider, if you will, what happens if a hen harrier colony is established.”

        According to the so-called GWCT the Hen Harrier is only ‘semi-colonial’, whereas Country Life magazine state that Barney White-Spunner of the Countryside Alliance claims “the logic of brood management is that it removes the threat of colonies of Hen Harriers making grouse moor management uneconomic”

        However, according to real authorities, the only thing about Hen Harriers which could be classed as colonial are their roosting sites.

        “Firstly, you get a lot of hen harriers exploiting the grouse chicks to the point at which no surplus of grouse is available for shooting.”

        That would be impossible. Clark and Watson – The Hen Harrier Winter Roost Survey in Britain and Ireland – found 202 such roost sites for an entire population which peaked at about 400 birds. So that makes an average ‘colony’ of a couple of birds, with a Red grouse population of around 250,000.

        “When the moor becomes non-viable, the gamekeeper loses his job and predator control stops as does rotational burning of heather.”

        Good for wild life, good for water retention, and good for people.

        “In the case of a neglected grouse moor, the moorland will immediately start succeeding towards shrubby heath with patches of bog with only minimal heather. It will also rapidly acquire the usual superabundance of ground predators such as foxes, stoats, weasels, feral cats, rats and eventually even pine martens.”

        What we know about ecology is that predator numbers are controlled by the abundance of prey. So a balanced ecology will rapidly emerge from an ‘unmanaged’ moorland, which is exactly what is needed.

        “And this will be the end of the hen harrier colony, scoffed by foxes in all probability”

        And yet that did not happen after the second world war, before your lords and masters re-introduced the dreaded gamekeeper, because Hen Harrier numbers then reached their recent highest population count of around 1000 pairs.

        It is quite amazing that people such as Dan Holdsworth still believe that – before game-keeping and the illegal slaughter of all predators was invented – the Hen Harrier must have been extinct.

      4. ‘Consider, if you will, what happens if a hen harrier colony is established.’
        So you admit that gamekeepers are deliberately and systematically stopping them being established.
        I read the rest as a defence of criminal behaviour, am i wrong?

        1. I admit no such thing, and feel that debating techniques such as this straw man tactic should be beneath you, seeing as they are generally the mark of one who cannot make an argument any other way.

          1. Your “arguments” fail at all levels because they are based on a whole host of false premises and a complete lack of understanding of upland and Hen Harrier ecology.

            1. Cor, some folks here have never really gotten over Usenet, have they? First a strawman argument, now ad hominem. Next up, blatant trollery?

      5. “Now, as I am sure you are all aware, the UK is a mess of grossly distorted ecosystems”

        That perfectly describes driven grouse moors, which are riddled with wildlife crime and persecution of anything that moves which isn’t red grouse. What sort of argument is this? We should keep distorting ecosystems to please a minority of shooters, regardless of the wider environmental effects? Rubbish.

        “It will also rapidly acquire the usual superabundance of ground predators such as foxes, stoats, weasels, feral cats, rats and eventually even pine martens.”

        It could only support that ‘superabundance’ if there was sufficient prey; in other words, a healthy ecosystem. Do you know anything about ecology?

      6. Hi Dan, if I were a ground-nesting bird like a Peewit I would be happy to nest on a keepered moor due to the absence of Foxes, as you say. But if I were a ground-nesting bird of prey like a Harrier or SEO, then I would sooner take my chances and nest on the most “vermin” ridden unkeepered tract of land I could find. Better to be amongst the Foxes, Rats, Stoats, feral Cats, feral Ferrets, etc than the gun-toting fanatical young terminators (sorry, keepers) that busy about on their quad bikes all day. And the research agrees, not least of all the GWCT’s own Langholm stuff. Please follow their GWCT uplands blog, even their researchers have given up the pretence, although sadly they do nothing practical to change things .

        Here is a meaningful quote from their Abstract –

        “The results of our study highlight that management for Red Grouse can benefit both Hen Harrier and Merlin, but on a UK scale these benefits to Hen Harriers, but not Merlin, are outweighed by their illegal killing, caused by fears that their consumption of Red Grouse can undermine the economics of grouse moor management” – GWCT

        Ludwig, S., Roos, S., Rollie, C. & Baines, D. (2020). Long-term changes in the abundance and breeding success of raptors and raven in periods of varying management of a Scottish grouse moor. Avian Conservation and Ecology 15(1): 21.

      7. Dan

        These are genuine questions:

        If no illegal persecution of hen harriers is taking place …

        Why don’t the huge ‘colonies’ of hen harriers already exist on grouse moors?
        Why aren’t these hen harrier ‘colonies’ already killing off the surplus grouse stocks?

  8. Just so that readers understand the point I am making about how the privileged and ruling elite influence the law.

    It is an offence under the Countryside and Wildlife Act to
    – take any wild bird- Sect 1(1)

    – intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird included in Schedule 1 while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young; or
    (b) disturb dependent young of such a bird, – Sect 1(5)

    Yet the law has been amended so that licences can be issued under the Hen Harrier brood management program to take young Hen Harriers from their nests and then rear them in captivity. Without these licences this would be unlawful.
    So this effectively allows the grouse moor owners to remove Hen Harriers from their land without committing a criminal act.
    So it would appear to me that provisions have been made in legislation to ensure certain elements of our society are not criminalised when they act in a way which would ordinarily be unlawful, and in a way which from a conservation point of view is questionable.
    Brood meddling would thus appear to be all about the protection of the grouse moor owners and not the Hen Harrier!!!!

    1. “Yet the law has been amended so that licences can be issued under the Hen Harrier brood management program to take young Hen Harriers from their nests and then rear them in captivity. Without these licences this would be unlawful.”


      “So it would appear to me that provisions have been made in legislation to ensure certain elements of our society are not criminalised when they act in a way which would ordinarily be unlawful, and in a way which from a conservation point of view is questionable.”

      Not strictly true.

      Brood management is a perfectly legitimate conservation technique used to commonly protect special species in grave danger. It is used – for example – to try and save the Curlew. The ‘law’ surrounding brood management is not the problem, per se.

      The problem is with applying it to Hen Harriers because, as far as we know, every single juvenile Hen Harrier raised out of harms way will, sooner or later, venture back to upland grouse moors where it will be illegally shot, trapped or poisoned, making the whole thing an utterly pointless, and expensive, exercise.

      The same cannot be said, for example, for the Curlew, whose population numbers can be sustainably boosted by brood meddling.

      1. Hen Harriers are removed (supposedly) to protect them from men with guns who break the law.
        Hen Harriers eat what they can and break no laws.
        Curlews are removed to protect them from foxes etc who are not breaking any laws.

        1. “Curlews are removed to protect them from foxes etc who are not breaking any laws.”

          They are removed for other reasons, too.

  9. I agree with John L. They make the laws for their own advantage and wield the power to be able to control the legal system. It seems to me that some sort of direct action is necessary. The Hunt Saboteurs did target grouse shooting and some other wildlife crimes apart from fox hunting. It says it all when the official (Police) view of the Hunt Saboteurs is that they are terrorists.

    All the bodies which are supposed to act in relation to wildlife crime, raptor persecution etc, are part of the same system that allows the perpetrators to escape justice.

  10. A couple of years ago I was in North Yorkshire, and had a wee walk before dinner. We were aiming for a view of a local reservoir, in between, which we happened upon grousemoor, part of the Swinton Estate. It was devoid of bird life with the exception of a lot of grouse. Perhaps it was just that day, the rooks, crows, buzzards, flying pigs etc knew we were coming?

  11. Given that a moorland staff member of the estate is an agent on a Schedule One licence for Merlin I have contacted both BTO and Natural England enquiring about the status of this agency and strongly suggesting that during this enquiry it should be suspended pending any outcome.

      1. I have long considered it but as you can surmise much of it would be a legal minefield, in Bowland, Yorkshire Dales, some on the North York moors and even a few bits on Scotland and here in Wales, where grouse shooting may be almost gone but persecution and persecutors aren’t.

        1. Its a terrible shame because your work and experiences help to shine a bright light on the dark activities taking place in some terrible places. Your contributions to the many discussions on this blog are hugely valuable and I thank you for teaching us so much.

          1. All we can do Lizzy is keep up the pressure, we are always or almost always in the right and that confers advantage because however much the apologists on the other side bluster, lie and obfuscate they know we have that advantage. A few of them think we tell lies, RSPB tell lies, Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Ruth either collectively or as Wild Justice tell lies but None of us do we cannot in all honesty afford to, nor in fact do we “need” to the bad guys supply us with a surfeit of information/evidence. Sadly this is both a practical and a political fight and currently in England the politicians with power will back driven shooting, less so in Scotland and Wales but we still need to keep that pressure on too. In that sense we are all doing this together each and everyone of us, on other platforms too. I got asked yesterday on another platform why I was even looking at the SGA pages or CA pages when I don’t agree with what they say. The answer is simple so that they cannot lie without being challenged. Thank you for your vote of confidence .

            1. 100% spot on Paul. Given time there is only one winner here and it ain’t them as you so accurately sum up.

              Don’t forget that the Cunliffe Lister’s are trying to run a very upmarket hotel based business at Swinton Hall and adverse and very negative publicity, such as this, will resonate.

              1. Swinton’s business interests and what happened on Denton moor with the Marsh Harriers and Badger snaring and its consequent effect on the finances of the owners, I think is paramount in Swinton’s current policies towards raptors or at least Hen Harriers.

  12. What intrigues me most of all in this case is the role of the NE person. Being so close to the action, surely he must have been aware that a diversionary feeding licence had not been issued and that, in any event, diversionary feeding during the incubation period is not permitted. I don’t think that it has been confirmed anywhere that the NE person was actually in possession of a valid Schedule 1 permit at the time of the incident. If he was then, arguably, this would also cover the estate worker’s presence in the vicinity of the nest – though not the apparent provision of diversionary food. Should it turn out that the NE person did not in fact have valid Schedule 1 cover, things could get very interesting.

    1. Hi WTF, like you I am very intrigued by the role of NE working with the Owners and keepers on this and other Estates. I do hope that the NE person is not made a scapegoat of, as I [Ed: rest of this comment deleted, this is a live investigation]

  13. [Ed: comment deleted. Unless you’re a police officer investigating this case, with full access to all the available evidence, it’s not possible to ascertain who should be charged with what alleged offence]

  14. There is an irony that one of the plants pushed to the edge by grouse moor management is juniper. It just cant tolerate being burnt. This has burnt him so hard the figleaf is wilting…time for a quick dignity saving exit.

    1. I’m slightly confused by the overwhelming negativity to this ‘incident’. A premature start to the diversionary feeding process clearly goes against their agreement. However, this has happened at an exact nest site that has successfully reared on two consecutive years previous to this year and seemingly is currently succeeding this year. The estate are NE have had a successful collaboration over the last few years as far as nest successes are concerned and yet still and facing severe scrutiny. Sometimes it seems the harrier’s breeding success isn’t actually some people’s goal here.

      1. Do you believe that the breeding success of the harrier is the governments goal? If it was then a simple change of police investigatory powers and of court sentencing would be a lot easier and cheaper, and of course this is what the Estates / DGS lobbyists are known to fear most. Would you support this? The brood meddling thing is purely a sham to distract attention.

      2. Rob, I suspect the negativity to this incident is because it highlights some of the issues around the Hen Harrier Brood Management program.
        The evidence from satellite tagged Harriers indicates that many birds which are released under this program do not go on to lead long healthy lives, but mysteriously vanish in the vicinity of grouse moors within a short period of time, and before those birds are able to go on and successfully establish themselves as breeding pairs.
        The program also does not effectively deal with the underlying root cause of scarce Hen Harrier numbers, which is illegal persecution.
        Where is the evidence that Hen Harrier populations on grouse moors have increased to the numbers, which if that moor was not managed for driven grouse shooting, the habitat could sustain?
        When I cut through all the PR associated with brood management, what I see is a program, which allows grouse moor owners to legally remove Hen Harriers from their moors, so that the grouse shooting isn’t detracted by the presence of these birds. (One grouse moor owner in an interview stated he would tolerate one nesting pair- but any more than that would be unsustainable for his grouse shooting business- that statement tells me a lot!!)
        So, it is somewhat deceptive, to claim the program is a great success when so many bird released under the program do not go on to lead long adult lives, are unable to establish themselves on what should be their natural habitat, and the root cause of their persecution has not been effectively tackled.
        The program appears to me to be a diversion from tackling the real issue which is DGS, and the way in which moors used for DGS are managed.
        I would suggest the program is just another part of the conservation scam which the game shooting industry and the conservation bodies which represent it are playing. To them, its all about the grouse numbers, and maintaining an excess of grouse which can then be shot in order to make money for the landowner or estate. The claim that this money is needed by the landowner to pay for conservation work is not quite true. There are other ways to fund conservation on the moors. There appears to be a lack of honesty on the part of those engaged in grouse shooting as to their real intentions and motivations. I thoroughly detest dishonesty!
        Is this really how proper conservation of endangered species should be? Or should we be tackling the root cause of why a species is endangered, and then eradicating those root causes?
        Is it any wonder there is so much negativity, to what on the face of it appears such a benign incident?

  15. Don’t blame NE they are just massively under funded.My daughter got promotion. She now does her first job and the one she got promoted to and almost in meltdown. Blame the government for not regarding it as important. There are SSSIs being plowed up because there are not enough people to inspect them!

    1. Although it was a Labour Government which first imposed the primacy of economic growth on English Nature’s semi-judicial considerations, it was the subsequent Tory/Lib Dem Coalition which first severely cut its funding (austerity) amid Cameron and Osborne’s “green crap” mutterings…

      “Don’t blame NE they are just massively under funded”

      Agreed, but why hasn’t any Natural England Chairman resigned in protest? The best we have is when Andrew Sells told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that Natural England is no longer independent from Government: “The difficulty is that all of our money effectively comes from DEFRA,”

      “Five years ago we could determine very largely what we did with our money and how we made announcements. Now we can’t.”

      Its budget has been almost halved in the last ten years, with the funding for monitoring of SSSI sites down 55% in the last five. Sells said that he now has to request financial information from DEFRA, and that “when an inquiry comes into DEFRA, they start to draft a reply and put their interpretation on it”.

      Andrew Sells was followed by Tony Juniper CBE, at £546 per day(!).

      However, Natural England are supposed to receive a 47% increase in funding this year…

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