‘Star lot’ in GWCT’s auction is a day’s shooting at an estate currently at centre of police investigation into shot red kite

It’s always interesting to look at the auction lots in the shooting world’s regular fundraising drives. I think it’s useful, and quite telling, to see who’s supporting who and it can often explain a great deal about why many shooting organisations refuse to call out the criminals when yet another raptor persecution crime is uncovered and instead simply pretend not to have noticed that anything’s happened (also known as wilful blindness).

In the era of a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ approach to raptor persecution, repeatedly declared by the large shooting organisations but yet to be effectively demonstrated in any meaningful way (because it’s all just a blatant publicity stunt in my opinion (e.g. see here)) it’s even funnier to scrutinise the auction booklets and see ‘who’s doing who’.

The latest auction from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) reveals an interesting donor, hailed as the auction’s ‘star lot’ on the GWCT website.

This ‘star lot’ comprises a 250-bird mixed pheasant and partridge day for eight guns at the ‘renowned’ Salperton Park in January 2022.

Does Salperton Park ring any bells to anyone? It does to me. This is where a red kite was found in March this year with multiple injuries caused by someone blasting the bird with a shotgun. The extent of the kite’s injuries, with serial fractures, is an indication that it was shot very close to where it was found, critically injured, on the estate (see here and here).

Gloucestershire Constabulary opened a criminal investigation focusing on Salperton Estate and local area, although PC Ash Weller was quoted in the local press:

We are exploring all avenues as this could have been someone travelling through the area rather than someone local to the area“.

Yeah, righto, PC Weller, it wasn’t as if the county was in a Tier 4 ‘stay at home’ lockdown period or anything, or that other alleged persecution incidents had been reported previously at this location, or indeed that raptor persecution has demonstrable links to the game shooting industry. Yeah, let’s focus on the least plausible explanation and go from there.

Needless to say, nobody has yet been charged or prosecuted and nor are they likely to be because the evidence required to link a named individual to this wildlife crime is virtually impossible to attain, even when the police are looking in the right direction.

Where does that leave us?

The sporting agency, Mark Osborne’s William Powell, can continue to advertise the estate as ‘one of the country’s most celebrated partridge shoots”, sporting clients can continue to fork out for shoot days on the estate, and the GWCT can trouser thousands of pounds worth of funds from their auction’s ‘star lot’.

Tremendous.

10 thoughts on “‘Star lot’ in GWCT’s auction is a day’s shooting at an estate currently at centre of police investigation into shot red kite”

  1. Stinks I can get a whiff of it from here in mid Wales. Wilfully blind indeed somebody at GWCT must have their head well and truly up their arse to have this as a prize lot. I personally think if they want to be seen as anything other than that and want the idea of zero tolerance of illegal persecution to be anything other than the expelling of pointless hot air they should perhaps look where their donations of a days shooting come from. I would advise that they avoid this particular agency like the plague as they seem to be involved in an awful lot of estates that are or have been subject to police investigations.

  2. Unfortunately, the police response highlights just why the criminals are not cowed by the threat of prosecution – because there is virtually none.

  3. Just a shame about the Lot that became unavailable nearly 30 years ago – “An Evening at a thriving Slaggyford Hen Harrier roost”.

    1. Hi Lance. Yes it is. It was always just called ‘Slaggyford’ locally until the mid-nineties, when it was a lightly managed moor keepered by an old-timer. In about ’94 or ’95 Mark Osborne took over the management of it with new keepers and it was re-branded as ‘Knarsdale’. It was one of the big successes for him that earned his reputation for ‘turning it around’, ‘bringing it back’, ‘exceeding owners wildest dreams’, etc,etc. Suffice to say, when it was just plain old ‘Slaggyford’ it had a good number of just plain old Hen Harriers.

      1. Thank you sphagnum.
        We have visited the geltsdale rspb reserve a few times. Generally looking out for butterflies but with a strong bird interest hence our rspb membership.
        A lovely area spoiled by bird murderers.

  4. The sad thing is, that I suspect some of those bidding for this prize in the GWCT’s auction will have the belief that the money they are putting into the shooting industry is genuinely helping conservation of some of Britain’s most endangered birds, and that the game shooting industry is truly committed to conservation.

    I suspect it is similar to the arguments used to justify “big game” shooting in some parts of Africa, where it is claimed the money generated by wealthy foreign hunters paying to shoot game on reserves, pays for projects to preserve endangered species like the Rhino. Whilst the ethics of hunting in a world where most food can be sourced from farming will airways be questionable, I suspect hunting does attract some people who would be horrified if they thought their money was supporting criminality.

    I hope some of those thinking of bidding in the auction, will just reflect for a moment on just how the game shooting industry operates and question why the advertising focus of some of the sporting agencies offering shooting experiences is so biased towards killing birds and bag numbers etc, and why there is so little promotion of the concept of zero tolerance to wildlife crimes, raptor persecution, sustainability and ethics.

    When I read what is promoted by organisations such as the BASC, Moorland Association, GWCT the focus does appear to be on the right things, so why is what is the focus of what is promoted by some of the sporting agencies who actually arrange the shooting appear to be so different??

    Is it all lies? Or is there a mismatch between what the various organisations supporting the shooting industry believe is happening and what really does happen?

    The recent judgement against Mark Hankinson, a director of the Master of Foxhounds Association of encouraging illegal fox hunting is quite illuminating in what it exposes about the relationship between those who hunt and an organisation which represents them.

    The question now is: Is this relationship similar to relationships in the game shooting world? Or do the organisations which represent shooting genuinely want to end raptor persecution, and are simply failing to control some of the participants?

    This question should perhaps be directed to those who shoot, and those with a conscience should perhaps take time to reflect on possible answers!!

  5. As a retired police officer I am disgusted at the negative response to these wildlife crimes. Also I was recently watching footage of illegal fox hunting where a police officer was standing having a laugh with the hunters and giving the sabs aggravation.
    I despair!

    1. It makes one wonder if such officers understand the College of Policing -National Decision Model, and how those officers align themselves to the Code of Ethics which is at the heart of that model?

      Personally I think those officers who fail to properly discharge their duties fairly and impartially, and investigate crimes to standards laid out by the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice of Investigation are not fit for the office of constable, do the police service a lot of harm, and really are in the wrong job!
      Failure to meet these basic standards undermines public confidence in the police, and when I read some of the reports on this blog about the failings of some police investigations to even meet the basic investigative standards I am extremely disappointed.

      If the police service wishes to be viewed as a professional organisation then it needs to rid itself of unprofessional officers and staff!

      I also question whether some officers are drawn to the role of a police wildlife officer because they see it as an easy option to some of the more demanding roles in the police service, a role where the standards of their investigations won’t be judged against the Victims Charter or other demanding professional standards (victims Charter doesn’t apply to animals, and animals can’t complain if they receive poor service! ). I may be wrong, but understanding a persons motivation to do something, can sometimes help explain why a person does or doesn’t meet the requirements of the undertaken task.

      Questions also need to be asked if a wildlife police officer is a member of a hunt, or game shooting syndicate- Are they capable of discharging their duties impartially, or will they display bias, even if it’s unconscious bias??

      But, I am also sure that there are some very dedicated police wildlife officers, who are passionate about bringing wildlife criminals to justice, and must feel frustrated when the scope of their investigations is limited by procedures, budgetary constraints or a lack of support from senior management who don’t prioritise wildlife crime. I also wonder how they feel when they read or see other officers failing to meet the expectations society has of its police service?

      The value of Ruth’s work is that it does expose both outstanding police work into investigating wildlife crimes, as well the failures. The hope has to be that those in the police service who are in a position to influence how wildlife crimes are investigated, read and examine what is reported, and then set about creating best practice so that regardless of where in the UK a wildlife crime is committed, investigations are carried out to the highest standards by professional and dedicated officers, who understand exactly what is expected of them and the investigations they undertake.
      The delivery of justice should never be a lottery depending on who or what the victim is, or where the victim lives. At the moment that often seems to be the case!
      (sorry, we seem to have gone slightly off topic, but it does perhaps relate to the wider discussion regarding the failure of Gloucestershire police to properly investigate the Red kite incident)

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