Timed to publish on the same day as the RSPB’s Birdcrime report, documenting how 2020 was the ‘worst year on record’ for crimes against birds of prey in the UK (see here), National Geographic has just published a lengthy article, written by journalist Rene Ebersole who visited the UK earlier this year specifically to research the subject of raptor persecution on grouse moors.
Rene visited quite a few field sites and interviewed a lot of people for this piece, including Mark Thomas (RSPB Investigations), Mark Avery (Wild Justice), Caroline Middleton Gordon (Moorland Association), Matt Hagen (North Yorkshire Police and RPPDG), Mark Cunliffe-Lister (Swinton Estate & Moorland Association), Steve Downing (Northern England Raptor Forum), the witness who saw ‘gamekeepers’ shooting buzzards on the Bransdale Estate last year, and some others.
I could spend a long time analysing the contributions from these people but unfortunately I don’t have the time today. I will try and come back to it at some point though, because some of it, especially Cunliffe-Lister’s comments, deserve ripping to shreds. If you’re going to read the article, and I’d urge you to because it’s very, very good, I’d recommend you don’t have a hot drink anywhere nearby when you read Cunliffe-Lister’s predictable denials and diversions. For example:
“Grouse shooting had some bad times when raptors were being controlled illegally historically, but now we’re all being responsible and working a way forward, so we can still keep somebody living in this house and working up here, rather than giving up“.
What a prat. It’s these constant denials from senior figures in the shooting industry, in the face of decades worth of overwhelming science and evidence, that provide the raptor killers with the confidence to continue their crimes on the shooting estates, safe in the knowledge they’re probably going to be protected.
North Yorkshire Police Inspector Matt Hagen deserves a medal simply for being prepared to stand up and say it how he sees it, at great risk to his personal and professional life knowing how the nasty brigade has turned on previous officers who’ve dared to form and express an opinion based on evidence and experience.
He talks about knowing the identity of the Nidderdale poisoner, of how the Bransdale gamekeepers all gave ‘no comment’ interviews when questioned about the five shot buzzards found buried on the estate, how ‘shocked and disgusted’ he is about the high level of raptor persecution in the UK, how it’s ‘more likely than not‘ that hen harrier River was shot on the Swinton Estate, despite the ridiculous and largely implausible explanations of estate owner Cunliffe-Lister, and how gamekeepers “all know what is going on, and they cover it up“.
He’s not wrong. This pie chart from the latest RSPB Birdcrime report shows that almost three-quarters of those convicted of raptor persecution crimes in the last 30 years worked in, or had connections to, the game-shooting industry.
The National Geographic article is free and open access. You can read it HERE
Well done, journalist Rene Ebersole and her photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind – it’s a very good piece and it’s excellent that these disgraceful crimes are being featured by a highly respected organisation such as National Geographic, being exposed to a much wider international audience.
UPDATE: A PDF of the article can now be downloaded here: