Natural England refuses to comment on whether hen harrier had its wings ripped off in horrific persecution incident

On 17th December 2021, I blogged about how Natural England (NE) had been keeping a terrible, terrible secret about the gruesome fate of one of its satellite-tagged hen harriers earlier this year (see here), preferring instead to sit back and watch its so-called ‘partners’ in the grouse-shooting industry claim false credit for ‘protecting’ this species.

I guess that’s what happens when NE accepts a £10K bung from grouse-shooting industry reps on condition that NE doesn’t publicly criticise them (see here). So much for NE being an independent regulator, eh?

In that pre-Xmas blog I asked NE to make a statement about this particular crime and I suggested they may like to include a comment about whether they thought the hen harrier’s wings had been ripped off while she was still alive, based on the evidence in NE’s possession.

You’ll note I was careful not to reveal any information in that blog that could potentially affect a police investigation, i.e. tag number, bird’s name, location of incident, habitat type, etc.

Natural England didn’t respond directly on the blog but instead published a comment on Twitter on 20th December in response to Chris Packham’s request for information:

This is a complete cop-out by Natural England.

Yes, there is indeed an on-going police investigation but it’s going nowhere, just like the other 57 police investigations into the illegal killing of hen harriers in the last three years (see here).

This particular investigation began over 9 months ago. Nobody has been interviewed, let alone arrested or charged, and the likelihood of a prosecution is precisely zero. That’s not necessarily the result of police ineptitude; as regular blog readers will be all too painfully aware, these crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute given the remoteness of the location and the lack of witnesses, although in this case the police do have some explaining to do – details on that will be forthcoming in due course.

Saying nothing by hiding behind the excuse of a live police investigation is simply a convenient cover for Natural England not to have to admit that its hen harrier brood meddling trial is a conservation sham because hen harriers are still being brutalised by the industry with which NE has jumped in to bed.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why NE cannot make a statement about this latest horrific crime – it can easily be done without compromising the police investigation.

Instead, we got this from NE Chairman Tony Juniper on Xmas Eve:

I intend to write more about this latest persecution crime in the near future.

UPDATE 7th March 2022: Natural England still silent, apparently on police orders, about hen harrier whose wings were torn off (here)

UPDATE 25th August 2022: Hen harrier’s ‘wings removed’ & its satellite tag fitted to a crow in sick ploy to disguise the crime (here)

27 thoughts on “Natural England refuses to comment on whether hen harrier had its wings ripped off in horrific persecution incident”

  1. Juniper’s comment is absolutely pathetic and just serves to create more animosity between NE and the public who cares desperately about Raptor crime.

    As NE and the police are NOT denying the torture of a Hen Harrier, I have to assume it’s true.
    Happy new year to you Ruth. Let’s hope 2022 is a kinder year to our precious wildlife.

    What sick people we have living amongst us.

  2. OMG, how could anyone rip off the wings of a living bird. Just this suggestion makes me cry…with despair. I absolutely despise these savages and wish them only ill.

  3. Sadly typical of NE these days, an organisation with utterly zero credibility when it comes to Hen Harriers and our uplands. When they lied to the Rare Breeding birds Panel, the keepers of our national archive on our rarer breeding birds about the number of nesting attempts during 2019 in North Yorkshire they truly crossed the “Rubicon” into the camp of what we politely call the “dark side.” The appalling thing is also that they are as part of the deal with the MA etc refusing co-operation with Raptor groups or other conservationists including our National Parks claiming the DGS proponents will probably withdraw co-operation were they to do so. WTF what a sad bloody state to be in, appeasement rather than robust independence on behalf of us all, we have been sold down the river by them.
    It says on my Schedule One licence for England that I must consult NE before I visit any Hen Harrier nest outside the UU estate in Bowland. That’s a case of cake and eating as far as I am concerned, and no nest will be visited under those circumstances unless I think it has failed already. I will however report active nests to other organisations on a need to know basis without visiting the nest. As far as I am concerned NE are a busted flush on Hen Harriers.
    If they are hiding unnecessarily in my view what happened to this harrier and it sounds horrific they are accessories after the fact in my view and its yet another nail in an already shut coffin of NE’s own making. DGS of course having been beyond the pail for quite sometime anyway.
    To think way back in 2002 when the project started we raptor workers gave them much of the information that helped enormously in the first few years of the project and it was good for the harriers too, how times change.
    Brood meddling has meant they are even more in bed with the dark side than they were, Derek Ratcliffe must be turning in his grave.

  4. Tony Juniper CBE: ex-parliamentary candidate for the Green Party, Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Honorary Fellow of the Society for the Environment, first recipient of the Rothschild Medal from the Wildlife Trusts and the Chromy Award (NOT Cronie) from the Conscience Institute, Monaco. Currently hiding behind a non-existent Police protocol, whilst prematurely claiming that conservationists (“them”) are suppressing Natural England’s non-response response.

    Makes you think…. “conservation in the ‘complicated’ real world”. Hmmm… I wonder, who made it ‘complicated’?

  5. Everybody can see that Tony Juniper is clearly out of his depth. Can anyone point to a single instance when he has stood up for the rights of our wildlife against the government or the criminals? I cannot think of one. Not once – and then to post that hypocritical tweet shows that he has clearly gone to the dark side.

    The government must be extremely happy with their appointment.

  6. the location/estate of this crime should be published. Wonder if its one of the ones involved in the brood management?

  7. Sad to say but given the dog fighting, badger baiting, raptor poisoning, wildcat killing that I know goes an an estate near me literally nothing surprises me. Watching some of these characters expressing care for song and other non game birds makes me extremerly angy and I wonder how some of their colleagues who do not participate in these activities can keep quiet. It greatly lessens their stature in my eyes. One must conclude that they are all in it together.

  8. Difficult perhaps, complicated certainly not. If you think this is complicated ask yourself one simple question: would there be Hen Harrier persecution if there were no driven grouse shooting ?

    The extinction of DRG may have taken a further step forward: there is clearly a popular backlash against sleaze and if there were ever a prime example of sleaze it is the continuing tolerance of raptor persecution by priveledged people who feel they are above the law.

  9. This is a perfect example of how using the term “virtue signalling” reveals to everyone that you’ve given up on your own ideals.

  10. Tony Juniper’s credibility as a conservationist, is on a par with Boris Johnson’s ratings as an anti-racism campaigner.

  11. Tony Juniper’s appointment goes from bad to worse. To think, this man once stood against the type of extractive, environmentally damaging industries he now constantly apologises for. We all called this from the start; any ‘gains’ from brood meddling would be juxtaposed by continual persecution of birds of prey, but as long as they can post a nice blog saying how things are ‘improving’, regardless of the actual root problem not being addressed, that’s all he cares about. What we’re left with is Hen Harriers being removed from their natural habitat to appease a completely unsustainable form of land use, along with a pathetically low population of raptors compared to what there should be. They’re working off a baseline of almost nothing and thensaying any change from that is an improvement. It’s a total farce.

  12. I think Juniper’s comment shows why he was picked for the position in the first place, this is what we were always going to get. I’m very lucky in that years before his appointment someone who knew him well happened to be a co-participant on a residential course and didn’t hold back on what she thought of him. I had no reason to doubt her word then and the intervening years have given it increasing credibility. Therefore I never had high expectations of his role in NE, I thought it was probably greenwashing on the govt’s side.

  13. Wouldn’t it be good to read a headline along the lines of ” NE and Tony Juniper cleared of cover up conspiricy!”
    Surely all they need to do to is to release all of the information to independent scrutiny. Transparency is the only way to salvation and the restoration of trust…. Unless they actually do have dark secrets to hide?

  14. He is quite correct in saying that, in the real world, stuff gets done. Unfortunately a lot of what gets done isn’t very nice, which was the whole point of the question.

  15. I have been an observer of raptors for over 40 years, from seeing almost nil in the 1970’s ,to ever increasing numbers in the 80’s 90’s up until present day. I would even suggest the highest numbers of raptors for over 100 years. A huge success for landowners and workers.

    1. I don’t know where you are looking Ian . Although this post is specifically about Hen Harriers, because I have been watching raptors for over 50 years and apart from Buzzards there were more in the English uplands in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We should also remember that the ” success” of our Hen Harriers in recent years has been blighted by continuing persecution, this despite giving the DGS lobby what they want (Brood management) and even after the last breeding season’s successful nests THERE ARE STILL LESS THAN 7% OF WHAT THERE SHOULD BE IN ENGLAND.
      Oh and both NE and Juniper should come clean about what happened to this harrier instead of hiding behind a stagnant police investigation like cowards.

    2. Let’s have some species details please. Common Buzzards have probably increased because of the reduced use of poison for corvids and the increase in use of the more selective cage trap. Red Kites – well we all know about them and their recovery. Are these what you are seeing?

    3. “I have been an observer of raptors for over 40 years, from seeing almost nil in the 1970’s ,to ever increasing numbers in the 80’s 90’s up until present day.”

      DDT interferes with the reproductive cycle of raptors. The poison builds up in the fat of the prey they eat, which – in turn – had eaten insects or plants contaminated with the chemical.

      Raptors were given protection by law in the UK from 1981. DDT was finally banned from use in the UK in 1986.

      See the connection between the use of DDT and its effects on Raptors, and how Rachel Carson publicised the truth in her book Silent Spring (1962):

      https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/68cb007ebc294ac19afb469cfc1f1b6a

      “A huge success for landowners and workers.”

      So why are Eagles, Peregrines and Hen Harriers so rare on and around grouse moors?

  16. Well, the UK Governmenmt is obviously pleased with the work being done by the chair of Natural England. it was announced last week that he had been re-appointed for a further three year term.

    1. Of course they are James… Eustace has him in his pocket. While Eustace is there, there will be no change of direction from NE.

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