This really won’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s followed this blog for any length of time but god, it’s depressing.
Today in the House of Lords the following exchange took place between Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Sue Hayman, a life peer serving as Shadow Spokesperson for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) and the Rt Hon Lord Richard Benyon (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA and a pheasant shoot and grouse moor owner):
Sue Hayman was of course referring to the recent criminal conviction of gamekeeper John Orrey, who was filmed by the RSPB battering to death two buzzards that he’d caught inside a trap on a pheasant shoot in Nottinghamshire (see here). The United Nations report on UK wildlife crime to which she referred was quietly published by DEFRA just before Christmas without any fanfare whatsoever. You can read it here:
Benyon’s response to Sue Hayman’s question about how the Westminster Government intends to take forward the recommendations of this report, which includes the licensing of gamebird shoots, was risible but not unexpected – he’s got form.
Note in his response the use of the word ‘can’. “Unlimited fines and up to six-month custodial sentences can be awarded where people commit these hideous acts” [of raptor persecution]. Yes, they ‘can’, but when are they ever? When has there EVER been a custodial sentence?
That’s an easy one to answer. Once, in Scotland, in 2014, when a gamekeeper was filmed by the RSPB trapping and then battering to death a goshawk (see here).
Before that, nothing. After that, nothing.
Given his long term connection with the gamebird shooting industry, including a period as a Trustee of the GWCT, Benyon should be well aware that raptor killers are rarely brought before the courts and when they are, they’re given sentences that offer virtually no deterrent to anyone else who might be thinking of committing the same offence.
It’s not even as though his previous work portfolio hasn’t included this subject (see here).
He should also be well aware through his current work portfolio that raptor persecution crime is not diminishing, as evidenced by the RSPB’s most recent Birdcrime report which demonstrated that 2020 was the ‘worst year on record’ for crimes against birds of prey (here).
Today’s exchange wasn’t the only example of Benyon displaying wilful blindness, as discussed in my earlier blog today about the dumping of shot pheasants, a widespread practice Benyon claimed to know nothing about (here). More on that shortly.
Vested interests + wilful blindness + holding positions of power = 68 years of raptor persecution associated with gamebird shooting in the UK, and counting.
UPDATE 4th February 2022: Lord Newby to pursue DEFRA Minister Lord Benyon on pheasant dumping (here)