Another DEFRA Minister pretends to be taking action against raptor persecution on gamebird shooting estates

Last week in the House of Lords, Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Sue Hayman), a life peer serving as Shadow Spokesperson for Environment Food & Rural Affairs asked the Rt Hon Lord Richard Benyon (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA and a pheasant shoot and grouse moor owner) how the Government intended to take forward the recommendations of a new United Nations report on UK wildlife crime, including raptor persecution (p81-88). One of the many recommendations was the licensing of gamebird shoots.

Benyon’s predictable response might as well have said, ‘Nothing to see here, there’s no problem, move along now‘ (see here).

It’s a recurring theme from DEFRA Ministers.

In recent days, Kerry McCarthy MP asked George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs a similar question in the House of Commons:

Rebecca Pow, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State replied on behalf of George Eustice:

Regular blog readers won’t be surprised to learn that Pow’s response is just a re-hash of the response she gave five months ago when asked a similar question by Fleur Anderson MP (see here).

In the spirit of re-hashing responses, here’s mine from five months ago:

It’s quite obvious that this answer has been designed to pull the wool over the eyes of your average member of the public, assuring the uninformed and the gullible that the Government has this under control and there’s no reason for anyone to be concerned because the Government is ‘committed’ to effective enforcement and the criminals are sent to jail. That would all be fine if there WAS effective enforcement, and that offenders DID get sent to jail for these heinous crimes, but it’s an utter fallacy.

Yes, it’s accurate to say there are strong penalties available for raptor persecution crimes, including imprisonment, but as Minister Pow will know, there’s a huge gulf between there being a provision for this in the legislation and it being applied in real life. For example, when was the last time that a criminal gamekeeper was sent to jail for killing a bird of prey? That’s an easy one to answer – never, in England & Wales. It has never happened. The only time a gamekeeper has received a custodial sentence for killing a bird of prey in the UK was in 2014 when a gamekeeper was filmed clubbing to death a goshawk on the Kildrummy Estate in Scotland two years earlier (see here). It was headline news at the time precisely BECAUSE it was the first ever custodial sentence, and it was the last, too.

It’s also complete deception to claim that the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) is delivering increased prevention or increased enforcement in the hotspot persecution areas. There isn’t ANY evidence to support such claims. The RPPDG is, in my opinion, a partnership sham, designed to look as though efforts are being made to effectively tackle illegal raptor persecution in England and Wales. It’s been in existence since 2011 and the ‘delivery’ results speak for themselves – so far it has achieved absolutely sod all in terms of contributing towards the conservation of raptors in the UK and instead has frustrated the efforts of those organisations who are genuinely trying to stamp out persecution (e.g. see here).

Nothing has changed. Raptors continue to be poisoned, trapped and shot on driven grouse moors and the Westminster Environment Minister’s wilful blindness is responsible for enabling that to continue.

8 thoughts on “Another DEFRA Minister pretends to be taking action against raptor persecution on gamebird shooting estates”

  1. It is pretty clear the response was a wool over the eyes pulling exercise, which rather suggests that Ministers know exactly what is going on. Since Dominic Raab claimed that “the police do not investigate crimes that have taken place in the past” (especially those relating to MPs, mates and donors), there is little hope for a reduction in countryside/wildlife crime, except for hare coursing and quad bike theft because “good” country folk don’t commit those sorts of crimes.

    Perhaps parliamentarians who are prepared to ask such questions should be provided with briefing notes; statistics on persecution, prosecution, demographics etc ,and follow up questions.

  2. The likes of us thank god for the likes of you, but otherwise feel pretty powerless. My objections and protestations against wildlife cruelty have always been met with a solid brick wall. My MP Bim Afolami is not the slightest bit interested in anything other than the furtherance of his political career, and the consequent shine on Johnson’s boots. We pour out our grief on the social media pages, and appeal to anyone who’ll listen, but I fear it’s a long and tedious hike. Wild Justice is a real breath of fresh air, and as a serving member you continue to give us hope.
    I will never stop trying, and I won’t bore you with my efforts, but I feel you represent our best chance for change, alongside LACS for whom I also have the greatest respect. Thanks RPUK.

  3. To slightly misquote the late Mandy Rice-Davies ‎”Well she would, wouldn’t she” of Ms Pow. The Tories will do nothing unless it slaps them in the face , even then perhaps they will pretend it isn’t and doesn’t happen. Our honorable friends in both the Lords and Commons should ask follow up questions based on the fact that their much vaunted tough stance isn’t and has never worked. These crimes are far from the rarity ministers would like us to believe, indeed on many estates wildlife crime particularly raptor killing appears commonplace on all types of shoot, certainly on grouse moors it seems the majority are “at it” and many are on released bird and other lower ground shoots. One only has to read or listen to the clear hatred of many of those involved when they talk of birds of prey and this often extends to instructions to keepers, who themselves suffer the same ecological ignorance and prejudices. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard of buzzards ” there are too many of the damned things” of Harriers ” rats with wings” etc. Benyon, Eustace et al are all from the ” country set” and will be well aware of and probably share such opinions, questions need to be followed up and ” wriggle room ” reduced by doing so, at the same time their opponents need to be kept well informed of the reality on the ground..

  4. It is a shame Ms Pow’s position isn’t tied to the success of the Hen Harrier conservation project.
    60 Hen Harriers missing or illegally killed since 2018, despite all the public money spent on this project.
    And when one considers all the other reported incidents of raptor persecution and the failure to bring the criminals to justice, despite this supposedly being a wildlife crime priority, I would suggest her position is untenable.
    I could go on about matters such as the failure of the badger cull, the illegal fox hunting which still takes place, or the woeful state of nature which has occurred under successive governments.
    If the Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is prepared to fall on her sword because of the failings of the Met Police. Then if Ms Pow had a shed of decency she would accept her failings, and realise that she just isn’t capable of managing the countryside and implementing effective policy to protect nature and wildlife, and offer her resignation.
    Her platitudes are simply unacceptable.

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