Dorset MP Chris Loder’s farming connections may explain his anti-eagle hysteria

Yesterday, Dorset MP Chris Loder’s Twitter notifications must have been off the scale as hundreds of angry people took him to task for his shocking comments (here) about not wanting Dorset Police to investigate the suspicious death of a white-tailed eagle, found dead on a Dorset shooting estate in January (here).

[The dead white-tailed eagle being collected for post mortem. Photo by Dorset Police]

Last night Chris Loder added fuel to the fire by posting this on Twitter:

This ridiculous statement (“plaguing our farmers“, FFS!) attracted plenty of well-deserved ridicule but it also generated even more anger and in some cases, unfortunately, personal abuse towards Mr Loder. But even when photographer Pete Cairns pointed out that the two photos of the eagle with a lamb had been staged, by Pete, for a separate project and then mis-used to illustrate the Scotsman article to which Mr Loder was referring, (this was a captive eagle with an already-dead lamb placed in front of it), Mr Loder was not for backing down.

It’s a familiar argument, of course, to those of us who have listened for years to prejudicial-driven hysteria about white-tailed eagles, although typically this has come from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (who remembers them writing to the Scottish Government warning that sea eagles might not be able to distinguish small children from prey?!) but to hear it from an elected MP in southern England was quite a shock, especially a Conservative MP whose senior Ministers keep pretending that bird of prey conservation is important to them (e.g. see here and here).

However, even DEFRA Minister Richard Benyon could read the room on this one and yesterday typed a suitably-exasperated tweet to Chris Loder, which was probably code for, ‘Shut up, you’re not doing us any favours here’:

I’d speculated yesterday that perhaps Chris Loder’s dissatisfaction that Dorset Police’s time and resources were being put towards an investigation into the suspicious death of the sea eagle might have something to do with the fact that the Conservatives have received substantial local party donations, over a number of years, from a prominent Dorset estate that just happens to be owned by a very wealthy landowner who appears to be part of the hunting set and whose spouse appears to have played a prominent role with the Countryside Alliance (here).

That may well be part of the story, but it’s also clear from his posts last night and from online information about his farming background that he’s susceptible to, and believes in, the anti-eagle propaganda routinely pumped out by the National Farmers Union, an organisation who refused, formally, to support the Isle of Wight Eagle Reintroduction Project because of a perceived fear of the impact the eagles would have on livestock, despite extensive consultation and evidence-based assurances by the project team that live sheep would not be at high risk. [But note that not all farmers agreed with the NFU’s stance and a number are supportive of the project].

This morning I’ve been sent some more information that suggests Chris Loder’s position may also be influenced by his family’s farming connections. Detailed research undertaken by Guy Shrubsole (author of the brilliant website Who Owns England) has revealed that Chris Loder’s family appears to run a tenanted farm on a large Dorset estate (a different estate to the one that’s been making donations to the local Conservative party) and on that estate there’s also a sizeable pheasant shoot.

As before, there is no suggestion whatsoever that either Chris Loder, his family, or the estate on which his family runs a tenanted farm, has anything whatsoever to do with the death of the white-tailed eagle in Dorset. What I am suggesting is that it is worth bearing in mind that when Chris Loder is proclaiming eagles as the farmers’ enemy and pronouncing that the police shouldn’t be spending time and resources on investigating the suspicious death of one of those eagles, found dead on a Dorset game-shooting estate, it’s worth remembering these vested interests of his.

And as interesting as this all is, I think it’s also a distraction from the main topic of interest here, and that is, when are we going to see the toxicology report of the dead eagle found on a game-shooting estate in Dorset in January and the dead eagle found on a game-shooting estate in Sussex last October?

And on that same subject, when will Natural England release the post mortem results of the two satellite-tagged hen harriers found dead in October last year (see here)? Or tell us about the investigation into the satellite-tagged hen harrier that probably had its wings pulled off 11 months ago (see here)?

26 thoughts on “Dorset MP Chris Loder’s farming connections may explain his anti-eagle hysteria”

  1. Have yet to see any of this mentioned in the national media. Maybe not looking in the right place.
    The more publicity that this story gets the better, people have to learn what actually happens to their wildlife because of game interests. They are also entitled to learn the real views of the people that they elect.

    1. Helena Horton has a piece in the Guardian. Her piece, which concludes with the following sentence: “Until those who own estates are held to account for what happens on their land, I am afraid history may repeat itself and we may once again see our largest bird of prey silently slip into extinction.” highlights the fact that Loder represents a constituency with a large number of shooting estates.

  2. Mr Loders comments in the Bridport and Lyme Regis news are of a similar theme. The below are quotes from this publication.

    “Farmers have already been under attack from those seeking to remove their rights to control the numbers of corvid birds that attack and kill lambs. Now they face a new onslaught from these eagles.”

    “We’re approaching peak lambing season already and every year we see new born lambs with their eyes pecked out in minutes by these birds”

    I wonder if Mr Loder can back up these comments with evidence?

    What Mr Loder should realise is that these types of comments just add to the malevolent hysteria some people have towards sea eagles and birds of prey. Such comments will no doubt justify in the minds of some intelligently challenged individuals that the unlawful killing of sea eagles is justified.

    Also quite concerning are his comments directed towards Chris Packham- quote-

    “The fact that I as a farmer’s son, who has a different opinion on these enormous predators, but come under this sort of attack by Chris Packham is indicative of the approach that his followers have to our farmers in the UK, and I’m only too pleased to stand up to this bullying nonsense on their behalf”.

    Has Mr Loder forgotten the dreadful attack Chris Packham suffered on his property?
    Again such comments have the potential to fuel the division in the countryside, and the hate some people have towards those who work hard to support nature and conservation.

    Mr Loder should perhaps remind himself of the 2019 State of Nature report, which makes it very clear that what has been taking place in the countryside over the last 20 years has led to a concerning decline in nature and wildlife, and without fundamental change in how the countryside is managed this decline will continue.

    Could it be that Mr Loder is one of those people whose notion of conservation is one of intensively managed land used for game bird shooting, and that nothing must be allowed to upset the vested interests of those who see the countryside as something to be exploited?

    I am so glad Mr Loder doesn’t represent me in parliament!

  3. Loder sounds like a Botham clone. Not just in his nauseating opinions in relation to native species but also his media presence as a [Ed: this is potentially libellous]

    If uber-tweedy Benyon tried to shut him down they must be worried about the recent WTE deaths raising the profile of the enormous scale of illegal raptor persecution by game shooting estates across the UK.

  4. The only reason that the NFU have any clout is because they represent the large landowners: those most likely to be running large shooting estates. In numerical terms, as opposed to acreage, they “represent” about 10% of the UK’s farming community.

    Unfortunately, they are seen as being the mouthpiece of all farmers, not all of whom are intent on killing our wildlife on the basis of spurious anecdotal evidence of harm.

  5. Yes, the powerful, wealthy, greed- brained elite cannot comprehend that this beautiful diverse planet needs to be loved, appreciated and respected. That the health of this planet depends on biodiversity and intelligence on our part. Aboriginals knew this. Misuse of technology hurtling out of control.

  6. Isn’t it NFU policy to oppose the reintroduction of any species? At a public consultation last year, regarding eagle reintroduction, one farmer actually suggested that it wouldn’t be safe to let his children out!!! This is the propaganda that has to be overcome.

  7. “every year we see new born lambs with their eyes pecked out in minutes by these birds” Where is Mr Loder seeing this? Most lambing is done in barns nowadays. Can’t remember the last time I saw newborn lambs outside but … perhaps it’s different in Dorset.
    As for farming being under attack – Mr Loder’s own party are doing a pretty good job of that themselves.

  8. Mr Lower is proud of his Animal Welfare Bill – presumably eagles, raptors in general and any bird shot for “sport” don’t count as animals.

  9. Given the current government, I feel its possible that Chris Loader is setting out his case to become the next environment minister…

  10. Its odd that such a short sighted and wrong view of these big raptors is so prevalent amongst the game and farming community, You might think they would look at somewhere like Norway to inform their views. Now the Norwegians aren’t that kind to predators that they think are a risk to their interests look at their nasty policies towards wolves and lynx to show that. Yet you don’t hear of vast swathes of lambs, half grown sheep ( re Gairloch), Reindeer calves, domestic pets or children being carried off to nests to feed ravenous chicks. Nor as I understand it are their farmers harassed by these birds, then they only weigh in at about 5 kg, hardly Pteranodon size are they.
    No Loder accepts all the bullshit from the NFU, SGA and west coast crofters, coupled no doubt with the usual anti predator rubbish from within his local farming and shooting community. Each of his utterances demonstrates his appalling ignorance and stupidity. I hope his constituents are taking note but then some will share his ignorance, after all they vote Tory.

  11. Further to this incident concerning the white tailed eagle found dead in Dorset.It is interesting that Chris Loder has received £14000. From Ilchester Estates in Dorset. It is curious that he doesn’t want the case investigated and also that the police are being secretive about where the eagle was found. The information about the hand out is in parliamentary records.

  12. The photo of the dead eagle shows XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXXX. Could of course be coincidence, but after a bit of background work discovered that XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX

    Most unlikely that XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX virtually next door could be implicated as XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX

    Living XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX, I find this criminal act particular shocking – especially as I also witnessed the birth of the brilliant sea eagle re-introduction scheme on Rhum when reporting on it for The Sunday Times!

    Best regards,

    Brian J.

    [Ed: Thanks, Brian, but it’s probably unwise to publish this at this stage of the investigation]

  13. Today’s Graun. Nothing we don’t already know, of course. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx, but “he did not feel he was influenced by the money from the estate”.

    “Did not feel”.

    Now there’s a non-answer for you! He knows full well that he either was, or wasn’t!

  14. For a party that has long-claimed to the ‘the party of law and order’ , the Tories are very adept at dismissing the significance of any crime that might be associated with them or their supporters – witness also the convoluted attempts to downplay the apparent contempt for lockdown rules exhibited in Downing Street.

  15. Mr Loder managed to get air time this morning (17/02/2022) on Radio 4 Farming Today.
    The interview is available to listen to on BBC Sounds.

    The presenter did ask questions about the party donations he had received, and any links to gamebird shooting, as well the photographs he had posted on his twitter account.
    However he did manage to use the opportunity to suggest that according to a Scottish National Heritage report that one farm alone in Scotland had reported the loss of 180 lambs to eagles during the reporting period. What he didn’t state was how long the reporting period was, or what percentage of fit and healthy lambs were apparently taken by eagles.
    From what I have read I understand that some of the lambs taken by eagles could have in fact already have died from other causes, and the eagles were scavenging the already dead lamb carcasses?
    The way Mr Loder presented this information was such that without knowing the full facts in the SNH report, it would have been possible to believe that one farm alone lost 180 lambs during one lambing season? Which would be an astonishing number of lambs to loose to eagles.

    So I did a bit of research.- SNH report 898 refers to reintroduced Scottish white tailed eagles.
    Firstly the report states that -“In 2014, there were 98 territorial pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland, of which 90 were confirmed to have bred.”.
    This is substantially more than the pair of eagles found in Dorset, and I would suggest even someone with limited mathematical ability should be able to work out that the risk of predation of lambs would be far greater from 198 birds than 2.
    However this SNH report also states quite clearly _ “In particular, there has been a long-running concern in the sheep-farming community in the western Highlands and islands of Scotland that the species, or at least some individuals of the species, may predate large numbers of lambs, and that this may have an impact on farming livelihoods. Detailed, area-specific studies have indicated that significant impacts are relatively rare and extremely unlikely to be widespread (Marquiss et al., 2004; Simms et al. 2010).”

    In another report -“Investigation into golden eagle predation of lambs on Benbecula in 2003”, by Steve Campbell and Gill Hartley, Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, 2004 the authors make it clear that the loss of lambs due to predation by eagles is significantly lower than the loss of lambs to other causes.

    So why didn’t Mr Loder’s inform the listeners of this fact to negate the fears that some of his farming constituents may have had regarding the eagle release program? In my mind his comments would appear to be unnecessarily fueling the fear, hatred and bias some uninformed people have towards white tailed eagles, which will simply result in unlawful persecution.
    When consideration is given to the fact that Raptor Persecution is a national wildlife crime priority, his interview wasn’t what I would expect from an MP.

  16. Does Loder think this is an appropriate use of police resources?

  17. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    [Ed: Hi Brian, Thanks for your message. Please contact RSPB Investigations immediately (crime@rspb.org.uk) and tell them what you’ve found. They will definitely be interested in this!]

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