Watch Dorset’s poisoned eagle fiasco on BBC’s Countryfile

Well done to the BBC’s Countryfile programme last Sunday for doing a 12-minute feature about the poisoning of the white-tailed eagle on an unnamed shooting estate in Dorset in January, and Dorset Police’s fiasco of an investigation which was brought to an abrupt halt when the police decided, astonishingly, that they ‘didn’t have sufficient evidence’ to execute a search warrant on the estate. This decision was made shortly after local MP Chris Loder argued on Twitter that the Police shouldn’t be investigating it and that eagles weren’t welcome in Dorset anyway.

Countryfile isn’t generally renowned for its hard-hitting investigations but I’ve got to say I was pleased with what they produced. Sure, a lot of material was left on the cutting room floor and they studiously removed all the discussion about the scale of illegal raptor persecution in the UK and the ingrained raptor-killing culture amongst some of the game-shooting industry, who still refer to these protected species as ‘vermin’, but I think for millions of viewers, who generally aren’t a specialised audience, this piece would still have been an eye-opener.

I’ve spoken to a few people since it aired who didn’t even know that eagles could now be found in southern England, let alone that they were being poisoned. They do now.

I was also impressed that they managed to get Chris Loder MP in front of a camera and the Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset Police, Rachel Farrell. Remember this is the police force that has repeatedly refused to respond to Freedom of Information requests on this matter. Personally, I don’t think either of them gave convincing explanations that there wasn’t any undue political pressure placed on the police to close down the investigation (asking a senior officer from the same force to effectively ‘mark the Police’s own homework’ doesn’t cut much ice with me), but you can draw your own conclusions.

I think a lot of credit needs to go to Countryfile’s researcher James Agyepong-Parsons, a former journalist from the ENDS Report and the instigator for Countryfile running this piece. He was meticulous in ensuring that the facts of this case were accurately presented, and Charlotte Smith did a brilliant job in pressing for answers.

It’s now available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 11 months (here – starts at 09.50 min).

There’s still much more to come out about this case, including the name of the estate where the eagle was found poisoned. It hasn’t yet been made public because there is another, separate, ongoing investigation into alleged raptor persecution that I understand is nearing a charging decision. Nobody wants to name the estate for fear of giving Dorset Police any excuse to drop this other case. We shouldn’t have to be concerned about that but such is the loss of confidence in Dorset Police that nobody is taking any chances.

11 thoughts on “Watch Dorset’s poisoned eagle fiasco on BBC’s Countryfile”

  1. Police have consistently shown that they are unable or conflicted when investigating crime involving shooting estates.

    This is just another example…..its happening all over the UK

  2. Ruth may I ask what the Blue 09 darvic means to you , is it the ring from the Poole Translocated osprey ? I have a blue darvic on my binos from Blue AA1 who sadly died in Spain

  3. That the estate where the eagle was found is under investigation for another incident of alleged raptor persecution makes the premature dropping of the case involving the eagle even more scandalous. One would have imagined that this would have been a reason to press on with greater vigour rather than suddenly walking away. With all respect to ‘Countryfile’ and Charlotte Smith (who did a good job in the time available), a 12-minute segment just doesn’t give enough time to properly cover this story. For example, Assistant Chief Constable of Dorset Police, Rachel Farrell, should have been pressed about the oddly coincidental change in the rural crime team’s name (unless it too found its way to the cutting room floor’). This scandal really needs a good half-hour (at the very least) to do it justice – perhaps Charlotte Smith and James Agyepong-Parsons could be seconded to Panorama.

  4. Rachel Farrell looked very uncomfortable xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx [Ed: libellous commentary removed]

  5. Well done BBC! They made Police & the local MP sound ridiculous. Dorset police must be aware that these magnificent birds will be targeted by wildlife criminals and deploy officers to protect them and arrest the offenders.
    John Turner
    Shrops Peregrine GRP.

  6. Well done for your contribution Ruth. It is great that Countryfile covered the death of the Dorset eagle. Most of its viewers will have little or no knowledge of the fact that raptor persecution is a widespread problem that is woven into the fabric of the game shooting industry. It’s great to bring it to a wider audience. Now that Countryfile has “discovered” raptor persecution, can we now expect more coverage of this issue. I do hope so.

    There is a need for nature/countryside programmes that deal with difficult, controversial issues not the run of the mill anodyne chocolate box nature programmes.

  7. Twelve minutes of relatively well watched popular TV by public can only be good for the cause and raising the profile of these incidents, which I sense are increasing.

    Thank you to all involved and not least the tenacious RT, a true raptor champion who seeks justice where illegality has occurred. We just need the agencies and authorities to realise that this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon.

    I suspect even the most naive of viewer would realise there is more to the case than the greenwash and spin those purporting to deplore criminality waffled about.

    I was a little surprise that the issue of public safety wasn’t raised, particularly any risk to the public or their pets through contact with dead animals killed by dangerous chemicals.

  8. Agree with other comments. Pity the Rural Crime Officer that suddenly ‘disappeared’ wasn’t mentioned?! Also interesting Dorset Police have managed to raise numbers in the Rural Team from 3 to a slightly staggering 10 staff!! Yes it was a relatively short piece but I suppose it gave people some information as to what is happening to our raptors. Thank you for your continued hard work Ruth and team.

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