Natural England accepts £75k bung for hen harriers from game-shooting organisation BASC

Earlier this year, Natural England, the so-called statutory regulator for conservation, and BASC, the British Association for Shooting (& Conservation) were boasting about a £75k donation made by BASC to Natural England to help finance ongoing hen harrier work.

I was interested in this arrangement, given that BASC is an organisation at the forefront of the game-shooting industry; an industry that has been responsible for the systematic persecution of the hen harrier for many, many years.

So I submitted an FoI to Natural England find out more.

Remember, last year BASC gave Natural England a £10k bung for hen harriers, on condition that Natural England didn’t say anything bad about BASC (see here).

[Photo by David Cole]

Well, it seems this cosy arrangement is continuing, only this time with a bigger bung and the same condition that requires Natural England to refrain from saying anything bad about BASC:

You can read the full Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) here, as released to me via my FoI request:

It’s apparent from this document that the latest MOA was eventually signed in January 2022. However, other material released in response to my FoI request reveals that Natural England and BASC were discussing this MOA as far back as 27th May 2021 – just a few weeks after the disappearance of hen harrier Asta from a grouse moor in County Durham, whose wings had been ‘removed’ so that her satellite tag could be affixed to a carrion crow in an attempt to deceive Natural England that the tag was still functioning and thus hen harrier Asta was alive and well (see here).

Who, in their right mind, would sign up to a ‘partnership’ with a game-shooting organisation knowing what unspeakable atrocity had just been inflicted on hen harrier Asta? The latest in a long, long line of atrocities inflicted on our beleaguered hen harriers by members of this industry.

My view is that the £75k bung goes some way to explain Natural England’s reluctance to publicise this latest crime.

[Cartoon by Gill Lewis]

34 thoughts on “Natural England accepts £75k bung for hen harriers from game-shooting organisation BASC”

  1. I shall just ditto my earlier comment! Ruth you have just saved me a court appearance.
    Let’s hope that the Guardian or beeb pick up on this.
    As everyone on here agrees, what would we do without you. Thank you Ruth.

  2. Ruth – thank you so much. How you keep going is beyond me but please don’t stop! Your work is one of the most powerful tools we have.

  3. Is it any wonder that we have brood-meddling? Even by not-fit-for-purpose NE this is a stink pit and a half. Utterly disgraceful.

  4. This country is just plummeting down the ranks of the world’s most corrupt countries. It seems from the top of government to the furthest reach of government influence, corruption is now the norm.

  5. Huge respect for your tenacity (and courage), Ruth. Top quality investigative work – it would be great if the BBC or (more likely) Channel 4 pick this up and give it wider coverage.

  6. Is the BASC giving this money to make Sure that the scheme keeps going??? Also can you make condition to giving a donation???

  7. Ruth thank you so much for all your hard work. Without your tenacity we would never know about these cosy arrangements. Taking this money shows how much NE has sold out.

  8. How can it be right that a body such as the BASC can gag a public body such as Natural England by means of an annually renewable bribe of £25,000? It surprises me that the lawyers for NE should apparently be complicit in such a potentially restrictive arrangement.

    1. “How can it be right that a body such as the BASC can gag a public body such as Natural England”

      Not just a public body, but a statutory body!

  9. Under normal circumstances this would be quite extraordinary but at the moment we seem to be getting this sort of thing on a daily basis – politicians and public bodies systematically subverting the standards of public office and then doing everything to silence criticism. Be in no doubt that there is a Minister behind this move – not something a body like Natural England would or could do on its own. So which one ? Or is it all of them ? But sadly whilst NE may have been lent on their management of the situation does leave rather a lot to be desired.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly Rod. The other interesting thing that has been brought to my attention and I assume is true is that NE tag data can no longer be used to update the devastating paper showing the high likelihood of harriers being killed on grouse moors. Simply because now when an NE tagged harrier is on a grouse moor NE tell them it is there. Perhaps there will soon be a paper, with game lobby connivance, using NE tag data showing levels of persecution have significantly reduced.
      Thankfully RSPB are still tagging birds.

  10. Taking a contribution with attach conditions but not publicising the generous help to their funds make it look like a corrupt bung.
    The senior management of NE should now be suspended whilst an independent police enquiry is held.

  11. Thank you for persisting in following all these incidents Ruth. I am astounded and appalled at what goes on between these organisations. It surely cannot be legal for a public body like NE to sign up to these conditions for the cash. Is there anything Wild Justice can do?

  12. I agree wholeheartedly with Roderick’s comment. There is systematic corruption in this government and its predecessors – an issue that goes way beyond wildlife conservation.

  13. Thank you Ruth for your principled tenacity, not to mention stamina for keeping up with all this disgraceful activity around raptor persecution. Thank you too for making it available to the wider public so that they realise the problems faced by wildlife on privately owned moorlands where shooting activities are the main land use.

    Stay strong, take care and please stay safe.

  14. Where is Tony Juniper in all this? Presumably he is aware of this dirty money NE is getting? Does anyone now have any faith whatsoever in Juniper and NE?

  15. A currently fashionable comment came to mine “You can’t make this sort of thing up”. I can’t put together any suitable words without swearing. I’ve no doubt I would also run into trouble with Ruth about legal action. Whilst writing this brief comment (Saturday 27th. August) Radio 4 “Today” was on in the background. The news was summarised thus: The new energy cap coming in October and the near disaster at the nuclear power station in Ukraine, sandwiched in between a very brief upbeat story: “Fantastic production of young Hen Harriers for many years announced!” No reference as to source of information.

  16. Looks more like a bribe than a donation?
    But the fact that there is a clause attached to this gift of money which prevents either party making derogatory remark about each other or the Hen Harrier brood management program suggests that either something isn’t right with the program or with one or both of the parties involved?
    Why else would such a clause be introduced?

    The facts may reveal something of the truth.
    -70 Hen Harriers killed or missing since 2018, despite an ongoing conservation program.
    -The removal of Hen Harriers from their natural habitat on grouse moors to try and protect them from criminal persecution. Persecution which seems to be focussed on or around those grouse moors.
    – some commercial shoots bragging about increasing game bird populations, bag size, and the number of profitable shoot days. The artificially high game bird population densities can only come at the expensive of biodiversity and other species, which has to include the Hen Harrier.

    I am not openly critical of BASC, as their statements and code of practice regarding shooting are certainly ideals which if properly followed should eradicate much of the bad practice and criminality which blights game shooting. (There is a vast difference between the wildlife which can be observed on the “good” shooting estates, to the ones which are more focussed on commercial shooting and its associated ills.)
    However, this gift of money by BASC is a very shrewd political move, as it will no doubt encourage certain politicians to claim that BASC/game shooting industry is a generous donor to conservation work, and therefore any moves to regulate the game shooting industry are unjustified. A clever way of ensuring vested interests and the status quo remains.

    This is no way to manage the countryside when all recent studies have indicated a massive decline in nature and biodiversity, with many species facing extinction.
    Only a fool would fail to recognise that maintaining the “status quo” and it’s associated traditional countryside practices are one of the causes of this loss of nature.
    Things have to change.
    So it is very disappointing that a body like Natural England is crippling its own ability to challenge the way the countryside is managed, and criticise those bodies which might oppose the changes which are needed if we are stop the decline in nature and bring about proper rich biodiverse habitats where all species are able to flourish, and not just game bird numbers.

  17. I would describe this as blood money. The terms of the agreement between Natural England (a misnoma if ever there was one) and BASC strike me as being open to legal challenge. It is similar to a Non Disclosure Agreement that employees (and others) are sometimes required to sign in order to silence them. How can a public body enter into this agreement lawfully? I would suggest getting a legal opinion on this and see if someone would take on the case to challenge whether Natural England can be gagged by a body with vested interests in having it silenced. There is also the question of whether Natural England can take money with conditions attached to it which favour the body making the bribe, sorry donation.

    I used to live near to the BASC HQ in Rossett. I had some very limited contact with a couple of people who worked for them and the word is neanderthals.

    At the end of the day Article 10 Human Rights Act 1998 provides for the right to freedom of expression. This appears to breach this legislation.

  18. I see the people who kill for fun are conducting another rigged survey to try and make themselves look like a financial goldmine…..inflate the possitives and ignore the negatives.

    I am surprised that NE are not sponsoring this sham….

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