Another DEFRA Minister pretends to be tackling high levels of raptor persecution

A couple of weeks ago the RSPB published its latest annual Birdcrime report (2021), which showed that England had the second-highest record of raptor crimes since recording began (see here).

It was noted that yet again, over two thirds (71%) of all confirmed incidents of raptor persecution took place on land managed for gamebird shooting, where birds of prey are seen by some as a threat to gamebird stocks and illegally killed.

The Birdcrime report prompted a Parliamentary question from Holly Mumby-Croft MP as follows:

This was answered two days ago by the latest Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, Trudy Harrison MP, as follows:

Regular blog readers will know that this is just yet another DEFRA Minister trotting out the same tediously-predictable guff designed to look as though DEFRA has the raptor persecution issue under control.

We’ve heard virtually identical responses from previous DEFRA Ministers, e.g. see this from Environment Minister Rebecca Pow in September 2021, and this from Richard Benyon in February 2022, and this from Rebecca Pow in February 2022, and this from Richard Benyon in April 2022. And now the same again from Minister Trudy Harrison.

As I’ve said many times before, there’s a running theme in these responses which, under closer scrutiny, does not stand up as evidence that DEFRA is tackling the issue, let alone acknowledging it.

For example, yes, custodial sentences are available for these crimes but they have never once been applied to raptor-killing criminals in England, and only once in Scotland, and that was eight years ago.

And yes, DEFRA supports the sham-partnership that is the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) that has been in place since 2011 but it’s a group that has delivered precisely nothing of any use and is currently without a Chair because the position is so toxic and career-damaging that no senior police officer wants to take it on. The last Chair, Inspector Matt Hagen, stepped down after he was told he was not allowed to talk to the press about raptor crime. This ridiculous constraint was prompted by an interview he gave to National Geographic last year (here) in which his brutal honesty laid bare the scale of the problem.

I did note something new in this latest DEFRA response though – that it has provided funding to develop DNA analysis to help support investigations into peregrine theft. That’s good, but it doesn’t tackle the issue of the illegal poisoning and shooting of peregrines on and around driven grouse moors, a serious threat that is so widespread it is affecting the population distribution and has been known since at least 2011 and has been highlighted many times since (e.g. see here).

When will DEFRA Ministers stop pretending, stop with the wilful blindness, and start tackling these crimes?

10 thoughts on “Another DEFRA Minister pretends to be tackling high levels of raptor persecution”

  1. Reading Raptor Persecution UK News is like rubbing salt on an ulcer that will not heal, until it gets proper attention. Like many others of charitable nature, I have spent the past week making donations to various groups on BIG GIVE, with an emphasis on African wildlife protection community ranger groups, and rainforest protection trusts operating in Africa and South America. What astounds me is that such organisations are having successful experiences with their determined operations against snarers, poachers, trophy shooters and companies out to loot the landscapes for minerals, timber and ranching. All is not good news, as some fierce and murderous characters have been employed and armed to access endangered species, but are being courageously challenged. Here in Scotland and the rest of the UK, we have a compliant acceptance of the massacre of our wildlife species from our politicians, who send protesting constituents repetitive rubbish claiming that their party supports the conservation of wildlife through particular laws, which are patently not being enforced, or when they are, slaps on the wrist are given!

    What do we expect, when the effectiveness and reputation of our police forces are being berated frequently, and when our prisons are full and sub-standard? The very decent people who support better enforcement of laws on this subject, and on the dreadful treatment members of the public suffer at the hands of dangerous individuals and gangs, by their inherent decency shun violence, but reality dictates a more determined and strong punitive reaction should now be considered. Those who straddle the British uplands with their shooting estates, and thumb their noses at the law, knowing their cronies in politics and prosecution services will protect them, should face tough prison sentences. World-wide wildlife and their habitats are under severe threat from a vast network of exploiters of weaknesses in enforcing protective legislation. The question is, how long are the “nice” people going put up with savage behaviour arraigned against creatures with a right to live their lives in peace? The Worm has to turn!

    1. Choosing my words extreamly carefully,knowing that I may offend some of a simila ilk,please note and be aware of the following. There are secret,undercover, self protecting Cults / Cartels amongst Monarchy, State, & Governing Establishment in Britain. This is manifestly so beteen the Judicial,Law Enforcement system, and those and others predominant in society.Speaking from experience and much gained knowledge I would not be surprised to find that said Fraternal Brothers are in self protecting cahoots on such matters of illegal poisoning leading , if allowed to take its unimpeded course , to prosections. I feel that as elsewhere in society such a sugestion has much credabiliy.

  2. I had a response last year from local MP Alok Sharma the COP 20 something puppet and all round career yes man basically saying raptor persecution was good for song birds and waders. Clearly he has bought into the shooting propaganda not realising the raptors are territorial and weed out the sick, old and injured birds. I sent a terse reply explaining a few of the avian facts of life – no response – he is clearly to busy saving the world

    1. It’s pointless expecting any changes under this shambolic government. What is most important, IMVHO, is to lobby the Labour Party relentlessly on this issue.

      Labour really ought to make a commitment to an outright ban on driven shooting. The current avian flu crisis, and the shooting industry’s disgraceful immunity from any curbs on its behaviour, should surely be the last straw. This is an issue where Labour can only possibly win votes, not lose them

  3. Well done to Holly Mumby-Croft MP, at least.

    But it isn’t just Defra Secretaries of State, Under Secretaries and Ministers who are to blame for this state of affairs. It is also the prevailing culture of the Department, set by the Permanent Secretary, possibly its Chief Scientist, and the Director Generals and Directors… These are the £100K and upwards crowd (experts) who advise, implement the policies and provide all the data…

    There is, for example, Tamara Finklestein – Permanent Secretary (£165K), Prof Gideon Henderson – Chief Scientist (£109K), David Hill – Director General Environment, Rural and Marine (£125K), Andrea Ledward – Joint Director Natural Environment (£85K), Edward Barker – Joint Director Natural Environment (£75K), Susanna May – Director Environment Quality (£95K), Shirley Trundle – Joint Director Wildlife… (£120K), Tom Walker – Joint Director Wildlife… (£105K) among scores of others (but less involved with the issues of shooting and raptors).

    All from an FOI response dated February 2020.

    Click to access FOI2020_00976_Response_Redacted.pdf

    When you up against an obdurate Department in agreement with its Ministers, it is very, very, difficult to get meaningful change. But when a Department is at odds with its Ministers, you get damaging leaks.

    It seems to me that we have not seen any meaningful change, nor any significant leaks…

    1. If “I was in charge” (yes, that old chestnut) I would invite all of those stooges you mentioned to write two sides of A4 on the topic “What I have done to improve things and justify my wages”.
      I would then like to take them on field trips over a few weeks and show them a few things in reality not the crap they say it is on paper, and get other ordinary people to take them out on other field trips too and do the same.
      I would then like them to re-write their two sides of A4!
      I would compare the two and determine whether they were people of good conscience or irredeemable bullshitters.

    2. Also note that Defra decided to withhold the names of those involved with TB and hunting ‘having previously been subject to threats’. And also that they have applied this to ‘other sensitive roles’, without saying what those roles are.

  4. W H Hudson Quotation extract from Stephen Moss book ‘A Bird in the Bush’

    ‘The law does not protect our birds and country from these robbers; they have too many respected representatives in high places, on the benches of magistrates, in the houses of parliament, and among important people generally. For are they not robbers and of the very worst description? Depriving the country of one of its best possessions – its lustrous wildlife.’

    Hudson died a century ago in 1922 and it just shows that things never change.

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