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?