How has the game-shooting industry reacted to the conviction of gamekeeper Paul Allen?

Five days ago, 54 year old gamekeeper Paul Allen pleaded guilty to seven counts of wildlife, poisons and firearms offences, which he committed in March 2021 whilst working on the Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset (see here).

A poisoned red kite had been found dead on the estate in November 2020 (confirmed Bendiocarb poisoning) which triggered a multi-agency search of his premises in March 2021. During that search, investigators found nine dead buzzards (six confirmed shot, the remains of 3 others were pulled out of the ashes of a bonfire), three lots of banned poisons (Bendiocarb, Strychnine and Cymag), a loaded shotgun propped up behind his kitchen door (instead of being inside a locked gun cabinet) and some shotgun ammunition, for which he didn’t have a licence, was found in an unlocked outbuilding.

Four of the nine dead buzzards found by investigators. Photo: RSPB

Allen’s court hearing last week generated widespread local, regional and national media coverage so I fully expected to see full and frank statements of condemnation of his crimes by the game-shooting industry – you know, the industry that claims to have ‘zero tolerance’ of raptor persecution.

I was especially interested in the responses of those game-shooting organisations that serve on the national Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG). One of the main stated objectives of the RPPDG is to raise awareness of raptor persecution crimes with the wider public and to encourage people to report such crimes to the police.

Five days on from Allen’s multiple guilty pleas, here’s what those organisations had to say in condemnation:

British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) – nothing

Countryside Alliance – nothing

Country, Land & Business Association (CLA) – nothing

National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) – nothing

Oh, no, hang on a minute, something was posted on the National Gamekeepers Organisation website, the day after Allen’s guilty pleas, as follows, under the headline, ‘Gamekeeper has NGO membership suspended‘:

Does this statement of ‘membership suspension’ relate to gamekeeper Paul Allen? Who knows? It’s deliberately cryptic and any casual visitor to the NGO membership wouldn’t have a scoobies to who or what this statement referred. I think that’s the intention. ‘Don’t draw attention to our criminal members and certainly don’t condemn the crimes this one has committed and subsequently admitted to after being caught with all those dead raptors, banned poisons and unsafe firearms and ammunition because it’ll tarnish the image we’ve been so desperately trying to present to the world‘.

It’s been suggested to me that perhaps all these organisations are waiting to make their statements of ‘zero tolerance’ until after Allen has been sentenced next month. Perhaps they are. Although I remember the same excuse was suggested when gamekeeper John Orrey was convicted last year and then sentenced at a later date. How many of them condemned his criminal activities (beating buzzards to death with a stick) after he was sentenced? Take a look for yourselves (here).

I don’t know who’s advising the PR strategy of the game-shooting industry but I suspect the decent, law-abiding members of these shooting organisations will be furious that their so-called leaders are refusing to distance them from the criminals within.

So, the illegal killing continues, the shooting industry organisations say nothing, and public anger grows.

Thanks, BASC, CA, CLA, NGO et al – this is only heading in one direction and you’re all helping it reach the end game so much more quickly than we could get it there on our own. Cheers.

24 thoughts on “How has the game-shooting industry reacted to the conviction of gamekeeper Paul Allen?”

  1. Says it all. Thank you for all your help in exposing this high level, respected, bunch of sheer hypocrites! Well done. 👏

  2. The sooner the game shooting industry is closed down the better – for our wildlife, environment, communities and law enforcement. It cant come soon enough

  3. These reflections are so important – exposing the gamekeeping cartels for what they are. Unbelievable that there isn’t an independent registering and supervisory body for gamekeepers to ensure men like Allen are not employed in the “profession” again.

    1. Hi Ruth,
      Have you detected any press comments in response to last night’s BBC Countryfile glorification of the shooting industry?

  4. These organisations might appear to be sitting in the sand with their heads buried, pretending its not happened. However I don’t think that is the case, their reaction of appearing unmoving and their silence is a cynical ploy. I’m sure they think no publicity drawing them into the discussions of this series of keeper crimes is better for them than risking more publicity by commenting. they however IMO wrong failing to distance themselves from these and a litany of other crimes makes them look complicit, plus of course makes their “no tolerance” stance look what it probably is a flimsy shield to hide their vulnerability behind. Perhaps each time a keeper is in court or convicted we ought to be persuading national journalists to ask the opinion of these organisations so more can see that flimsily covered “emperor with no clothes. “

    1. I agree, I think they put a lot of thought into how to react, but – such is the regularity of well publicised convictions these days – they have quite wisely concluded it is best to stay down in their trench and wait for the all-clear. However I don’t personally think there will ever be much of an all clear for them from now on! Sitting silently saying nothing (i.e. hiding) and just taking hits until it blows over is quite pitiful and is a far cry from what the founding fathers of these organisations said they were intended for – i.e. to correct the public’s misunderstandings, and the like.

      [Ed: Thanks Spaghnum. You’ll notice I’ve removed the link at the bottom of your comment. I’m not interested in providing a publicity platform for that outfit. I’m sure you’ll understand]

  5. This doesn’t surprise me one little bit as it dovetails with their direction of travel. One cannot believe a word they say as everything is spun to their own perceived short term interests and no other value gets a look in.

  6. If the NGO was serious about opposing wildlife crime then its terms of membership would include the automatic expulsion of any members convicted of wildlife crime.

    1. Add to this horrific episode of obviously targeted crime against birds of prey the dreadful stamping to death of the hen harrier chicks and still a deafening silence from the various shooting/moorland alliances. Why oh why don’t they condemn these acts and those who commit them, because they stand together…and that implicates every single one of them.

  7. It’s absolutely disgusting and a disgrace. The sooner there is tighter regulation/legislation of the game shooting industry the better. The RSPB and other wildlife NGO’s need to lobby now and wait no longer for the industry to put it’s house in order. I fear the BBC in it’s Countryfile programme 8/1/23 missed the opportunity to quiz the industry and the viewer would be unaware of these abhorent practises.

  8. I can’t say I am surprised by their group silence; more than likely not wishing to appear complicit with these abhorrent crimes by one of their own. And hoping no noise is better than condemnation therefore not causing the public to turn against them

  9. Dear Ruth I’m being told not to open the link on this as it is suspicious?

    Has anyone else had this problem? First time ever.

    Kind regards Di

    [Ed: Hi Di, thanks for letting me know. If possible, please could you screengrab the message on your screen and email me the image so I can see what’s going on / ask my website guru to take a look. Thanks]

    1. Rarely, I get similar warning messages from Google – something about wordpress… security of the link and certificates… but a repeated attempt to access has always worked without complaint:-)

  10. “I suspect the decent, law abiding members of these shooting organisations will be furious that their so called leaders are refusing to distance them from the criminals within”. This is an optimistic and incredible statement given 99.9% of their members know what is happening and either participate in it, or collude with the crimes.

  11. Any statement from Natural England or Tony Juniper?

    It will be interesting to see how the field sports channel(turn to camera) reports this dramatic(turn to camera) outcome for someone they once (stare into camera) fetted.

    If the NGO has suspended the guilty criminal, that seems to be a soft choice, why not expel him?

    The glossy promotion of Shaftesbury killing for fun produced by Jacoby on the field sports channel is out of date, but at the time it was fimed the criminal Allen was in charge of two underkeepers. I wonder if at the time when he was caught, albeit under a different regime, if the shoot was staffed to the same level? If this is the case, did they see nothing, did they hear nothing, did they not smell the burning buzzards, were they trained and mentored by Allen?
    Surely the NGO should be checking these apples for any early signs of rot? Or maybe they are satisfied that they remain untarnished and fit to represent the good image of the NGO?

  12. Not surprising- but very disappointing.
    Hopefully when Mr Allen is sentenced, the story will get national media coverage.
    I find it almost unbelievable that organisations which profess zero tolerance to raptor persecution are not using this case to utterly condemn what has taken place, and to remind their members that engaging in criminal acts has a very negative impact on game shooting, and public perception of how the game shooting industry operates.
    But perhaps, these organisations don’t care- knowing full well that too many politicians are well and truly in the pockets of the powerful and privileged, and these politicians will ensure that vested interests in the countryside are protected from the introduction of any legislation which might effectively put an end to the criminal activities which seems to infect so much of the game shooting industry.

    There is also another side to the NGO announcement of suspension of one its members for engaging in criminals acts.
    The fact that the NGO has had to suspend one of its members for engaging in criminal acts, despite the fact that the NGO in it’s terms of membership clearly expresses that criminal activity will not be tolerated, is in fact an admission that the NGO has very little control or influence over it’s members and the activities they get up to.
    Will the fact that a NGO member has had his/her membership suspended for engaging in criminal activity be a bar to working in the profession?
    This so called self regulation has always been something the shooting industry has thrown up when challenged as to why the government shouldn’t impose proper regulations on the industry.
    I hope those campaigning for proper government regulation of the shooting industry will pick up on this, and point out very firmly when lobbying politicians that this recent conviction is yet further evidence of why self regulation is totally ineffective, and that the only way forward is proper regulations for the shooting industry. Regulations which are enshrined in law, effectively policed, and have a real impact in ending this intolerable persecution of wildlife and raptors.

  13. A. One wonders if they can read.

    B. If they ignore it, we will forget.

    PS on behalf of raptors, thank you for your dedication.

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