Shooting industry ‘offended’ about being asked to help identify the person who shot five goshawks

At the beginning of this week, Suffolk Police put out an appeal on Twitter asking the shooting community to help identify the person who shot dead five young goshawks, which had been dumped at the edge of the King’s Forest near Thetford on Monday (see here).

The following day, Suffolk Police’s tweet was deleted without explanation. It soon became clear why – BASC, a prominent shooting organisation, had demanded it be removed because apparently it was offensive to ask the shooting community to help identify someone who had committed a crime with a shotgun! In a misjudged PR move, BASC even bragged about getting the police tweet removed:

I don’t think it’s disparaging in any way to ask the shooting community for help to solve a wildlife crime committed by someone with a shotgun. And let’s be honest, given the long history of goshawk persecution in the UK by members of the game-shooting industry, it’s perfectly logical to suspect that a member of that industry might be the perpetrator.

At this stage, Suffolk Police, quite rightly, hasn’t drawn any conclusions other than all five goshawks contained shotgun pellets (as revealed by x-ray).

My own view, for what it’s worth at this early stage of the investigation, is that the x-ray provided by the police shows that at least one of the dead goshawks had an enlarged crop, indicating that it had eaten recently. It’s not beyond the realms of possibly, or indeed probability, that these young goshawks had been enticed into a trap, over a period of time, by a decoy bird and then shot by whoever was operating the trap.

We know that goshawks are easily enticed into such traps (e.g. see here, here, here and here). We also know that many gamekeepers generally despise goshawks, due to their perceived threat to gamebirds; a view not helped by idiotic and inaccurate commentary about the species by senior members of the gamekeeping community including Alex Hogg, the Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who once wrote, “I strongly believe the goshawk never was indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise” (see here). Goshawk persecution is so rife in the UK, even inside some of our National Parks (e.g. see here and here) that the species has been identified as a ‘national wildlife crime priority’ by the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Why were the dead goshawks dumped in a car park next to a public wood? Only the person who dumped them there can answer that, but again, it’s not the first time that illegally-killed goshawks have been placed to await discovery, as some kind of two-fingered salute by the killer(s).

For example, here is what happened to three young fledged goshawks from a nest in the Peak District National Park . The image below is an excerpt from the Peak Nest Watch 2010 end of season report, which can be downloaded here: peak_nestwatch_2010

Were the five shot goshawks found in Suffolk this week all from the same brood? DNA analysis can answer that. When were they shot and had the carcasses been frozen prior to being dumped? Again, forensic analyses will help. Until then, all we know is that a wildlife crime has been committed and Suffolk Police are to be congratulated for putting out an appeal for information within 24 hours of the shot birds being discovered.

I’ve seen other members of the shooting community make some ridiculous claims about this case over the last few days. One suggests that shotgun pellets ‘can easily be introduced into a carcass’, inferring that these birds weren’t shot at all but are the result of some kind of ‘set up’. He’s bonkers if he thinks anyone will believe that. Another former Head Gamekeeper, who routinely brags on social media about his supposed superior expertise on natural history, concluded that these were buzzards, not goshawks (he’s wrong, as usual) but even if he was right, it would still be a wildlife crime to shoot them. Bizarrely, the BASC Scotland twitter account ‘liked’ this post (thanks to blog reader Dr Rob Thomas @RobThomas14 for pointing this out):

Not content with forcing Suffolk Police to remove its original appeal for information on this case, BASC has now published an astonishing article on its website in an attempt to justify its action and also seems to be very cross about the £10,000 reward offered by the RSPB and Wild Justice. You can read the BASC article here.

In my opinion, it’s staggering that BASC can so easily influence the narrative about raptor persecution crimes as it has done here, and it’s not the first time. I’ll be blogging shortly about another example that has recently come to light.

It’s also a little bit strange that BASC should feel offended about being asked to help find the criminal who shot these goshawks. BASC, you’ll recall, is a member of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the police-led ‘partnership’ designed to help tackle illegal bird of prey persecution in England & Wales. If BASC is so offended about the shooting industry being linked to raptor persecution, why on earth is it a member of the RPPDG?

Meanwhile, the crowdfunder to increase the £10,000 reward for information, launched by those decent people at Rare Bird Alert, is doing well. If you’d like to contribute, the crowdfunder page can be found here.

If you have any information about this appalling crime, please call Suffolk Police on 101 and quote crime reference 37/3027/23. Alternatively, to get in touch anonymously, call the RSPB’s dedicated Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

22 thoughts on “Shooting industry ‘offended’ about being asked to help identify the person who shot five goshawks”

  1. Ale Hogg, what a xxxxxxxxxxx. “NEVER indigenous to the UK” Records of Goshawk date back to at least Medieval times and fossil evidence from the Devensian period, 10 – 120,000 years ago. Therefore the Goshawk has been in the UK long, long before Hogg and his shotgun toting cronies.

    1. He obviously believes that if a species is shot to extinction (1870`s) then re-establishes (1960`s), then it loses it`s resident status. Meaning it should not be a protected species in his mind? Please come out and clarify what you mean Alex. An intelligent discussion is needed.

  2. The dead birds look in not to bad condition for being shot with a shotgun so I would rule out being trapped by a decoy as I wouldn’t think there would be much left of them if they were shot at close range certainly wouldn’t need a x ray secondly I would like to point out the hatred there is for gamekeepers it’s like guilty before anything happens until someone has been caught and I really do hope they catch who ever it was the speculation should stop it does seem very weird that these birds were found the way they were for someone to break the law this way and dump them as they did must be stupid or there could be some sinister ploy whose to know until the culprit is caught

    1. This whole thing is beyond belief. And not only that but Mr Rose (above) seems to be suggesting that goshawk lovers shot the birds and left them in a public place in the hope of discrediting the shooting industry.

      1. Well mr Moore I don’t shoot but I do love goshawks so much so that I keep birds of prey and I want the person caught as much as you ime merely pointing out if these birds were caught in a trap and shot with a shotgun there wouldn’t be much left of them and yes this sick world is full of weirdos who do weird things but looks like you know who done it atleast made up your shallow mind

    2. No-one has said it was a gamekeeper/gamekeepers that killed the birds. There may well be suspicion that it was a gamekeeper – RPUK has merely linked to the sheer hatred of the species within that particular sector, and the monstrous idiocy displayed by its “spokespersons”.

      Add to that, the very fact that not many people own or use shotguns as part of their work/business, so that really narrows down the number of possibilities – the wider shooting community exactly as the police tweet suggested.

    3. The points that you miss, whether deliberate or not, are:
      1) over 70% of identified raptor persecution is proven to have been committed by gamekeepers, that’s without including those disappearing in suspicious circumstances which would boost that figure much higher
      2) none of the pro-shooting organisations ever take action to prevent or solve these crimes, whatever they say: when was the last time BASC, the NGO, the SGO, the MA, SLE or the CA, etc etc actually took the lead in identifying the criminal involved, let alone provided evidence to help conviction?
      3) why do those same organisations wage war against those attempting to stop the criminal activities, disparaging them personally, as Ruth can evidence ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and for the anti-crime operations of charitable organisations, as worked by the RSPB / RSPCA etc?

      It is because they are seen to be protecting criminals, whether or not they are, that is the impression they give: they are always the last to condemn, never take action and can always be relied upon to downplay the criminal involvement of gamekeepers and landowners in these crimes.

  3. Classic ‘attack is the best form of defence’ tactic, the very simple question is …who has any vested interest in destroying these birds. Might be an acutely psychologically challenged individual, but far more likely to be someone who’s job it is to protect his livlihood from birds of prey. History very clearly identifies which. As for Callum Gorman’s logic….give me strength!

    1. It makes me sick that BASC can influence the Police to take down a post about a crime

      It is like the Mafia asking the Police to take down a wanted poster because the picture isn’t pretty

      What it does demonstrate is collusion between the Constabulary and the shooting fraternity

      And we will never get justice whilst this is in operation

  4. I would like an expert in the interpretation of avian X-ray findings to have the opportunity to look into this case. There might be factors common to each, or most, of the X-ray slides which give some idea whether the birds were shot in flight or when perched.
    Given the disturbance caused by firing a shotgun, I reckon that the birds were shot one at a time, it being unlikely that the other four would have hung around once the first shot had been fired – and so on.
    I subscribe to the freezer theory and beg the question whether the birds could have been shot at or near the nest in the breeding season and stored away until now. Are Goshawks known to breed in that area? if so, the feasibility of checking any nests, and the ground below, for lead-shot should be considered.

  5. Well, well, well. I didn’t realise that goshawk haters went about with shotguns, nothing to do with the shooting industry. I’m ashamed to admit that I was a beater many years ago. Young and naive, trying to impress, I now know that our raptors were being persecuted all this time. The shooting culture | now find sickening, and deeply regret my ignorance and lack of awareness. When you are young and easily influenced, hard to step up. Sad regrets, Tania.

  6. This is, so far, following the notorious ‘Dorset scenario’: A Police tweet over a raptor crime being removed following political pressure. I wonder if the area’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner will get involved?

  7. It is disgusting for BASC to put pressure on Suffolk Police to remove content from their post. Why do they use intimidation to cover up a crime? Could it be they are protecting one of their members? I am also alarmed at Suffolk Police conceding to their request. An investigation of a crime takes precedence surely? It is a fact that members of the shooting community persecute raptors. That cannot be described as disparaging of them having a factual basis.

    1. The article is unclear whether Pheasants are currently in the process of being released near protected sites.

      “is releasing”, “by releasing pheasants”, “Natural England… has warned the estate not to release pheasants”, “the release pen has multiple entrances and exits for pheasants, meaning they are free to enter the surrounding woods.”, “rangers have said that pheasants are one of the most common birds to be found in Dendles Wood” and “does not appear to have reported to Natural England the number or density of pheasants it releases near the wood”

      The law covering GL43 states: “You must not release common pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) or red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) into the wild on European sites or within 500 metres of their boundary (known as the buffer zone), except under a licence.”

      The area in question is quoted as being an NNR, SSSI and a SAC. It lies within an SAC and is just 250 metres from an NNR and an SSSI.

      But what is not mentioned anywhere is the sheer stupidity of releasing any such game birds during an uncontrolled and widespread outbreak of bird flu.

      Defra say “All poultry and captive birds must be housed in England until further notice, following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza in wild birds and on commercial premises.

      Bird keepers are required to shut their birds indoors and implement strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the threat of avian influenza, regardless of whatever type or size.”

      1. Except … (Defra Guidance)

        “You must house ducks and geese and game birds WHEN POSSIBLE.

        If this is not practical, keep them in fully netted areas.

        If you cannot house or fully net an outdoor bird area because of unavoidable welfare concerns, you must:

        feed and water them undercover
        move them away from large bodies of water that attract wildfowl
        take steps to discourage wild birds“

  8. Thanks Lizzy,
    You highlight yet another carefully crafted piece of legislation or regulation, which on the face of it appears to tackle an issue, but when the details are examined, there is a route by which those with power, privilege and vested interests are ensured their interests are not put in jeopardy.
    I would suggest these people simply jerk their elected politicians strings and like the faithful marionette the politician dances a jig in parliament to ensure these interests are looked after.
    It can be quite interesting to see which MP’s turn up and contribute at parliamentary debates to ensure the voices of the powerful and privileged are the loudest and most vociferous.

    This process will be repeated in many organisations, and behind the scenes will be those whose wealth and power dictates the direction in which that organisation travels.
    It is simply a matter of “following the money”, back to source.

    It is therefore not surprising the BASC have attempted to throw up a smoke screen and deflect attention away the main issue of this incident which is an appalling crime committed against protected birds of prey, and the need to successfully prosecute the offender or offenders, regardless of whichever community those offenders belong.
    Should the offender come from within the shooting community, then this could well provide evidence that the umbrella organisation which represent shooting are unable to control the activities of some individuals, and therefore undermine any suggestion that self regulation could provide an effective means of control to end wildlife and raptor crime.

    I hope I am wrong but I doubt the person or persons responsible for this latest crime will ever be caught.
    The lurking menace of fear of repercussions which blights many rural communities will probably ensure voices are silenced (There is a probability that the sort of people who committed criminal damage at Mr Packham’s property, or regularly intimidate and assault the anti hunt protesters will be behind this latest crime.).

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