Here are some more parliamentary questions relating to the Westminster Government’s failure to effectively tackle raptor persecution, this time submitted by Ruth Jones MP (Labour, Shadow Minister at DEFRA).
The following four questions were lodged on 1st March 2023:
There’s a fair bit of overlap with these four questions but I’m not going to criticise Ruth Jones for tabling them in this format. On the contrary, I’m delighted to see a Shadow Minister making an effort on this subject and applying pressure on DEFRA.
Is it significant that there’s been a recent flurry of parliamentary questions about raptor persecution? I like to think so.
Ruth Jones’s written questions were answered on 9th March 2023 by Trudy Harrison, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in DEFRA, as follows:
This response is predictably lame and amounts to nothing more than paper-shuffling by DEFRA. In fact, I reckon DEFRA has a folder where stock phrases are kept and hauled out each and every time there’s a question about why the Westminster Government is failing so badly when it comes to tackling raptor persecution.
Many of the sentences in Trudy Harrison’s response are pretty much carbon-copies of those given by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow in September 2021 (here), those given by DEFRA Minister Richard Benyon in February 2022 (here), those given by Rebecca Pow in February 2022 (here), those given by Richard Benyon in April 2022 (here), and those given by Trudy Harrison earlier this month (here).
Once more, for the record:
Harrison/DEFRA says: “This government takes wildlife crime seriously“.
Does it? The evidence suggests not.
Harrison/DEFRA says: “We have significant sanctions for crimes against birds of prey in place which include an unlimited fine and/or a six-month custodial sentence“.
Indeed, these sanctions are in place but there has only ever been one custodial sentence handed down to a raptor-killer – and that was in Scotland in 2015 when gamekeeper George Mutch was given a four-month custodial sentence for crimes he committed in 2012 (here). There haven’t been any others since then, and a custodial sentence has never been handed down in England, Wales or Northern Ireland for raptor persecution crime.
Harrison/DEFRA says: “Raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority“.
On paper, yes. In reality, no. Raptor persecution was identified as a national wildlife crime priority in 2009. That’s 14 years ago, and hundreds of birds of prey have been illegally killed in the UK since then.
Harrison/DEFRA says: “Defra continues to be fully involved with the police-led national Bird of Prey Crime Priority Delivery Group“.
This so-called Priority Delivery Group has been in place since 2011 and has delivered absolutely nothing of meaningful effect since then, largely due to the fact it is dominated by pro-shooting organisations who have a stranglehold on any progress that could have /should have been made. In my view, it’s a partnership sham, designed to look as though efforts are being made to effectively tackle illegal raptor persecution in England and Wales (see here).
Harrison/DEFRA says: “Natural England continues to work closely with wildlife crime officers“.
Yes, and in recent years NE has been involved with a number of multi-agency raids. Good. However, NE also ‘partners’ with the grouse-shooting industry, facilitating DEFRA’s ludicrous hen harrier brood meddling scheme, designed to placate the very industry responsible for this species’ persecution and subsequent catastrophic decline.
Harrison/DEFRA says: “[Vicarious liability] has been introduced in Scotland but it is unclear whether it has had a significant deterrent effect. We will continue to monitor the situation in Scotland to consider whether it is necessary and proportionate to assist in tackling wildlife crime in England“.
Vicarious liability has been in place in Scotland for 11 years. The recent UN report on UK wildlife crime made a recommendation that vicarious liability be introduced without delay in England and Wales. What does DEFRA have to lose by introducing it south of the Border?