No subsidy withdrawal for mass poisoning of raptors on Glanusk Estate

Further to the news about the mass poisoning of raptors uncovered on the Glanusk Estate in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales (see here), we wanted to find out whether the Estate had incurred a financial penalty for what appears to be a clear breach of cross compliance rules.

In order to qualify for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidy payments, claimants are required to keep their land in ‘Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition’ and comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). This is known as cross compliance. [NB: the rules have now changed slightly but as this mass poisoning took place in 2012/2013, the old rules apply].

In our opinion, the illegal poisoning of raptors with Bendiocarb is a breach of SMR1 (relating to the protection of wild birds) and SMR9 (relating to restrictions on the use of plant protection products).


In April, an FoI was submitted to Rural Payments Wales (RPW), the Government agency responsible for implementing CAP subsidy payments and for imposing penalties if cross compliance regulations have been breached. Here are the questions that were asked, along with the answers received from RPW:

Question 1. Which of these incidents were on land in receipt of subsidies under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) during the years 2012 and 2013?

Answer: I can confirm that 10 of these incidents were on land in receipt of SPS in 2012 and 2013.

[RPUK comment: Although there were 24 incidents in total, it seems that RPW has excluded 14 of them, presumably because the illegally-poisoned birds and/or illegally-placed poisoned baits were on land that is not subject to SPS, for example, in woodland].

Question 2. What were the amounts of payments made under SPS in 2012 and 2013 and to how many beneficiaries?

Answer: A total of £98,802.01 was paid to 2 beneficiaries under SPS 2012. A total of £97,145.70 was paid to 2 beneficiaries under SPS 2013.

[RPUK comment: We’ve scrutinised the CAP payments website to find out who these beneficiaries were and we’ve worked out that they are two tenant farmers on the Glanusk Estate, presumably on whose landholdings the poisoned birds/baits were discovered].

Question 3. Can Rural Payments Wales confirm whether these offences would have breached SMR1 and SMR9 of the SPS?

Answer: These offences would be a breach of SMR1 and SMR9 if they were found to be attributable to a benficiary of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds.

Question 4. What investigation or enforcement action has Rural Payments Wales undertaken in relation to these offences?

Answer: RPW considered the offences in question and concluded there was insufficient evidence to apply a cross compliance breach to a beneficiary.

[RPUK comment: We’re fascinated by this. The standard of proof for a cross compliance breach is lower than the standard of proof required for a criminal prosecution. A criminal conviction is NOT required for a cross compliance penalty to be imposed].

Question 5. What subsidy withdrawals have been made from anyone in receipt of money under the SPS in 2012 and 2013 as a result of these incidents?

Answer: No withdrawal of subsidy has been made from anyone under SPS 2012 and SPS 2013 as a result of these incidents.


A further FoI was submitted to RPW in May 2016, to try and understand why RPW thought there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to apply a penalty. Here are the questions that were asked, along with the answers received from RPW:

Question 6. Please can you tell me the date (day/month/year) that RPW first became aware of these poisoning incidents?

Answer: RPW first became aware of the poisoning incidents on 5 December 2013.

Question 7. Please could you provide information about the extent and type of enquiries RPW conducted when “considering the offences in question and concluding there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a cross compliance action”?

Answer: A formal police investigation was underway in this case and RPW undertook a review of the documentary evidence.

Question 8. Have the two claimaints been informed by RPW of the SMR1 and SMR9 breaches on their land?

Answer: No, RPW has not established any breaches to SMR1 and SMR9 on their land.

Question 9. Have the two claimants been interviewed by RPW about the incidents on their land?

Answer: No.

Question 10. Can copies of any correspondence between RPW and the claimants about these incidents be supplied (with personal details redacted)?

Answer: RPW has had no contact with the claimants over these incidents.

Question 11. What steps has RPW taken to prevent a reoccurence of these breaches?

Answer: RPW undertakes a programme of annual on site visits to farm businesses to ensure cross compliance requirements are respected.


To be honest, we’re completed baffled by RPW’s answers to questions 8-11. They’re either displaying overwhelming apathy, or they’re confused, or we’re confused. Confusion and apathy shouldn’t be unexpected – we saw a similar approach from the Rural Payments Agency (operating in England) when we challenged them about a subsidy withdrawal for the Stody Estate (Norfolk) after the discovery of mass raptor poisoning on their land. The confusion and apathy continued for a year, but, to their credit, the RPA did eventually get it right and imposed a large financial penalty on Stody Estate (see previous blogs here).

Are we going to have to go through the same process with Rural Payments Wales?

Was there a cross compliance breach or wasn’t there? If there was, why hasn’t a penalty been imposed? Why hasn’t RPW bothered to discuss these poisonings with the subsidy recipients? How can RPW claim, with straight faces, that their on site visits “ensure cross compliance requirements are respected”? If that’s the case, where was RPW in 2012 and 2013?

Emails to:

There’s something decidedly rotten about this whole affair. The most significant wildlife poisoning incident ever uncovered in Wales, and the second largest in the UK in 40 years, on a prominent estate with strong royal connections, inside a National Park. Abject secrecy about these crimes from Dyfed Powys Police (until we started asking questions 3 years later), no criminal prosecution, and no subsidy penalty.

Further statement from Glanusk Estate re: mass raptor poisoning

Following on from yesterday’s blog about the Glanusk Estate statement on the illegal mass poisoning of raptors on their land (here), the Glanusk Estate trustees have issued a further statement:

Further Glanusk statement

A couple of things jumped out at us:

The incident involves a third party to Glanusk Estate and is nothing to do with the Management Team or the owners of the Estate“.

Clearly, the owners and Management Team were not directly responsible for setting out poisoned baits, or for picking up poisoned raptors and hiding them inside feed sacks next to a pheasant pen. That was the criminal action of a ‘third party’. But it’s irresponsible for the Management Team and owners of the Estate to claim ‘it is nothing to do with us’. It’s their responsibility, and theirs alone, to, er, ‘manage’ what happens on their Estate.

The question is, do the owners and Management Team know who that ‘third party’ was and if so, what action have they taken against that ‘third party’? Is the ‘third party’ still involved at Glanusk Estate? What measures, if any, have Glanusk Estate put in place to ensure the poisoning is not repeated? They say they have asked their visitors, tenants and friends to be vigilant, but is that enough? This mass poisoning took place over the period of a whole year and apparently nobody saw anything suspicious (!) so asking people to be vigilant is a start but hopefully it isn’t the Management Team’s only course of action!

The Welsh Government and the Dyfed Powys Police confirmed at the time that there was no risk to public health“.

Really? If that’s true, it would be an extraordinary statement for the Welsh Government & Dyfed Powys Police to make. According to the World Health Organisation, Bendiocarb (the poison that was used for these mass raptor killings) is listed as Class II for acute toxicity, indicating that it is moderately hazardous to humans if ingested or absorbed through the skin. Symptoms of Bendiocarb poisoning in humans are weakness, blurred vision, headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, low blood pressure, muscle tremours, uncoordination and heart irregularities. Death can result from discontinued breathing, paralysis of muscles of the respiratory system and/or intense constriction of the openings of the lungs. But don’t worry, the Welsh Government and Dyfed Powys Police said there was “no risk to public health”.

We’ll be blogging more about the Welsh Government’s role in this case shortly…..

Statement from Glanusk Estate about mass poisoning of raptors

Following yesterday’s blog (here) about the mass illegal poisoning of birds of prey on the Glanusk Estate within the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Estate has issued a statement, probably as a measure to placate the organisers of the Green Man Festival (held annually in the Estate grounds) as we know those festival organisers have asked Glanusk about what’s going on. Here’s the Glanusk statement:

Glanusk statement2

In addition to this formal statement, Debbie Murray from the Glanusk Estate wrote the following in an email to one of our blog readers:

I can assure you that we take any matter of animal welfare seriously and we have extensive health & safety measures in place for all of the activities, land and property that we engage with/own.

The alleged poisoning has been said to have been located on land outside of the Glanusk Park where our events take place and there is no risk at all to animals or humans. We enlist an external consultant to provide risk assessments and health & safety advice and again to reiterate, any risk to any of our visitors is received and treated with the utmost severity“.


So, let’s just take a closer look at these statements.

For a start, the police investigation began in 2013, not in 2012 (read the RSPB Investigations team’s blog (here) about how things unfolded at Glanusk Estate, starting with the discovery of poisoned baits in October 2012 and leading to the discovery of 15 poisoned victims and more poisoned bait in October 2013).

Is the Glanusk Estate saying 2012 by mistake, or are they trying to suggest that the poisonings took place in 2012 because that sounds better than the more recent 2013?

Glanusk Estate mentions the “alleged poisonings“, presumably to imply that they might not have happened. Hang on a minute, investigators found nine poisoned baits, two poisoned ravens, five poisoned red kites, and eight poisoned buzzards. All of them were subjected to toxicology tests in a government laboratory and all of them tested positive for the poison Bendiocarb. There is no ‘alleged’ about it – these poisonings took place and the 9 baits and 15 victims were definitely found on Glanusk Estate.

Here’s a photo of a poisoned buzzard, one of the 15 poisoning victims found on the Glanusk Estate (photo by RSPB Investigations).


Glanusk Estate says: “the poisonings were located on land outside of Glanusk Park where our events take place”. Hmm. How does the Estate know where the poisonings took place? The majority of those victims (seven buzzards and three red kites) were found stuffed inside feed sacks stacked up next to a pheasant pen. There’s no way anyone (except the poisoner(s)) can know precisely where on the Glanusk Estate those birds were actually poisoned. And even if the poisoned baits had been found in an area of the Estate away from the central ‘Glanusk Park’ area (where their events take place), there’s every chance that a bird might eat some of the bait but then manage to fly some distance before succumbing to the poison. Indeed, isn’t this the very excuse we’re given by the shooting community whenever a poisoned raptor has been found? ‘Ah well, even though the poisoned bird was found on our land, that doesn’t mean it was poisoned on our land, it could have flown a few miles from somewhere else and it just died here’.

Glanusk Estate says: “there is no risk at all to all animals or humans“. Sorry, but there is absolutely no way the Estate can give this sort of assurance. These poisonings took place over the period of at least one year, and nobody from the Glanusk Estate noticed them. The pile of ten raptor corpses stuffed inside feed bags and stacked next to the pheasant pen, the nine poisoned baits and the other five corpses of poisoned birds left on the open ground – all apparently missed by the gamekeepers that worked in that area every day (hard to believe, we know). The poisoner is still at large, because nobody has been charged for these crimes, so for all the Estate knows, poisons may still be being put out on that land and the Estate owners and workers have failed to notice, again. How on earth can Glanusk Estate declare “there is no risk at all to all animals and humans“? It’s just absurd.

Glanusk Estate says: “We enlist an external consultant to provide risk assessments and health & safety advice“. We’re sure they do – as a commercial outfit they are legally obliged to do this. So how come the organisers of the Green Man Festival were apparently unaware of the mass poisoning of wildlife on this estate prior to our blog going out yesterday? Surely, information about the presence of toxic poisons, such a serious hazard to festival-goers, would have been provided in the Festival’s risk assessment, no? Or is it the case that Glanusk Estate has suppressed this information for the last three years, with the assistance of Dyfed Powys Police and the Welsh Government, hoping that nobody would find out?

For the safety of those thousands of visitors to Glanusk Estate, let’s hope the festival organisers ask some probing questions.

UPDATE 3 July 2016: Further statement from Glanusk Estate here

Mass raptor poisoning in Wales: location revealed

In March 2016, we blogged (see here) about the mass poisoning of raptors in 2012/2013 at an unnamed location in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Powys, Wales.

Our suspicions had been aroused when looking at raptor poisoning data published in two RSPB reports (Birdcrime 2012; Birdcrime 2013). We were very interested in a cluster of incidents (24, to be precise) during this period, all listed as ‘Powys’ and all involving the poison Bendiocarb. Those 24 incidents included nine poisoned baits and 15 poisoning victims, as follows:

9 x poisoned pheasant baits

2 x poisoned ravens

5 x poisoned red kites

8 x poisoned buzzards

Poisoned RK Powys

An FoI was submitted to Dyfed-Powys Police to determine whether all these poisoning crimes had occurred at the same location (answer: yes) and whether any prosecution had been forthcoming (answer: no).

We were curious about why there had been no media coverage of this case, it being “the most significant wildlife poisoning incident in Wales and the second highest recovery of poisoned raptors in the UK in the last 40 years”, according to the RSPB (see here). We’d suggested that there had been a police ‘cover-up’, an accusation that Dyfed-Powys Police denied (see here). We still think there was some level of cover-up, not so much with the police investigation per se, but rather with the lack of any subsequent publicity about this case.

Naturally, we were interested in finding out the actual location of this mass raptor poisoning and we firmly believe it’s in the public interest that the location is named, but we didn’t have much to go on, other than it happened on a pheasant-shooting estate within the Brecon Beacons National Park. A number of blog readers from Powys did contact us privately and each named the same estate, but if we were to publish the estate name we needed much more conclusive evidence than that.

It’s taken us a while to get there, and we’re not going to reveal exactly how we got there because we know, from past experience, that as soon as we reveal information sources the authorities do their utmost to make access more difficult (e.g. by deliberately withholding data from official reports, see here) but after a series of FoIs and scrutiny of several indirect Government databases, we’re now in a position to name the location of the mass poisoning of raptors in 2012/2013 as the Glanusk Estate, Powys.

Glanusk logo

Glanusk Estate

Glanusk Estate is privately owned and run by Dame Elizabeth Shan Josephine Legge-Bourke, her son Harry Legge-Bourke and his wife Iona Legge-Bourke (see here).

Shan Legge-Bourke was appointed lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne in 1987, was High Sheriff of Powys in 1991, has been the Lord Lieutenant of Powys (the Queen’s personal representative) since 1998 and became Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2015 New Year Honours.

Shan Legge-Bourke’s daughter, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, was nanny to Princes William & Harry and worked as a personal assistant to Prince Charles between 1993-1999.

Shan Legge-Bourke’s son, Harry Legge-Bourke, is a partner in the management of Glanusk Estate and served on the Board of Natural Resources Wales (the Welsh statutory conservation agency) between 2012-2015 (the same time the mass poisoning of raptors was taking place on Glanusk Estate).

The Queen visited Glanusk Estate in 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations (see here).

Could these strong royal connections explain why Dyfed-Powys Police were so reluctant to publicise the criminal activities taking place on Glanusk Estate? Who knows? Interesting though, isn’t it?

Now, we’re not suggesting for one minute that the Legge-Bourke family was in any way involved with the mass poisoning of raptors on Glanusk Estate, although it’s more than likely that the family would have become aware of what was going on when the police raided the estate in 2013 armed with search warrants and arrested two people (see police statement here).

As far as we can tell, Glanusk Estate offers walked-up grouse shooting (only 3-4 brace at a time – see here) but, like many large, privately-owned estates, the more commercial pheasant shooting is not run by the estate but is managed by an independent company, in this case, Mark Coleman Sporting & Game.

Mark Coleman Sporting & Game

According to the Mark Coleman Sporting & Game website (here), which, incidentally, features the logos of GWCT, Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers Organisation, Mark Coleman operates two pheasant shoots: one at Glanusk Estate and the other at Stoke Edith Estate in nearby Herefordshire.

Mark Coleman Sporting

Stoke Edith is a close neighbour of the Sufton Estate. Some of you may recognise that name. In 2010, an under-gamekeeper from the Sufton Estate was convicted of 17 wildlife crime offences, including the use of Bendiocarb to poison raptors (see here). In the same year, the Sufton Estate Head gamekeeper was convicted of running a cannabis factory on the estate and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment (see here).

Amazingly, according to this article published in Fieldsports magazine: glanusk_fieldsport_article-1the Head gamekeeper now at Glanusk Estate, employed by Mark Coleman, is someone with the same name as that convicted Head gamekeeper from Sufton Estate. Imagine that! It surely can’t be the same person, because, as we’re so often told, criminal gamekeepers are not tolerated by the shooting industry, right?

But Mark Coleman employs another gamekeeper who also has a familiar name. According to this Fieldsports magazine article: stoke_edith_fieldsport_article-1a gamekeeper employed by Mark Coleman on the Stoke Edith Estate shares the same name as a gamekeeper convicted of killing raptors and badgers on a shooting estate in Herefordshire in 2008. Imagine that! It surely can’t be the same person, because, as we’re so often told, criminal gamekeepers are not tolerated by the shooting industry, right?

We are, of course, in no way suggesting that Mark Coleman or any of his employees had any involvement or knowledge of the mass poisoning of raptors at Glanusk Estate, although, just like the Legge-Bourke family, it’s probably fair to assume that Mr Coleman was made aware of these crimes when the police raided Glanusk Estate in 2013 and found the 15 poisoning victims very close to some pheasant pens.

We’d love to know whether the Glanusk Estate and/or Mark Coleman Sporting & Game and/or Dyfed-Powys Police made any effort to warn the 20k guests who visit the annual Green Man Festival at Glanusk Estate about the discovery of poisoned baits and birds found strewn around the grounds.

According to the statement issued by Dyfed-Powys Police (here), the Crown Prosecution Service decided against charging anybody for the mass poisoning of raptors at Glanusk Estate in 2012/2013 because there was insufficient evidence to identify an individual culprit. Whoever did it has got away with it, like so many of these raptor killers do.

But this wasn’t just any old raptor poisoning. This was a mass raptor poisoning, the most significant ever uncovered in Wales, and the second biggest discovery of poisoned raptors in the UK in the last 40 years. And it happened on a prominent estate, within the Brecon Beacons National Park, over the period of a year. How can someone get away with that? And how can the authorities get away with keeping quiet about it?

And what about a subsidy penalty for the estate? These poisoning crimes were obviously in breach of cross-compliance regulations, in the same way that the mass poisoning of raptors at Stody Estate (Norfolk) was also a breach, which resulted in a huge financial penalty for the estate, imposed by the Rural Payments Agency (see here).

We’ve done some digging about a potential subsidy withdrawal at Glanusk and we’ll be blogging about that shortly.

Photo of one of the poisoned red kites found on Glanusk Estate, by Guy Shorrock (RSPB)

UPDATE 2 July 2016: Statement from Glanusk Estate here

UPDATE 3 July 2016: Further statement from Glanusk Estate here

UPDATE 4 July 2016: No subsidy withdrawal for mass poisoning of raptors on Glanusk Estate here