Glastonbury Festival bans hunt stewards

“We can confirm that this group will not be stewarding at Glastonbury in the future, and that we have fully vetted our list of stewarding groups to ensure that there are no other hunting organisations represented on it.” Excellent news as fox hunting takes yet another hit. Glastonbury Festival has scrambled to respond to an avalanche of adverse comments on social media by no longer employing members of the notorious Mendip Farmers Hunt as stewards, who in the past had been working alongside (presumably unknowing) teams from Oxfam and Greenpeace. The link with Glastonbury – which has always sold itself as ‘green’ despite founder Michael Eavis’s well-documented support for the badger cull – was detailed after a member of the hunt lost a memory stick which included details of all current hunt members and its financial statements. The fees previously paid to the hunt stewards by the festival had effectively been subsidising the hunt itself. As meeting minutes also found on the memory stick show, the Hunt is in a financially poor state and already lamenting the loss of income the pandemic was causing them, a situation that all hunts must be facing as more and more ‘dates’ are cancelled and riding out fees lost.

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Another Council calls for ban on burning peatlands

“Research has found that burning peatland degrades habitats, releases carbon emissions, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk.” Which neatly summarises why yet another council that has grouse moors within its boundaries is turning on the industry. Following recent similar calls by the RSPB and a host of other northern councils (see our Moorland Burning posts), members of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council are to ask the government to introduce a ban on the practice of peatland burning by grouse moor owners. BBurning on peatlands has become an increasingly hot-button topic as estates set more and more fires in their quest to turn ever more Red Grouse into cash, leading to – the RSPB explicitly said last year – ‘the biggest identified threat to England’s most important places for wildlife’.

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JustGiving | Peter Howe’s Project #camtag

The licencing of grouse moors is now the default position for many conservationists working to stop the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers, and while we (mostly) respect the conservationists involved we have very, very little respect for the idea of sanctioning grouse shooting, permitting the ongoing slaughter of native predators in traps and snares, and hoping against hope that the vague threat of an unenforceable licencing system will stop highly experienced wildlife criminals that have been getting away with it for years from continuing on down the same path. Call us cynical, but it seems to us that licencing is exactly what the raptor persecutionists want: once they’ve ticked the box and been granted licences, that will effectively be the end of trying to stop grouse shooting. And while there is grouse shooting there will always be the illegal killing of Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, Goshawks and whatever avian threat estates imagine might impact their profits in the years to come…Is there an alternative? Step forward Peter Howe, founder of 3rd Eye Technology (3ET), and his ingenious idea to develop a tiny camera that could sit alongside the satellite tags that are fitted to more and more birds of prey.

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Natural England and FOI data on Hen Harriers

Natural England comes in for a huge amount of flak because as the government’s conservation watchdog we need it to be effective – but it clearly isn’t. The appointment of seasoned campaigner Tony Juniper as NE Chair in March 2019 brought a brief flicker of hope that the department would take up the fight for wildlife again, but that hasn’t transpired. NE’s support for the slaughter of badgers to protect dairy farming is an especially egregious example, and there are far too many cases of NE supporting the shooting industry (they work very closely with shooting lobbyists BASC for example (see – Natural England and BASC produce shooting report) and have blocked access to countryside to help out a shoot adjacent to an SSSi in Wiltshire – see Natural England protects shoot from ‘disturbance’). Surely though NE aren’t deliberately hiding information from the public? After all, it’s we ‘the public’ that fund Natural England. Data on where these birds are being killed comes via satellite-tags that we the taxpayer are buying. We fund the staff working on collecting the data. And of course we pay them to run the epically stupid Hen Harrier ‘brood meddling’ scheme which sees Hen Harrier chicks moved from grouse moors to ‘protect them’ from illegal killing on grouse moors before re-releasing them back into the countryside when of course they fly back to the uplands and are illegally killed.

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RPUK | FOI request reveals more ‘missing’ Hen Harriers

The always excellent Raptor Persecution UK (RPUK) website has posted two blogs (today and yesterday) based on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made to Natural England, nominally “the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England” but a department which has been so ‘stripped to the bone’ by successive governments that it now appears toothless and ineffective in the face of the rising tide of wildlife crime impacting many of our mammals and birds (and in some examples actually appears to be facilitating the very shooting industry it ought to be monitoring – see Natural England protects shoot from ‘disturbance’). According to the information released by Natural England under FoI regs, a number of satellite-tagged Hen Harriers have gone ‘missing’ since September 2020 including a brood-meddled male whose tag’s last known fix was on 20th September 2020, right next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire, and another young bird whose last tag’s fix was inside the Yorkshire Dales National park.

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No, Woodcock and Snipe are NOT the same species

An odd thread appeared on Twitter over the weekend, which was started by Scottish campaigner Andy Paton but soon derailed by – well, it was hard to tell really…Andy had quite rightly pointed out that shooters were being asked not to go out killing endangered hard-weather movement birds like Woodcock and Common Snipe, because of – er, the hard-weather. Which makes huge sense if you’re actually interested in the conservation and protection of wild birds, but of course not so much if you’re a shooter and all that matters is the opportunity to blast a few half-starving birds out of the sky that have had the misfortune to arrive in the UK from regions to the north and to the east where the ground has frozen over meaning they can’t feed. The ‘odd’ part of the thread was the ‘contribution’ (which is being kind) from Phil ‘Beware the Woke’ Woods, who rashly decided he was the right person to teach Andy a lesson in ornithology, declaring in sneering terms that “Woodcock and snipe are the same bird and it is not endangered”. They’re not, and they are…Anyone can make a mistake, but why leap in like this…?

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Cheshire West | ‘Trail Hunting’ to go under the microscope

Cheshire West and Chester Council has announced plans to set up a cross-party group to examine ‘trail hunting’ in detail. The move has been heavily criticised by a number of Conservatives on the group (apparently because they appear to think the Council can only concentrate on one thing at a time), but – reaching for the pro-hunt lobbyist playbook – has been welcomed by the pro-hunt lobby group ‘Countryside Alliance’: they are quoted in the report below saying that, “the local rural and trail hunting communities would hope to be able to provide input for this group to maintain balance and ensure it is not driven by prejudice”. The CA are evidently trying to appear ‘reasonable’ (a bit difficult after 15 years of slamming the Hunting Act and denigrating the many pro-wildlife members of those same rural communities). They may think that’s the clever option, but as they may learn, once statements have been put on the record they can come back and bite you. If “the local rural and trail hunting communities” were to detail exactly what they do (or more importantly list exactly what they know that they can and can’t do under the Hunting Act), it would be extremely hard to defend themselves if they were then subsequently caught out hunting again. The CA may just be giving local hunts enough rope to hang themselves with…

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Appeal | Help find Oxfordshire illegal fox trapper

On December 24th horrific photos emerged from near Abingdon, Oxford of a fox dragging around a spring-loaded ‘gin trap’. The animal must have been in agony and in shock, and Oxfordshire Wildlife Rescue (OWR) spent the night with other concerned local residents looking for him/her so that they could remove it. Traps like these – which have incredibly powerful metal spring jaws and cause significant injury and pain – have been banned for use in the UK since July 1958. Unfortunately, though, it is still legal to sell these disgusting traps as ‘antiques’ for display purposes only, which means there are still plenty in circulation. Whoever set this trap needs to be prosecuted. Finding out who that is, is of course not easy, but a fund has been set up and the ‘go fund me’ appeal which is linked to here has been set up to add to that reward (and kudos Christine Hoxworth for taking the initiative).

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