Raptor Persecution UK are by now, as far as most people are concerned, the most accessible – and certainly most current – talliers of just how many Hen Harriers have ‘disappeared’ or been confirmed illegally killed on grouse moors. The site has today updated their list again following a response earlier this month to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request made to Natural England. In their most recent post they put the figure at a staggering fifty-one recorded dead or missing Hen Harriers – and that’s SINCE 2018.
All of these birds have been painstakingly documented by RPUK, many of them actually had names (mostly given since large-scale satellite-tagging began), and every single one of them hammers home just how unbelievable conservation claims made by the grouse shooting industry really are.
We don’t want to tread on RPUK’s toes in any way (though we’ve been assured many times by Dr Ruth Tingay that all she wants is to get the information out there and seen by as many people as possible) so we suggest heading over to the RPUK website immediately – but to summarise what they’re saying today is that they began compiling this astonishing and disgraceful roll-call of dead protected birds in 2018 because that is the year that the ridiculously self-important grouse shooters decided they would graciously stop illegally killing Hen Harriers and welcome them back to the moors instead.
Anyone with an ounce of common sense linked these statements with the publication of a scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged Hen Harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses, and Natural England’s farcical ‘brood meddling’ scheme (see – Hen Harrier Brood-meddling 101), brought in solely to support grouse shooting. How could an industry being shown such incredible largesse by “the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England” say anything else? To not have done so would surely have been seen to be openly sniggering at a delusional plan to remove harriers from their moors with absolutely zero consequences to their industry.
But of course the sniggering has gone on, and on, and so has the criminality. Fifty-one Hen Harriers, almost all young birds that would have tried to establish future generations of harriers on the barren, unnatural, treeless, scorched uplands, wiped out. Since 2018.
Natural England, meanwhile, continues suggesting that their partnership with grouse shooting (the Hen Harrier Action Plan) is working well. If a relationship as one-sided as this was described to a marriage counsellor there would be mutterings of spousal abuse, infidelity, and gaslighting. But Natural England plough on, it’s Chair, once-beloved conservationist Tony Juniper, even taking to Twitter to (unwisely perhaps) pop a snide remark about working in the ‘actual real world’ in a thread that included people like Dr Mark Avery and Dr Ruth Tingay – both of whom have massive experience in the ‘actual real world’ and appear to have a far more clear-sighted view of raptor persecution.
The grouse shooting industry is waging a war on birds of prey, just as it has done since estates took the uplands and turned them into vast grouse farms. They decided then that raptors and grouse couldn’t mix, and it appears that nothing the law, Natural England, or Tony Juniper has said to them in the meantime has changed their minds.
It’s incredibly hard to see how the much-touted licencing system will change any of that either (we made our position clear in Grouse Moors | Licencing Slaughter). Besides legitimising the mass killing of Red Grouse and millions of native predators in traps and snares, besides formalising a land-use that benefits just one species, one industry, and a handful of hobbyists with guns, we already have laws in place now that should protect the Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, Peregrines, Goshawks and Short-eared Owls that this industry so relentlessly persecutes.
Fifty-one Hen Harriers dead or missing since 2018 should be a national embarrassment, a cause for police enforcement on a massive scale, and a realisation (no matter how good the original intentions) that these people have no interest at all in a ‘partnership’ that isn’t strictly on their own terms. But then compared with Tony Juniper what do we know…
- For the full grim roll-call of dead Hen Harriers please go to RPUK where they are listed at the bottom of 51 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018
- For ongoing information follow RPUK on Twitter @RaptorPersScot