Search Results for: wildlife crime

Britain’s National Parks – protecting Red Grouse for the guns

We have consistently described our national parks – supposedly the most important and most precious of our landscapes – as ‘so-called national parks’. We have said that because our ‘so-called national parks’ are – to a large extent – in fact managed not to conserve the magnificence of the Cairngorms, the Peak District, or the North York Moors, but to conserve grouse shooting (see, for example, Shooting in national parks from Dec 2019) And grouse shooting, as we’ve also consistently said – and as Luke Steele laid out in an interview we posted yesterday – is underpinned by wildlife crime (the extent of raptor persecution in our so-called national parks is shameful). is a pollutant, and is damaging land that could be key to the UK’s attempts to bring down its carbon emissions. What we’ve not had access to are figures that state exactly how much of our so-called national parks is given over to slaughtering wildlife, is covered in traps and snares, and run solely for the benefit of a tiny minority of shooters and their lobbyists. Now, though, Rewildling Britain (the charity set up to “expand the scale, quality and connectivity of our native habitats”) has produced research that does just that.

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Yorkshire Water bringing grouse shooting to an end

There are a number of ways to end the scandal and disgrace that is industrialised grouse shooting, from books like Dr Mark Avery’s ‘Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands’, Hen Harrier Day, blogs like Raptor Persecution UK that focus on wildlife crime, and targeting landowners that allow wealthy shooters to use birds as live targets on a day out in the uplands. The latter is the approach that Wild Moors (formerly known as Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors) has been taking – and it is beginning to pay off in spades! Luke Steele and the Wild Moors team (working with the League Against Cruel Sports) have been focussing in particular on Yorkshire Water, one of England’s largest landowners, who lease out upland moors to grouse shooting tenants. Over the last couple of years, Wild Moors have been asking why would a corporation that says it has the environment at the very heart of its concerns want to be associated with an industry that is underpinned by wildlife crime, regularly sets fire to threatened habitats causing degradation of carbon-storing peatlands, and causes flooding downstream.

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The National Trust and Trail Hunting 2021

There is no such thing as so-called ‘trail hunting’. It was invented by fox hunts after the passing of the Hunting Act 2004 (which banned hunting with hounds) and is a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting – even the Masters of Foxhounds Association seems to agree with that. Hunts up and down the country routinely break the law, cause chaos on main roads, use violence against monitors (who are only present to stop wildlife crime taking place), lose control of their hounds, and use terrier men to illegally block or interfere with badger setts. Hunting can sue us if it can prove otherwise – it can’t, and it won’t anyway because the last thing it wants is to have its filthy laundry dragged through the courts…So why does the National Trust, one of the nation’s most respected conservation charities and one of its largest landowners, allow so-called ‘trail hunting? Because its Chair (and soon to be former Chair) used proxy votes at the Trust’s AGM in 2017 to vote down a proposal that the National Trust should stop issuing licences to hunts to use their land. The Trust has been forced to explain its highly contrary position of protecting wildlife while facilitating hunting ever since, referring questions on social media to the disingenuous “Our position on Trail Hunting” page on its website.

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Tree feller fined for destroying an active bird of prey nest

A ‘tree feller’ and a ‘bird of prey nest’. The headline from the Stroud News today tells just half the story, because the bird of prey in question was a Goshawk (one of the country’s rarest birds of prey – and a species loathed by shooting estates) and the ‘tree feller’ (or ‘agricultural labourer as he’s described in the report) took out just one tree in the wood, and that one tree contained the active nest. It’s hard to miss a large raptor’s nest (and female Goshawks are the same size as Buzzards). They are a massive pile of sticks, the ground below is spattered with ‘whitewash’, and Goshawks are noisy birds. Anyone from a tree feller to an agricultural labourer to a shooting estate manager will know damn well there is an active Goshawk pair in a woodland if they spend more than a few hours in the locale. It is inconceivable that just one tree could be cut down without the individual knowing that it contained an active nest. The RSPB Investigations Team clearly think so too, and are quoted saying in an exasperated tone, “It appears that this was the only tree in the wood to be felled and then completely removed at a time when it contained an active goshawk nest” adding that raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority and the Goshawk a priority species.

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Peregrine chicks taken in Peak District nest raid

Another godawful headline (this time from the Derby Telegraph) for the ‘authorities’ that supposedly run the Peak District National Park – a supposedly protected landscape blasted by grouse shooting and a bottomless pit for wildlife crime and raptor persecution. No, there is nothing in the newspaper report that specifically points to grouse shooting for the removal of yet more Peregrines – it could have been Mark Avery’s fabled ‘nurses on a day out’ enjoying a spot of falcon theft what done it – and it could have been linked to pigeon flyers or wealthy falconers – but the fact is that the ‘dark peak’ area of this blighted part of the countryside is notorious for its gamekeepers and their tight hold over everything that comes in or out of the grouse moors, and (as Bob Berzins memorably put it in a stinging post on Mountain Hare persecution in the very same ‘national park’ just yesterday), “There is no video footage of gamekeepers shooting mountain hares but then again there’s no footage of them shooting raptors either. So we’re left to explain the gaps in our skies, our missing birds and mammals…Spend time in the uplands and it’s obvious what’s happening”.

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Great news – it’s becoming too risky to buy a grouse moor

As the evidence has mounted up, as the wildlife crime, the climate issues, the deliberate targeting of predators, the wanton slaughter of grouse, and the campaigning has become impossible to ignore, the tide has turned against grouse shooting. Governments are looking at licencing estates. Land owning utilities and local councils are banning burning and looking for more environmentally-friendly ways to use moorland. Rewilding grouse moors so that they do public good and function as intact ecosystems, working for the climate rather than against it, looks increasingly viable. The upshot is that potential grouse moor owners are becoming more reluctant to invest in grouse farming. It’s always been difficult to make a profit from killing Red Grouse, but now buying a grouse moor is becoming risky too. Would-be owners simply don’t know what new laws might be brought in before they’ve been able to take money out of the moor. It could become harder to sell your ‘look at me’ asset in the future as well. Grouse shooting is buckling under the pressure…

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Defra’s ministerial farming and shooting merry-go-round

The rumour mill suggests that George Eustice MP will not be running Defra for much longer, as Carrie Johnson apparently thinks that he is too close to the farming lobby (ironically he has received criticism for being too close and (from the NFU) for not being close enough), and is not taking sufficient action on animal welfare. Downing Street hasn’t commented yet, but surely, now, with even world leaders beginning to glimpse how the world might look with runaway climate change and public opinion more strongly against slaughtering protected animals than ever before, if Eustice were to be demoted he would be replaced with someone with genuine environmental credentials? You’d think, but the most likely candidate appears to be Chief Whip Mark Spencer, MP for Sherwood, who has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change and in 2018 told a rural conference that “shooting should be proud of its contribution to the countryside and the environment. It is a positive story that deserves to be told” – this despite the widely reported wildlife crime underpinning shooting and its environmental impact (from lead shot to burning, flooding, and the release of over 50 million non-native birds every year).

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North Yorkshire | Peregrine found shot at Selby Abbey

North Yorkshire. A region blighted with grouse shooting estates. A region on its way to becoming synonymous with wildlife crime. Even the local newspapers recognise the appalling record for raptor persecution of this part of the UK: In July last year the Yorkshire Post printed a list of SIXTEEN raptor persecution incidents from just January 2018 to July 2020 under the heading ‘North Yorkshire – a black hole for raptors‘. In October of the same year the Post quoted a frustrated Guy Shorrock, a senior and highly-respected member of the RSPB’s Investigations Team, saying that “North Yorkshire sadly has a diabolical reputation for the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey. I have been picking up the bodies of raptors for nearly 30 years, and in the current ecological emergency, this cannot continue. Our wildlife needs better protection.” Our wildlife needs better protection. But as yet another bird of prey dies in North Yorkshire, just how convinced are campaigners and activists that anything will change anytime soon? Not convinced at all.

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