While the Countryside Alliance and the shooting lobby frantically clamor to produce some kind of evidence to support their claims that shooting is good for conservation (see here) the rest of us can see with our own eyes that shooting estates and Grouse moors in particular are only really good for one thing, shooting Grouse, lots and lots of Grouse. Claims that predator control (control always means killing but that doesn’t sound quite so acceptable) benefit other species is in fact just a secondary consequence of what the main purpose really is – to produce an unnaturally high population of Grouse.

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Grouse moors don’t have balanced ecosystems. While the Hen Harriers and raptors in particular are the main species for concern we shouldn’t also forget that all predatory species are persecuted, some legally, some not. Foxes, Stoats, Weasels and Badgers will all fall victim to the traps, snares and gamekeepers guns. Mountain Hares will be killed in their thousands (see here) just because the shooting lobby believe they have the potential to spread disease to their precious Grouse stocks. This kind of slaughter is immoral in the extreme and once again highlights the lack of empathy and Victorian thinking these estates and their employee have.

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A massacre, nothing less.

Of course this kind of species eradication will have a cascade effect on the ecology of that environment. Golden Eagles will have to target other species to find food or move away from the area (is they haven’t already been poisoned or shot). We cannot let this kind of mentality to continue.

So what can you do?

It’ll be the 12th of August on Saturday. Among the shooting fraternity it’s known as the Glorious 12th – the opening day of the Grouse shooting season (Mark Avery wrote a book on the subject with a more accurate title “Inglorious” see here). It will also be the day that thousands of people will march from Cavendish Square to Downing Street to show their disgust that Grouse Shooting, Badger Culling and Hunting with Hounds still takes place. Why not go along and lend your support. There will be a whole host of speakers from all corners of conservation, politics, public figures and wildlife protection. See the speaking list and order below. I’m sure it will be a great day.

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Cavendish Square – 1pm to 1.30pm

Mark Avery – wildlife writer and campaigner

Philip Mansbridge – Director IFAW UK

Natalie Bennett – Former Leader Green Party

Mark Jones – Associate Director Born Free Foundation

Nigel Palmer – Save Me

Paula – Hunt SABS Association

 

Richmond Terrace – 2.45 – 3.30pm

Chris Packham – Naturalist & Broadcaster

Peter Egan – Actor & Animal Welfare Campaigner

Will Travers OBE – President Born Free Foundation

Philippa King – Acting CEO League Against Cruel Sports

Portia Landry – Hunt Investigation Team

Dominic Dyer CEO Badger Trust

 

Alternatively if you don’t want to travel to London and you fancy a walk in the countryside why not go to a Grouse moor. Take the dog for a walk, bring some friends, hell if it’s a nice day take a packed lunch and make a day of it. Many are open access and there are public rights of way. What you might see are lots of expensive 4×4’s, posh folk wearing tweed or Barbour coats and flat caps, you might also bump into me. What you won’t see are any raptors or mammalian predators. They’ve all been killed. If you happen upon a shoot why not go and voice your objections in a polite manner, explain to them that their actions are unacceptable in a modern society. It would also be a huge shame if their days shooting was ruined and they’d wasted their thousands of pounds to be there.

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Gamekeepers stink or midden pile.

The wild areas of this land and the animals that live there are under threat. Iconic species will be wiped from existence if we don’t take back control from a vociferous and well funded tiny minority. We have the power to make change and it has to start now.

 

On Monday (1/8) the trustees of the League Against Cruel Sports voted unanimously to keep their investigation team and in doing so overruled the intentions of the current senior management team. This is of course fabulous news not only for those who had their jobs on the line but also for our wildlife which needs all the help it can get from those who wish to do it harm in the most heinous manner.

I have no doubt that the public outcry and huge number of complaints the trustees received would have played a significant part in their decision making and everyone who took the time to contact them should be proud of the role they played. Public opinion should never be underestimated and as a charity which relies on the generosity of said public the risk of losing a large part of their revenue stream was simply too great. I had many people contact me and declare that should the investigations team be removed then they would be sending their donations elsewhere.

So what next?

Current CEO Eduardo Goncalves is still on long term sick leave however can still be seen regularly on twitter. Current acting head Philipa King (who I wrote about here) is being labelled as CEO in the most recent press releases however she would seem to be in a somewhat difficult situation having been completely undermined by the trustees and clearly has no idea what it really takes to run LACS or indeed even a real stomach for the fight. Whatever the outcome I hope that the recent restrictions placed on the investigations team will be removed and they can be completely let of the leash so they can effectively get on with the job of bringing more of these repeat offending criminal hunts to justice.

 

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It’s been a busy week news wise in the world of wildlife protection but 2 main stories caught the eye. First off was the release of evidence showing the wanton destruction of wildlife by gamekeepers connected to the Grouse Shooting industry in the Peak District National Park including the illegal killing of Badgers. This was release by H.I.T (Hunt Investigation Team), the same people who exposed the South Herefordshire Hunt when  they fed live fox cubs to the hounds at their kennels.

The footage they released is very disturbing and shows the level of persecution our wildlife is submitted to all in the name of game shooting. Of course this is nothing new to me but their videos are hard hitting and combined with the fact that this is a national park and close to several wildlife sanctuaries is doubly worrying. Their undercover investigation was centered round the Moscar Estate, owner by the Duke of Rutland. Take a look at their website for the full details (link above) and more videos. It’s a great bit of work no doubt undertaken in trying circumstances and I take my hat off to them.

 

Next up was a story broke by Stop the Cull and centered around allegations that The League Against Cruel Sports were going to lay off all their investigators and had been infiltrated at the highest levels by pro hunt supporter. This of course led to all sorts of arguments on social media so I did a little digging myself and had it confirmed by a current LACS employee that they were going through a consultation process prior to restructuring. In the real world that just means that they were effectively on notice prior to being laid off.

STC then released an anonymous email which had been sent to them. See below:

The recent events at The League Against Cruel Sports and the attempt to get rid of investigators has caused a lot of distress, anger and confusion for LACS members, those that are just against bloodsports, animal rights campaigners and staff members themselves. As somebody who operates within the league and has a first hand account of day to day events I felt that I must intervene and clear up one or two points. This is not an official statement as you will see below.

> > > > First, many of the staff at the League are a great dedicated team of people, working hard to help protect animals from bloodsports, but it only takes one or two in a high level position, with their own personal agendas, to cause a company or organisation to go off target and here is a sad example below.

> > > > Much comment on social media has been made of the Chief Executive Officer Eduardo Goncalves, but you should be looking at the person who really is controlling the league at the moment, Phillipa King and question her position and motives. A person who owns horses and rides among a fox hunting community, deep within hunting country in the South of England, lives an exceptionally lavish lifestyle and has never had any interest in animal protection in her life, including to present day. She came here to LACS not very long ago and her role was a relatively minor one, but then she was suddenly made head of operations, basically controlling the day to day operations of the whole organisation, including how the investigators worked. She has NO knowledge, NO former experience and absolutely NO skills in operational work whatsoever, coming from a background of modelling and other unsuited jobs, but here she is, earning well over fifty thousand pounds a year and HEAD of operations, earning almost three times as much as what the investigators earn and as Eduardo, the CEO, is sick for the next few months, incredibly, Phillipa King is now acting Chief Executive Officer.

Her decisions and general behavior has caused members of staff to reluctantly resign and many hundreds of thousands of pounds to be wasted. She is responsible for huge amounts of League money to be squandered on ill thought out ideas which come to nothing. She is now persuading the League to move away from hunting and onto other non hunting related issues. She stays at 5 star hotels and recently permitted people, working for her and on behalf of the League, to stay at the Hilton Hotel on League money.

Since Phillipa became acting CEO she has instigated and implemented the removal of ALL League employee investigators and has attempted to keep the plan from as many staff as possible until she was ready to role the plan out. The “consultation” is just a legal process before the investigators are all sacked. Phillipa has already begun employing outside source investigators who know nothing about the issues and work just for the money and not for the animals. They cost far more than the present, experienced, knowledgeable and highly motivated investigators and so again we must question her motives, not just about this but about all of her actions and decisions since she has been in the position to influence trusties, staff and even members.

Phillipa has clearly not realised the repercussions of her actions, but she will understand the damage it is causing this charity. If people want an organisation that works hard, spends prudently and gets results which actually makes a difference then people should be concerned that this person has control and influence of such an organisation.

I then decided to do a little digging on Philipa King (or Peck). It would seem she’s had no previous work experience in the animal welfare sector but in fact worked for religious organisations. Although not an issue in itself I’m always slightly concerned by religious leanings as the bible promotes dominion over all animals and many hunters seem to hold these same views. I also had a very quick trawl through the friends list on her Facebook profile and revealed an interest person (see below).

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This is a composite image from her facebook page, notice the likes and group membership. You would think a person like Philipa working in a senior manager position for an organisation dedicated to the defence of our wildlife would be a little more careful with the sort of friends she kept. This, to me clearly illustrates that the LACS job is nothing more than that, a job, and she clearly has no real interest in the cause as a whole. Whether she’s actually a CA plant is another matter but regardless of that it appears to be a bad appointment from someone looking in from the outside. Interestingly shortly after my discovery Philipa changed the security settings on her profile and hid all her friends.

Yesterday I received a text message from a friend who had attended the LACS AGM and she voiced her conclusions in no uncertain terms. Now obviously this is only the opinion of an individual but its interesting none-the-less. She said:

“It is my belief that they (LACS) have done a deal with the CA (Countryside Alliance) to leave prosecutions well alone. The current executives are corrupt and have deliberately done nothing with the evidence gathered by their own investigators”.

If this is indeed the case then it is a truly sorry state of affairs. The investigators at LACS are a highly professional and specialised group of people who constantly put themselves in physical danger to gain the evidence required to bring these criminals to justice. If the senior management at LACS aren’t doing anything with this evidence then its down to them and not the people at the coal face taking all the risks. If LACS were to dispense with their services they would become nothing more than a lobbying group who’s real goals would be somewhat shrouded in uncertainty. Should they outsource the investigations side of things then they would be wide open to more infiltration by unscrupulous individuals.

My own personal view is that there has been a complete loss of faith in the senior management, both Philipa and Eduardo Concalves don’t seem to trust each other and certainly have different ideas about how to proceed. The trustees have no practical experience are clearly at a loss as well and are blundering blindly down a path that could spell disaster and seriously compromise the fight against illegal hunting. I hope this situation can be resolved and LACS can get back to what they once were. However all know now is the CA must be laughing their socks off, hunts will feel empowered to continue to break the law and that can’t be allowed to continue .

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This week I have a guest blog for you and it’s written by National Dis-Trust.  They are a group of voluntary campaigners from across the country calling on The National Trust to save their reputation & kick off the criminal hunts from NT land. They are working alongside other grassroots groups and volunteers for this sole objective.

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Convicted wildlife killers the Meynell Hunt still use NT land

Earlier this year in March, staff from The League Against Cruel Sports met with The National Trust to talk about concerns relating to illegal hunts on their land, concerns
which are shared by an increasing amount of people. The League’s statement on this meeting shows that The Trust make little effort to enforce or monitor the conditions that
the hunts agree to; instead, the hunts simply state they are adhering to the licenses, regardless of the truth. Subsequent internal discussions within The Trust, it seems, have
resulted in little change and apparently no further correspondence with The League. Subsequent to this meeting, The Trust claimed it would do more for declining wildlife – strange, then, that they rejected The League’s offer of assistance in monitoring hunts on their land, given that brown hares (a priority of conservation) sometimes find
themselves amongst the unfortunate legion of victims. We can’t imagine why they would
refuse such an offer.

If you flick around The Trust’s website for long enough, you may find their (seemingly
deliberately hidden) policy that demonstrates their unwavering faith in so-called ‘trail
hunting’ whilst conveniently omitting all information regarding their licensing of fox
hunting in Northern Ireland, where this bloodsport sadly remains legal, hence the
existence of the campaign group ‘Ban Fox & Stag Hunting Northern Ireland’. Given the
overwhelming opposition to these ‘sports’, is this not something The Trust should tell the
public before taking their subscriptions?

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There are two huge problems with their ‘trail hunt’ policy; the first is the Trail Of Lies
report published by The International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) in 2015. This
report drew on hundreds of field reports from hunts across the country and surprisingly,
99% of them failed to lay ‘trails’. The Trust’s Director-General, Dame Helen Ghosh, is
well aware of this evidence; it has been presented to her and she has read it (watch this
video of a lecture she gave as proof, from 59:30 to 63:00), though seemingly to no avail.
The second is that it is not actually legal to use fox urine to lay ‘trails’ for a myriad of
reasons, and that the supplier of fox urine that some hunts tell The Trust they use doesn’t
actually exist (shocker!). A recent Freedom of Information request to DEFRA’s Animal &
Plant Health Agency (APHA) has revealed that there have been only one license granted
for importing fox substance from 2014 onwards, and it wasn’t related to hunting. As with
the ‘Trail Of Lies’ report, The Trust are well aware of these facts.

Fox hunting, and the fate of The Hunting Act 2004 which remains the only real legal
protection for the brown hare, were huge issues in the election earlier this year. Some
Conservative MP’s who lost their seats said fox hunting was a crucial factor in the result.
The blind arrogance of those who think fox hunting has a future even led Countryside
Alliance CEO, Tim Bonner, to claim that the Conservative landslide would result in a
majority of 103 seats. The irony in this is that earlier in the year, Dame Helen Ghosh was giving talks under the title of ‘What Are The Challenges Facing The National Trust In The 21st Century?’

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So perhaps it is time The Trust heeded the message of the recent election. You need only briefly skim their Facebook page to see how little weight their defense of ‘trail hunting’ is carrying with the general public, and no wonder; fox hunting and their counterpart packs for hares or mink and otters rightly sicken the overwhelming majority of us, and few people believe in the lies of the hunt lobby anymore. On mink hunting, The Chair and Founder of The UK Wild Otter Trust, Dave Webb, recently offered an unexpected (but welcome) interjection by stating that not only did he believe that mink hunts were continuing to hunt illegally (regardless of your opinion of mink, it is illegal to pursue them with packs of hounds) but that they also implied that they considered them to be pursuing otters, which are thankfully increasing in number. He said if proof was brought to his organisation, he would begin to take legal proceedings. The National Trust, on the other hand, appear to have no objection to offering ‘trail hunt’ licenses to mink-packs.

So what can people do about this? Well, a members resolution has now been submitted to put a stop to these ‘trail hunt’ licenses on The Trust’s land. It will be put to a vote on 21st October this year, at their AGM. Anybody who has been a member for 70 days before this date is entitled to a vote, according to their regulations. We urge anybody capable of doing so to offer their votes to this end, and help us shut down ‘trail hunting’ on Trust land.