Posts Tagged ‘Gamekeeper’

You definitely won’t find a teddy bears picnic. Bears, like most of our large predators were hunted to extinction in the UK many years ago (1000 AD) and obviously not satisfied we seem to be hell bent on removing everything else predatory whether it flies, runs or slithers.

The argument that man has to take the place of the predators is also a non-starter. Ecosystems are built on evolutionary change over millions of years and these fragile food webs require natural apex predators to prevent a top down trophic cascade. One has to wonder then why, in these enlightened times are we as a species failing to understand our role and how to best minimise the negative affect our existence has on the planet.

This brings me to the point of predator persecution. The main cause is conflict with man and his interests. Some species are afforded protection but this seems to have little effect on actually saving them. It was great to see the petition to ban driven grouse shooting go past the 100,000 mark and will now be debated in Parliament, so well done to all that signed it and Mark Avery for starting it in the first place but the fact still remains that shooting estates and their keepers are the primary reason for loss of predators. Some can be legally killed including Foxes, Stoats, Weasels and  Corvids and all will meet their end in large numbers in all sorts of barbaric and grisly ways. It may be OK in the eyes of the law but from a moral and ethical standpoint its an abomination. Why should these species have to suffer just because some moron with a personality defect likes to kill a certain species of bird, that’s been artificially reared to provide an unnaturally high population, just for fun?

I’m always happy when someone redresses that balance in just a little way. I was sent these pictures (Police please note – it’s not illegal to report or publish this, I don’t want you banging on my door again) a couple of weeks ago which show both  (assumed) legal and illegal traps.

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This is a Larsen trap, complete with live Crow. The live bird will tempt other birds into the trap whereupon the gamekeeper will return and bash their skulls in with a large stick. The strict requirements for operating these traps are listed below.

The welfare of decoy birds is well-covered by law. If any of the following conditions are not being met then the trap is being operated illegally:

– Suitable food must be readily accessible
– Clean drinkable water must be available all of the time
– There must be shelter which protects the bird from prevailing weather conditions
– There must be a perch placed under the shelter
– No decoy bird can be left in a trap when the trap is not in use
– Operators can not use any live bird or animal which is tethered, or secured by means of         braces or other similar appliances, or is blind, maimed or injured.

Operation of the trap

The law is clear on how a live-catch trap must be operated.

Every trap must be physically inspected at least once every day at intervals of no more than 24 hours – and the inspection must be sufficient to determine whether there are any live or dead birds or other animals in the trap (so eg not a quick glance from a vehicle parked at a distance from the trap).

ALL Non-target species caught in a Larsen or Cage trap must be released UNHARMED immediately upon discovery.

At each inspection any dead animal, including any dead bird, caught in the trap should be removed from it.

Any birds killed in accordance with the general licences must be killed in a quick and humane manner (in Wales the general licences require that any bird held captive before being killed must be killed out of sight of other captive birds). In England a separate licence issued by Natural England is required to a trapped bird.

In Scotland each trap must carry a sign that gives the operator’s ID number and the number of the local police station or the Wildlife Crime Officer for the area.

Now just by looking I can see that several of these license requirements are being breached and therefore the trap could be deemed as illegal. Obviously there is no official monitoring of these requirements so it is no wonder that they are open to so much abuse. Fortunately for this Crow it was removed and sent for rehabilitation and release.

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The sign on top of the trap shows it’s been in use for a lengthy period but what it actually proclaims is a complete lie.

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The license restriction are clearly being ignored so the first statement is wrong for a start. The live bird isn’t being well cared for either and it’s not in accordance with the game conservancy requirements but the most galling statement is the claim that it is being used as some kind of conservation effort to encourage more wildlife.

The simple fact is you won’t find these devices anywhere else apart from shooting estates. They aren’t interested in other wildlife, the only thing are interested in is their profits from shooting and providing the highest number of game birds to shoot for their clients. Needless to say this cage was probably visited by the woodland pixies and won’t be trapping any more Corvids.

The second device is something not often seen and is indeed illegal although freely available to purchase.

raptor trap

Baited with a dead Pheasant a scavenging raptor, most likely a Buzzard or Red Kite will land on the device whereupon it will set off the spring and the net will capture the bird, alive. What happens to the captured bird next is unlikely to be pleasant. The use of this trap is currently being investigated so there is little more I can say however once again it shows what Gamekeepers and shooting estates are up to. These devices were happened upon by members of the public out walking, one wonders how many other horrors would be found on much closer inspection of these private estates (things like this maybe)? Estates which, incidentally we help pay for through farm subsidies. I for one don’t accept this kind of barbarity so dear reader if you do go down to the woods today, just keep your eyes open, you never know what you might find.

If you do find something which you believe to be illegal please report it your local wildlife crime officer or the RSPB here.

You may be aware that Natural England, the so called governing body responsible for the protection of our wildlife have issued a license to “control” (that means kill) up to 10 Buzzards to a gamekeeper who complains that he is losing Pheasants to the predators. The full details of the license restrictions and further details can be found at Raptor Persecution UK.

I wrote to Natural England to complain.

It is with great dismay I discover you have issued a license to kill buzzards to protect game birds, as outlined in your statement below:

Natural England issued a licence last night permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.

The licence is time-limited with stringent conditions and is based on the law, policy and best available evidence. It follows rigorous assessment after other methods had been tried unsuccessfully over a 5-year period.

It is stipulated that the licence must be used in combination with non-lethal measures and only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds. These conditions are designed to make the licensed activity both proportionate and effective and we will continue to work with the applicant to assess this.

Killing wild birds without a licence from Natural England is illegal.

I believe this decision is not only misguided but in fact disgraceful and clearly made under pressure from the shooting industry. Millions of non-native game birds are released into our countryside every year for the purpose of shooting. Many of these will in fact end up discarded and left to rot in a field or pit somewhere, perhaps used to lure foxes and other predators to their deaths. There simply isn’t the market for these unwanted birds and they serve no purpose apart from the enjoyment some people gain from killing them.

To allow the legal persecution of our native and protected raptors sets a dangerous precedent. Many birds of prey are struggling to exist in the face of intensive game birds rearing and shooting, the impact that Buzzards will have on Pheasants would be marginal at best. Even if they did predate a few birds I’m sure these could be spared in light of the millions that are released with little chance of survival.

I urge you to reconsider you decision and look forward to your response.

Natural-England

Not fit for purpose

They responded thus:

In response to your enquiry on the issuing of a licence to control up to 10 buzzards, we are providing further clarification on the decision. For security and data protection reasons, we cannot give any details about the licence holder.

Wildlife licences are required from Natural England for activities that will disturb or remove wildlife or damage habitats and can be granted to prevent damage to agriculture, livestock, fisheries, property or archaeology. So far this year, we have received over 5500 wildlife licence applications covering a variety of species. In deciding whether a licence should be granted, all applications have to be assessed in the same way against the relevant policy and within the legal framework of the the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA). 

We discharge this role as a wildlife licensing authority alongside the range of our statutory responsibilities as government’s adviser on nature conservation. In assessing the buzzard licence application we took into account the legislative tests and policy guidance, the evidence received from the applicant, industry guidance and scientific literature. The application was rigorously assessed with input from specialists across our organisation.

The High Court has recently considered the issues surrounding the granting of a licence to kill buzzards in order to protect livestock and given clear direction on the decision making process. This includes the need to balance the protection of wild birds against the requirement to prevent serious damage to livestock and the need to adopt a consistent approach to the interpretation of policy which applies across a number of species.  Natural England has taken account of the court’s findings in reaching this decision.

The licence to control buzzards was issued to protect against serious damage to livestock. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 defines livestock as any animal which is ‘kept for the provision or improvement of shooting or fishing’.

Our guidance says that where birds are either in pens or are significantly dependent on people they are classed as livestock. For example, where a bird remains in close proximity to a release pen and will often return to it for shelter or to roost at night, and is dependent of food put out by the gamekeeper then we usually consider it to still be livestock even if it is free-living.  As pheasants are released at a relatively young age, they will be dependent on the gamekeeper for several weeks at least. Natural England revised this guidance to take account of the High Court ruling, having consulted our stakeholders.

As a public body, Natural England has to balance the public interest with the security of the individuals who apply for licences.  In the interests of transparency, Natural England will shortly be making documents associated with the assessment and granting of this licence publicly available. These also include details about control methods, assessment and criteria under which the licence has been granted.  Any disclosed documents will be released in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and therefore some details, such as personal information, may be redacted.

We would not consider licensing any activity which would adversely affect the conservation status of a species. Buzzards have increased dramatically in recent decades and are now common and widespread, with over sixty thousand pairs in the UK (British Trust for Ornithology). The loss of small numbers of birds in a small area will have no impact on conservation status.

It is illegal to kill wild birds without a licence from Natural England and anyone who suspects a wildlife crime should report details to the police.

dead buzzard

Is this a sight we want to see?

There are a couple of points worth noting however.

The person who was granted the license was the same Gamekeeper who applied and was denied several times in the past. This same person then took Natural England to court over their decision and it would seem this is the biggest single factor in them allowing the license this time round. As I specified in my complaint this does indeed set a very dangerous precedent. It pretty much opens the door for every gun-toting psychopath with a hatred for anything that kills game birds (Gamekeepers) to apply for licenses to legally kill raptors which were previously protected.

The fact that Buzzards are now relatively common really shouldn’t even be part of the thinking here. 50 million game birds are released every year, the impact by Buzzards would be minuscule at best, and remember, Pheasants are non-native. One also wonders how the license restrictions will be policed? Which Buzzards will be chosen to be shot? How will they distinguish between a transient bird and a resident one? Who will be there actually counting? The gamekeeper could be out there blazing away like a WWII anti-aircraft gunner at Pearl Harbor and no-one would know how many Buzzards he’d downed. It’s so open to abuse it’s ridiculous.

Further more it would seem anything reared for the purpose of shooting and fishing is considered livestock and thus can be protected using lethal means. Why do minority hobbies get so much protection? If game birds are considered livestock why is their killing not covered by the same legislation as regular farm animals reared for food? The reason is they have dual classification, when they are being reared they are livestock, when they are released they are classed as wild birds. Neat trick eh? Except Natural England also seem to regard the birds as livestock even if they have left the pens due to their inability to survive on their own. This blurring of the rules only goes to show how far Natural England are prepared to bend over and take one for the shooting lobby.

Interesting to note are Defras own livestock guidlines as stated in The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 (1968 Ch 34) – The definition of livestock given in Section 8(1) of the Act applies to animals being kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur on agricultural land. Ministers may, by order, extend this definition and this has been done in the Welfare of Livestock (Deer) Order 1980 (see section 2(b) of this summary). The definition includes cattles, horses kept for meat, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and other species, such as rabbits, mink, fox and deer. It also applies to a horse or a dog when used in the farming of land. As a guide to the application of this definition, rabbits kept for commercial production of food or fur are livestock, but pet rabbits are not, even when kept on a farm and neither are ornamental duck, nor pheasants reared for sport.

Killing wild birds without a license is illegal, as they constantly like to remind us. It hasn’t stopped the persecution of our raptors be it licensed or otherwise, but then again what should we expect from an organisation which licensed the slaughter of thousands of our badgers simply on the whim of the NFU?

Ban driven Grouse shooting.

Withdraw the license to kill Buzzards.

Support Chris Packham.

ADDITIONAL: The Gamekeeper in question, Richard McMorn (48) of Ancroft Town Farm near Berwick was previously arrested following a joint investigation involving Northumbria Police, the RSPB and Natural England, [for possession of banned pesticides and poisons] amid fears that the toxins were being used to kill wildlife.

I like Chris Packham, he’s my kind of naturalist.

On TV he doesn’t beat about the bush and paint nature as some kind of children’s book where it’s all fluffy bunnies and cutesy pie. It’s warts and all, predator and prey and the real circle of life . . . and death. Another fine trait he has is he’s prepared to stand up and be counted when it comes to highlighting the injustices that occur in our countryside. He’s prepare to take the fire from the heavy hitters in the wildlife abuse industry and face them off using solid science and sound arguments.

Of course the “nasty brigade” as he so eloquently described them are now seriously irked and have taken it upon themselves to tarnish his considerable reputation via his employers, the BBC (and not for the first time). Apparently the BBC and Springwatch have editorial guidelines which prevent them from engaging in debate on controversial issues. However Chris isn’t on Springwatch discussing these issues but independently as Chris Packham the naturalist and the last time I looked it wasn’t a crime to express an opinion. Tim Bonner the Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance released a statement complaining bitterly, it is a rambling, slightly desperate attempt to justify their claims using words like “obsessive” and “extreme” when describing Mr Packham.

CA

It always amuses me when these people start these frothy mouthed rants, Boner . . . sorry Bonner is famous for them. They mostly consist of long winded diatribes lacking in any real substance. They paint themselves as the traditional land managers, guardians of the countryside no less while generalising wildly that anyone with compassion and an alternative point of view is some kind of demented and dangerous terrorist on a par with IS. Well, they certainly don’t fool me and I’m pretty sure the only people who enjoy having this much sunshine blown up their arses are their animal abusing cohorts and lackies. The simple fact is times are changing. The CA may be big, rich and powerful but these Victorian attitudes to our landscape belong in the past and it’s only a matter of time before they go the same way as the dinosaurs. Chris Packham is only telling it like it is and that scares the crap out of them.

Of course this is all the more relevant right now after the Government refused to ban snares yet again (see here) even though the only MP’s to vote against the proposition were pro-hunting and shooting, like Simon Hart (member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and also, unsurprisingly Chairman of the CA) but also that the start of the Grouse shooting season will be soon upon us, the inglorious 12th. The series of short videos made by Chris and showing the real price of Grouse Shooting are hugely effective and gaining significant coverage. He’s also urging Marks and Spencer to stop selling Grouse on the basis that the management of the moors from which they are shot is unethical.

It’s very hard to argue against what are undoubted the facts. These include the failure of Hen Harriers to breed in the Forest of Bowland once again, an area which should be their stronghold, purely due to illegal persecution from Gamekeepers. Shooting estates and Grouse moors in particular are wildlife wastelands, raptors and mammalian predators are conspicuous by their absence, they are man made environments designed purely for the benefit of raising an unnatural level of game birds, game birds which will be shot, for fun, by a very small minority.

These are the facts and as such are undeniable. It doesn’t matter how many teddies you chuck out your pram they are never going to change.

Ban Driven Grouse Shooting

For more info visit the excellent Raptor Persecution UK

UPDATE: Chris Packham’s management have just issued this statement.

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The nasty brigade show are showing their true colours once again. As one person commented, “they don’t like it up em!”. Indeed they don’t.

Today, Thursday 21st July MP’s will debate a ban on the manufacture, possession and use of snares in the UK. The motion was tabled by Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge, Jim Dowd. The text of the motion is as follows:

“That this House notes the indiscriminate and cruel nature of snares, the failure of previous attempts at voluntary and self-regulation amongst operators, and the continued suffering caused to thousands of animals every year by these traps; and calls on the Government to implement a full ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares at the earliest opportunity.”

Now regular readers of this blog will know of my personal hatred of these devices along with all the other cruel and indiscriminate devices of death in the arsenal of the gamekeepers employed by shooting estates across our green and sometimes not-so-pleasant land. The text of the motion is spot on. There is no self-regulation amongst the users and, by-and-large that’s because they are often well out of the way of prying eyes and there is little chance of discovery. And let’s face it, gamekeepers don’t do the job they do because they have concerns for animal welfare.

According to figures from Defra’s own studies 1.7 million animals fall victim to snares in the UK every year. 1.7 million, that’s a pretty bloody big number by anyone’s reckoning. Imagine all that wildlife that wouldn’t have to suffer . . . and it’s not only wildlife that suffers, domestic pets are often caught and, if not discovered will also end up on a stink pit or thrown away somewhere discrete so they aren’t discovered by their owners.

There are 2 types of snare, the self locking which is illegal to use (but still turn up) and the free running which is intended to only hold the victim until the keeper comes along and smashes it’s head in with a blunt instrument. The animals caught suffer huge distress, continually pulling against the device and causing themselves horrendous injuries, some animals will even attempt to gnaw their own limbs off in an effort to escape. They are so cruel even badger hater and previous Secretary for the Environment Owen Paterson MP (remember him?) said this: “I am completely convinced that trapping and snaring are hideously cruel”.

I almost had to have a lay down after reading that.

Animals at Risk Snaring Infographic

Graphic courtesy of LACS

Now no doubt there will be lots of shouting in their defence from the shooting industry along with bogus claims that they provide a service to the environment and in fact have a positive impact on biodiversity but we all know that is complete codswallop. Shooting estates, be they Pheasant, Partridge or Grouse are black holes for our wildlife, in particular mammalian predators and birds of prey. All these species are persecuted relentlessly and banning snares will be one small step in the battle to save more of our native species. Some species like the Hen Harrier are now virtually extinct from England, this is solely due to the persecution they face at the hands of the shooting industry, an industry which takes everything and yet puts back nothing. Here’s reminder from my own story, Woodland of Death.

 

I watched the debate, Jim Dowd put forward a compelling argument despite the best attempts from some parties who’s ignorance was beyond a joke. The new Parliamentary Under of Secretary of State for DEFRA, Dr Thérèse Coffey, responded by saying a new code of conduct will be published. Really? What’s the point in that? The old code of conduct was never adhered to and I doubt this one will be. So if you’re out and about in our countryside and you see one of these devices . . . well, you know what to do.

Petition to ban snares.

Petition to ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

Jim Dowd

Jim Dowd during the debate.