Posts Tagged ‘Grouse Shooting’

Last Saturday I was one of the 70 odd sabs which disrupted 2 driven Grouse shoots in Yorkshire. There has been plenty of coverage on this on social media as well as the local press. The excellent Raptor Persecution UK site also ran a short piece on it as well and the comments make interesting reading.

I won’t go over all the details again (you can read about it here) but needless to say it was a successful day, many Grouse are no doubt still flying about now which would have otherwise been blasted from the sky and there may be the odd Stoat or Weasel still lurking in the heather which won’t suffer a painful death in a fen trap. However the estates which got visited are no doubt seething having lost money and the ignominy of being targeted and having no way to respond.

What was interesting was one of the comments which came from one of the shoots in question and typical of how these organisations respond when their sordid minority death sports are pushed into the public eye. It was reported in the local paper, the Richmondshire Today

Dalesport, which runs shoots, said the saboteurs tried to stone shoot vehicles and intimidate shoot staff. A spokesman said:

“It was a shocking encounter in this tranquil area of the national park. Half the sabs were dressed in black with balaclavas in an attempt to prevent their identity. The police arrived to disperse them but not before further threats were made to the shoot staff.”

To be honest this is utterly laughable. The standard starting point for these comments is always to paint a picture of peace and tranquillity in the area, but lets face it, lots of ruddy faced men in tweed with guns blasting away at unfortunate birds is anything but tranquil and if indeed sabs were stoning cars surely there would be evidence of this, broken windows, dented body panels etc. Oddly enough, this evidence seems to be completely missing. Where were all the arrests the police made for this threatening and loutish behaviour?

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Estate lacky didn’t want his face on the internet. Oh well never mind.

It’s clearly fake news, an utterly feeble and poorly imagined lie in an effort to gain support by those less well informed, a fairly standard response and straight out of the CA’s manual. Amusingly a spokesperson for the fun day in the village of Reeth reported that the sabs had spent a lot of money and the event  had been a great success. So there you have it, sabs are good for the local economy!

The other point of interest was the attempted detention of sabs and the level of effort in which the estate staff and farmer went to in an effort to prevent the sabs from leaving. When we arrived in the area of Bransdale moor the shoot was in the process of already packing up. The track we used was a gated road and clearly marked on the OS map as being open access. Arriving at the top of the track we were confronted by 3 shoot vehicles which blocked the track. We were informed that the police had been called and were on their way. This was fine by us. No laws had been broken and we were just monitoring the shoot vehicles leaving.

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Gotta love the 19th century attire.

At this point we decided to carry on further down the track to where it joined the road at the other end. We were followed some of the way by one of the estate vehicles however they were clearly planning something and this was revealed when we arrived at the other end of the track and faced with a recently chained and padlocked gate with an estate vehicle parked in front of it to prevent us from leaving.

Turning around we proceeded back to our original position to be faced once again with another locked gate and a further 2 estate vehicles, both refusing to move. It seemed a somewhat odd tactic, surely they would want those who had scuppered their days shoot to leave as soon as possible? We has some discussion with the staff who, it has to be said weren’t the sharpest tools in the box but seemed happy to be detaining us. With sketchy phone signal we just managed to get a call out to both the police and another sab group however it seems we would be stuck there for some time.

3 hours later and finally the shoot staff decided to leave, we took our chance and proceeded back to our original entry point. It seemed the bumpkins had been busy!

Tree sized logs from the forestry work had been strewn across the track, the next gate had been locked with a large chain and a heavy agricultural trailer parked behind it. The next gate 50 metres further along had been treated in the same manner, chained up with a trailer blocking. What amazed us was the shear effort they went to for this and the sense of entitlement that they could detain us in this (illegal) manner. It beggars belief.

 

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Farmer forced to unlock gate on the unpaved byway – photo courtesy of North Cambs Hunt Sabs

Needless say the first set of obstacles were moved quickly, and with some ingenuity, team work and a capable sab vehicle both gate and trailer were soon dealt with and we were on our way to tackling the next one fairly quickly. The red faced angry farmer arrived at this point with the police a short distance behind and then the fine sight of around 50 sabs for some moral support. Angry farmer was sent to get his tractor and directed to move the trailer and unlock the gate. Despite protestations to the contrary the police confirmed that the area was indeed open access and no crimes had been committed. Once again they had failed in their somewhat strange plans and we were free to continue our journey.

I know the Countryside Alliance had issued advice to shoots and estates in the event of disruption but I’m fairly certain this kind of reaction wasn’t part of that. You have to wonder what they were trying to achieve as it was only even going to end in one way. For us the day was a 100% success, shoots were prevented from killing, no-one was shot or arrested, we got some nice PR by just walking on the moors and the local economy got a nice boost with the influx of sab money.

Finally, while we were waiting for our chance to leave a ruddy faced shoot employee asked if we get paid, then proclaimed our employer was none other than Paul McCartney! They never seem to get it, what we do is based simply on the combined desire to save lives and right the injustice of those who take delight in abusing our wildlife.

I’ve been a bit quiet recently, that’s largely to do with being fairly busy at work and also not wanting to sit in my studio in front of a computer wearing my pants and sweating like George Adams in Peterborough Magistrates Court. However my desire to comment on a recent news story was enough to put fingers to keyboard once again (that and more reasonable temperatures).

The Hunt Investigation Team were the people behind the now famous Herefordshire Hunt Fox Cub case, and while undertaking a new investigation of the Barlow Hunt in Derbyshire they were contacted by someone with regards to the persecution of predators which was being undertaken by known local bloodsports enthusiasts within the Peak District National Park. This program of predator control consisted of a vast network of Larsen traps (invented in Denmark where incidentally they are now banned for being inhumane) and the shooting of foxes at a time when both species would have dependent young that would no doubt starve.

Now this sort of thing is common practice on heavily managed Grouse moors where maximum bags of Grouse mean big financial benefits to the owners of the shoot however in this instance the organisation who commissioned this cruelty was in fact the RSPB.

This isn’t anything new, the RSPB carry out culling of certain species on their reserves if they deem that they represent a critical problem to endangered birds or present a risk to the habitat however in this instance it would seem they excelled themselves. Killing one animal to save another is, they claim a last resort however it would seem in this case they were employing the very people that they are meant to oppose.

You have to ask yourself how can they fight against the culling of Ravens on one hand and with the other massacre their close relatives with another? The population of foxes is in severe decline (41% since 1996) so why are these wonderful animals being further persecuted by a so called environmental charity?

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A Curlew on the Isle of Mull

It all comes down to the Curlew.

The Curlew was cited as the reason a dodgy collective of shooting interests got together (Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW)) and was granted a license to kill Ravens in Scotland, something the RSPB rightly challenged although this has now been suspended after being proven to be devoid of any scientific justification and anyone with an IQ above 30 would know this was more about protecting Grouse than Curlew.

The Curlew is, it seems top of the list of birds that require action to prevent the further decline in their population. However the RSPB themselves will claim that the biggest threats to the Curlew are environmental. Both harmful farming methods and poor land management are the reason the Curlew has suffered so much. Exterminating predators that may or may not impact on the current population is not an acceptable course of action to take and certainly one many of their members will feel uneasy about.

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Perhaps it should read “giving some nature a home, others a bullet”?

I’m lucky enough to have seen many Curlew, nearly all while on Holiday on the Isle of Mull. While Mull doesn’t have foxes it does have a very healthy Raven and Hooded Crow (a very close relative of the Carrion Crow) population along with many raptors and other mustalid predators. So what makes them so successful there?

The ideal environment for them, ample nesting sites and feeding opportunities with little or no disturbance from humans.

As far as I’m concerned everything has a right to life, killing one species to save another is, in my eyes a very slippery slope indeed and even more so when the people doing the killing are those which you oppose in every other aspect of your work. Rather than undertaking these hugely questionable practices they should be concentrating on restoring the habitat and rewilding the very areas that are so poorly managed. When the people at the HIT got in touch with the RSPB the response they got was poor to say the least (you can read the whole story here). You would expect an organisation with these kind of huge resources to respond properly and at least attempt to offer some kind of justification but it appears they are above all that. There’s no doubt they do some good work but many people, including myself will now be considering their membership in light of these disgraceful practices.

UPDATE: It seems the RSPB have responded after the pressure was mounting on them to provide some sort of explanation. You can read it here. Quite frankly it falls well short of the mark and judging by the comments they will be losing many members and the money which goes with them.

Interestingly one comment highlighted an article by the excellent George Monbiot and gives an insight into the thinking of the RSPB and the problem with their “solution”. You can read it here.

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.

 

 

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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