Posts Tagged ‘RSPB’

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 I was away on Holiday I had the chance to watch one of our most majestic birds of prey, the Hen Harrier, also known as Skydancers due to their spectacular breeding flying displays. On Mull there is a reasonable population and they are fairly easy to locate given a little knowledge and the ability to sit and observe quietly.

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A stunning male Hen Harrier – photo: Robin Newlin

However as you may have heard these birds are now making the main stream news (BBC , SkyIndependent) due to their desperately low numbers in the UK and England especially. The  population survey revealed that in England (2016) there are now only 4, yes 4 breeding pairs. Hen Harriers are upland birds, they like open moorland and hunt a variety of birds and small mammals and this is why they are at risk of extinction in England. While there is suitable habitat for over 300 breeding pairs the vast majority of that habitat is managed for Grouse shooting.

hh-territorial-pairs-2010_2016Grouse shooting is big business, very big. On an exclusive, driven shoot that cost can run up to and over £1000 a gun. The shoots owners want the biggest number of birds for their clients to shoot and so intensively manage the moors to provide the optimum habitat and minimum threat to their game bird numbers. Heather is burnt to provide fresh new shoots for the birds to eat, medicated grit is put down to help against disease and predators are exterminated. This creates a completely artificial habitat where Grouse numbers are excessively high and biodiversity low.

“The reasons for the population changes are likely to be a combination of factors that vary from region to region. From previous research, it is known that the main factor limiting the UK hen harrier population is illegal killing of these birds associated with driven grouse moor management in northern England and parts of mainland Scotland” – Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director

The extermination of predators takes the form of trapping with fen traps for Stoats & Weasels, the snaring of Foxes (and probably Badgers), (Mountain Hares are shot in huge numbers in Scotland because its believed they carry a virus which can effect Grouse) the use of Larsen traps for Corvids and also the shooting, poisoning and trapping of birds of prey. While some predator control is perfectly legal (but morally abhorrent) any persecution of raptors is illegal. The Hen Harrier is a schedule 1 protected species, this is the highest afforded protection offered by law however this doesn’t stop them from being illegally killed by Gamekeepers (along with many other birds of prey), no doubt under instruction from their employers.

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The female Hen Harrier – photo: Alamy

Due to the remote nature of Grouse moors and the solitary existence of the sociopaths that are gamekeepers, catching and prosecuting these criminals is extremely hard. Even when solid evidence is produced it seems once again that money and social standing become a get of jail free card. The Countryside Alliance, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) and the Game & Wildlife Trust will make lots of noises about how intensive management is good for wildlife and some ground nesting bird species in particular and how raptor crime is committed by just a few bag eggs but this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors are far from the truth. Sure some species may benefit from what they do but any thriving ecosystem needs a top to bottom balance of predator and prey species and managed Grouse moors are nothing like this. And the “few bad eggs” claim is complete nonsense. The science simply does not back up these claims and the illegal persecution of raptors is endemic in the gamekeeping community.

I have met quite a few keepers in my time and I’ve yet to meet one who I’d consider a ‘normal’ person. They are nearly all loner types with a pathological hatred for all predators and a love for killing things. They seem to show a complete lack of compassion and empathy – these are the type of traits exhibited by murders and there is a direct scientifically proven link between those who kill animals going on to kill people.

The most galling aspect of this is we, the tax payer are supporting this. Grouse moor owners get huge Government subsidies to the tune of millions each year and yet they provide virtually nothing in the form of food for the human population. Whether this will continue after we leave the EU remains to be seen however it shouldn’t be the case in the first place. Why should these land owners take money from the general population so a very rich minority can blast an intensively reared game bird from the sky in large numbers while our native predators and Hen Harriers in particular become extinct due to their actions. The situation needs to change before we lose this iconic species.

If you want to get involved Hen Harrier days are being arranged across the country with more to be finalised soon, see below.

harrier days

UPDATE:

The Game & Wildlife Trust has responds to the survey results. You can read it over on the excellent Raptor Persecution UK site along with their comment. When you read this you’ll understand what our wildlife is up against and I’m as blown away as the people at RPUK.

There has been quite a bit of interest in the story I published a few weeks ago regarding the stinks pits and industrial scale killing of our wildlife from snares, poison and traps. Two local newspapers ran an article with pictures and the general public who are, by and large, completely unaware that such practices are going on reacted in a suitably disgusted manner. While I was away I was contacted by BBC local radio who want to do an interview on air during their breakfast show, along with the local Wildlife Crime Officer from Hertfordshire Police. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly the police were reluctant to get involved so it didn’t happen. The RSPB investigations team were also very interested in the illegally set Fen traps and may have visited the site which I can now name as Spitals Wood near the village of Wallington, just outside Baldock in Hertfordshire.

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The story published in the papers came from a member of the public who witnessed for themselves the horrors contained in that wood which in due course lead to this blog and yours truly. With the police and the RSPB now showing an interest as well as that from the wider public due to social media and local press it would seem pressure was building on the gamekeeper and land owners to do something about it. The member of the public involved was later informed by the police that the site had been cleared and he then related this message to me.

Now, call me cynical but I don’t have a whole lot of respect for the police when it come to wildlife crime. I know the WCO in question and he was happy to watch the Puckeridge Hunt go about their business without getting involved or indeed even get out of his car last hunt season. He kept what I could probably describe as neutral stance which I guess is better than most on the police side who generally seem to pick the wrong side. However I had to see for myself if indeed the area had been cleared of the stink pits which would be no easy task considering there was years worth of dead and decaying animals to remove.

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Well I’m very pleased to say the police were true to their word. The carcasses had been completely removed, only a few bones and bits remained. There were no more snares and traps evident and even the poison had been dug out of the ground and taken away. Needless to say I’m very happy about these developments. Locations and gamekeepers like this probably account for more foxes and general wildlife than any hunt so I can only hope it remains that way. Needless to say it will continued to be monitored just case the game keeper makes an attempt to return to his old ways.

It just goes to show the pressure which can be exerted on these people through the press and social media and how a positive outcome can be achieved with non-violent direct action and the opening of peoples eyes to the truth behind the shooting industry and the damage they do to our native wildlife.

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Well I’m back from my week of watching some iconic wildlife in a location which thrives on ecotourism and the financial stability that it brings to the area. Apart from a few old fashioned farmers that complain of losses of lambs (sound familiar) to Eagles it’s refreshing to see everyone embracing the wildlife Mull has to offer along with the stunning landscape and hospitality. However on my return to the real world I’m once again astounded by the news that our so called independent Government environmental watchdog is bowing down to corporate demands and sacrificing our natural heritage in favour of big finance once again.

Marked for destruction

Marked for destruction

What piqued my interest was news that Natural England are going to allow the destruction of birds’ nests, along with their precious contents of certain species of birds should they be deemed to be a threat to health and safety. These are likely to include the Starling, a bird in massive decline, the Pied Wagtail and the Robin, one of our most loved species. These would be targeted without any special license which would mean any old Tom Dick or Harry could legally destroy nests at will and with no regulation, something which is currently against the law.

On closer inspection of the consultation paper from Natural England it would seem that the bird’s potential to cause a public health hazard would be by nesting in building ventilation or flues. It would seem on first glance this would be a tenuous justification at best and at worst nothing more than complete hokum designed to give a free reign to destroy to anyone who doesn’t want these species nesting in or on their homes. What is clearly more relevant is the desire from developers to not be hampered by the legalities of destroying protected bird nests and the political blog from Tom Pride (click here) gives us the real reason. Take a look, it’s short and to the point but unfortunately highlights once again that nothing is safe while this Government is in power and is singularly driven by the flow of cash to their already bulging bank accounts and are willing to sanction environmental vandalism to meet their aims. They’ll continue bend the rules, to place their corporate chums in positions of power in so-called independent organisations they wish to control whilst keeping the general public at large in the dark about their dirty dealing whilst claiming innocents should the dirty truth come out.

The last man you want in an environmental post (apart from Owen Paterson)

The last man you want in an environmental post (apart from Owen Paterson)

Once again like the desire to slaughter Badgers driven by the NFU, the destruction of Buzzard nests at the behest of shooting estates and the desire to hunt with dogs from the Tory elite we’re faced with a situation largely beyond our control from which some species could suffer to a point from which they would never recover. This is the sad face of environmental issues faced in Great Britain today. It is quite frankly a disgrace and I feel ashamed that this beautiful country of ours that’s filled with wonderful and varied species is so easily brushed aside in favour of the few or the pounds they greedily soak up from our taxes. The RSPB should be all over this like a rash. They’re a big, rich and powerful organisation and it’s about time they flexed some of those muscles rather than sitting on the fence and remaining quiet as they so often seem to do on issues like this.

It is also about time that we had a truly independent body that would oversee the wider environmental issues and have the power to veto Governmental decisions not in the best interest of our natural heritage. An organisation made up of a cross section of people who really know what they’re on about and with a desire to see nature come first for once rather than just another annoyance to be circumvented by any spurious means with the flimsiest of justification. While we have people like Andrew Sells at the helm then nothing will be safe, as he is without doubt not fighting the corner for those species which have no voice of their own. Natural England? There’s nothing natural about them, you may as well just have Owen Paterson as Environment Minister, oh wait . . .

Sign the petition – Click Here

George Monbiot on Andrew Sells – Click Here