Posts Tagged ‘Shooting Industry’

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.

Hen-Harrier_RN

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.

5600babd-29d4-41a7-8900-111753c51aa1-2060x1236

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.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog (thanks BTW) then you will have no doubt seen the destruction caused by Gamekeepers in an effort to protect their precious stock of Pheasants (Woodland of Death). Although not completely illegal their methods are certainly immoral and downright disgraceful. I will always fail to see the justification in slaughtering any wild animal just because it has the potential come into conflict with the rearing of any animal let alone ones which will die at the hands of a sociopath in tweed with a shotgun.

When I first saw the images sent to me I was sickened, although certainly not surprised. This kind of thing is going on all over the countryside, largely away from the view of the general public but it is persecution on an industrial scale. Quite frankly I’m amazed that we have any wildlife left. The source of the images assured me it wouldn’t be the last I’d hear about it and they were true to their word.

It would appear however that things were worse than originally anticipated. The original midden or stink pile I published video of wasn’t the only one in that location. Another was found and of course surrounded by snares, Fen and Larsen traps. If this wasn’t enough poison bait was situated alongside nearly all the feeders. Although targeting rodents the local raptor and owl population would suffer accordingly as they would prey on and scavenge the poisoned animals. Whether this was an actual targeted persecution by proxy attempt it’s difficult to tell however the results would be the same and using poison in this manner hugely irresponsible, not that I’d personally condone the use of poison at all.

Needless to say all the snares and traps were removed or rendered useless. A live pheasant was also remove from one of the snares and released, ironic that the birds the gamekeeper was trying to protect were indeed falling foul to the devices he installed. Snare aren’t selective, they’re cruel and indiscriminate. The large pheasant pen at the location was devoid of any birds so what the gamekeeper is trying to protect is clearly open to question. Perhaps he’s just another psychopath who enjoys inflicting pain on animals or has some kind of inbred and inexplainable but pathological hatred for wildlife. Regardless of this I’d like to see the their face when his does his rounds next time. No doubt all the killing devices will be replaced soon enough but my source has no doubt given him something to think about and some more work to do.

Have a look through the pictures. Although disturbing they clearly illustrate the persecution our wildlife suffers at the hands of the shooting industry. Among the dead animals were rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, wood pigeons, roe deer, foxes, a jay, crows and rooks plus many others which had decayed beyond identification. I don’t think this is acceptable and how the shooting industry can claim to be working on the side of conservation just shows their arrogance or stupidity.

Petition to ban snares.

Stink pile 1

Stink pile 1

Stink pile 2

Stink pile 2

 

Fen trap in feed bucket, this is an illegal use.

Fen trap in feed bucket, this is an illegal use.

Pheasant caught in snare.

Pheasant caught in snare.

 

Poison bait

One of many snares

One of many snares

The removed snares and traps.

The removed snares and traps.

 

Our wildlife is under constant pressure. Pressure from development and the demand for new land due to human expansion, the pressure of modern farming where if it doesn’t make money it’s considered a nuisance and the pressure of those who treat the environment as a plaything, to do with as they wish regardless of the long term consequences. This malevolent force is the same which releases millions of non-native birds into our ecosystems every year, with little chance of survival, purely for the benefit of a very small demographic with the sufficient funds and a love for killing, so they can be blasted from the sky purely for the enjoyment of killing a living thing. These people of course would never do their own dirty work, that is of course down to that most strange and disturbed individual better known as the Gamekeeper. Their sole purpose in life is to protect their valuable crop of Pheasants (or Grouse depending on where you are in the country) from anything which they perceive may do them harm or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Raptors suffer hugely at the hands of Gamekeepers, illegally persecuted with little chance of retribution although the RSPB and similar organisations are doing their best to bring these people to justice and with some success although seem to fail to take on the shooting industry directly. However what isn’t seen is the tragically legal persecution of our other species which goes on out of sight of the public. A grotesque yet common practice of trapping and snaring anything which just happens to inhabit the same piece of woodland where the pheasant pens are located.

S1170003

A detailed report with video and photos came into my possession which has to be put into the public domain. A small section of woodland was discovered which contained no less than 7 Larsen traps and various other cages (some containing live Magpies, designed to catch Corvids), over 10 Fen traps all set and some baited with eggs (these are designed to kill Weasels, Stoats and Rats) and most disgustingly 8 free running snares secured with breeze blocks or other heavy items. Snares are massively cruel and indiscriminate. Anything can become trapped in them and will then go on to suffer a slow and agonizing death or if they’re lucky something slightly less offensive in the form of the Gamekeepers shotgun or blunt instrument to the head. Deer, Foxes and Badgers can all fall prey to snares and family pets are just as likely should they wander in these areas. All of the devices described surrounded a Pheasant pen which in turn was surrounded by lots of shooting towers. Even though the pens were empty of Pheasants, the traps were still in operation.

The images are somewhat disturbing. The stench of death I’m told, will stay with those who were there for a long time to come. If you think this is an acceptable way to treat our wildlife then stop reading now, go back to reading your Daily Mail and prepare to vote UKIP or Tory in May. For everyone else with a decent level of compassion to our fellow beings I suggest you get involved and start to make a difference. Soon our wonderful and diverse countryside and the wildlife that lives in it will be diminished beyond a sustainable level, to be replaced with a sterile environment, overrun with a hapless non-native species and only good for those who like to kill things for fun. This is happening all over the country, what we’ve witnessed here is just a microcosm of the organised and systematic destruction of our native species. This is the true impact of the shooting industry and it’s time to make a change.

Sign the petition to ban snares here.