Posts Tagged ‘Shooting’

Well it would seem that the recent sabotage of 2 driven grouse shoots has got a lot of people (shooters) hot under the collar. There has been a whole host of abusive and irate comments from the shooting community on various sab pages, clearly we’ve got under their skin on this and they’ve come out fighting although the comments from the general public as a whole have been, by a very large margin, very supportive.

Of course after my recent blog post about the subject I’ve had my own, well 1 anyway and that’s to be expected and if I’m honest I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t more. This one is from someone claiming to be a Paul Stephens, someone which such courage behind his conviction he took the time to create a fake email address and hide behind a proxy server, his IP address leading to a company based in Holland. It’s funny how those in the hunting and shooting community whine about masked sabs and yet do the same themselves, just in electronic form. This also proves this person is a little more IT savvy at least (or perhaps someone did it for him), most are, quite frankly too stupid.

Artboard 1

A suitably apt cartoon posted on Facebook by North Wales Hunt Sabs

Anyway, here’s the comment:

“This article is laughable. Firstly because you didn’t shut two shoots down. They both carried on. Your efforts of dragging 50max unemployed lay a bouts were wasted. If you were to ban driven grouse shooting you’d end up with thousands of acres baron moorland. As we’ve seen from unmanaged moorland it doesn’t take long for heather to grow to high, braccon and brambles to take over. You morons seem to love the countryside but aren’t willing to dip you hands in your pockets and pay for its upkeep. And you weren’t on a byway you were on a private track.

And I’m sure when punching the 15 year old in the face and throwing his quad keys in the hedge must have been a real highlight of your day. Well done. You’re really brave I’m your masks”.

Let’s break this down.

1 – We absolutely did shut 2 shoots down. The first was escorted off the moor and we sat and watched them drink away their sorrows in a local hotel. The second shoot packed up at around 4pm, a group had eyes on them setting up and that’s as far as they got. They also left the moors and certainly had no more time to set up another.

2 – Aaah the old unemployed thing. It’s like bumpkin bingo. Unemployed – check, layabouts (note it’s one word by the way) – check, no unwashed? I’m disappointed. What many from the hunting and shooting community utterly fail to understand is that sabs come from all walks of life. It’s a very wide demographic with a singular goal, to protect our wildlife from abuse. From a personal perspective all I can say is I’ve worked all my life, I’ve paid off my mortgage and am totally debt free. Not exactly the swampy-esq cliché the narrow minded bigots will have you believe is a sab.

Patchwork of vegetation across grouse moor, Deeside, Scotland.

A monoculture desert – photo Peter Cairns

3 – Here’s comes the environmental argument . . . First off the word is “barren”, a baron is a rank of nobility. Secondly the moorland used for DGS is heavily managed and was created by man. It’s not a natural environment so your opening statement is null and void. Left to its own devices it would, in time return to mixed woodland, an ecosystem with a much higher biodiversity than managed grouse moors.  Once again you lose points on spelling, it’s “bracken”. It kind of undermines any serious consideration for sensible discussion when ones opponent can’t even use a spell checker. You also fail to understand that grouse moors are largely devoid of any balanced ecosystem. All predators or conflicting species are suppressed to such an extent that the only animals which thrive are grouse, at hugely unnatural population levels.

4 – Yes we do love the countryside but what you fail (once again) to grasp is that we do actually pay for it. Grouse moor owners pull in millions of pounds every year in the form of land subsidies. What they put back into the economy is minimal to say they least. They produce no crops yet charge £1000’s a day for rich, tweed clad blood junkies to blast hapless birds from the sky (see here). One has to wonder how these estates will manage once we blunder our way out of the EU and those subsidies start to dry up. Perhaps these millionaire owners will have to delve a little deeper into their pockets.

tax break

5 – Regarding the access, we used an OS map app. This was shown to the police at the time of the incident and the land in question was confirmed by the police at the time as being open access. Regardless of that my comments on the mentality of those trying to prevent us from leaving still stand and are completely relevant.

6 – And finally here we have it. The pièce de résistance, the utterly unfounded claim of violence against a minor. This is a classic deflection technique although one which has been used so many times before no-one really takes it seriously any more, and that includes the police. I look forward to the thorough police investigation into this incident and the perpetrators bought to justice, except of course there won’t be any of that because it didn’t happen. Is there anyone who really believes this unmitigated tripe? Only those desperate enough that live in the blood sports bubble. The last sentence doesn’t make any sense but I’ll assume its in relation to hiding our identities, like you did with a false email and IP. By the way, I don’t wear a mask.

So all in all a pretty poor effort, I’m going to give it 3/10.

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.


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.

As you can probably imagine I spend a lot of time outside watching our native wildlife as well as perfecting my field craft skills for photographic and video protects. I’m a member of various wildlife groups both local and national and part of what I do is to survey and monitor the wildlife in my area for both scientific and security purposes, something which I enjoy immensely as it brings me into contact with lots of species most people will only catch a fleeting glimpse of every now and then. Only a few nights ago I was sat quietly watching two beautiful fox cubs playing only a few feet from me in the fading light. They had emerged from the earth after the parents had both departed some time earlier for a nights hunting and played joyfully, completely at ease with my presence. If you’re quiet, suitably dressed and make no sudden moves the wildlife will come to accept you and go about their normal business, however two recent incidents lead me to question actually how safe this seemingly simply and harmless activity could be.

The first happened as I monitored a local badger sett. This sett is in arable farmland, situated on the edge of a small copse and is highly active. I first surveyed this area over the Christmas break last year and noticed that that farmer had place a large temporary fence right through the copse extending a good 30 feet or so into the empty fields on either side. This was the type of fencing you’d see at perhaps a festival to stop interlopers, large solid metal units held at the base with concrete blocks and lashed together at the top. I wondered what the purpose of such a structure was in a seemingly pointless location. Jumping on a few months I had visited the site on a couple of occasions and witnessed hare, fox, deer as well as the resident badgers. My viewing was aided by a rickety platform built into a tree directly opposite the sett on the other side of the small field. I had my suspicions as to what this was used for but failed to link it’s purpose with that of the fence. Now although my purpose for being there was completely harmless and legit in terms of monitoring a protected species I was there without the knowledge of the landowner. I will always work this way as any potential crimes against species like the badger will be covered up once access from the landowner is requested however on this evening I was spotted and the landowner drove over for a chat.

On being questioned I told him my purpose and after a short conversation he seemed quite amiable and not overly concerned at my presence, we talked about the badgers and he asked me some details which I was happy to discuss. Clearly this was good news, he was perfectly within his rights to ask me to leave which I would have had to comply with, however he moved on happy although wanting some more rain to water his crop of sugar beet. However a short time later another vehicle arrived. This was the landowners nephew who wasn’t so pleased at my presence. Although I said I’d already spoken with his uncle he grilled me as to my purpose and got somewhat agitated. It seemed an overreaction considering my previous conversation unless of course he had something to hide. During the exchange he stated that they take part in “wildlife control”, (a phase I have come to despise) and couldn’t have me wandering around at night in camouflage when they were shooting fox and deer. He gave me his name and number and told me to call him before entering the land in the future before driving off in a huff. Now things could have been worse of course but my night of viewing had been ruined so I returned home. It was then I realised the purpose of the fence. It was to drive any animals using the copse as a byway out into the fields where they could be shot, from the rickety platform I was using to view the sett from.

One of my local foxes

One of my local foxes

I wanted to challenge the nephew on the killing of foxes but the time clearly wasn’t right. The removal of resident foxes is, as I’ve said before totally counterproductive. New foxes will fill the void in a matter of days and as an arable farm producing mostly vegetable oil I couldn’t see the justification, no matter how misguided, in attempting to reduce their numbers. Surely having a good fox population would keep the masses of rabbits in check and save them significant costs in loses from Thumper munching his way through their crops. Now neither the landowner or the nephew seemed particularly bright it has to be said but the hatred of foxes is clearly being handed down through the generations of our farming community and it’s a cycle that needs to be broken. I suspect the damage from deer to be also minimal considering the crops being grown and their shooting was for both pleasure and food. I’ll be back in due course to check on things and no, I won’t be telling them in advance. So much for the guardians of our countryside (Note: There are some very environmental farmers out there and I feel for them but they definitely seem in the minority).

The second incident happened only a few days ago. This time I was located in amongst the low scrub and vegetation on the side of a ditch which overlooked another sett and fox earth. I’d already had the pleasure of seeing both parent foxes leave the earth for the night and I hoped I would be rewarded with the sighting of more badgers and perhaps the fox cubs. I’m very much in my element in such surroundings, sat quietly observing nature as daytime fades into night, senses heightened in the stillness as the last birds sing and natures night shift take over. This serenity was rudely shattered with the loud bang of a shotgun only feet away. Needless to say I almost soiled my combats! Concerned for my safety I extricated myself quietly from the location and went in search of the perpetrator. On one side there is a shallow pond with reeds that are full of nesting waterfowl and song birds like Warblers and the other traditional shrubs like Hawthorn. I was situated on a public bridleway so had a perfect right to be there regardless of the time of day or night.

Git orf moi land!

Git orf moi land!

I don’t usually like to carry a torch on such occasions, preferring my own night vision to develop and remain as unobtrusive as possible. Due to this I had no method of warning the shooter of my presence and clearly startling someone with a loaded gun is to be avoided at all costs. I’m pretty healthy and have a strong desire to stay that way. After making my way along the scrub I risked a peek down the hedge line and sure enough there was the usual 4×4 parked tight up against the hedge. I returned to my car with a view of the area and waited. Moments later another vehicle arrived and pulled over into the field. I later found out that this was one of the good guys, a local nature lover concerned with the shooters presence so close to nesting birds. The shooter left shortly after no doubt disturbed by the concerned person and I made it my business to find where he lived should he not have permission from the landowner to be shooting in the area. I’m still waiting on the outcome of that one. He was back the next day as well when I drove past to check the area, clearly his blood lust not satisifed.

The thing that strikes me is the number of people that are tooled up and blasting away at night in our countryside with little regard for other people and the wildlife. These incidents were only a couple of weeks apart and not separated by a great deal of real estate. If we assume there’s a similar number of gun owners going out shooting regularly across the country then you’re left with the impression that Syria would be a more peaceful place for an evening stroll. Clearly that’s an overstatement but you get my drift. I have checked on the legality issue with regards to shooting near public rights of way and the shooter was probably OK in that respect however that didn’t ease my concerns with regards to shooting so close to a badger sett and the well-being of the resident fox family. There have be several documented cases of people being shot at night by hunters with some serious injuries occured and I don’t fancy being an addition to that list but while I continue to monitor my local wildlife at night then no doubt my path will cross more people with guns. I now carry a very bright torch. This will alert them to my presence and effectviely scupper any chances they have of killing anything else. A double win as far as I’m concerned.

So if you’re out at night enjoying your surroundings take extra care. Your next step could be directly into the firing line.


No blog update next week, I’ll be taking a well earned break north of the border to watch Eagles, Otters and Dolphins. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.