Backsbottom Farm 2017-11-15 10:33:00

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

Reviewed by Peter Reason
When our postman handed me the package that contained my review copy of The Lost Words I blurted out, ‘I’ve been waiting for this!’ In the weeks before its delivery I had read hugely appreciative reviews in the national press and on line. The book has benefited from a major marketing campaign from the publishers, aimed firmly at the Christmas market, and attracted much attention. So while delighted to get my copy I was also a bit anxious: would I like it or was it over-hyped? Would I find anything to write about it that has not already been written?
I took the book to my favourite armchair and slowly turned the pages, first taking in Jackie Morris’s illustrations, then reading Macfarlane’s  ‘spells’. After a little while I realized that all the time I had a smile on my face, and I found myself muttering to myself, ‘This is very well done indeed!’  The Lost Words delivers everything it promises.
The story behind the book has been well rehearsed. In 2007, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. Many words describing the natural world had been omitted while words from the ‘technosphere’ such as ‘broadband’ were included in their place. A group of well-known children’s authors wrote an open letter in protest. In parallel, concerns have been raised in recent years about ‘nature deficit’, the fact that children were no longer allowed to roam around in parks, commons and wild places on their own, no longer building dens, collecting tadpoles, unable to name common wildflowers. Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods has attracted much attention; naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, among others, has joined the call for children to get back into the natural world, showing its importance in his own engaging memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. It was Jackie Morris who first had the idea of a book illustrating these lost words—she conceived of it as a ‘wild dictionary’. She asked Robert Macfarlane if he would write an introduction and this more ambitious project grew from there.
If words are being lost, if we cannot name our world, can we actually experience it? Is not language important in perceiving, even conjuring up our world?  If the names are lost, will we care when the beings evoked are also lost? As I write this, I learn that the population of flying insects has dropped by some 75% over the past 25 years, yet another indication that we living in a time of the Sixth Great Extinction of species in the history of Earth, this time caused by human impact. How come we collectively pay so little attention to this destruction, this ‘great thinning’, as journalist Michael McCarthy so aptly calls it? Are we all asleep?
The Lost Words is offered to wake us from our collective nature deficit, to reclaim words and celebrate a world that seems to be slipping away from us. The Introduction tells us, ‘You hold in your hands a spell book for conjuring back these lost words… [to] unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind’s eye’. As Macfarlane points in the Guardian Review, just as Ged, the magician hero of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy, has to learn the true names of beings in the Old Speech of dragons and gods if he is to work his spells, we too must relearn the magic of words.
The book starts with Acorn and moves through the alphabet to Wren (although some letters are omitted and others repeated). Each word is represented in three spreads: the first marking loss or slipping away, where the letters that make the word are scattered across the page; the second containing the summoning spell; and the third being a rich illustration celebrating the word in its wider context. The spells are evocative, as one would expect from Robert Macfarlane; the illustrations gorgeous, from the experienced hand of Jackie Morris, who lives up to the tradition of great nature illustrators, including Arthur Rackham, currently celebrated in the Victoria and Albert exhibition Into the Woods. Author and illustrator have worked closely together to conceive and realize an integration of words and images that is an artwork in its own right.
This is a wonderful book to offer to a child at Christmas or birthday; or on no occasion at all, just for the sake of giving a gift that is beautiful as well as educational.
But this is not just a book for children. It addresses the challenge of how ‘nature writing’ in its broadest sense can reach a wide audience and address the ecological calamity of our times. How do we encompass the loss of other beings in the community of life on earth; and even more the disturbance of the great cycles of the atmosphere, the oceans, even of the rocks, that are destabilizing our planet?  How do we write about nature when day after day we learn of some new way in which the human—mainly Western—fingerprint is to found everywhere; when in many ways we can no longer distinguish between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’? How do we all, adults as well as children, re-enchant our damaged planet?
Macfarlane has always been a literary writer. He goes on his travels accompanied by the writers and poets he knows and loves, notably by Edward Thomas in The Old Ways. He has written elsewhere about the importance of language in appreciation of our world; his Twitter feed features an uncommon ‘word for the day’ that has proved popular and stimulating. In earlier works he shows how the reclamation of words and stories helped save the Brindled Moor on Lewis in the early years of the present century from the construction of a massive wind farm. The energy company claimed that the moor was a barren place, a wasteland, certainly disenchanted; and indeed so it might appear to an outsider. But local people strongly opposed the proposal and devised ways to re-story the moor, to reclaim and re-enchant it in ‘narrative, poetic, lyric, painterly, photographic, historical, cartographical’ forms. What was required, one protagonist argued, was a Counter-Desecration Phrasebook that would help both name the landscape and the community’s relationship to it. The Brindled Moor was saved, at least for the moment. (It is also interesting to note that the speed of development of wind generation technology suggests that a windfarm built in the first decade of this century would be obsolescent toward the end of the second decade; while the moor would be ruined forever.) Words are not just nice for children, they have practical and political consequences.
Some ‘nature writers’ are birders and old style naturalists, some of whom study one creature or ecosystem for a lifetime; others are journalists and broadcasters, photographers and filmmakers, travelers and eco-philosophers. In pursing this link between language, our literary heritage and the natural world, Macfarlane is making his particular contribution, complementing other contributors to this broad field.
In this collaboration, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris have drawn together words and images to create a book of spells that promises to evoke a sense of wonder in us all. As Macfarlane tells us, ‘wonder is an essential survival skill for the Anthropocene’.

Raptor Persecution…….again……

Bowland: Crimes Against Nature

We have all heard of the expression ‘to turn a blind eye’, meaning to pretend that a particular act or occurrence has gone unnoticed and unregistered, to ignore something or even to neglect it. I am sure there have been times in most people’s lives where they have ‘turned a blind eye’ to something. Though (hopefully!) these incidents have been rather minor ones, incidents like pretending you did not see your little brother smash your mum’s vase, or ignoring the fact that your dog just ate your favourite pair of shoes. They are incidents that are minor irritations, but they are not ones that will not have a greater impact on our lives and not generally things of huge importance. They are not for example, ones that could impact the natural world, the ecosystem, or to be more specific, the protection of our birds of prey.
raptorpolitics.org.uk
raptorpolitics.org.uk
Raptors. Possibly the longest suffering of our surviving wildlife in the UK and when it comes to persecution of these species, you could say the UK has become something of an expert at turning a blind eye. Our shores are home to so many examples of raptor persecution that we would be spoilt for choice for incidents to discuss. In this case however, we are talking of a very particular incident. One that screams the serious neglect of our raptors. So, where in the UK are we? Lancashire. The home of the Red Rose, Victoria Wood, Ian McKellen and, of course, The Forest of Bowland. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, covered in vast and diverse habitats including fells, valleys and peat moorland, a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds of prey, and a haven for some of our most spectacular raptor species, including the Hen Harrier and the Peregrine Falcon! Or at least, it should. Over recent years however, a black cloud has descended over The Forest of Bowland. A black cloud that has brought with it the wide-scale, relentless persecution of birds of prey. The situation has now become so serious in Bowland that the region is what some people (the term originating with gamekeepers) call a ‘Raptor Free Zone’. The fact that such a ‘zone’ should exist in an area where these beautiful birds are native is not only a tragedy, but a total and utter embarrassment to our nation.
raptorpolitics.org.uk
raptorpolitics.org.uk
The Peregrine Falcon, is a spectacularly agile, wickedly fast and beautiful bird of prey, who can usually be found in areas of upland moorland during the breeding season. Nowadays however, there are more breeding pairs existing in London than across all the moorland in northern England. Moorland where red grouse shooting serves as the main upland land use. Seven years ago the story was very different, Peregrine Falcons were thriving throughout Bowland and there were at least 18 occupied Peregrine territories, with approximately 11 successful nesting pairs in most seasons. However, something changed in 2010, as the number of breeding Peregrine pairs in Bowland began to decline dramatically and many territories were left abandoned. Coincidentally (hmmm), 2010 was also the year when Natural England instructed the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to revoke Schedule 1 disturbance licenses held by members of the The North West Raptor Group, who have monitored and protected raptors in the Forest of Bowland since 1974. Why? It was claimed that there was a concern that these raptor protection specialists would ‘disturb’ the birds and duplicate nest visits, threatening their chances of breeding successfully. However, somewhat bizarrely, they continued to grant the group raptor licenses for use outside of Bowland, including licenses to monitor Golden Eagles in Western Scotland. With no seemingly legitimate reasons provided for this removal of licenses, such a decision could be seen as something highly suspicious. Perhaps they did not want this monitoring to continue? Perhaps they have something to hide? Or even somebody’s interests to protect? Certainly not the interests of our raptors it would seem, especially when we remember that it was also Natural England who last year granted licenses to gamekeepers allowing them to shoot Buzzards, so that pheasant stocks could be protected, with little (if any) justification for such a decision. Since Natural England took the decision to revoke disturbance licenses held by members of the NWRPG, 16 breeding Peregrine nesting territories now lie abandoned in Bowland. In addition, 7 pairs of breeding Hen Harrier, the symbol of The Forest of Bowland and a species on the brink of extinction in England, have also been lost from the area. But perhaps those of us who question these decisions and their outcomes are just being too cynical? Jumping to irrational conclusions even? Unfortunately however, for those of us involved in raptor protection, cynicism has become somewhat ingrained within us, not because we wish it, but purely because we have been given too many reasons to think in such a way.
raptorpolitics.org.uk
raptorpolitics.org.uk
It’s curious. Very curious. So what is going on? How could 99% of Peregrine Falcon territories possibly have been found abandoned throughout the Forest of Bowland since 2010? Flooding? Disease? A plague of locusts? I think we have all guessed what could have caused such a devastating collapse of a local population. Persecution. Why? The same old reason: to boost Red Grouse stocks (because they are suffering terribly). In Bowland, it seems as if there is a constant and unrelenting witch hunt being carried out against birds of prey, the Peregrine and Hen Harrier in particular, as well as against those individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting these birds. Nesting sites have been destroyed, eggs have been taken, chicks have disappeared, and 16 adult pairs of Peregrine Falcon have been lost from these now abandoned territories. But these losses are no secret, nor a revelation. This is no MI5 operation that must be kept from everyone except the powers that be, for ‘the greater good’. This is known about by many, but so far, the pleas and protection efforts exhibited by those members of the North West Raptor Protection Group have fallen on deaf ears. Or perhaps just unwilling and uninterested ears.
Sadly, the situation is not improving, if anything, it continues to deteriorate. An example of this took place not so long ago when a water metering system was installed in a stream bed on moorland owned by United Utilities. Although this in itself may not sound like an issue, it was not the installation of the system that caused the problem, but rather the location of the system. Where was this? Shockingly, right next to an area which has been identified and used as a Peregrine nesting site for many years. Unfortunately, this was no isolated incident as 100 metres directly opposite from the same peregrine nesting ledge, a gamekeeper had installed a crow trap overlooking the nest site. Strange, is it not, that highly trained and experienced members of a raptor study group would be denied licenses to protect these birds in case they should ‘disturb them’, yet a water metering system (which would regularly be checked) and a gamekeeper’s crow trap (also regularly checked) should be conveniently installed right across from a historic peregrine nesting site! Surely, anyone possessing even the slightest ounce of common sense would see that this would cause great disturbance if Peregrines returned to breed at this site in the future! But it does not stop there. In many areas, almost right on top of other Peregrine sites throughout Bowland, vermin traps (designed to catch weasels, stoats and a variety of corvids) have been installed alongside or close to abandoned nesting sites, which again, must be checked on a regular basis by the gamekeeper. Can this really just be passed off as innocent or unaware disturbance to sites, or is this blatant and unabashed intrusion to prevent breeding taking place? So how can this be allowed? Naivety? Sheer incompetence? Or worse? Are these planned strategies to prevent any prospecting Peregrine from settling down to breed? With a fresh dose of that cynicism, I am going to fall (rather dramatically) in the direction of the latter.
raptorpolitics.org.uk
raptorpolitics.org.uk
To document every single outrageous and fundamentally unfair event that has occurred within the Forest of Bowland over recent years would be a bit like me trying to document every single significant act of the World Wars in one (reasonably sized) article. It would be impossible. Unfortunately for our raptors, this is their own version of War. War against the Red Grouse shooting industry and those who are willing to stop at nothing (even the law) to boost their grouse populations and consequently their profits. Sadly, the Red Grouse industry will always have one thing behind it that gives it the upper hand, no matter how immoral. Money. Money makes the world go round it would seem, even when it comes at the cost of losing some of our most precious and threatened raptor species. And what of Natural England’s position in this rather dirty game of politics? It seems that by denying licenses preventing a dedicated raptor group from protecting threatened birds in the Forest of Bowland, they are providing support to estates owners and their gamekeepers. Such a decision, which has possibly been approved at the highest level, indicates that they are almost allowing raptors to be destroyed with impunity in Bowland. They are, quite simply, turning a blind eye.
Raptors have been shot, trapped, disappeared and driven from the Forest of Bowland and this trend is forever continuing and increasing. The situation in Bowland is nothing short of dire, with raptors and those who work for them constantly fighting what currently seems like a losing battle. In 2017 it would still seem that the care we have for our environment and our wildlife and ecosystems has not come far at all, with those who commit crimes against our natural world escaping unscathed and with nothing but a slap on the wrist (if that). If something does not change and change soon, these beautiful birds that we have the privilege to see in our country will disappear into nothingness. Disappear into a silent, desolate moorland, where no life but that of the Red Grouse will continue to flourish.
It’s dire, it’s depressing, but it is fact. However, we remain defiant and determined, and although the persecutors of our birds of prey may be winning this battle, we refuse to let them win this war.
For more information on what is happening in Bowland follow the link below:
Forest of Bowland Raptors Being Undermined by Complacency and Bad Politics
3,951 total views, 3 views today

Statement on Persecution of Birds of Prey

copyright F.of B.

7th November 2017
The Forest of Bowland AONB is an important area for the birds of prey that we associate with the English uplands, such as hen harrier, peregrine, merlin and short-eared owls.  However, the RSPB Birdcrime Report 2016 published last week highlights how some of these iconic species continue to be the subject of illegal acts of persecution throughout much of England and particularly the northern uplands.
The Chair of the Forest of Bowland AONB Joint Advisory Committee, County Councillor Albert Atkinson stated:
"It is particularly concerning to the Committee that these acts of illegal persecution continue; badly affecting the populations of birds of prey that are synonymous with the Forest of Bowland. These acts undoubtedly have an impact on the reputation of Bowland as an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.   The Committee unreservedly condemns all illegal persecution of birds of prey.  The AONB will continue to work closely with landowners, the police, RSPB and Natural England to help protect and conserve birds of prey across the area."
If you wish to report any crimes against wild birds, we would suggest contacting the police by calling 101.

Farmers Workshop on Natural Flood Management

19 Oct 2017
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Guided walk around demonstration area on farm
Natural Flood Management Farmers meeting on 19th October 2017 visited the slow the flow demonstration on Backsbottom Farm to see check dams, swales and blanket bog restoration and discussed mob grazing and keyline subsoiling. Early in the day we had brief presentations from Lune Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England and the Abbeystead Estate. It was a morning of lively discussion with 20 participants. Thanks to Sandra Silk from the Forest of Bowland AONB for organising this.

Slow The Flow:
       Check Dams and In River Training Demonstration area

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Roeburn Remembering Restoring Festival

   
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                                Let us know if you are coming
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Poster by Eller Everett
River Roeburn
Remembering and Restoring Festival
Sat 12th -Sun 13th August 2017
Backsbottom Farm, Roeburndale West,
Nr. Wray, Lancaster La2 9ll

This Free Festival will celebrate and remember 50 years since the Wray flood on 8th August 1967
and will help to engage the local community and general public about the issues around flooding and water management.


Events will include:
  • Historical exhibition of the River Roeburn and events of flooding, landslips and other river changes over the years including Wray Flood and Flood Desmond. In Rural Classroom in the farmyard.  The Wray flood exhibition will be open over the weekend.
  • Rivers Healing Circle to bring together waters from rivers in UK and abroad and their stories (Sunday midday)
  • Photographic competition of photos of rivers or streams in the Lune catchment (especially the Rivers Wenning, Hindburn and Roeburn). In Rural classroom in the farmyard
  • River paintings by Janet Robinson and Hilary Devereaux in Middle Wood Centre
  • Natural Land sculpture workshops. Resident environmental artists Richard Shilling and Julia Chick will be making natural art sculptures from materials gathered nearby in particular locations by the river throughout the festival weekend. Look out for the signs and join them to see what they have been making, learn how to make natural sculptures yourself and spend some quality time next to the enigmatic River Roeburn. All weekend.
  • Search for fossils amongst the river stones
  • Walks to see erosion sites, landslips and ongoing damage from the flash flooding of the River Roeburn. Follow map.
  • Display of Slow the Flow techniques - woody check dams, stone check dams, in river training with careful placement of boulders, wool and bale dams that could be used for reducing peat erosion, blanket bog restoration and the use of mob grazing to increase the infiltration of rain by improving the soil structure. Details from Car park with map follow the mown path.
  • Film showings from other Slow the flow projects. In Yurt near study Centre.
  • Neighbourhood flood plans
  • Large aerial photo of the Rivers Roeburn and Hindburn to help record memories and encourage community engagement. Near Study Centre.
  • River flow experimental area to play with different structures and see how they affect water flow
  • Display by Lune Rivers Trust and River Fly Monitoring (Sunday)
  • N'Dodo - A brillant dancable local band from 3pm Sat
  • Local musicians performing near the river and in the woodlands
  • Quercus, Sian Philips, Paul, Wal and Ruth and friends - Great acoustic music. Sat evening.
  • Two local choirs Lune Valley Voices Sat 7.30 and Wenning Voices Sun 2pm.
  • Dance performance with Dawn Morgan and friends
  • River inspired poetry workshop with Eli Denvir from 11am Sun 
  • Local poetry inspired by the river
  • Sharing of food brought by festival visitors. Picnic by river on Sunday.
  • Beautiful Roeburndale Woodlands and organic orchards
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Natural Land sculpture workshops. (Sat and Sun)
"Resident environmental artists Richard Shilling and Julia Chick will be making natural art sculptures from materials gathered nearby in particular locations by the river throughout the festival weekend. Look out for the signs and join them to see what they have been making, learn how to make natural sculptures yourself and send some quality time next to the enigmatic River Roeburn."


                               Richard Shilling Land Art
                                      All weekend
Lune Valley Voices                                               N'Dodo
Sat 7.45                                                               3pm Sat
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River Poetry Workshop with Ellie Denvir down by the river. (Sunday from 11am). Gathering words and sounds from our experiences with the river, we will explore relationships and feelings between ourselves, the land and the river, making a collective poem to follow the course of the Roeburn from the fells to the Wenning.  There will be the chance to create individual poems  and join with musicians to perform our work (Sun afternoon).

The invisible river flows through the endless night

Cold stone and loneliness
Deer bark in the woods
Sleeping birds are startled


I sit on a mossy rock and become the stars.
By Paul Michael Fergus Wiggin

Ode to the Roeburn

Your pleasant glades and babbling course helped shape my early life
Our courses set without regret seeing turbulence and strife


You calmly flow but most don’t know the gift that you have been
With twists and turns forgotten like the things that we have seen

Your harnessed strength brought riches once along your flowing course
But in just one day unfettered you showed your might and force

We all forgive what you once did as you raged without control
But will you forgive what we do now as we erode your very soul

I hoped one day I would return to see you again old friend
Your sustenance to life around I thought could never end

With grateful thanks for rewards bestowed to generations gone by
Let the children now protect you and never let you die.


Robert W Marshall
Childhood resident of Wray




Slow The Flow - Check Dams and In River Training
Demonstration area will be on display over the weekend
Follow signs and mowed path from car park.
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Have you been affected by flooding, or had wonderful experiences of a special river?

Come to our

RIVERS SHARING CIRCLE

13 August 12 noon Backsbottom Farm, Roeburndale West,
Nr Lancaster.

By River Roeburn
Shared Jacobs Join picnic Sun
followed by Wenning Voices 2pm Sun
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Poster by Leah Hampson

Photographic competition of photos of rivers or streams in the Lune catchment (especially the Rivers Wenning, Hindburn and Roeburn). Catch that place you love on the river, or that moment with a special light reflection.
Either bring your photos with a completed Entry form to the rural classroom in Backsbottom farmyard on Friday 11 August, or send by post to arrive by then.
Entry £1 per photo.
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Festival Site Map
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Poster by Eller Everett
Camping for Festival is limited to 20 tents so please complete booking form and get confirmation that there is space. Camping will be in field over the wall from the car park. Cost £10 per tent per night.
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OTHER LINKED EVENTS
Wray Flood

Memories & Impacts
On Tuesday 8th August 2017 it will be 50 years since the Wray flood, when 14 homes were either destroyed by a wall of water coming down the river, or so severely damaged they had to be demolished. On this date the village are holding a commemorative exhibition in Wray Institute, from 10am to 8pm. Photographs, newspaper reports, documents and recordings will be on view (many relating to Hornby and Claughton too), and Wray school children’s flood impressions will be shown as well. Please drop in and pay us a visit.This will also be open over the weekend for you to visit as part of the Festival.

Lune Valley Movement Space 
http://shapeshift.co.uk/workshops/lunevalley.html
Includes Water Dance 6-10 August
here to edit.

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Find the event here on Facebook to let us know your coming and share it with your friends.
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Mobile Chicken House

This mobile chicken house means that the field doesn't get muddy and eroded and the grass still grows. The chickens are off the ground from predators in their hut, the wire can have left over food put on to it without attracting rodents and the whole thing can be moved by tractor so food remnants will fertilise the ground.There's also no need to go out at night to lock up the chickens as they have a predator proof ladder!
the frame







Mulching the Garden

We're lucky to have had Caroline and Charlie ,our fantastic French volunteers, to help in the garden. Here they are mulching the Keder polytunnel and greenhouse with compost made from rotted down bracken. Our vegetable polyculture beds are a mixture of the no dig and hugel methods. No dig is particularly beneficial for the soil as the earthworms do the digging when the mulch is put on top and there is little disturbance to micro-organisms.
Caroline filling wheelbarrow loads of compost

Charlie in the Keder greenhouse

pulling out old nasturtiums which will go back into the compost heaps

Caroline piling on the compost

handfuls of compost go on top of the greenhouse beds

Slow the Flow – Check Dams on Fell

As part of the upland restoration work being undertaken by Rod these check dams are shown being put into ditches which in time will slow the flow of rain water down towards the river. Recent flooding around the country have shown that our uplands are severely depleted in water retention capacities. A healthy river needs healthy uplands which absorb water and slowly feed the rivers instead of fast runoff resulting in floods which damage the environment, towns and villages. Here are some photos showing Rod, and our lovely French volunteers Charlie and Caroline working with the various components like sheep wool, river rocks and rushes
river rocks being placed across a ditch--Charlie, Rod and Caroline

steady there they're getting heavier so hurry with that photo


the finished "wall" across the ditch


thank you Charlie and Caroline you did a great job

hay bales across a ditch also help to slow the flow

next check dam is made of old spoiled sheep wool

putting wool on top of a ditch

then covered with slabs of rushes

completely covered over with rushes which will grow ont op and create a good dam

this swale from 2015 is now enjoying some avian visitors and other pondlife

the young trees are beginning to look established and will help to retain water

left over wool will be used again
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Raptor Persecution in the Forest of Bowland


The North West Raptor Group are making an appeal to combat the illegal killing of Peregrine Falcons in Lancashire's Forest of Bowland, situated in the North West of England. Classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it covers 808 square Kilometers of rural Lancashire and North Yorkshire. The Forest of Bowland is internationally important for its upland bird populations and under the Habitats Directive "Bowland Fells" are designated a Special Protection Area for specific birds of prey. The Forest of Bowland may be an SPA, but raptors like Hen Harrier and Peregrine Falcon receive no protection. In 2009 - 25 Peregrine territories in the Forest of Bowland were examined by the NWRG. 17 sites were occupied, 6 nests failed following the loss of eggs, chicks and adult birds. A total of 11 territories produced 24 fledged young. In 2010 the Government’s Wildlife Adviser, Natural England, withdrew Peregrine licenses for use in the Forest of Bowland from members of the NWRG, following the group’s disclosure on social media of wide scale raptor persecution throughout this moorland region, where Red Grouse are shot. Other licenses issued to group members since 1974, covering additional raptor species including Peregrine for areas outside the Forest of Bowland remained unaffected. By 2016, 99% of Bowland Peregrine nesting territories were found abandoned. The loss of an entire regional population of Peregrines (18 pairs) from the Forest of Bowland is unprecedented. To protect these Peregrines, the NWRG need your help to purchase the following urgently needed kit: Go-Pro camera - 2 mountain bikes - radio transceivers & infra-red night vision goggles. Throughout the last 43 years members of the North West Raptor Group have self-funded their work. If the killing of Peregrines continues, they will be lost forever, not only from the Forest of Bowland but also from the rest of England's northern uplands, where Red Grouse are shot for sport. Read Latest Update

Crowdfunding appeal for new raptor satellite tag project © R.P.U.K.

The campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime has launched a crowdfunding appeal to help support a new project to fit satellite tags to raptors in northern England, set to begin later this year.
Satellite tagging has revolutionised efforts to detect raptor persecution crimes, and has also helped draw public attention to the illegal killing of raptors. The power of satellite-tagging was really first realised in 2009 when a young satellite-tagged golden eagle, ‘Alma’, was found dead on a grouse moor on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. She’d been poisoned. It’s highly unlikely her corpse would have been detected had she not been fitted with a satellite tag, which allowed investigators to pinpoint her body as she lay face down in a vast expanse of heather moorland. The resulting publicity about her death was phenomenal, and even though nobody was ever prosecuted, this crime turned the spotlight on to an industry that had escaped scrutiny for so long.
alma
Since Alma, there have been many other illegally-killed raptors, including golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, hen harriers, Montagu’s harriers and red kites whose satellite tags have given the game away. These days, the raptor killers are wise to the game and now it’s far more common for a sat-tagged bird to simply ‘disappear’, with all the evidence (carcass, sat tag) simply destroyed to avoid detection, although occasionally there won’t be a ‘clean kill’ and the wounded bird is able to move some distance before succumbing to its injuries and investigators are able to collect the corpse, conduct a post mortem and record it as a confirmed persecution crime.
Some within the grouse-shooting industry have recently been trying to discredit the use of raptor satellite tags, and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve slurred the professional reputations of highly experienced and licensed raptor researchers and have used some photographs of a young golden eagle with what appears to have a ‘slipped’ tag harness as evidence that the tagging experts don’t know what they’re doing. Now, of course, it’s possible for a sat tag harness to slip, and it does happen on occasion, but it’s a rare occurrence. What the accusers don’t mention is the circumstantial evidence that suggests tagged raptors are being caught inside crow cage traps, providing an opportunity for the trap operator to cut one of the harness straps before releasing the bird, with its tag now dangling and looking like it has been badly fitted. There is also evidence of at least one tagged hen harrier being trapped, its harness removed and transferred to a free-ranging corvid, presumably with the intention of disguising the fact the hen harrier was illegally killed.
Strangely, the grouse shooting industry has not tried to vilify the satellite tagging of non-raptor species, such as woodcock (GWCT project) or cuckoos (BTO project); it’s only the tagging of raptors they seem to object to. Can’t think why.
Here’s a photo (taken by Stephen Murphy) of Bowland Betty, a sat-tagged hen harrier found dead on a grouse moor on the Swinton Estate in Yorkshire in 2012. A post mortem revealed she had been shot.
bowland-betty-1
The new raptor satellite-tagging project in northern England is being undertaken by highly experienced and licensed experts in an independent research consortium (all voluntary – no salaries are being paid). The beauty of this independence is that sat tag data will be put in to the public domain very, very quickly. No more waiting for weeks/months/years to find out what happened, which will allow timely and targeted publicity every time one of these raptors ‘disappears’ or is found shot/trapped/poisoned. Greater public awareness of raptor persecution is key to bringing it to an end.
The crowdfunding target is to reach £10,000 by mid-March. It’s ambitious but it’s do-able. If you’d like to make a donation, however small or large, please visit BAWC’s crowdfunding page HERE
Thank you

RSPB getting tough? © Mark Avery

RSPB getting tough?

There are two recent RSPB blogs which are well worth a read – aren’t they all, always?
Martin Harper’s blog is pretty outspoken as these quotes will make clear (but please read it all):
  • it was a deeply frustrating debate – especially to the 123,000 that called for a ban and of course those seeking reform. Our initial reaction tried to pick out some positives, but that was a real challenge. Clearly there is widespread opposition from within the driven grouse shooting community to any real reform.
  • …if pressure for reform remains then the quality of the parliamentary debate will inevitably improve as people won’t be able to brazenly ignore the facts like some did on Monday.
  • When more crimes get into the public domain it will be harder for MPs to turn a blind eye.
  • …this week, we are raising awareness of the fate of the hen harrier Rowan, found dead in Cumbria in October, and which appears to have been shot. The fate of this bird graphically illustrates that illegal killing of hen harriers is ongoing, contrary to the impression given by some MPs in the Westminster Hall debate.
  • …we remain appalled by the environmental condition of the uplands and the ongoing illegal killing of birds of prey
Guy Shorrock says some interesting things on the Investigations blog too reflecting on 25 years at the RSPB and recent events:
  • Sitting at the debate, I already knew the nature of Rowan’s recent demise and wondered whether Thérèse Coffey, present as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was also aware. Against that, I listened with some disbelief at the nature of the debate that unfolded. To be frank, I wasn’t hopeful for a great deal to come out from the process. However, I thought at least this was an opportunity for some serious environmental concerns to be properly aired. Hopefully this would lead to a commitment from the government to at least look at options to tackle the pernicious problem of raptor persecution and a range of others environmental problems in our uplands.
  • At the end of the debate Therese Coffey read out a prepared statement that basically it would be business as usual. We know what has gone before is not working, so I simply don’t understand this response. With just three pairs of hen harriers breeding in England this year, just how bad do things have to get? I do wonder how history will look back on the quality of this debate and whether future society will judge us for failing to take meaningful action.
  • …despite raptor persecution becoming one of the government UK wildlife crime priorities in 2009, I have not seen any meaningful improvement in the levels of enforcement.
  • Compared with elsewhere in Europe and North America, game shooting in the UK is almost uniquely unregulated even though it is far more intensive in nature than almost anywhere else. To the best of my knowledge, no other industry in the UK has to rely on killing rare protected birds. Driven grouse moor management should be no different and simply has to adapt its business model to a more sustainable form of land management to conform to modern day conservation and the wishes of wider society.
  • Unless those in charge are held to account, I believe there is absolutely no chance of a significant change in some of the serious environmental problems associated with grouse moor management. Scotland has made some progress with the introduction of vicarious liability and this should be put in place across the rest of the UK as soon as possible.
  • As highlighted at Westminster Hall, it seems economics plays a very large part in this debate. However, the government do not appear to have done the sums to assess how the benefits from employment and income generation to local communities from grouse shooting compare with counteracting the cost of any environmental damage, loss of wildlife tourism opportunities or the huge sums of agricultural subsides paid into the uplands.
  • Whilst I will not be at the RSPB a quarter of a century from now, I would hope to still be here and to have witnessed a real change in the condition of our uplands and for the shame of raptor persecution to finally end. However, for these hopes to become a reality I believe this government needs to start taking take meaningful action now, and not just watch from the sidelines hoping it will all sort itself out.
I welcome these tougher statements and look forward to the RSPB taking a tougher stance on these issues. We’ll be chatting soon.

Wildlife Detective Blog © Alan Stewart

Evidence to Westminster and Scottish Parliament on driven grouse shooting – comment.

Woodpigeon bait and poisoned buzzard, still warm, found on Glenogil Estate, a driven grouse moor in Angus, in 2011.
Woodpigeon bait and poisoned buzzard, still warm, found on Glenogil Estate, a driven grouse moor in Angus, in 2011.
It’s been an interesting few days reading and listening to responses to Mark Avery’s proposed ban on driven grouse shooting and the proposal by Scottish Raptor Study Groups (SRSG) to licence game shooting. Many of the responses in favour of either of these proposals are compelling, though I have not yet seen an argument against that convinces me Mark or SRSG are on the wrong track.
I think the most knowledgeable and convincing argument to ban driven grouse shooting comes from Guy Shorrock. Guy is a senior investigations officer with RSPB and his evidence is based on many years of experience in the field.
Guy writes: ‘The National Crime Agency (NCA) define organised crime as ‘serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a continuing basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain. Organised criminals working together for a particular criminal activity or activities are called an organised crime group’.  The current levels of raptor persecution on driven grouse moor estates should be classed as organised crime.’  Logan Steele, the spokesperson for SRSG said to the Scottish committee when giving his evidence, driven grouse shooting is a ‘business underpinned by criminality’.
Both are absolutely correct. The killing, not just of birds of prey but of protected mammals such as badgers and otters, is most certainly in many cases organised crime. This criminality increases the profits of the estates through the elimination of factors that would have a negative impact on grouse. The extent is difficult to prove but I have no doubts that if anyone involved in the management of a driven grouse moor is eventually charged the police would also be considering an investigation using proceeds of crime legislation.
Guy also says: ‘I am aware of one individual who has been involved in grouse moor management for many years.  Based on a huge amount of information, I believe this individual is one of the very top wildlife criminals in the UK, and managing gamekeepers who are responsible for the death of literally thousands of raptors and other protected wildlife during the last two decades or more.  However, the reality is that this individual has never even been in a police station for an interview let alone anywhere near a court. It seems this individual, and much of the industry they are part of, consider, and with good reason, that they are pretty much untouchable.’
I can go one better: I am aware of two such individuals, no doubt one of them being the same person to which Guy alludes. Over the years I have also described them as the top wildlife criminals in the UK. In their operations in Scotland and the north of England their methods, both immoral and illegal, have probably been the principal factor in causing these two petitions to appear before the Westminster and the Scottish parliaments. I have heard their methods praised by many landowners, gamekeepers and shooting organisations for the past decade, but at the same time I have listened to several of their former employees who have given me the full and disgusting story, chapter and verse but, apart from one, were too frightened to stand up in court and be counted. In more recent years the tide has started to turn as the negative publicity of the criminality and the public anger were recognised by the more sensible folks involved in the grouse industry.
Had more intelligence been passed to the police that would have been a good start. Had much more support been given to the gamekeepers who had been (or were being) encouraged or directed to carry out criminal acts, they could have provided evidence (as opposed to intelligence) in the form of witness statements or recovery of illegal items and a case could have been submitted for prosecution. This could have been achievable by concerted action by the various shooting and land-owning organisations that have pretty much buried their collective heads in the sand for years, with no acknowledgement and half-hearted condemnation of what is taking place. I am sure that the extent of the criminality, if proved, would have meant a considerable jail sentence.
It is still not too late for this to happen. It would make my day!

More Written Evidence to the Driven Grouse Shooting Debate

Written evidence from name withheld (GRO0321)
Executive Summary
  • The shooting industry and its representatives should be removed from all positions of power where wildlife crime law enforcement policy are discussed or decided upon.
  • Driven grouse moors should be rewilded.  This at a stroke, would remove the many very serious problems of driven grouse moors and provide real, significant, tangible benefits for the whole of society.
  • Driven grouse moor management normally involves very high levels of wildlife crime as well as a range of very serious conservation issues.
  • The illegal persecution of birds of prey in the UK has a very serious detrimental effect, especially on hen harrier and golden eagle populations.
  • Raptor persecution should be treated as organised crime.
  • Detection of wildlife crime on grouse shooting estates is currently ineffective.  Enforcement need to be far greater, with clear and strong backing from political leadership.  A dedicated Wildlife Crime Enforcement team should be set up comprising perhaps 10 officers for Scotland.  Employers and managers must be targeted for prosecution, not simply those actually undertaking the illegal killings
  • Penalties for raptor killings should reflect the fact that these crimes are of a commercial nature.  Custodial sentences should be made routine for employers, managers and employees.  Financial penalties should be linked to the value of the business.
  • The industry has consistently shown no will to reform itself, despite much help to that end for many years.
  • There is practically no accountably to ensure that those managing driven grouse shooting estates adhere to lawful and decent environmental practise.
  • It is clear that driven grouse shooting should be banned.  However, in the absence of such a ban, it is essential that vicarious liability and shoot registration are urgently required.
  • Society is failing to get any benefit from the huge subsidies given to driven grouse shooting estates, indeed these monies are funding very serious environmental degradation.

Introduction
1.  I have a long held interest in environmental issues. After serving as a Royal Air Force Officer, the rest of my career has been in nature conservation and for the last 20 years I have been employed by the RSPB as an Investigations Officer where I have been exposed, first hand to wildlife crime, particularly on grouse moors.  Other than criminals, I am one of the few people who has first hand experience of witnessing raptor persecution on multiple occasions.  This response is provided in a personal capacity.

2.  For the last 20 years, I have had extensive involvement with raptor persecution across the UK.  I have assisted police and other agencies with many criminal enquiries.  I have very extensive fieldwork experience relating to driven grouse shooting.    This has provided me great insight into some of the very serious problems associated with driven grouse moor management.

3.  The massive support for the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting reveals increasing public concern about grouse moor management and its wide ranging environmental implications.  It is entirely understandable that so many are calling for a ban, given the very long list of significant concerns, a few being:

  • Threats of local extinctions of raptor species such as hen harrier.
  • Widespread, routine illegal killing of legally protected wildlife in large numbers that significantly affects populations and their conservation status.
  • Widespread, routine killing of other species such as mountain hares, stoats, weasels, crows, jays, magpies, rooks, etc.  The extent of this killing is such that it fundamentally changes the biological character of an area.
  • Animal welfare issues relating to how animals are killed.  The use of poisons, traps, shooting and other ways of killing frequently results in a slow, lingering and excruciating death.
  • Loss of biodiversity.  Regular heather burning prevents woodland regeneration.
  • Water pollution.  Heather burning causes particulate matter to be released into the water supply, resulting in increased costs to treat water for domestic use.
  • Increased flood risk.  Heather burning reduces the capacity of the land to hold water, resulting in increased rate of water run off, as was seen recently at Hebdon Bridge.
  • Land use.  An incredible amount of land is dedicated to driven grouse shooting which has no direct benefit for society, provides minimal employment and prevents the land being used in ways which would benefit the whole of society.

I believe it is essential that the government takes these concerns seriously and looks to the benefits for society for alternative land use, particularly rewilding. 

4.  The illegal persecution of birds of prey is well documented.  The link between grouse moor management and raptor persecution is crystal clear, as evidenced by a large number of peer-reviewed scientific papers, the physical location of where hundreds of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution has taken place (on a huge number of individual grouse shooting estates) and the fact that gamekeepers have been convicted for raptor killing crimes far more commonly that all non-gamekeepers combined.

5.  Raptor persecution has a serious, negative conservation impact.  There are huge areas of Scotland (and England) where the distribution, population and breeding success of several raptors is seriously affected by illegal persecution.  Golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, hen harriers, kites, peregrines and goshawks are badly affected by illegal persecution on and around areas managed for grouse shooting.

6.  In 2009, the UK Government made raptor persecution one of the top wildlife crime priorities.  This has not led to improvements in the fortunes of raptors.  The police remain unable to investigate offences in an effective way and to carry out no pro-active or covert work that is essential for effective law enforcement.  Enforcement action need to be far greater, with clear and strong backing from political leadership.  A dedicated, well resourced Wildlife Crime Enforcement team should be set up comprising perhaps 10 Officers for Scotland.  As well as those actually undertaking the illegal killings, employers and managers must be targeted for prosecution.  In Scotland, the SSPCA should be given additional powers.

7.  It is essential to understand that raptor persecution is committed on remote land that is normally free from potential witnesses and by individuals with an intimate knowledge of the land, often operating at night with high tech, essentially military, equipment.  The risk to them of detection is extremely low.  Around 100 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution are recorded each year.  It is not known what percentage of actual incidents this number accounts for, but I believe it will certainly be far, far less than 1%.  The RSPB has received multiple reports of in excess of 100 raptors being killed on individual shooting estates in one year.  Apart from the extremely low detection rate, of the confirmed incidents, the subsequent successful prosecution rate is less than 5%.  As such, the chances of an individual gamekeeper killing a raptor and actually being prosecuted for it are extremely low.  For every successful gamekeeper prosecution, I estimate that there will have been, very roughly, far, far more than 2000 other offences.  Having been convicted, it is likely that the employer will pay any fine, meaning that there is effectively no consequence for a gamekeeper illegally killing raptors or other legally protected wildlife.  [Only one gamekeeper ever, has received a custodial sentence for raptor killing in Scotland.  This is probably the one and only time ever, that a significant deterrent was handed down, and the only occasion where managers or owners were unable to protect their employees from the law.]  When gamekeepers are prosecuted in court, they are normally unusually well represented in court, often by QC’s, even for minor offences, by specialist defence firms.  Having been convicted of wildlife crimes, gamekeepers invariably retain their employment.  This arrangement allows managers and employers to remain very distant from the criminal actions of their staff.  If a gamekeeper was ever to give evidence against his employer or manager, he would have practically no chance of working as a gamekeeper ever again.  Gamekeepers coming forward publicly with information about raptor persecution would effectively make themselves unemployable.

8.  Whilst it is invariably gamekeepers committing the offences on grouse shooting estates, they are not the primary problem.  It is the shooting industry, the managers and employers of gamekeepers, who are the real problem and who create the environment for gamekeepers to operate in and who direct the widespread criminal practices taking place.  The desire to produce incredibly high, unnatural numbers of grouse for driven grouse shooting is the motivation for widespread illegal predator killing.  For many years, there has been numerous partnership working projects between conservationists and the shooting industry to find ways to enable this hobby to continue legally, but despite much help, there has never been any serious engagement from the shooting industry and the illegal killings continue.  If the driven grouse shooting industry was serious about tackling problems like raptor persecution it could easily do so very quickly.  It is essential to fully comprehend that this will never happen without serious and meaningful governmental action.

9.  The shooting industry has a long and consistent history of acting without honour; it is of fundamental importance to understand this.  It abuses pseudo-science to its own predetermined ends.  It manipulates data.  It sources obscure scientific studies which are irrelevant, portraying them as of fundamental importance.  It is disingenuous.  It lies blatantly.  It says it will do one thing and then does another.  This sort of behaviour, this desire to corrupt when it has effect on such large areas of our country and on so much of our wildlife is unacceptable and has no place in civilised society. As such, the shooting industry must be removed from all bodies that have any power to influence policy on law enforcement relating to shooting estates.

10.  I have absolutely no doubt that any voluntary approach or code of conduct will never be effective.  It is clear a robust and enforceable legal framework, backed up with the resources for rigorous enforcement, is needed to ensure the environment is properly protected. 

11.  It appears that sometimes employers/managers may be aware that their gamekeepers are illegally killing raptors, but ignore it.  On others estates, it appears that gamekeepers are given explicit instructions to illegally kill raptors and are given specialist equipment to that end.  Some estates spend vast sums of money supplying specialist equipment, firearms, night-sights, thermal imaging sights, illegal poisons, to enable their gamekeepers to commit crimes and avoid detection. 

Conclusion. 
12.  Without major legislative change, there is no prospect that the very serious problems associated with driven grouse shooting will change. 
Given that grouse moors cover such a large area of our country and that they impact in such a massive and detrimental way, on all sections of our society, this demands that government acts decisively. 
A ban on driven grouse shooting would at a stroke, terminate a wide range of very serious problems.  Also, this would free up a large area of land for rewilding which would significantly benefit the whole of society and create new employment opportunities.
October 2016

Hugh Webster’s Evidence © Mark Avery

Gems from the written evidence 22 – Hugh Webster

This was a very well-written and well expressed piece of evidence. Here are some extracts:
  • I firmly believe that the law should be changed to specifically ban driven red grouse shooting. I am aware that some conservationists would settle for a licensing system as a compromise, but this tempting option fails to address the underlying incontrovertible fact that driven grouse shooting is fundamentally reliant on bird of prey persecution. It is an either or situation.
  • …the grouse industry is always keen to point to the curlews, lapwings and golden plovers that undeniably benefit from their land management, as if an unnatural abundance of a few species of wildfowl should offset an entire ecosystem laid to waste. Can you imagine a gamekeeper visiting the Serengeti and advising the park wardens there: “Very nice, but what you want to do is kill off all your predators, hunt down all the wild ungulates, chop down all your trees, dry out all your marshes and repeatedly burn the place – that way you could get a few more waders”? This is clearly preposterous, but it is exactly the nonsense one hears spouted when self-styled countrymen, eschewing ecological qualifications or expert opinion, insist that their “management” (killing and burning) is somehow essential to the wellbeing of the uplands. Instead of a self-sustaining, self-regulating, vibrant assemblage of wildlife in a diverse natural landscape we are forced to accommodate, nay even subsidise, the vandalism perpetrated on our flora and fauna by a tiny minority locked into an outdated Victorian mindset.
  • When confronted with the ecological facts proponents of grouse shooting sometimes put forward an alternative defence, that their sport is somehow vital to the rural economy and that a ban represents some sort of attack on rural values. This latter claim is insulting to the actual majority of us living in the countryside who take no part in a “sport” enjoyed by perhaps just 40,000 people per year – less than a third of the number who signed the petition calling for a ban. The economic argument is also poorly thought out, taking no account of the economic harm the sport does (e.g. flood damage), conflating the economic benefits of shooting as a whole with the small part represented by grouse shooting and pretending that in the wake of a ban no alternative revenue streams would exist. Unlike driven grouse shooting, wildlife tourism is genuinely big business (for just one example witness the millions of pounds pouring into Skye following sea eagle reintroductions there) and the tourism industry could become a major pillar of the oft-quoted northern powerhouse if managed appropriately.
  • You might as well argue that heroin dealing supports a small minority of the urban population and so should be legalised and supported by government subsidies. If something is fundamentally wrong, the fact that it makes a profit cannot be sufficient to morally defend it. We banned slavery. We banned tiger hunting. It’s time to ban driven grouse shooting. Past time in fact. In a fairer nation our national parks should not just be shooting grounds for a privileged few. They should be havens for nature, but the bizarre reality is that you have a better chance of seeing a peregrine falcon or a fox in central London than you do in the Peak District or the North York moors. It’s time to be bold. It’s time to be decisive. It’s time to turn the tide, to halt the damage and begin to help nature restore some of the wild beauty too long missing from our island. Ban driven grouse shooting.

Gems from the written evidence 13 – name withheld © Mark Avery


October 29, 2016Leave Your Comment Here is the summary of another very powerful piece of written evidence:
  • The shooting industry and its representatives should be removed from all positions of power where wildlife crime law enforcement policy are discussed or decided upon.
  • Driven grouse moors should be rewilded.  This at a stroke, would remove the many very serious problems of driven grouse moors and provide real, significant, tangible benefits for the whole of society.
  • Driven grouse moor management normally involves very high levels of wildlife crime as well as a range of very serious conservation issues.
  • The illegal persecution of birds of prey in the UK has a very serious detrimental effect, especially on hen harrier and golden eagle populations.
  • Raptor persecution should be treated as organised crime.
  • Detection of wildlife crime on grouse shooting estates is currently ineffective.  Enforcement need to be far greater, with clear and strong backing from political leadership.  A dedicated Wildlife Crime Enforcement team should be set up comprising perhaps 10 officers for Scotland.  Employers and managers must be targeted for prosecution, not simply those actually undertaking the illegal killings
  • Penalties for raptor killings should reflect the fact that these crimes are of a commercial nature.  Custodial sentences should be made routine for employers, managers and employees.  Financial penalties should be linked to the value of the business.
  • The industry has consistently shown no will to reform itself, despite much help to that end for many years.
  • There is practically no accountably to ensure that those managing driven grouse shooting estates adhere to lawful and decent environmental practise.
  • It is clear that driven grouse shooting should be banned.  However, in the absence of such a ban, it is essential that vicarious liability and shoot registration are urgently required.
  • Society is failing to get any benefit from the huge subsidies given to driven grouse shooting estates, indeed these monies are funding very serious environmental degradation.
And here are some quotes from it too:
  • It is essential to understand that raptor persecution is committed on remote land that is normally free from potential witnesses and by individuals with an intimate knowledge of the land, often operating at night with high tech, essentially military, equipment.  The risk to them of detection is extremely low.  Around 100 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution are recorded each year.  It is not known what percentage of actual incidents this number accounts for, but I believe it will certainly be far, far less than 1%.  The RSPB has received multiple reports of in excess of 100 raptors being killed on individual shooting estates in one year.  Apart from the extremely low detection rate, of the confirmed incidents, the subsequent successful prosecution rate is less than 5%.  As such, the chances of an individual gamekeeper killing a raptor and actually being prosecuted for it are extremely low.  For every successful gamekeeper prosecution, I estimate that there will have been, very roughly, far, far more than 2000 other offences.  Having been convicted, it is likely that the employer will pay any fine, meaning that there is effectively no consequence for a gamekeeper illegally killing raptors or other legally protected wildlife.  [Only one gamekeeper ever, has received a custodial sentence for raptor killing in Scotland.  This is probably the one and only time ever, that a significant deterrent was handed down, and the only occasion where managers or owners were unable to protect their employees from the law.]  When gamekeepers are prosecuted in court, they are normally unusually well represented in court, often by QC’s, even for minor offences, by specialist defence firms.  Having been convicted of wildlife crimes, gamekeepers invariably retain their employment.  This arrangement allows managers and employers to remain very distant from the criminal actions of their staff.  If a gamekeeper was ever to give evidence against his employer or manager, he would have practically no chance of working as a gamekeeper ever again.  Gamekeepers coming forward publicly with information about raptor persecution would effectively make themselves unemployable.
  • Whilst it is invariably gamekeepers committing the offences on grouse shooting estates, they are not the primary problem.  It is the shooting industry, the managers and employers of gamekeepers, who are the real problem and who create the environment for gamekeepers to operate in and who direct the widespread criminal practices taking place.  The desire to produce incredibly high, unnatural numbers of grouse for driven grouse shooting is the motivation for widespread illegal predator killing.  For many years, there has been numerous partnership working projects between conservationists and the shooting industry to find ways to enable this hobby to continue legally, but despite much help, there has never been any serious engagement from the shooting industry and the illegal killings continue.  If the driven grouse shooting industry was serious about tackling problems like raptor persecution it could easily do so very quickly.  It is essential to fully comprehend that this will never happen without serious and meaningful governmental action.
  • I have absolutely no doubt that any voluntary approach or code of conduct will never be effective.  It is clear a robust and enforceable legal framework, backed up with the resources for rigorous enforcement, is needed to ensure the environment is properly protected.
  • It appears that sometimes employers/managers may be aware that their gamekeepers are illegally killing raptors, but ignore it.  On others estates, it appears that gamekeepers are given explicit instructions to illegally kill raptors and are given specialist equipment to that end.  Some estates spend vast sums of money supplying specialist equipment, firearms, night-sights, thermal imaging sights, illegal poisons, to enable their gamekeepers to commit crimes and avoid detection.

Mark Avery


Your task, should you choose to accept it…

799px-Houses.of_.parliament.overall.arp_Your task this weekend, should you choose to accept it, is to submit evidence to the inquiry on grouse shooting – for details of how to do that see here.
‘Submit evidence’ sounds a bit scary doesn’t it? How about ‘Send your thoughts’ instead? You could do that couldn’t you?  Look at Question 1 – ‘Should the law on grouse shooting be changed? If so, how?’. I reckon you have thoughts on that.
I am writing my evidence and it’s quite a task to limit oneself to 3000 words on such a big subject. You could write a book about it  – hang on! Someone did. I know that many organisations are preparing detailed and erudite submissions to send in by the closing date on Wednesday 5 October but I have already also seen quite a few short submissions by members of the public which have been sent in too.  These are often very compelling! You could add to their number.
Would you like to see more birds of prey in our National Parks? I bet you would.
Have you ever been affected by floods that you believe were exacerbated by moorland management, for example in Hebden Bridge?
Do you believe in re-wilding and believe that driven grouse shooting is a barrier to progress?
Do you feel angry every time you hear about another bird of prey being killed or ‘disappearing’?
Do you object to your taxes being given to rich grouse moor owners through CAP payments?
Do you think that wildlife crime against birds of prey is unacceptable in this day and age?
Do you think that the government is failing to do enough to combat wildlife crime which emanates from driven grouse shooting?
Do you think that the Defra response to the e-petition suggested that they were speaking for the shooting industry rather than for you?
Do you think that Defra is ducking the issue of wildlife crime and this might be because grouse moor owners are natural Conservative supporters?
Do you think that Defra should consider introducing vicarious liability for wildlife crimes as the Scottish government has done?

I could go on, but if there is a single question above to which you answered ‘Yes’ then you have enough to stimulate you to send in a note to the inquiry. Please do.  Be sure that others who answer ‘No’ to those questions will be busy over the weekend – are you going to give them the floor?