Defra report to control Hen Harrier numbers on Grouse moors: Possibly a step too far!

Hen Harriers nesting on England’s uplands could have their nests stripped of eggs under a government-backed plan is approved to resolve the growing conflict between commercial grouse moors and bird conservation groups. If the Tory Government approve these proposals enabling shooting estates to legally control numbers of Hen Harrier on England’s uplands where Red Grouse are shot for sport, there will be a monumental public outcry. Why should an industry supported by criminal activity be given a get out of jail card?
The eggs would be taken to an incubation centre where the chicks would be reared for release into areas with few grouse moors, such as Devon, Cornwall and Wales.  The aim is to create a legal way to remove “excess” birds of prey from grouse moors, especially Hen Harriers, which are often illegally killed by gamekeepers because they target grouse. The benefit would be in re-establishing the species elsewhere to prevent them being shot.
The unpublished plan, drawn up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has angered conservation groups such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which points out that no hen harriers bred in England in 2013 when there should have been 300 pairs. It wants grouse moors to be licensed.

However, the Moorland Association, whose 200 members include the owners of most of England and Wales’s 149 grouse moors, said shoots had preserved more than 860,000 acres of moorland, generated £67m a year for the rural economy and created 1,500 jobs.
Amanda Anderson, the association’s director, said: “The problem with hen harriers must be sorted out.”  She conceded that birds of prey are illegally killed, but says this is not surprising when gamekeepers know hen harriers can destroy a grouse moor — and their jobs. “One brood needs hundreds of meals, but hen harriers nest in colonies so the impact is huge,” Anderson said.
Under the plan, grouse-moor owners would accept one pair of hen harriers per four square miles of land. If numbers rose above this, eggs would be removed. Oh Amanda you may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire with this one.
The TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham, who will lead a protest against harrier persecution in Derbyshire on August 10, two days before the start of the shooting season on the “Glorious 12th”, said the priority was to stop illegal killings. “If I went into a museum and slashed a painting, I would be a vandal. There’s no difference between that and killing hen harriers.”
One contentious issue is that grouse-moor owners receive millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in subsidies.  Natural England, the conservation watchdog, paid £17m in “environmental stewardship” grants for grouse moors in 2012-13, according to a report from Animal Aid, a campaign group, which obtained the data via freedom of information requests.
Andrew Tyler, of Animal Aid, said: “It is wrong that grouse-shoot owners get subsidies for an industrial-scale slaughter of wildlife.”  Grouse-moor owners disagree. Nick Downshire, owner of Jervaulx moor, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, spends £100,000 running the 2,500-acre shoot on which up to 2,000 grouse are killed annually. We presume that Mr Downshire is referring to grouse killed by guns not Hen Harriers?  “We could not sustain hen harriers because they eat so many grouse. Brood management [egg removal] means gamekeepers would know they are not going to lose their jobs.”
What is your opinion? Should we grasp this poison challis enabling gamekeepers to legally work around the existing legislation to control Hen Harrier numbers of grouse moors, or should  we insist that the first condition of any reconciliation be all persecution of Hen Harriers must stop allowing  numbers to increase naturally to begin with?

10 comments to Defra report to control Hen Harrier numbers on Grouse moors: Possibly a step too far!

  • Mr peregrine

    It’s unrealistic as working grouse shoots won’t even allow one pair nesting full stop. If saying one pair per four Sq miles would improve the situation it would be an improvment; it’s better than none and sustainable for the shoot rather than having the fear that countless pairs will breed over years destroying the primary moorland economy. Something has to change as it’s worse now than its been for decades. We’ve more urban peregrines breeding than ever but none on moorland as the keepers fear any that come will become greater in number effecting the job they have. How to stop BOP persecution is very complex if you want it to actually stop and not just be over emotional and cry ban all shooting and grouse moors which is never going to happen. A hard realistic approach will be needed on all sides.

  • kevin moore

    There is no such thing as “excess birds of prey” there will or should be the amount that natures balance allows, that’s if there was no interference from man.

  • nirofo

    You mean to tell me that the grouse shooting estates are not content with the level of illegal Raptor persecution they’re getting away with already, now they want it made legit so they can legally wipe them out completely. If they can get away with this then they are capable of anything, the mind boggles at the sheer arrogance of these pathetic criminals.

  • Dogged P Sistence

    So where are all these English colonies of breeding Hen Harriers, as referred to by the director of the Moorland Association?

  • Doug Malpus

    It is sickening to hear that DEFRA is still proposing raptor persecution. Grouse moor managers and gamekeepers must be persecuted for their crimes. Find evidence, make it public and get the police to act against, instead of going along with the criminals.

    The arrogance of these killers and their ability to avoid the law must be stopped.

    DEFRA start working for the environment and the people. Stop working for your buddies in the landed gentry. The upper classes, the upper middle class, the privileged classes, the wealthy, the elite, high society, the establishment, the haut monde, the county set, the smart set; Indian bhadralok; informal the upper crust, the jet set, the beautiful people, the crème de la crème, the top drawer. This definition should be extended to include Selfish, uncaring, bigoted, liars, criminals.

    You are correct in assuming I am not happy with these people.

    Amanda Anderson, which dreamland or drugs allow you to come out with such utter rubbish? It is the gamekeepers and managers that need controlling not the tiny numbers of Hen Harriers.

  • Keith Miller

    The problem is not with Hen Harriers as stated by Amanda Anderson. The problem is absolutely gamekeepers and their employers. I do not trust driven grouse moor owners, managers or gamekeepers to do anything positive for Hen Harriers or other birds of prey. In my view the future of Hen Harriers should be determined solely by the conservation needs of the Hen Harrier not by the claimed ‘needs’ of driven grouse moor owners, managers and gamekeepers. As noted by Kevin there is no such thing as ‘excess birds of prey’.

  • daniel

    £67 million is an absolute pittance compared to the income that could be generated by wildlife tourism. Ban the grouse and pheasant shooting and bring back OUR wildlife!

    Moorland and lowland alike could once again be a pleasant place for leisure activities that do not bring raptor genocide to the majority of our countryside today.Even where I live in Northamptonshire the amount of buzzards and red kites that disappear is staggering. Why should the tax payer fund this out dated, so called sport?

    I have no issue with someone that shoots a few birds or rabbits for the pot but the organised pheasant and grouse shoots are just about wholesale annihilation of our wildlife to preserve game birds to be shot in their millions.

    Its not ecologically or morally sound and quite obviously only financially viable by breaking the law!

  • Trapit

    The plan is first to increase then stabilise numbers on grouse moors which would result in a better situation than exists at present.If enough moors signed up especially adjoining ones ,it would be worth a try.’It really needs a large high profile estate to throw the gauntlet down and agree to comply with the terms of a trial. Natures balance is a nice concept that unfortunately has not existed in this country for a very long time. Stop getting all precious, support the plan contribute to any consultation, and throw down your own gauntlet.

  • ringtail47

    What breeding colonies of Hen-Harriers would these be then, maybe the ones inside his head.The problem is simple ban all driven grouse shooting, and please check your facts Raptors dont simply breed in large numbers in any one location.

  • James

    Whilst I wholeheartedly disagree with the ridiculous pastime of grouse shooting, I feel as though all the emphasis is once again on one species – the hen harrier. What we are saying too often is that it’s ok to have a barren overgrazed desert of a moorland as long as the hen harriers are allowed to live.

    What I say, as Daniel alluded to above, is that our moorlands and uplands in general are a totally underused resource. They are currently an open treeless terrain only populated by toffs for a few weeks a year while they shoot their precious game birds, and the odd gamekeeper eking out a lonely existence. There’s so much land that could be turned into large areas of native forest, with other mosaic habitats suitable for a whole range of species and pursuits.

    They currently support a feeble economy compared to what could be made if they were used for wildlife watching, hard-wood forestry, water storage, more widespread recreation. That’s not to mention the massive benefits for water quality, flood reduction etc. Unfortunately history has permitted the majority of the land to fall into the selfish hands of a few ignorant, backward-looking people who are supported by their cronies in government.

    Our uplands shouldn’t just be the haunt of the hen harrier – there should be golden eagles, kites, sparrow hawks, goshawks et al.

    Editor’s Comment. James, We agree, far too much emphasis on the Hen Harrier. The Peregrine is now facing the very real prospect of extinction on England uplands where red grouse are shot. For the second consecutive season we are aware of only a single successful peregrine territory on grouse moors in the Forest of Bowland.

    The northern Pennines, Durham, Northumberland, Derbyshire’s Dark Peak, and the north York moors only a dozen or so pairs remaining when there should be at least 100 pairs. It is a fact, there are now more breeding peregrines in London than can be found breeding on moorland used to shoot red grouse in the uplands of England, how sad is that?