Natural England under fire – from GAMEKEEPERS and the SHOOTING TIMES!

An article on the Shooting Times (ST) website (which as might be expected is a touch sensitive when it comes to stories about gamekeepers illegally killing raptors) has the excitable – and possibly unintentionally ironic, but journos working for magazines glorifying killing surely choose their words carefully? – headline ‘Natural England [NE]under fire’, as its staff has suddenly discovered that NE’s executive director of science and evidence, Andrew Wood, said something in JULY that we in the real world all take as read but which the subscribers to ST would prefer wasn’t discussed: that Hen Harriers attempting to breed on shooting estates “are routinely shot as they predate grouse chicks on managed grouse moors”. The shadow minister for the natural environment, Gavin Shuker MP, who was present at the same symposium (which as the ST reports was attended by organisations including the RSPB, RSPCA and the National Wildlife Crime Unit), was obviously caught up in the moment and is quoted as saying that: “Hen harriers are down to four breeding pairs. They are routinely shot as they predate grouse chicks on managed grouse moors. One could make a fairly logical assumption that it was gamekeepers who shot them. Gamekeepers usually deny that in public and occasionally acknowledge it in private. You cannot prove which individual shot the hen harrier, as you usually find the carcase [sic as per the ST - but usually spelt carcass in English] days or hours after the incident.”

Wowza. What on earth was everyone thinking of? No-one’s ever said that before surely? Well, except just about everyone interested to any degree whatsoever in birds, raptors, or illegal hunting. The RSPB have ‘form’ (thankfully) clearly acknowledging it on their info page about the Hen Harrier, “Of the UK’s birds of prey, this is the most intensively persecuted. Once predating free-range fowl, earning its present name, its effect on the number of grouse available to shoot is the cause of modern conflict and threatens its survival in some parts of the UK, particularly on the driven grouse moors of England and Scotland.”

So why the feigned indignation by the ST? Because Defra is supposed to be on their side, doling out subsidies and making it easier to kill ‘pests’ rather than stating something six months ago that is so widely known that you’d imagine that only people who have no connection whatsoever with the truth could possibly believe differently…


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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores


  1. Simon says:

    Are Natural England no longer able to state the inescapable facts?

  2. Charlie Moores says:

    I think they’re legally allowed to state them, Simon, but it’s not what the landowning classes expects: you can just imagine the outraged voices demanding that ‘the little ticks at Natural England’ get back in line and start supporting the party line before they’re hauled into the common-room for a flogging :)

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