We couldn’t have done it without you – says Natural England to the criminal elements in grouse shooting
Yesterday’s devastating scientific description of the impact of grouse shooting on the threatened Hen Harrier (the original paper, my blog on its findings) was greeted by Natural England Director, Rob Cooke with the following:
This research identifies the scale of the problem hen harriers have faced on grouse moors. It makes for sobering reading and shows how vital it is that everyone involved in the future of this wonderful bird pulls together. Natural England is working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including moorland communities, conservation organisations, police and landowners to implement the joint Hen Harrier Action Plan which aims to improve the conservation status of this at-risk bird.
Last year’s Hen Harrier breeding season was the most successful in over a decade with 34 chicks fledged across the country. While this was very encouraging we recognise that a continued partnership approach is required to combat illegal persecution of these rare birds and ensure that numbers of breeding hen harriers continue to grow.
Interestingly, this was a later version of the original quote from Rob Cooke which was circulated by the partners in the study which was:
Natural England will continue its satellite tracking work to further improve our understanding of hen harrier movements and behaviour, and will continue work to improve the conservation status of the species. Natural England welcomes the support of many landowners in this, and will continue to work with all landowners and other interested parties to find ways of enabling hen harrier populations to increase from their current critically endangered levels in England
Both quotes are inadequate. But you notice that the original quote is even weaker than the later one and fails to mention the likes of raptor workers, the RSPB and other real conservation bodies by name but just bangs on about working with all landowners. All of them.
You can see why the quote was changed but there is no more evidence needed to demonstrate that Natural England is in the pockets or under the thumbs of upland landowners. This is not a brave champion of wildlife law and wildlife, this is a public body which is not remotely fit for purpose because it has lost its moral compass.
And it’s not even competent. How senior Natural England staff allowed the original quote (we love land owners and we’re working with landowners even though we now know beyond doubt that they are bumping off protected wildlife wholescale [that’s just my summary]) out into the public domain without realising how awful it looks is beyond me. Today Natural England’s Board is meeting. No doubt Teresa Dent will be asking Marian Spain and Lord Blencathra to harden up the organisation’s line on wildlife crime…
I assume that there was an even earlier version which must have been along these lines;
We couldn’t have done it without the moorland landowners and their keepers – without them there would be no dataset of killed and disappeared Hen Harriers. Of course we are going to continue to cuddle up to the rich and powerful criminal elements who burn our moorland, kill our protected wildlife and are mates with our ministers.
And where is the quote from biodiversity minister Therese Coffey? Maybe she is waiting for a mate to write her lines for her…