Monday, 31 October 2016

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.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Rewilding Reduces Flooding

Full Report

Saturday, 1 October 2016

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?