|Male Hen Harrier (courtesy RSPB)|
- There should be over 300 pairs of Hen Harrier across England
- Last year the population was down to one breeding pair.
Why has this happened?
The simple answer is persecution by grouse moor owners.
Research undertaken by the government's own advisory body on conservation, Natural England, points to a correlation between harrier losses and grouse moors.
A study by a researcher working for Natural England attached tiny transmitters to 12 harriers to track their progress and movements over winter. They were all recovered i.e. found dead, on or very near grouse moors in the Pennines. The study has not been published. Natural England claim it is part of an ongoing PHD despite the fact that the tracked harriers were killed ten years ago. DEFRA maintain a wall of silence on the issue even though they are responsible for the ‘Hen Harrier Recovery Plan.‘
How do they get away with it?
- They are rich and powerful, with friends in political high places. Richard Benyon, currently under-secretary at DEFRA, is himself an estate owner. The shooters expect to pay £1200 - £1500 for a days shoot, not the sort of sum Joe Public has handy. The estates tend to be the preserve of the very rich.
- Gamekeepers occasionally get caught poisoning birds of prey. It is more difficult to prove persecution when nests are destroyed, usually by the eggs being smashed, in extremely remote upland areas. Harriers are ground-nesting birds.
Shooting estates receive considerable public subsidy in the form of grants. This subsidy comes from our taxes. Among the criteria to qualify for grants is the need to conserve protected and endangered species. The Hen Harrier meets that requirement yet is virtually extinct.
It would be unfair to label all grouse moor owners and keepers as being anti-harrier but the overwhelming evidence is there that a significant number of estates flaunt their responsibilities, regard raptors as a pest and are quite happy to break the law on a regular basis believing themselves to be immune from prosecution.
So what can be done?
Click on the link below. It will take you to an e-petition created by a friend, John Armitage.
Having done that, please encourage your friends to support the petition too.