Many people have contacted me about the declining numbers of hen harriers.
The RSPB’s recent research suggesting that there are only four breeding pairs of hen harriers left in England should act as a wake-up call. The RSPB has withdrawn its support for the Government’s plan for hen harrier protection, arguing that the voluntary approach to the problem has failed and tough legal action is needed. Along with other campaign groups, they rightly highlight that the illegal trapping and shooting of birds of prey by gamekeepers maintaining grouse moors is the key reason for the precipitous decline of the bird populations and that the Government and police forces are allowing this criminal activity to go unchecked.
As a lifelong vegetarian and an opponent of ‘blood sports’, I will support any measures to stop the persecution of birds of prey and bring the criminals who kill them to justice. My colleague Luke Pollard, the Labour Opposition’s spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs portfolio, has recently put forward proposals for a licensing scheme for grouse moors that could underpin a crack-down on wildlife crime. You can read more on the Guardian website, here.
The threat to close down grouse shooting businesses by stripping their licenses would act as a major deterrent against gamekeepers breaking the law. The burden is now on the Conservative Government to urgently bring forward legislation or other proposals to address this issue, and once Parliament reconvenes in coming weeks my colleagues in the Shadow DEFRA team will be working hard to hold them to account.