Duke of Cambridge’s conservationist credentials damaged by Sandringham Fenn trap

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Little owl killed by Fenn trap put down by gamekeepers on the Queen's Sandringham estate

NEWS AND VIEWS: A Fenn trap, a legal device provided it is constructed properly, has killed a little owl on the Queen’s Sandringham estate and in doing so it damages the Queen’s grandson’s credentials as a conservationist and environmentalist. To international readers, William, is the Duke of Cambridge and he is the son of the Prince of Wales. When he was young he would be taken out to shooting parties to shoot game birds such as pheasants and partridges. This is indoctrinated into the Royal family’s kids. It’s part and parcel of the way of life of the toffs of Britain.

Little owl killed by Fenn trap put down by gamekeepers on the Queen's Sandringham estate

Little owl killed by Fenn trap put down by gamekeepers on the Queen’s Sandringham estate. Photo: unattributed. Believed to be in the public domain.

Perhaps as he grew up he realised the pressing need to protect wildlife and I would surmise that he does not like game bird shooting of any kind. Unless he has been too thoroughly indoctrinated with the concept of bloodsports.

Gamekeepers on the Sandringham estate, which is in Norfolk, put down Fenn traps to kill “vermin” in order to protect the birds that are going to be shot by shooting parties. In this instance one of these traps killed a little owl which are precious to the nation. Their population has declined by 24% between 1995 and 2008. Fenn traps are legal but is their use ethical or moral? And is it hypocritical that William can stand up and proselytise about the need to protect nature, conserve wildlife and change humankind’s fundamental habits, while accepting that his grandmother, the Queen, can go about her business as normal and allow her gamekeepers to kill an owl with a trap and allow sport hunting to take place on her estate?

Norfolk police confirmed that no offence had been committed. Legal versions of the Fenn trap can be unlawful under some circumstances such as on a pole to catch birds. The trap is designed to break the animal’s spine but, as you can imagine, it doesn’t always work and the animal is trapped and perhaps starved to death while being severely injured.

Hundreds of thousands of Fenn traps are used on shooting estates to kill weasels, squirrels and rats which eat the eggs of pheasants and partridges. In this instance, the little owl was found in the trap near Fitcham Barns Easter Sandringham on May 29. The person who found the trap did not report it immediately. Investigators from the National Anti-Snaring Campaign visited Sandringham on December 8 and say that they have found dozens of similar Fenn traps on the ground.

Animal advocates and campaigners are angry and have expressed their anger on the National Anti-Snaring Campaign website. William is the patron of the British Trust for Ornithology and the death of the owl should be embarrassing for him as David Parkin commented when he wrote, “Good start to William’s career as patron of the British Trust for Ornithology?”

Another commenter on the website, Adrian Halliday wrote, “Prince William professes to be a true conservationist – surely he would be horrified by this absolute disgrace.”

Further comment: the Royal family’s habit of indulging in the shooting of pheasants and partridges on their estates (and allowing others to do it) is now out of step with the modern world. They have a duty to lead the citizens of Britain to a more ecologically friendly country. They should stop all shooting on their estates if they are to retain the support of the citizens of the country. They are already severely damaged by the shenanigans of Prince Andrew and the disappearance of Prince Harry and his wife Megan to California in abdicating, entirely, their responsibilities and duties as key members of the royal family. The Queen and her husband are fading away and therefore when Prince Charles takes over the Royal family it will be much diminished both in size and in reputation.