Not long ago I wrote about the Queen of the UK being implicated in animal abuse. That time it was about racing pigeons participating in the race from South Africa. Today, in The Times newspaper there is a report that on one of the Queen’s grouse moors a man has been caught on camera apparently killing a rare bird of prey. That bird of prey is a goshawk. There is nothing to suggest that the Queen is in any way aware of this. However, it clearly implies that the managers of the Queen’s estates need to get a grip.
In this instance the footage was filmed by undercover animal activists on Goathland Moor in North Yorkshire which is part of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Duchy of Lancaster is the private estate of the British sovereign under the title of the Duke of Lancaster.
It covers 44,000+ acres of rural and urban holdings. It also includes several thousand acres of moorland. Jeremy Walmsley, a local wildlife crime officer for North Yorkshire police, said that the goshawk is one of the most protected species of bird in the UK. He found it very distressing that an individual would choose to kill any bird of prey. He is appealing for information about “this horrific crime”.
The unknown man approaches a large cage trap which was set up by a brook on the moors. The man fills the trap with live jackdaws as bait. He comes back a day later after a goshawk has entered the trap. The goshawk killed five of the birds. The man used a pole to hold the goshawk while he enters the trap. The bird struggles and flaps but after a few seconds falls silent and is dead.
The man puts the bird of prey into a bag and throws a carcass of one of the jackdaws into the brook as he departs. Part of the estate has been searched under a warrant but the goshawk has not been found. Three people have been detained and interviewed under caution.
Licences are required for cage traps which can be legal under specific circumstances. It is understood that there was no licence for the activities described. Goshawks are one of the rarest birds of prey in the UK. There are an estimated 550-600 in the wild and they have slowly returned from being extinct in Britain.
The animal activists who filmed this illegal activity did so from across the brook from the trap. They are a group called Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors. Its spokesman, Luke Steele, said: “It is a clear illustration of how deeply ingrained bird of prey persecution is on grouse moors when apparently not even the Queen’s wildlife is safe from criminals illegally destroying it.”
A spokesperson for the Duchy of Lancaster said that the management expects all operators on their land to act professionally to the highest standards of behaviour and in compliance with national standards and codes of practice. They are cooperating to ensure that the matter is fully investigated and appropriate action taken.