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Animal Abusers get reprieve as anonymous MP ‘objects’ to progress

Article by Tom Sheppard, League Against Cruel Sports, 28th February 2017:

On Friday, February 24th, there were two pieces of legislation due to be debated in the Commons: Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill. Each had differences, but their essential aims were the same: increase the penalties available to courts for animal cruelty offences.

England and Wales currently have the lowest penalties in Europe for such offences. So it’s difficult to imagine an objection to increasing these penalties.

Some background explanation is important here: on Fridays, Parliament debates legislation introduced by MPs who are not part of the government – i.e. backbench MPs. Parliament sits for about five hours. If any legislation has not had a vote taken in that time, it goes to the back of the queue for debate, effectively meaning it will never be debated. If a bill has not been debated, it could still progress – unless one or more MPs raises an objection. The reasons for objecting could be simple or complicated, relating to the content of the bill – but any objecting MP does not have to explain. They simply have to ‘object’, and the bill does not progress.

Back to last Friday. Two bills had already been debated, and Parliament had run out of time for a debate. So, it came to the animal cruelty bills:

  • “Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill”, went the announcement
  • “Object”, came the response

And again for the next bill:

  • “Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill”
  • “Object”

That was all it took. The objection came from the backbenches, a lone voice who decided that the bill should progress no further. Here was legislation which has the support of MPs from all parties. It is supported by not only the League, but also the RSPCA, the Dog’s Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and the Blue Cross. A Minister from Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has acknowledged that courts say sentences available for dog fighting aren’t strong enough. The cross-party Commons Environment Committee has said that sentences aren’t strong enough.

And now animal abusers will continue to get away with their crimes. In Northern Ireland, when the smirking perpetrators of horrific acts of animal cruelty walked out of court, it sparked the Northern Ireland Executive to strengthen sentences to five years.

Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar in North Yorkshire, was moved to begin a campaign on this following an appalling case of animal abuse in her constituency. How many people, like in those cases, are getting away with a slap on the wrist for terrible crimes?

On Friday morning, the League held a photo-op at Westminster with explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and TOWIE star Chloe Meadows. But the real celebrity there that morning was Cupcake, a Staffordshire bull terrier rescued from dog fighting. Cupcake politely posed for pictures and took the affection of everyone there.

“Object”.

That was all it took for the bill to go no further, but it does not mark the end of the battle for tougher sentences. We don’t know who shouted it, but, unlike Laurence J Peters, we are not looking to attribute blame. Instead, we are beginning a battle – for Cupcake. Vulnerable animals like Cupcake cannot seek justice for themselves, so we do it for them. And we will not stop until we secure that justice.

Article taken from: https://www.league.org.uk/blog/animal-abusers-get-reprieve-as-anonymous-mp-objects-to-progress

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Golden eagle numbers rise by 15 per cent since 2003, according to RSPB

Golden eagle numbers have risen by 15 per cent since 2003, bringing the population back towards numbers thought to be present in Scotland historically, according to a survey from RSPB Scotland.

Golden Eagle

The fourth national golden eagle survey shows the population has increased to 508 golden eagle pairs – up from the 442 pairs recorded in the last survey.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the figures, but labelled recent disappearances of satellite-tagged birds on or near grouse moors as “disturbing and disappointing”.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, put the rise down to increased monitoring and satellite tagging of eagles, as well as stronger sanctions against wildlife crime.

Orr-Ewing added: “However, the continued absence of golden eagles in some areas of eastern Scotland remains a real cause for concern and suggests that much more work needs to be done.”

Roseanna Cunningham described the population increase, which means the golden eagle meets the requirements for ‘favourable conservation status’ in the UK, as “extremely heartening”.

She said: “The successes have been down to partnership work and this is continuing with the South of Scotland Golden Eagle project, which aims to boost populations even further.

“But it is clear from this national survey that there are still areas of Scotland, which are ideal habitats for golden eagles to breed and hunt, where there has not been a recovery in population despite a lot of hard work to protect these birds. This seems like a missed opportunity.”

Referring to recent eagle disappearances, Cunningham said: “That’s why I’ve ordered a review of the information being gathered by these tags, to get to the truth about how, where and why raptors are vanishing. This evidence will be a significant factor in deciding the next steps for tackling wildlife crime.”

The survey was based in surveyors from the voluntary Scottish Raptor Study Group conducting a minimum of three visits to over 700 known traditional golden eagle sites, with support also provided by landowners and farmers.

Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, part of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Our members are passionate about the golden eagles on their land and it is in large part a tribute to their management and collaboration that the population has increased. They have helped the surveyors and worked with Scottish Natural Heritage in the interest of golden eagles for many years.

“The east Highlands still have the highest level of productivity (young per pair) and a stable number of occupied territories over more than three decades. The south central Highlands, which includes significant areas of driven grouse moor has shown by far the greatest increase in range occupancy – 70 per cent – since 2003.”

The national survey was carried out during the first six months of 2015 and was co-funded by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Article taken from: https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/

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Satellite tagged Aberdeenshire raptor missing in Highlands

Hen harrier ElwoodThe hen harrier, known as Elwood to conservationists, fledged at a nest site in Aberdeenshire

A satellite tag fitted to a hen harrier has stopped transmitting in the same mountains where eight tagged eagles “vanished”, RSPB Scotland has said.

The hen harrier fledged at a nest in Aberdeenshire in July.

The RSPB said its tag last sent information on 3 August from moorland in the Monadhliath Mountains managed for grouse shooting.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said there was “no independent information” on the situation.

Last week, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Moorland Group, whose members include landowners and gamekeepers, clashed over the loss of the eight golden eagles between 2011 and July this year.

The wildlife charity believes they were killed illegally around grouse moors, and their satellite tracking tags destroyed.

The Scottish Moorland Group said it condemned wildlife crime. It added that the RSPB had not considered other reasons for the loss of the tags.

Golden eagleEight tagged golden eagles have vanished since November 2011, says RSPB Scotland

The hen harrier, known as Elwood, was being monitored under a scheme run by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime Scotland.

After fledging at a nest site in Aberdeenshire the bird spent time near Tomatin, south of Inverness.

The bird’s tag last transmitted information a few miles from the Slochd Summit on the A9.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations, said: “This latest disappearance of a satellite tagged bird is deeply concerning, and joins the long list of protected birds of prey that have been confirmed to have been illegally killed or disappeared suddenly in this area.

“The transmitters being fitted to these birds are exceedingly reliable, and illegal persecution is therefore the most likely explanation of the disappearance of these birds of prey.

“The absence of typical breeding raptor species from areas of suitable habitat, or at traditional nesting sites, in large parts of the Monadhliaths is further supporting evidence of a major problem with wildlife crime in this general area.”

‘Appropriate action’

A spokesman for SGA said: “As with other recent allegations, the SGA will work with Police Scotland and Scottish government in an attempt to get to the bottom of this. It is clearly a situation which cannot go on.

“We have no independent information, at the present time, so getting the facts will be the first step. Speculation, at this stage, will not help.

“The SGA does not, and will never, condone wildlife crime. As an organisation we advocate legal solutions, solely, as the means to resolve conflicts. If there is any evidence of illegal activity by an SGA member, appropriate action will be taken.”

Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, added: “We are as concerned as anyone when a satellite tagged bird goes missing and particularly in this case because the bird was part of a project involving Scottish Land and Estates and our members.

“This bird was tagged on one of our member estates as part of the Heads Up For Harriers.”

He added: “Estates in the area where the bird went missing are also concerned but have not been approached by RSPB to help in any search. They are unaware of any incident and would be willing to help.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-37107652

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Hunt members will not face police action over video showing hounds kill fox

There is ‘not enough evidence’ to prosecute members of a hunt – despite shocking footage showing a fox being killed by their hounds.

Even though hunt members admitted the fox was killed after the video was released by a hunt saboteur group, the hunt will not face police action.

The graphic clip, filmed at Fields Farm in Grendon, Warwickshire last November, shows a pack of dogs chasing a fox while members of the Atherstone Hunt follow on horseback.

One of the dogs wrestles the fleeing animal to the ground before the rest of the group pounce on the fox.

The hunters, wearing traditional gear, are then confronted by a protester, but turn and ride away.

FILE PICTURE - A pack of dogs appearing to chase a fox. No action will be taken against a Warwickshire hunt despite video footage being released of a fox being killed by its hounds. See NTI story NTIHUNT. Warwickshire Police said there was ënot enough evidenceí to prosecute members of the Atherstone Hunt over accusations the fox had been illegally killed - despite the video, witness statements and the hunt itself admitting that it killed the fox. The video footage was taken by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs and shows members of the Atherstone Hunt on horseback as a pack of about 20 dogs chase down the animal in a field. As the hounds attack the fox, a member of the hunt reaches down and pulls the lifeless body of the animal from underneath the pack and slings the carcass over the back of a colleagueís horse. The group then rides away towards colleagues in the distance with the limp body of the fox clearly visible. But despite the footage, a spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ìFollowing an investigation by Warwickshire Police, the decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of a conviction in relation to any hunting offences connected to the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire.î
Footage shows the dog catching the fox (circled) (Picture: SWNS)

The hunting ban

It has been illegal to hunt foxes with dogs since 2005.

But anyone caught hunting will get away without a prison sentence.

The maximum penalty is a £5,000 fine, but any dogs used in hunting could be destroyed.

Despite the release of the footage, Warwickshire Police said their investigation has ended without charges being brought.

A spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ‘Following an investigation, the decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of a conviction in relation to any hunting offences connected to the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire.

‘Warwickshire Police thoroughly investigate all reports of wildlife crime, we have specialist wildlife crime officers who investigate rural crime and work very closely with a range of partners to raise awareness.

‘Our campaign ‘Rural Matters’ seeks support from the public to help put an end to wildlife crime and to report suspicious activity.’

A statement released by Atherstone Hunt last year read: ‘Unfortunately while riding across an open field between trails, what we strongly suspect was an injured fox appeared in front of the Hunt within yards of the hounds who very quickly dispatched it.

Police officer gets points for taking Lamborghini on ‘joyride’

‘The incident was immediately reported to Warwickshire Police.’

At the time, West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs said the group was ‘blatantly hunting’ and the incident was not a ‘one off’.

FILE PICTURE - A huntsman (L) rides off with the fox draped over his saddle. No action will be taken against a Warwickshire hunt despite video footage being released of a fox being killed by its hounds. See NTI story NTIHUNT. Warwickshire Police said there was ënot enough evidenceí to prosecute members of the Atherstone Hunt over accusations the fox had been illegally killed - despite the video, witness statements and the hunt itself admitting that it killed the fox. The video footage was taken by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs and shows members of the Atherstone Hunt on horseback as a pack of about 20 dogs chase down the animal in a field. As the hounds attack the fox, a member of the hunt reaches down and pulls the lifeless body of the animal from underneath the pack and slings the carcass over the back of a colleagueís horse. The group then rides away towards colleagues in the distance with the limp body of the fox clearly visible. But despite the footage, a spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ìFollowing an investigation by Warwickshire Police, the decision has been made that there is insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of a conviction in relation to any hunting offences connected to the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire.î
The man dressed in black appears to have the dead fox over his saddle (Picture: SWNS)

Article taken from: http://metro.co.uk/2016/08/09/hunt-members-will-not-face-police-action-over-video-showing-hounds-kill-fox-6057735/

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Wildlife crime penalties to rise sharply

Scotland is to introduce some of the toughest penalties in Europe for crimes against wildlife, but Westminster’s control of gun law is preventing the Scottish Government going further.

Golden eagle chicks have been victims of wildlife crimes

A review group chaired by Professor Mark Poustie of Strathclyde University made numerous recommendations for increased fines and penalties for wildlife crime and the Scottish Government has accepted nearly all of them.

The major recommendation that cannot be proceeded with at present is the proposal to withdraw firearms or shotgun certificates, because that legislation is reserved to Westminster.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod nevertheless accepted most of the recommendations from the review group and the Government will now aim to introduce tough new maximum penalties for those who commit crimes against wildlife.

Subject to the necessary legislative steps this could mean fines of up to £40,000 and 12 months imprisonment for certain offences.

The Scottish Government will also take forward a number of other recommendations including greater use of alternative penalties such as forfeiture of equipment used in offences.

There will be greater use of impact statements and there will also be a look into the creation of new sentencing guidelines.

Dr McLeod said: “Wildlife crime has no place in modern Scotland, this is why I have decided to increase the maximum available penalties to bring wildlife offences into line with other environmental crimes.

“It is important we have appropriate penalties that deter criminality but also reflect the impact these crimes can have on our environment and Scotland’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination.”

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, welcomed the announcement saying: “Scotland has some of the strongest wildlife legislation in the UK but, ultimately, we need wildlife crime to be seen as completely unacceptable so that gamekeepers, landowners and countryside bodies do not tolerate it.”

Article taken from: http://www.thenational.scot/news/wildlife-crime-penalties-to-rise-sharply.14199

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Sting of the Day: Six arrested over suspected hare coursing in Wiltshire

Six men have been arrested on suspicion of hare coursing offences in Wiltshire.

Greyhound chasing a hare

Police said they were called by farmers in the Devizes, Avebury and Winterbourne areas after two suspects were seen with Lurcher-type dogs.

Officers also stopped and seized a vehicle believed to be “involved in hare coursing a short time earlier”.

The men have been arrested on suspicion of daytime trespass in search/pursuit of game and are due to appear in court at a later date.

They have also been ordered not to return to Wiltshire before their court appearance, police said.

Since 2005, hare coursing has been illegal throughout the UK. The Hunting Act 2004 makes it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-35181884

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Hundreds of raptors illegally killed since 1994, says RSPB

A 20-year review of the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland shows 779 raptors died between 1994 and 2014, according to RSPB Scotland.

buzzard

The charity said a “significant majority” of the killings took place in areas associated with game shooting.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said the report was “uncomfortable reading” but added that wildlife crime was being tackled.

The Scottish Moorland Group said the number of illegal deaths was declining.

It added that owners and managers of land used for shooting game birds did not tolerate the illegal killing of birds of prey.

RSPB Scotland’s review records 468 birds of prey being poisoned, 173 shot and 76 caught in illegal traps. The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed sea eagles. There were also seven attempted shootings, according to the report.

RSPB Scotland also said that 14 cats and 14 dogs died after eating poison left for birds.

The RSPB said the Scottish government and Police Scotland had strived to tackle wildlife crime, but called for stricter controls on shooting estates, including a review of game bird licensing systems.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey, particularly with reintroduction programmes for white-tailed eagles and red kites, and that the majority operate legitimate shooting businesses.

“But there are still far too many who do not act responsibly, and there will be no improvement in the conservation status of raptors until all land management is carried out wholly within the law.”

Mr Housden said the review did suggest a decline in illegal killings in lowland areas.

Environment Minister Dr McLeod said work was being done to tackle illegal killings of wildlife.

She said: “There is no doubt that the figures in this report make for uncomfortable reading, but we have made progress in recent years with the new vicarious liability provisions, the publication of the report from the Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group, new measures implementing restrictions on the use of general licences and earlier this year the Scottish government funded pesticide disposal scheme that removed over 700kg of illegally-held poisons in Scotland.”

She added: “I have noted that the RSPB are calling for the Scottish government funded review into game licensing in other countries to be commenced and I can confirm that tenders to carry out this important research were invited on 11 December.”

The Scottish Moorland Group, which is part of landowners’ body Scottish Land and Estates, said its condemnation of wildlife crime was “unequivocal”.

Director Tim Baynes said: “The most striking fact about bird of prey deaths in Scotland is that they declined over the last 20 years and have fallen dramatically over the last five years in particular.

“This substantial drop in cases has been recorded in official statistics produced by the Scottish government.

“Only yesterday, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association produced a report showing that golden eagles were nesting on 58 different sites where grouse shooting takes place and the number of eagles is rising.

“Last month, there was further evidence produced in a raft of wildlife reports which showed that 81 different species of birds were thriving on shooting estates – something RSPB is reluctant to highlight.”

He added: “We are pleased, however, that RSPB Scotland has made in its report some acknowledgement of the positive role landowners are playing in leading the efforts on bird of prey conservation.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-35120692