Statement by Leadhills Estate Following Death of Hen Harrier

The estate where a hen harrier is believed to have
been caught in an illegally set trap has said it is not responsible for the
bird’s death.

Leadhills Estate said the event is the latest in a
series of suspicious activities on its land, much of which has been reported by
the estate to police.

A spokesman for the estate said: “We condemn, in the
strongest possible terms, all forms of persecution against birds of prey. The
manner in which this hen harrier has died is sickening and we want
the police to get to the truth of what has happened. We have provided the
police with detailed evidence to support their inquiry including evidence of
someone we consider to have acted suspiciously on the estate on the date in
question.

“Our gamekeepers are trained to the highest level and
know their responsibilities under the law and the standards we expect of
them.  

“The estate has conducted a full investigation into
the circumstances of this incident and is satisfied that no one from the estate
was involved in the illegal setting of these traps. Employees have been
individually interviewed by lawyers. This comes in addition to the full
cooperation the estate has offered in the police investigation.”

On the day the hen harrier was found, many estate
traps, including fenn traps (the type of trap which the hen harrier was caught
in) were removed, stolen or vandalised by an unknown third party or third
parties. The damage was photographed and the incidents were reported to the
police. 

The spokesman continued: “Throughout April and May
this year, we reported three separate incidents of theft, vandalism or
interference to estate traps to police. 

“On the day when the hen harrier was found, Saturday
11 May, legally set cages and traps were checked in the morning without
incident. Some of the traps require to be checked on a 24 hour basis and when
gamekeepers carried out further checks on Sunday 12 May, they discovered a
number of Fenn traps vandalised, a number of traps had been stolen and two crow
cages had been damaged with the decoy birds let out.

“This was reported to the police and photographic
evidence and grid point references were recorded by the estate.”

Leadhills said it has experienced repeated cases of
trap vandalism and other crimes carried out on the estate over many years which
have been very difficult for estate staff to cope with.

The estate added that it was under intense scrutiny
from third parties and recognised the ongoing controversy surrounding moorland
management and bird of prey activists.

The spokesman added: “It is beyond belief that anyone
associated with the estate would be both naïve and reckless enough to
perpetrate a crime such as this.

“Over recent years, we have had at least three
individuals working as raptor monitors on our land and our activity is
scrutinised to an acute level by those who are not sympathetic to grouse moor
management. This is in addition to the examination we receive from independent
assessors who advise our staff on best practice within the sector.

“There has been no commercial grouse shooting on our
land over the past two years and the moors are not being managed to achieve
high bags of grouse, as has been claimed.  There is no motive to act
outside the law.

“We realise that there is a febrile atmosphere around
moorland management, with campaigners in yesterday’s statement highlighting the
forthcoming government’s grouse moor review led by Professor Werrity, but it is
important that we make our voice heard on this matter.  We believe that
the film made by Chris Packham and others from the Revive coalition has been
made with the primary aim of pressurising government to ban grouse shooting and
this incident has been used to further that aim without it being subject to the
due process of law or to independent scrutiny.  It is yet another case of
trial by media.

“Someone killed the hen harrier and we deplore that
act, but evidence as to who was responsible seems to have been removed
immediately after the incident.  This leaves a very unsatisfactory
situation for the estate, for the police, for the public and our politicians to
deal with. Leadhills Estate, along with the rest of the grouse management
sector is looking to work constructively with all parties who want to see
continuation of the important public benefits of sustainable moorland
management.”

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