This morning Mrs Justice Lang handed down her judgment on the legal challenges that the RSPB and Dr Mark Avery had taken against Natural England and the decision to issue licences to trial the so-called brood management scheme for hen harriers.
I’m sorry to say that the ruling was not in our favour - we lost the case.
This is bitterly disappointing for all those who have worked tirelessly on this case and for all those that think that brood management is the wrong tool to help restore hen harriers to their rightful place across the English landscape.
Brood management involves removing hen harrier broods from driven grouse moors once breeding numbers have reached a certain level, due to concerns that they have a significant impact on the number of red grouse available for shooting. But the RSPB believes the first step in hen harrier recovery should be the cessation of illegal persecution. Everyone acknowledges that this is the main reason driving the decline of this iconic bird.
We never enter legal proceedings lightly and only as a method of last resort, but we felt entirely justified in doing so on this occasion. Brood management is about forcing hen harriers to fit in with driven grouse shooting. It should be the other way around.
Unfortunately, Mrs Justice Lang did not agree.
The ruling is lengthy so before we decide on what we do next, we need to read the judgement in full and take further legal advice.
This is obviously a huge blow but we will continue to fight for the future of hen harriers. The plight of this threatened species is a stark reminder of so much that is wrong with the way we manage our uplands. It is only through standing up for what is right that we can help recover the wildlife that we all cherish.
I do hope that a protective cost order (PCO) was not made early in the case for which the RSPB may be liable. I'm sure that the costs would in any event be less than the cost of the nest protection, satellite tags and their fitting which are lost every year but never recovered due to likely criminality associated with Hen Harriers. Personally, I would urge the RSPB to indicate their support for Mark Avery, and any court action which Wild Justice make if they feel it is correct to do so, rather than pursue similar or identical actions in court. This 'battle' is not over yet, and I'm sure that membership support is there for any actions you take in support of Hen Harriers, which could perhaps be better organised.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654