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Illegal and unethical ‘falconry’ exposed

Shooting Times has passed information to police forces in England and Wales after an investigation into the underground sport of ‘urban falconry’, writes Matt Cross


Shooting Times was made aware of the underground practice of ‘urban falconry’ after a link to a Tik Tok video was sent to the magazine by a reader who believed it may show criminality.

The video showed a Harris hawk being flown from the window of a moving vehicle and used to catch crows and pigeons on suburban roadsides. After viewing the video and consulting with experts in wildlife law, Shooting Times established that it did show potential offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act as well as very poor falconry practice.

By comparing street scenes shown in the video with images from Google street view, Shooting Times was rapidly able to establish that the video was filmed in Cornelly in South Wales. The person flying the falcon was careful not to show their face and they tried to not show anything which would allow the vehicle to be identified. However Shooting Times was able to identify two frames from the video which showed images caught in the wing mirror of the vehicle.

These showed it was a tipper type van with garden waste on the back. The frames also showed a logo which Shooting Times was able to identify as belonging to a ‘Bridgend-based landscaping business’. As the film appeared to involve a person under 16 years of age, the publication has decided not to name the firm involved. A spokesperson for the firm said that they were unaware the activity was illegal and that he had only recently bought the vehicle.

The handling of the bird in the video earned severe criticism from falconers who claimed that the birds were at serious risk of harm. Amy Wallace of A Future with Falconry said: “The actions in the video do not reflect the high standard of falconry and raptor welfare here in the UK. The wider falconry community was appalled to see such reckless behaviour on social media, which is nothing more than poaching and certainly not legal. Everyone involved in countryside pursuits has a duty to ensure their activities are carried out legally and ethically. These individuals have done neither.”

Further investigations found several similar videos on various platforms with one prolific Liverpool-based falconer posting multiple videos on Youtube and TikTok.