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FROSTY’S RAMBLINGS Environmental hypocrisy on a right royal scale 

PETER FROST makes his contribution to the millions of words that have been written about Prince Philip over the last few days

AMONG the never-ending output of obsequious and sycophantic tributes to the dead Duke of Edinburgh, a constantly repeated theme was what a wonderful environmentalist and conservationist he had been. This, they told us, was a man who genuinely loved wild animals.

Most of them referenced the start of his love and protection of wildlife as long ago as 1961 when he became president of an organisation that would eventually become the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

That date rang a bell with me. I checked my files and, yes, I was right. In 1961 Philip and his wife the Queen went off to India, where the animal-loving prince shot an eight-and-a-half-foot tiger, a 13-foot crocodile and some rare wild urial mountain sheep. Even today the urial is still fighting against extinction and features on the Red List of Indian animals. 

Like most of his animal murders, the duke described his tiger slaughter as sport. What it actually entailed was him, the Queen and various maharajas, nawabs and other regal hangers-on keeping themselves out of harm’s way in a luxury treehouse high above the jungle.

Down below, a buffalo was tied up as bait and no less than 200 beaters had the job of scouring the jungle to drive any tigers they could find right up to the duke’s rifle sights.

The royal so-called sportsman shot the proud beast from 20 feet up and the royal party posed for triumphant photos with the tiger corpse. The sad animal was whisked away, stuffed, mounted and dispatched to Buckingham Palace, where no doubt it still prowls the corridors of power.

Shooting has long been the most popular pastime of the British, German and many other royal families, and Prince Philip kept that tradition up to an amazing extent. His total bag, shot all over the globe, but mainly on the royal estates of Britain over the last three decades, is almost unbelievable.

As well as that tiger, the crocodile and the mountain sheep, he has shot various deer, antelopes, rabbit, hare, wild duck, snipe, woodcock, teal, pigeon and partridge, and at least 30,000 pheasants.

Philip especially enjoyed shooting wild boar on the estates of friends in Germany. On one occasion he and Prince Charles are said to have killed 50 wild boar in a single day.

Philip did all he could to pass his love of killing wild animals on to his family. His love of guns was also profound. 

In 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shootings, Philip came out with this nonsense: “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?”
 
The Queen often accompanied him on shoots. Son Prince Charles and daughter Anne the Princess Royal have organised competitions in which they led rival shooting parties for their other royal siblings.

Philip was also keen to promote shooting to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both William and his brother Harry hunted and shot from a young age. They were so enthusiastic that their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, jokingly dubbed them her Killer Wales.

Prince William is said to prefer shooting to any other sport and his wife Kate is also a keen fan of both shooting and fox hunting. Brother Harry has been weaned off hunting and shooting by his anti-blood-sports US wife Meghan Markle. 

Just last October, Philip provoked an outcry by declaring shooting “an intelligent leisure activity” for children. He was backing a new book teaching novices about handling guns.

Prince Andrew took his daughter Beatrice on a shoot when she was six. And in his famous — and disastrous — TV interview with Emily Maitlis, Andrew explained why he had invited his friend the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein as a guest at Windsor Castle and at Sandringham.

Asked if he had organised a birthday party for the paedophile’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell at Sandringham, Andrew responded saying it was “just a straightforward shooting weekend.”

Philip frequently invited sporting friends, or those with enough money to pay the several thousands of pounds it costs for a day’s shooting, to the royal family’s 20,000-acre Norfolk estate at Sandringham. He played a key role in running and developing the shoot there. He was enormously proud back in 1993 when he hit his target of 10,000 pheasants in one four-day shooting party.

Britain breeds or imports up to 60 million pheasants a year for shoots like Sandringham. Although it is not a native bird, the pheasant far outnumbers any British native species. The next most numerous wild bird is the wren with about eight million pairs. Pheasants are now bred and selected so as to fly slow and level to make them easier to shoot. 

Although originally shot for food, today’s shoots usually simply bury the dead pheasants, claiming the cost of plucking and dressing the small birds makes it uneconomic to sell them. 

The duke’s Sandringham shooting parties are estimated to have killed about 150,000 pheasant over the last two decades.

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, told the Morning Star: “Shooting estates are churning out millions of factory-farmed pheasants and partridges into the British countryside only for the birds to be gunned down and thrown in the incinerator, buried or fly-tipped by the roadside.”

Heir to the throne William is clearly following in his father grandfather’s hypocritical footsteps. He took himself off to a posh estate in Spain to shoot boar, stag and partridge. 

Next day he and dad Charles launched his United for Wildlife conference. Clearly following family traditions.

Prince Philip, right up to his death, was a key player in the way the shooting at Sandringham was organised. It was on his watch that many disgusting and illegal actions were carried out by him, other royals and the gamekeepers the royal estate employed.

Video evidence has emerged that gamekeepers have been catching wild birds in traps and leaving them in distress for up to two days. 

The footage showed that a crow was confined to a cruel cage and left without water on a hot summer’s day. The bird was in a trap that was set to capture wild birds which prey on the birds reared for the shooting season.

These Larsen traps hold a captive bird whose distressed cries attract other birds to be trapped. The birds are then killed by the gamekeeper. By law the traps should be checked every day, but the video showed that they are not.

Last December a very rare and threatened little owl was killed at Sandringham. The little owl was killed in a trap set by estate gamekeepers. At about the same time as the little owl was killed, Prince William was appointed patron of the British Trust for Ornithology — a charity that champions a “world inspired by birds and informed by science.” Obviously Wills is taking after two-faced grandpa. 

The owl was one of many incidents involving birds of prey being murdered at Sandringham. They have been investigated but strangely no culprit has ever been brought to justice. 

Last year, a goshawk perished on the estate and its body was incinerated. Two years before a Montagu’s harrier that had been fitted with a tracking device disappeared over the estate.

When a birdwatcher and a Natural England warden saw two hen harriers — a bird close to extinction with just 20 pairs left in England — being blasted out of the sky over the estate in 2007, Prince Harry and his friend William van Cutsem were the only people shooting on the estate. 

Harry was interviewed by police, but by then the evidence had been burnt or buried and orders came from above not to prosecute the Queen’s grandson. 

A poisoned sparrowhawk has also been found at Sandringham. An examination of the crime scene revealed a dead pigeon laced with bendiocarb, a poisonous pesticide, and the same substance had killed the sparrowhawk.  

Details of this incident only emerged after a freedom of information request by the animal-rights group Raptor Persecution UK. Strangely, the name Sandringham is redacted in letters and emails relating to the poisonings, as are the names of staff at the estate. 

Whoever had censored the correspondence had left in references to “the private home of four generations of British monarchs” and the county of Norfolk, so Sherlock Holmes was not required to name the shoot.

Even after Philip’s death the royal family’s enthusiasm for blood sports remains as much a part of royal life as corgis, adultery, grand tours and divorce.

Sandringham royal palace still has a trophy room packed with heads and stuffed examples of the world’s most endangered and sometimes extinct species, all shot by royal so-called sportsmen and women over the years.  

The exhibits include that Indian tiger, rare rhinos, an African leopard, elephant tusks and two stuffed lions. They should all be buried alongside Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and hypocrite.

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