Four weeks today

Four weeks today, Inglorious – conflict in the uplands will be published by Bloomsbury.

Inglorious has a Foreword by Chris Packham that is hard-hitting and passionate and makes the rest of the book look rather meek and mild.

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Inglorious starts with the Hen Harrier and its persecution by game interests, partly because many of us do start there.  Then it rattles through a history of grouse shooting, where you may be surprised to learn that driven grouse shooting was frowned upon by ‘proper’ sportsmen in the mid-nineteenth century because of its unsporting nature.  Chapter 3 deals with the important study of Hen Harriers and grouse bags at Langholm Moor which greatly clarified the reality of the conflict between Hen Harriers (and Peregrines) and the shooting of large numbers of Red Grouse for fun. Chapter 4 takes the story through the period from the end of the first Langholm study to the end of 2013 – a period during which it became clearer and clearer that intensive grouse moor management wasn’t in the public interest for a whole bunch of reasons unconnected with Hen Harriers or birds of prey. Chapter 5 deals with last year – arguably the year of the Hen Harrier (or maybe the birth of the Hen Harrier movement?) – I guess it’s a personal view of the year from the point of view of someone who was very much involved with parts of it, and a keen observer of others. Chapter 6 is different – as with the rest of the book you’ll either love it or hate it, but do please read it. And Chapter 7 is short and tells you how you can help to bring an end to driven grouse shooting if the book has persuaded you.

Foreword by Chris Packham

Chapter 1 – The harrier harried

Chapter 2 – A short history of grouse shooting

Chapter 3 Langholm – the end of the beginning

Chapter 4 The battle lines are drawn

Chapter 5 The beginning of the end – 2014

Chapter 6 The sunlit uplands

Chapter 7 End game

Inglorious is definitely a Marmite book. You will either love it or hate it.  I’m expecting it to be lambasted in some places and praised in others. But it is intended as a serious contribution to the debates over land use in the UK. Driven grouse shooting is a major land use in terms of area and has impacts on all of us through our taxes, our water bills, our house insurance and the amount of wildlife we can see in the hills.

Simon Barnes is quoted on the jacket saying ‘This uncompromising book dares to ask the big question: whose countryside is it anyway?

 

Inglorious is published on 30 July and you can order it right now.

 

 

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Are you lost Henry?

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Lost and found?

Here Henry is on Donside.

 

#HaveYouSeenHenry?

Keep in touch with Hen Harrier Day events through this website.

 

 

 

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GWCT forgot this too

Information Commission
Wycliffe House Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

I was recently considering making a donation to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, using their website. https://www.gwct.org.uk/donate/general-donation/

I was very concerned that although I was asked to disclose my contact details as part of the process of making a donation, it was not at all clear that I would be able to opt out of email or postal communications, since I could see no data protection statement or opt-out process. I was concerned that if I provided them with my telephone number, I would be bombarded with aggressive telemarketing. What they would do with my financial details is anyone’s guess. This certainly made me think twice about supporting them. There seems to be no complaints procedure either, so I thought my only choice was to complain to you.

I would be grateful if you could investigate this matter.

 

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An unfavourable climate for driven grouse shooting

An ugly view in Scotland. Ripe for reform. Photo: Donside April 2014 by Peter Cairns

An ugly view in Scotland. Ripe for reform. Photo: Donside April 2014 by Peter Cairns

If you had a rainforest, and slashed and burned it, you’d be putting a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, just as surely as if your nation ran a lot of gas-guzzling cars. Natural ecosystems often act as carbon stores which sequester greenhouse gases – forests are the obvious ones but peatlands are also very important stores on a UK and an international scale.

And so it came as no surprise yesterday, to see that in its report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change highlight damage to peatlands thus:
‘5. Land and water management: Preserve and enhance the country’s natural capital, in order to sustain agriculture productivity in a changing climate, maximise carbon sequestration, and safeguard the economic and amenity benefits the natural environment provides.
a. …
b. …
c. Review the effectiveness of agri-environment schemes in controlling damaging practices on internationally-protected peatland sites.’
Heather burning. Photo: Paul Adams via wikimedia commons.

Heather burning. Photo: Paul Adams via wikimedia commons.

Remember last year’s Leeds University study which showed that intensive management of our uplands for driven grouse shooting is a source of peatland degradation and increased carbon emissions (and pollution of water courses, reduction in aquatic biodiversity and probably of increased flood risk too)? It’s no wonder that upland management will come under closer and closer scrutiny since the evidence is pretty strong, and keeps growing as far as I can see, that grouse moor management is an anti-social practice, carried out for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Driven grouse moors are places where your protected wildlife is killed and your climate damaged too. We shouldn’t tolerate this Victorian land use now we have twenty-first century information.

welcomingRemember Walshaw Moor? The RSPB has a complaint still being considered by the EU against the UK government (and Defra in particular) about the burning of blanket bogs by the British grouse industry. It would be a bit crazy, wouldn’t it, if a government delivery body (Natural England) was allowing management  practices to continue which amount to mismanagement practices? It would be crazy, wouldn’t it, if a government delivery body allowed mismanagement of the uplands by grouse shooting interests which reduced the effectiveness of the government to meet its statutory obligations under the Climate Change Act?
Evidence in the Climate Change Committee’s report highlighted the poor condition of the UK’s upland blanket bogs because of intensive and widespread regular burning on upland grouse moors.
Martin Harper, from the RSPB, said: ‘The impact that burning is having on our uplands is reinforced in this report. It shows that 76,000 hectares or 27% of blanket bog have lost peat-forming vegetation due to regular burning. There is little doubt this is one of the primary reasons for the poor condition of our upland peat and wildlife is suffering because of it. Swift and decisive action from Government is needed to deliver widespread restoration of degraded upland peat habitats.’
Whether it is the deaths of Sky, Hope, Bowland Betty and the disappearances of five male Hen Harriers this year, or the Climate Change Committee work by the likes of Lord Deben and Lord Krebs, or the Hen Harrier Day protestors, the writing is on the wall for driven grouse shooting. All we need is for policy makers to join the dots and get a move on.
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Henry back in the North York Moors

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No fires – because we’ve already burned the place?

 

#HaveYouSeenHenry?

Keep in touch with Hen Harrier Day events through this website.

 

 

 

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GWCT forgot…again

Fundraising Standards Board
65 Brushfield Street
London
E1 6AA

I was recently considering making a donation to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, using their website, and I was concerned when I was unable to discover what percentage of my donation would be spent on the cause. https://www.gwct.org.uk/donate/general-donation/

When I managed to track down a copy of their report and accounts, I was shocked to see that the charity spends £2.4m on raising funds, but only generates £7.1, which seems a very low proportion. Perhaps this is why they are so reluctant to make a solicitation statement on their website.

I was also very concerned that although I was asked to disclose my contact details as part of the process of making a donation, it was not at all clear that I would be able to opt out of email or postal communications, since I could see no data protection statement or opt-out process. I was concerned that if I provided them with my telephone number, I would be bombarded with aggressive telemarketing.

This certainly made me think twice about supporting them. There seems to be no complaints procedure either, so I thought my only choice was to complain to you.

I would be grateful if you could investigate these matters.

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Corner Laughers’ new album and video

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Do you remember the Passenger Pigeon?

Do you remember Martha?

Do you remember the Corner Laughers?

Here is the Corner Laughers’ latest video of their song Martha (Cincinnati, 1914) which is the shortest song, and naturally my favourite, on their new album Matilda Effect.

The best of luck to Karla and the guys on a great album – and I did enjoy the video!

 

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Henry, true grit and SuNH

Mon 29 June 2015 Copy

Henry looks puzzled. And well might he be puzzled.

Red Grouse shooting is often described as the shooting of ‘wild’ game – and it is certainly true that grouse, unlike pheasants, are not reared and released to bump up the numbers for shooting. However, a grouse moor is about as natural as a wheat field – it is burned and it has men in tweed employed to trap and shoot the parts of our wildlife that can be legally killed and that are regarded as ‘vermin’ on grouse moors – foxes, stoats and crows are the main enemies.

In addition, because Red Grouse are subject to disease, possibly especially when they are at ridiculously high densities, most grouse moors provide their wild Red Grouse with grit – yes, just little bits of rock (true grit!).  Henry is looking at a bit of true grit right now.  Some kind gamekeeper has dug up a turf, turned it over, and put some grit on it for the Red Grouse to eat – they are so wild you know!

What Henry can’t easily tell is whether this grit is medicated grit – does it have medicine added to attempt to rid the grouse of worms in their guts which lower survival and fecundity?  The chemicals used are pretty effective but you wouldn’t want to be eating too much of them which is why grouse moors must stop providing medicated grit after a certain date – so that none of the chemicals get into grouse meat served up in posh London restaurants.  A few of us thought of getting grouse samples collected and tested for these chemicals last year but it just cost too much and we ran out of time. Maybe some other time…

What’s the grit for anyway? If you ate heather, including some tough old stalks, you’d need something to help grind it down, wouldn’t you?

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Grit dispenser in Yorkshire Dales

Often the grit is provided in plastic troughs, and they are often marked with sticks. You can often count well over 150 grit dispensers on a hillside at any one time – but the Red Grouse are completely wild remember?

So driven grouse shooting involves killing lots of natural predators, over-burning protected blanket bogs (not everybody does this), burning rectangular heather patches on the hillsides, feeding medicated grit to Red Grouse, bumping off protected birds of prey (not everybody does this), increasing greenhouse gas emissions, changing the chemistry of watercourses, reducing aquatic biodiversity and potentially increasing flood risk – all to provide incredibly high densities of one bird species so that they can be shot (with lead – a well-known poison).  That’s how natural it is.

IMAG3341And so it was wonderful to see Scottish Unnatural Heritage supporting this land use at the Royal Highland Show recently. Is SuNH fit for purpose?

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GWCT forgot the…?

Complaint to Charity Commission

I am writing to you in connection with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT – charity number 1112023). There are several significant issues about the charity that concern me, and given their volume, I thought it best to make a complaint.

I was recently considering making a donation to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, using their website, and I was concerned when I was unable to discover what percentage of my donation would be spent on the cause.

When I managed to track down a copy of their report and accounts, I was shocked to see that the charity spends £2.7m on raising funds, but only generates £7.1m, which seems a very low proportion. Perhaps this is why they are so reluctant to make a solicitation statement on their website. I feel these are two issues that the Charity Commission should look into.

When I found a link on the GWCT website that appeared to lead to their accounts the sum total of the information provided was: “In 2013 the Trust had a total income of £7.09 million, representing a 5.6% increase compared with 2012, and the Trust spends £4 million of its total expenditure on its charitable activities. Expenditure on research again exceeeded (sic) £3.5 million.”

I suppose it is for the charity to decide how to spend their funds, but if more than £3.5m is spent on research, that appears to leave less than £0.5m for all their other charitable objects: is education of the public, the conservation of biological diversity, the provision of natural habitats and the maintenance of species really so much cheaper/less important than research? Maybe GWCT have forgotten something. This is my third area of complaint.

It is concerning that the charity’s report and accounts are not published on their website. I believe that accountability and transparency are hallmarks of an effective charity so this particular omission is a significant cause of concern to me, as I am sure it will be to you (Issue 4).

The charity also does not appear to have a complaints process – not one I could find on their website at least: another black mark for me when it comes to accountability. Again, I feel this should be investigated (Issue five).

As you will no doubt have gathered, this has made me think twice about giving them my financial support. Perhaps they don’t need it though: when I looked at the accounts it seemed from my basic understanding that their financial reserves were significantly higher than their target figure, but I can’t seem to find out why – should the Commission look into this too, perhaps (Issue six)?

Maybe they are awash with money? I cannot find out from their website roughly how much they pay their Chief Executive – I thought that remuneration information was supposed to be available within three clicks of the charity’s homepage (Issue seven).

In fact, the more I looked at the available information, the more concerned I was. For example, although GWCT’s charitable objects include research into game and other wildlife, I couldn’t work out what proportion of their resources is expended on non-game activities – although, to me, it didn’t look very high (Issue eight).

Much of their research appears to be privately funded, but I couldn’t work out what their procedures were for avoiding conflicts of interest, and for declaring related party transactions, and this doesn’t feel right to me as a potential donor (Issues nine and ten).

With this in mind, I was more than a little disturbed when I considered how their activities could really be for the public benefit, and merit the trust that the public puts in them (not to mention the financial benefits derived from charitable status)(Issue eleven).

Thinking in more detail about public benefit, I was taken aback to see in their Annual Review 2013 that:
‘Over the decades, our scientists have developed beetle banks, conservation headlands, medicated grit and new types of traps and snares’. Is it really in the public interest to cover our countryside with Flubendazole and Fenbendazole? What I read here  certainly made me concerned about this. Given that the dangers of lead shot to wildlife and people have been known, through careful research, for many years I was surprised that this issue receives scant treatment on the GWCT website despite being the subject of a government sponsored working group on which GWCT have been represented.  Is the GWCT research really for the public good or is it for the benefit of the British shooting industry(Issue twelve)?

You will see from Twitter that I sometimes get into debates with one of the Directors of GWCT, for example here.  What worries me, though, is that someone so closely identified with GWCT, and in fact in charge of much of their public facing activity, does seem from time to time to be using highly emotive, potentially provocative language, without a supporting factual framework, whereas I thought that charities were required to take special care in this area, and that the Commission had said so in guidance back in 2008 (Issue thirteen).

Since I held back from making a donation, I don’t know what their supporter marketing material might say, but this lack of awareness of your regulation and guidance worries me (Issue fourteen).

I realise that with such a lot of issues, it may be some time before you are able fully to investigate them all, but I do hope, as a matter of public interest, it will be possible to get to the bottom of it all.

 

The Charity Commission can be contacted with extreme difficulty, because the GOV.UK website is so awful, and acts as a barrier to communication between citizens and government bodies.  You could phone the Helpline and say that you support this complaint if you do 0300 066 9197.

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Oscar Dewhurst – Avocets

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Oscar writes: I was watching a pair of Avocets with their chicks on the scrape at Minsmere. This was taken when another bird came in which was promptly chased off!

Nikon D800, Nikon 600mm f/4 AF-S II lens
Mark writes: I was at Minsmere, seeing Avocets, on Friday morning. They are such striking birds – and another conservation success story.
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