We’re not really the complaining type, but…

Many of us have had replies from the Independent Press Standards Organsiation along the following lines, after complaining about the Telegraph article, or regurgitated YFTB erroneous press release, of the week before last (see here and here):


We have conducted an assessment of your complaint against The Daily Telegraph and have decided that this falls within our remit and discloses a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. I should however emphasise that we have not reached any decision as to whether the Code has in fact been breached – any decision in this regard would be made by the Complaints Committee.

In line with IPSO’s complaints procedure, we have therefore sent a copy of your complaint to the publication. This is to provide it with the opportunity swiftly to resolve the matter to your satisfaction, directly, if possible. You should expect the publication to contact you in due course in response to your complaint. If the publication is able to satisfactorily address your concerns, and you consider that the matter has been concluded, please contact us within 14 days, to notify us of the outcome.

If the matter cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, IPSO is able formally to consider your complaint after the publication’s internal complaints process has been exhausted or, at the latest, 28 days from the date of this letter, unless we determine that our earlier involvement is essential. The publication may also request IPSO to begin its investigation of the complaint sooner.’



Did you see this?

In case you missed it, here is the link to Mike Clarke’s blog on what Defra should do on Hen Harriers which appeared the other day. It’s pretty good really.

A plan for Hen Harrier conservation is needed, but so is a plan to revitalise the uplands as a whole. A good step towards this would be to ban driven grouse shooting.


A week today…the Bird Fair starts

I’m looking forward to the Bird Fair but after a couple of weekends of Game Fair and Hen Harrier Day (both of which were just brilliant – in rather different ways) I’m quite looking forward to this weekend being free – or, full of all the things that I have neglected because I’ve been a bit busy.

The Bird Fair is fun, and I’m giving several talks and doing a ridiculous number of book signings – but they will be quite restful unless you buy some books which you’d like me to sign.

I’m in negotiation with Henry about whether he will fly in or not – it’s in the balance at the moment. Would you like your photo taken with Henry?  How about a £1 donation to BAWC for each photo? That might make him come along.

Bird Fair programme – click here.


Another funny thing that happened yesterday – #inglorious12th

studioI did a couple of radio interviews yesterday morning, from the BBC Millbank studios in London – with BBC Radios Leeds and York (one of which was with Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association). You can see how glamorous the studios are from the photo. And the evening before I’d been in the same Millbank building to do a TV debate on BBC Yorkshire TV, also with Amanda Anderson.  The TV debate was the most difficult because the sound feed in my right ear had a delay so that my own voice was played back to me a fraction of a second after I had heard it in reality – that’s quite disorientating – but one soldiers on.

And that wasn’t the funny thing.

The funny thing was that Amanda, in both interviews, made some reference to how things had moved on so much since I left the RSPB and things were just going swimmingly! I think the audience were supposed to think that I am out of touch. That’s what is funny: being criticised for being out of touch by an organisation that holds to Victorian values as far as raptors and the public are concerned. That made me chuckle.

And attacking me makes much more sense than attacking the RSPB – they are a little way behind public opinion at the moment – but it is very encouraging. Clearly, when Amanda has to give up her Sunday to film a Hen Harrier Day rally, and then is so bereft of arguments that she plays the man (me) instead of the ball (the issues), it is very encouraging.


Ban driven grouse shooting.


A funny thing happened yesterday – the #inglorious12th

getimage-3Usually, on the first day of the Red Grouse shooting season, there are lots of photos of men in tweed ‘oop on t’moors, wi’ guns’ practising a peculiarly British unsporting sport. But yesterday the papers were practically devoid of such nonsense and what coverage there was seemed to carry news of the fact that grouse shooting had a lot of questions to answer and that some thought that grouse shooting should be banned.

We did that!

Thank you! We are setting the agenda for grouse shooters, wildlife ngos and government to follow.

And the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting passed 12,000 signatures early on the #Inglorious12th and 13,000 signatures before I woke on the #Inglorious13th.

Ban driven grouse shooting.


Why driven grouse shooting is doomed

getimage-3I’m quite often asked whether I really want a ban on driven grouse shooting – I do! And then I’m sometimes told that ‘It’ll never happen’ and I say ‘It will’.

This is why.

Let’s start with the very obvious, but rarely stated, fact that driven grouse shooting is not essential. We don’t need it. Most of us would not notice if it were gone. It’s an unsporting field sport for a very few people, and it’s sometimes called an industry – but it’s an industry that produces nothing.

This is important because grouse shooting isn’t like farming, for example.  We all need food, and we all need farmers. We might sometimes not like what some of them do, if they are cruel to their animals or use powerful pesticides on their crops, but on the whole we accept or turn a blind eye because we need them to produce our food. Nobody needs a grouse moor. Grouse shooting is a niche hobby like train-spotting or twitching. Providing the participants don’t do anything too nasty then we’ll all say ‘I wouldn’t want to do that but I suppose it’s OK that they do’ most of the time.

That’s why Charles Clover was right to point out in the Sunday Times (though the rest of us have been doing so for years – but he may be listened to) that grouse shooting needs public support. That means it ought to behave itself.

Driven grouse shooting already has two big problems as far as winning over the public is concerned. The first is that it involves the rather unsporting prospect of killing lots, and lots, and lots, of wild birds driven towards a line of guns. It involves killing – its whole point is killing actually. And some people will be against it from the very start because of that. Personally, I find the scale of killing distasteful but that isn’t my major gripe. That’s why I am not running a ‘Ban all shooting’ campaign. But many start as opponents of this distasteful hobby because it is steeped in killing things for fun.

Then there is the ‘rich people’ issue. It’s not really a class issue, for as we have seen, many of the proponents of driven grouse shooting are loaded but not classy.  A rich man’s hobby (of killing wildlife) is not the easiest thing for which to gain public support. But that’s not my main gripe with it either (although it does make it a lot more fun – let’s be honest).

No the real reason that driven grouse shooting is doomed is that it is based on intensive mismanagement of the uplands that will bring it into terminal conflict with the law, nature lovers and policy makers alike.

The first circle that cannot be squared is the Langholm study results (see Chapter 3 of Inglorious).  If Langholm were typical, and we have reason to believe that it was, then you cannot have driven grouse shooting, depending on massively unnatural populations of Red Grouse to provide enormous ‘bags’ of dead Red Grouse in the presence of natural levels of birds of prey – Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, Peregrines etc.  I think the grouse shooters accepted this inevitability long before we conservationists did. It’s a choice – a clear choice. Do you want birds of prey or a useless pointless hobby for the rich? I choose birds of prey but it’s up to you what you choose.  But in the end you do have to choose because you can’t have both.  The British love of compromise runs up against a brick wall when it meets biological reality.  Bring the British people into this choice, like the taxi driver who took me to the BBC studio at Millbank yesterday or the woman behind the Post Office counter and they will choose wildlife every time. Every time.  Let’s ask them.

And with more and more satellite tags being fitted to young harriers then the more damning the evidence will be. We now know that Lush and Ecotricity will be funding tags next year. Give it five years and the scale of illegal killing will be laid bare with birds like Annie, Sky, Hope and Bowland Bess dying in the glare of publicity.  It won’t take long.

The second circle that cannot be squared is the ecological harm and damage derived from intensive habitat management for Red Grouse. Increased flood risk (and higher home insurance costs), increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased water pollution (and therefore water bills) and damaged blanket bogs are all costs of this intensive management. If you live in York and are paying higher home insurance because of grouse shooting, or live in Leeds and suffer higher water bills, grouse shooting becomes an issue for you and for the politicians and policy makers who should look out for your welfare, and the utilities who have you as a customer.  The Leeds University Ember project, and a wealth of other data, add up to an environmental Langholm study – you have to choose between intensive grouse shooting and a damaged and expensive ecosystem, and no grouse shooting and a healthy ecosystem and lower household costs. Let’s put that one to the vote too.  Rich person’s useless, pointless, unsporting sport, or lower bills for the masses? You choose – no, actually, we choose!

If the water utilities would get a grip of this issue, and if Defra would get off its backside and start delivering for the public good, and if the wildlife ngos would realise that a victory was within their grasp, then this wouldn’t take long at all. As it is, the eventual, certain, and welcome outcome, a cessation of the damaging practice of driven grouse shooting is going to take a while to achieve. But momentum is building all the time. Every dead harrier, every failed campaign of spin by the shooters, every new study of ecosystem damage, every new complaint that puts the UK’s environmental credibility at risk, every damaging report by the Committee on Climate Change, every Hen Harrier Day rally brings the demise of driven grouse shooting closer.

When it’s gone, no one will ask for its return. When it’s gone we will be better off. When it’s gone we will regard its going as progress.

Today is the Inglorious 12th, 2015 – I’ll give it 10 years.


Ban driven grouse shooting. Let’s get to 12,000 signatures on the Inglorious 12th!


Hen Harrier Day thunderclap


The message went out 5.7 million times just after 10am on Sunday, ‘We’re missing our hen harriers – we want them back!

This was too controversial a message to gather the support of Defra (the government department responsible for nature conservation and restoring the status of the Hen Harrier in England), Natural England (the English government’s delivery body) and, shame on them, the National Trust (an NGO that sometimes claims to be ‘…one of Europe’s leading nature conservation organisations and which certainly is a large upland land owner).

As a National Trust member I am very disappointed that the National Trust doesn’t want our Hen Harriers back, or if it does want them back is too scared of large landowners to voice this wish, or… or what? Maybe the National Trust, purveyor of tasty scones, would enlighten us? But here, as so often, in nature conservation, the National Trust is not leading, and is not even following.


On the other hand, there was great support from the RSPB (@natures_voice) with almost all its Twitter accounts joining the thunderclap, from @RSPB_NEScotland (only just in time guys!) to the RSPB in South West England (@RSPBSouthWest).

And on that same hand, the support from the Wildlife Trusts was massive too – with most upland Wildlife Trusts adding their name to the thunderclap (although where was @wildsheffield?)  and many lowland trusts too (notably Norfolk WT (@supportNWT), Warwickshire WT (@WKWT), Devon WT (@wildlifeDevon) and Yorkshire WT (@YorlsWildlife), and of course the Derbyshire WT (@DerbysWildlife) but not, sadly for me, my own local Beds, Cambs and Northants Wildlife Trust.  Where were you guys? Not impressed.

Thank you to all who used their voices on social media – your help was much appreciated. Together we are so much stronger than when we are apart.




Hen Harrier Day 2015 – (3)

Just some pictures…

Photo: via Terry Pickford. Midge giving a thank you kiss to Jessica for bringing him to support the Hen Harrier Day in Bowland

Photo: via Terry Pickford. Midge giving a thank you kiss to Jessica for bringing him to support the Hen Harrier Day in Bowland

Photo: Guy Shorrock. Henry (left) and Harry (right). Just like peas in a pod?

Photo: Guy Shorrock. Henry (left) and Harry (right). Just like peas in a pod?

Photo via Terry Pickford. Terry holding a rather good book (donated to a raffle by its publisher Bloomsbury)

Photo via Terry Pickford. Terry holding a rather good book (donated to a raffle by its publisher Bloomsbury)

Photo: Ruth Tingay. Goyt Valley crowd

Photo: Ruth Tingay. Goyt Valley crowd

Photo: Guy Shorrock. Jeff Knott made an impressive, RSPB, speech in the Goyt.

Photo: Guy Shorrock. Jeff Knott made an impressive, RSPB, speech in the Goyt.







Hen Harrier Day 2015 (2)


Chris Packham was an absolute star on Hen Harrier Eve and at the rally in the Goyt Valley.

This is a man who cares passionately about wildlife and is using his public position to promote a better deal for wildlife. He is an inspiring man.

I don’t agree with Chris about everything (which means that he also doesn’t agree with me about everything) but the overlap is very large. He doesn’t have to do this stuff – but he does because he cares.

He also has to put up with a huge amount of harassment on social media and even calls to the BBC to sack him from his roles on Springwatch etc.

He’s a great speaker – watch this video and you’ll see.

Thank you Chris!




Hen Harrier Day 2015 (1)

I was in the Goyt Valley on Sunday morning with, I guess, 4-500 other folk. Did anyone count? There were certainly fewer than last year in the Derwent Valley – but it’s still a big crowd. And everyone was very welcome.

This was us…


Photo: Guy Shorrock