Isn’t nature wonderful – the image at the head of this post is of strongylid worms (the white things) crawling out of some red grouse poo.
It’s possible that quite a few people and organisations feel like they are in the ‘grouse poo’ at the moment but, on the other hand, maybe they are all as oblivious as are those white worms above.
Marks and Spencer had their lingerie Q&A interspersed with questions about red grouse, lead and hen harriers that were not answered. It’s just possible that Ms Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely was a bit bemused about all that. M&S looked as exposed as the scantily clad Ms Huntingdon-Whitely as they avoided question after question from Alan Tilmouth, Charlie Moores, Mark Skevington and many others.
The email replies that M&S send out haven’t changed over the last few days and don’t answer the questions they have been asked. They are dealing with public/customer opinion appallingly.
Countryside Alliance: the arrival of the CA on the scene dramatically changed the politics of this debate several years ago. In the more distant past there were quite a few, quite reasonable people on the scene. They would admit that grouse moor managers did bump off quite a few hen harriers and they weren’t proud of it. These days the CA has dragged the debate to the extremes – let’s call it the right – through denying any problem anywhere in anything to do with shooting, and slagging off anyone who dares to differ. I’d love to see who writes the cheques for the CA and what their record is on wildlife crime.
It’s very difficult to love the Countryside Alliance. I, and this might shock some readers of this blog, might have (privately – as I was working for the RSPB at the time) supported them in their aim not to ban fox hunting (because I was never convinced that this was a big enough issue for the parliamentary time it took up) but any possibility of this was dashed by their tactics and their complete, it seemed to me, disregard for evidence and facts.
The CA always strike me as a nasty bunch, getting nastier all the time. And as they have dragged the argument to the right then the reasonable guys (the GWCT in the old days but not now, and BASC (still reasonably reasonable)) have been dragged that way too. I would be very surprised if GWCT did not get a chunk of their funding from some of the more extreme elements of the CA membership. I’d love to know for sure.
It’s a bit like UKIP dragging the Conservative Party to the right – the CA drags GWCT and BASC to the right too. And that makes the RSPB and others, sitting reasonably in the middle look as though they are on the far left of the debate. How unreasonable to expect people to stick to the law!
And so, right now, because of the CA more than anything else, I feel it is necessary to move the debate on these issues to the left. Only by creating a more extreme view against grouse shooting – and there is so much ammunition to do so – will the move to the right be countered. I find myself more and more talking to animal welfare groups in a way that I never would have done a few years ago. And many other formerly tolerant birders will do the same. With the impending extinction of the hen harrier in England, and its almost complete absence from grouse moors in Scotland too, many at the Bird Fair at the weekend were saying that they had lost patience with the shooting community and it was time to take off the gloves.
If that happens then the Moorland Association, GWCT and BASC will rue the day that they allowed their organisations to be dragged to the right and create the right climate for a powerful counter-campaign to be launched.
The RSPB: my former colleagues in the RSPB aren’t in a great position either. The Royal Charter makes it difficult for them to oppose grouse shooting – but not impossible. But the RSPB is in danger of looking a bit limp these days in its public pronouncements on the subject of hen harriers and grouse shooting. Maybe they will take a step to the left too – maybe later this autumn – but maybe they will still look a bit limp. We’ll have to see.
But a really great thing is that birders are getting very energised and active about this issue. Twitter has been really fantastic with the comments that have been made. I’d love to see even more of this – ‘ordinary’ birders speaking out. Birders of the UK unite! You, we, have nothing to lose but your hen harriers – and they are going pretty quickly already.
And do, please, sign up to this epetition which seems to have gathered a little bit more momentum over the last few days – it’s all those disgruntled M&S customers, and, of course, the scantily clad Ms Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely.