It’s been a ghastly day weather-wise but I have been thinking about the storm that is coming together around raptor persecution. I thought hard about it – it put a smile on my face.
No, raptor persecution isn’t as important as climate change, or flooding, or even, to my mind, farmland bird declines – but it is a problem which has been with us too long and which, in a civilised society, we should end as quickly as possible. It’s a bit like burglary – it’s not as important as rape or murder but that doesn’t mean we should let people get away with it.
Here are some reasons why those involved in raptor persecution should be sleeping less easily;
- the media are more sensitive than ever before about illegal persecution of birds of prey – see the Channel 4 News piece linking Royal pleas for elephants not to be killed illegally to Royal silence on the illegal killing of birds of prey. There will be more of this type of thing and it will build public support and outrage on this subject.
- the sentencing of a gamekeeper, Ryan Waite (aged 25 – we are always told that the younger generation of ‘keepers is much more enlightened…), from the Swinton Estate yesterday for setting a pole trap. See here for an RSPB blog and here for the video footage. Every time a criminal gets caught it worries the others. Well done RSPB Investigations Team (and LACS)!
- the Tories came third in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election and there is a slim chance that the party most keen on shooting will be returned to power at the next UK general election. Whoever replaces them (even if the rather hopeless LibDems are involved again) is unlikely to be as naturally accommodating to game-shooting interests (which, as we know, are the source of most illegal activity against birds of prey) as the Conservatives. One might even hope that a Labour government might do something about it!
- a new pressure group, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, has been set up. I wish them well. Twitter account @birdersagainst
- a majority of respondents voted for the banning of grouse shooting (in England) on my readers’ poll -indicating to me that moderate and tolerant people, yes, like me, are getting well and truly fed up with the blatant and widespread removal of protected birds of prey (hen harriers, Golden Eagles, Peregrines etc) from our uplands and are becoming more radical as a result.
- a peaceful protest around the 12 August is being planned (although planned might be too strong a word at the moment) by a small, but perfectly formed, group of people. See my April Birdwatch column (out in late March) for some more fragmentary details and how to sign up.
- the RSPB is being a bit more outspoken about this issue – see Martin Harper’s blog here and here – partly, I guess, because they see that there is some frustration directed at them.
- Parliamentarians have raptor persecution in their sights as never before.
- Scotland has already introduced vicarious liability and other places are likely to follow – that is how progress is made.
- I have a few other things up my sleeve – shhhh!
- Natural England will not be able to sit on the final locations of those satellite-tagged hen harriers for much longer – I wonder what the map of ‘last locations’ might look like?
- Scotland voted for the Golden Eagle as its favourite iconic animal – a great show of public support for raptors.
- John Armitage’s e-petition passed 9000 signatures today and just has a chance of getting to the 10,000 mark that will trigger a response from Defra. But even so, it is a fine effort. Please sign here and, if you have a friend, then ask them to sign too.
- It’s Valentine’s day – everyone loves a raptor don’t they?
- And, as pointed out to me by a reader’s comment, there is also the very positive NT Vision for the Peak District which moves away from burning and towards a more natural upland cover.
And it’s not a perfect storm – it’s an imperfect one – but let’s keep it blowing all through the year and for as long as it takes.