John Armitage’s successful e-petition

By Kositoes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Kositoes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There have been 1011 e-petitions directed to helping Defra find its way to the sunlit uplands of truth and sustainability, launched, supported and closed on the Number 10 website.  John Armitage’s will, today, be the 1012th.  You have until 10:36 to add your name to his e-petition.

Only 10 of those e-petitions passed the 10,000 signatures that triggers a response from government – that’s just under 1%.  John’s e-petition on licensing grouse moors is the 9th most supported of these e-petitions.  By any reckoning that is quite an achievement – well done John and thank you to the thousands who have signed.

We won’t see an immediate move by the Westminster or any other government to license grouse shooting but the success of this e-petition helps to keep the issue of illegal persecution by grouse shooting interests live in the minds of the public and of decision-makers.

And, of course, one of the other successful e-petitions in that select ‘Top 10’ was Chrissie Harper’s e-petition calling for vicarious liability to be brought in in England as it already is in Scotland.  Two out of that ‘Top 10’ are about the illegal persecution of birds of prey.  Again – it sends a message.

Vicarious liability and licensing proposals are not exactly sexy subjects – well, I suppose it depends what turns you on!  Both of these e-petitions are worded in a sensible, almost nerdy, way.  They aren’t highly emotive and yet they have attracted considerable support.  It is noticeable that the single e-petition that has attracted far and away the highest number of signatures (I think more than all the other Defra-aimed e-petitions put together) is that calling for a stop to the badger cull (over 300k signatures) which was a much more emotive subject and worded in a very simple way.  The next raptor e-petition, for there surely will be another coming along soon, would do well to take notice of that message.

The RSPB has, strangely, not got behind either of these e-petitions.  Perhaps they would like to tell us why? And whether there is any e-petition on the subject of raptor persecution, with any wording at all,  that the RSPB would support and promote?

In the background there are talks progressing between shooting organisations, the RSPB and others on a Hen Harrier recovery plan that might, or might not, include ‘managing’ Hen Harrier broods.  I suggest that anyone gagging to launch the next e-petition on this subject should wait a little while, but not too long, to see if anything emerges on this subject and what it looks like before taking the next step. I’d say that the end of April would be a good time to launch the next e-petition – just about a year from the next UK general election – to put pressure on the next government to do something on this subject.

I was struck by the events in Kiev over the weekend – an agreement was reached between the EU negotiators, the opposition parties and the discredited President to have presidential elections in the autumn but none of these signatories was speaking for the people. And the people made their views clear and will get what they wanted, it seems, elections much sooner.





19 Replies to “John Armitage’s successful e-petition”

  1. Mark,
    Has anyone assessed what other criminal enterprises get ignored by Government in this kind of way?

  2. Maybe the RSPB will start taking a more robust approach to the problems caused by the shooting industry (and not just Grouse) when it drops the ‘Royal’ from its name. Does having such a title convey any benefits at all for an organisation in the 21st Century? Perhaps it’s either crippled by its charter which limits what it can say on shooting to some degree, and/ or there are too many establishment figures involved in the organisation- anyone care to comment? Quite a few of us outside are wondering what on earth is going on with them- the RSPB’s lameness on this absolutely critical issue suggests that they are not fit for purpose at the moment. Maybe a more nimble bird charity will rise up, unecumbered by tradition and the cumbersome structure and bureacracy which invitably develops in any large and long- standing organisation. A Google to the RSPB’s Kodak or Yellow Pages, so to speak, or a Help for Heroes to the Royal British Legion. I’m being provocative of course, and support lots of the other great things that the RSPB are doing, but they really need to be more bold and outspoken on this and to be very mindful of the potential consequences of not being.

  3. Interesting to hear that the RSPB and others are in dialogue with the shooting community considering “management” (worryingly euphemistic) of hen harrier broods. The last I’d read anything about such a dialogue it was falling apart as the RSPB, HOT and Northern England Raptor Forum had pulled out in disgust at the lack of progress (

    Of course licensing grouse moors or coming to some other agreement that sees a reduction in the poisoning and shooting of raptors won’t do much to rewild our uplands. Or indeed to address the issues of burning/flooding, lead poisoning and carbon release from these grouse shooting areas. I would like to see the next petition calling for a total ban on driven shooting and a switch to walked up shooting and other land uses, but are our conservation organisations ambitious enough to push the establishment for such a break from Victorian values? I doubt it.

  4. A wave of letters to MPs asking them to take an interest in Defra’s response to the petition will further help to keep the issue ‘live’.

  5. It is really weird that the RSPB do such fantastic work protecting the W T E and yet it seems really obvious they want nothing much to do with petitions on Raptor persecution.
    If only they would truthfully tell us why it would help us understand,surely as members we should get truthful answers.
    Well done Mark for keeping this topic of persecution in your blogs.

  6. I have not seen anyone comment from the land owners perspective, or have I missed it. Before I say anything I am not a land owner, I am a Naturalist (the old term used for aged people who have studied wildlife for many years). There are many comments about the illegal persecution of birds of prey on and around grouse shooting moors. The majority rightfully demanding proceedings to be taken against the offenders. There are other comments insisting that the landowners attitude should also be changed regarding how their land is managed. I wonder what the attitudes of people would be if they were the land owners? Would they alter the way they managed the land because the public told them they had to? I doubt it. No one wants to be told how to do anything. Perhaps a more positive attitude would be to consult with landowners and the wildlife organisations. Has this been tried? To tell people what to do results in walls being built. Perhaps a percentage of the moorland being used for grouse shooting could be off limits to shooting and left un-managed, say 10%? This area, if agreed, could be away from roads and not easily accessed thereby giving wildlife an undisturbed habitat. Would this be so unacceptable to large estate owners? What do landowners think to this idea? Once wildlife were well established in these areas the keepers could show small parties the wildlife of the area during the summer months when they perhaps have more time from their other duties. The keepers are probably the best informed of the wildlife in their care.

    1. Diapensia – I’m not entirely sure what you mean by ‘comments insisting that the landowners attitude should also be changed regarding how their land is managed’.

      There has certainly been talking and talking and talking for years and years and years – and nothing much has changed except that the hen Harrier has almost been driven to extinction in England.

      1. Mark, the comments I referred to are those by other bloggers trying to tell landowners how they should manage their own land. Not many people who are big landowners are likely to do want the general public think they should do. I would not, would you? Education is needed, not confrontation. Perhaps the people who have tried in the past had the wrong approach? We will never get anywhere by bullying tactics. What is the alternative, a civil war?

        1. Diapensia – I’m still not clear what aspects of their activities we are talking about. Not illegal raptor persecution?

          You and I don’t have total freedom in our homes. We can’t murder, we can’t play our music too loud and in some places we can’t paint our houses particular colours. When it comes to farmland, for example, the land may belong to someone but we are (usually) all pouring money into its management. Gives us a bit of a say?

          But I’m still struggling to pin down what you are on about – sorry.

          1. Hello Mark, I,m sorry if I seem a bit mis-leading in my comments. I tend to write things down as I think of them rather than a structured piece of text. It comes as a result of Secondary Modern education (i.e. no qualifications). I did not mean to imply that persecution of raptors is acceptable. I do understand that if landowners are taking public money for their land then certain conditions should be applied. I would think that the responsibility for imposing conditions should be undertaken by NE or Defra? If however, landowners do not conform to the attached conditions, then any public money given should be withdrawn and recovered. Also, perhaps some of the demands suggested by some people are likely to be seen as confrontational to the landowners and dismissed. Maybe a common ground could be found with input from NE, RSPB etc? If the landowners do not agree then any public funding should cease. Heather burning also seems to be an issue that has not been proved to be acceptable to many naturalists.

  7. Good luck with asking the RSPB to tell you why they will not support these petitions, as in my experience they are reluctant to even acknowledge their existence! The closest they came was when Stuart Housden, RSPB , said that they prefer to wait for the publication of the Law Commission Review into Wildlife Law (report and Draft Bill due this summer) as this “will provide legislation”. I suspect there will be few actual changes to law in this bill and I fear it likely to be more of a rationalisation and relaxation of existing laws, possibly to facilitate housing and industrial development. I grow too cynical perhaps. Of course shooting interests have been heavily consulted during this review, bit like consulting burglars about house-breaking laws I suppose.
    Sadly, in my opinion, we don’t really need any more wildlife laws than we already have, and don’t really need these petitions. We need the laws that are in place to be effectively applied and it is the RSPBs obligation to help ensure they are applied. But of course Natures Voice is strangely quiet.

  8. Have any of the “successful” e petitions actually lead to a change? Even the super successful badger e petition clearly didn’t!

    1. Jeff – (as I think you know) decision-makers are influenced by many things and in many ways (read Fighting for Birds!). There is rarely one thing that is responsible for a decision, and it is rarely completely clear, even in retrospect, which factors were important. Generally speaking, in a democracy, lots of people speaking out has a bit of influence. One thing is for sure – if nobody speaks out then nothing changes.

      In my position, as an ordinary member of the public without any particular power over events, all I can do is to speak out and encourage others to do so. So I will. If we had got ten times as many signatures on this e-petition it might have been twice as effective. If we had got 450 fewer – it would probably have been half as effective. John Armitage did very well. Some organisations could have done more – a lot more.

      1. Of course, as with everything there’s rarely if ever a silver (lead free) bullet, but I’m genuinely interested if there’s a correlation (not causation of course) between the number of signatures on an e petition and any substantive change. Could you post those top 10 e petitions in order and a quick comment on what’s happened since each petition finished? Perhaps a future blog? I’d find it interesting.

Comments are closed.