Wrong!

Heaven only knows where grouse shooting gets its public relations advice but I hope it isn’t paying much for it because it certainly isn’t working with the outside world.

Grouse shooting is bound to be an emotive issue.  Grouse shooting is about killing wild animals for fun, and it is a ‘sport’ that is mostly available to the landed and the rich. It’s bound to be a minority interest and it’s bound to be controversial. Speaking for myself, and that’s what I do here, those aren’t the elements of grouse shooting that most concern me, but you would have to be a bit blinkered not to realise that they are issues that would concern many, many reasonable and perfectly nice people.

In such a situation, then showing some consideration for the truth, for others’ views and for the normal levels of politeness would be what I would advise.

On Thursday I will give you a list of reasons to sign my e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting, and on Friday I’ll give you what I think are the best reasons for you not to sign it. How reasonable is that – well you can decide at the end of the week?

But here are some areas where those in favour of grouse shooting are getting it badly wrong, in my opinion.  Why am I giving them my advice?  First, because I want to analyse the arguments for and against grouse shooting. Second, because it’s a bit too late for them to do anything about it and, in any case, they won’t listen to me. Third, I just can’t resist.

Getting it wrong factually, 1: Hen Harriers ‘need’ grouse shooting.  Every time I hear this it astounds me that anyone could put it forward with a straight face. Hen Harriers are almost absent as breeding birds from those parts of the UK  which are dominated by driven grouse shooting.  And how do Hen Harriers in the rest of Europe, or Northern Harriers in North America, manage without a cuddle from a ‘keeper? And how did Hen Harriers manage before driven grouse shooting came into existence in the 19th century?  It’s a ludicrous argument which will make many birders, country people, naturalists, scientists lose respect for whoever puts it forward.

The GWCT’s main argument against my e-petition uses this argument and this paper from the Langholm study. It shows that if Hen Harriers aren’t bumped off then they do OK on grouse moors. This tends to miss the rather big point – they are bumped off by those engaged in grouse shooting – that’s the problem!

Despite the fact that the paper claims to be ‘the first that quantifies how control of generalist predators as part of grouse moor management can benefit harrier productivity’ we have known this for ages – ages and ages! As long ago as 1997, an RSPB study (using data from raptor workers across Scotland) showed that clutch sizes of Hen Harriers on grouse moors in Scotland were a bit bigger than those on other moors and that, if (big if) successful, then fledging numbers were a little higher for grouse moor nests than those on other moors.

It wouldn’t be possible, I think, to repeat that RSPB study these days – there aren’t enough Hen Harriers on grouse moors these days.

The argument that Hen Harriers need grouse moors, or even that in the real world they benefit from grouse moors is ridiculous. We’ll call it the ‘cuddle from a ‘keeper argument’ from now on. But you will see it over and over again, and the repetition may ensnare the gullible.

Getting it wrong factually, 2: the Red Grouse is a uniquely British species. You might expect grouse shooters to know about grouse, wouldn’t you? Tim Baynes of the Scottish Land and Estates was quoted in BBC Wildlife magazine as saying ‘The red grouse is the only bird unique to the UK‘. Not true.  Not true at all. The Red Grouse is a race of the Willow Grouse or Willow Ptarmigan  which is found widely across Europe and North America (click here and here). So, it’s not a unique species to the UK and there are lots of British subspecies of bird – loads of them.

Getting it wrong factually, 3: Red Grouse need grouse moor management to survive. Tim Baynes was also quoted as saying ‘Management has ensured the survival of the species, while the bird has almost died out on unmanaged moorlands in the west of the UK.‘  Let’s go back to the first point – the species is the Red Grouse/Willow Grouse/Willow Ptarmigan which has an enormous world range in which driven grouse shooting is an eccentric British pastime – Red Grouse don’t need shooting to survive.

Have a look at the Atlas data to check how accurate you think Tim is. Red Grouse have certainly lost some ground since the first breeding Atlas (in the east and the west, and the south too) but there are lots of Red Grouse away from those areas in the east and south of Scotland, and northern England, where driven grouse shooting predominates.  Most of those grouse  are living quite happily at low densities not being ‘farmed’ for grouse shooting. And they are living alongside, and sometimes being eaten by (that’s life!) Hen Harriers.  There are certainly high densities of Red Grouse on grouse moors – there are higher densities of  chickens in battery farms than there are Red Junglefowl in jungles – and your point is?

Getting it wrong politically, 1: Not leaving any harriers in England.  There were just two pairs of Hen Harrier in England last year (science suggests that suitable habitat exists for over 250 pairs).  Hen Harriers are being persecuted to English extinction whilst grouse moor interests are seeking a negotiated settlement in a Defra talking shop.

This is not an industry that looks as though it wants a solution, or balance, or a compromise – it looks like it is hell-bent on eradicating a protected species from England.   How could any decision-maker feel sympathy for an economic interest that says it might suffer from the activities of a species that has been wiped out in those areas? That’s a big mistake. No grouse moor owner is suffering from too many Hen Harriers. A fully-protected species is suffering to the point of national extinction from too much grouse shooting.  Where would your sympathies lie?

No-one will trust the shooting community to allow scores of Hen Harriers to survive when Hen Harriers are pushed ever closer to English extinction.  And nor should they.  There is no sign of good faith and no evidence that those who are doing the talking have any control over those who are doing the killing.

Getting it wrong politically 2: not shifting your ground at all.  It may be arrogance, but if not it’s foolishness, not to give any ground on anything.  That’s particularly true when one side of the debate is carrying out criminal activities – breaking wildlife laws.  Some of us might well have been far less grumpy had grouse shooters engineered a way to accept vicarious liability or licensing in England. I’ve never thought that either would be a complete solution to the problems from grouse shooting, because those are far wider than just illegal killing of wildlife, but we wishy-washy nature conservationists are always keen to be fair and to accept a compromise, but none has been offered.

It’s a good way to alienate those of us who have looked for a solution for many years and push us into alliances that we would never have dreamt of in the past.  Grouse shooters have proved to me that there is absolutely no point in being reasonable with them as a group, though I can get on perfectly well with many as individuals, because they won’t give an inch.  This attitude alienates the undecided and the wavering.

Getting it wrong socially: being rude in public. I have had abuse from lots of quarters for standing up for nature. In the past, I used to get paid for it, now I just do it as a hobby!  I don’t really mind very much (obviously I do a bit) but I’d advise those who are pro-shooting to be a bit more careful what they say on social media because they are in the public eye. Here are some things that have been said about me on Facebook and Twitter since launching this e-petition.  All of them are by people who, as far as I can recall, I’ve never met and never spoken to:

  • ‘arent these e-petitions brilliant If you have a personal hatred of something you can simply fill 1 in and suddenly feel important’ @killingham ‘Bladesdale Pointers’ who describes himself as ‘working pointers on the moor, shooting, field trialling, drinking and cocking about’
  • If it was’nt for the grouse shooting there would’nt be hen harriers as there would be sod all grouse, it’s about time Mark Avery OPENED HIS EYES and see the bigger picture, people like Mark Avery only see what they want to see and then tell lies and after so long of telling lies they then believe those lies theirselves.‘ Robert Betts on Facebook (on the Guns on Pegs page). (note this repeats the ‘cuddle from a ‘keeper’ nonsense.
  • My thoughts are the mans a cock!‘ Fraser Tolmie on Facebook (on the Guns on Pegs page), to which I couldn’t help reply ‘That’s a thought is it?’
  • It more anti propaganda. I doubt he is even a proper doctor and has just put that at the beginning to make him look important.’ Dean Grooms on Facebook (on the Guns on Pegs page).

and on an international level

  • ‘Can we ban stupid people instead?’ @GRAAmerica Gun Rights Across America which is, in their words, ‘ a citizen led grassroots effort to protect & promote the 2nd Amendment on a local, state, & federal level.’ And. to be fair. I had quite a good chat with them on Twitter afterwards.

Well that’s me told and, obviously, convinced too! Who wouldn’t be won over by such reasoned argument?

If you think that grouse shooting has got it wrong, or you just don’t like it, then please sign this e-petition that passed the 2000 signatures mark, yesterday morning, on Day 5 of its life.

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68 Comments

  1. Chrissie says:

    Its because the pro shooting body do not have one reasoned argument for this sport that they sink to this abusive behavior. May you carry on the good fight Mark, Hen Harriers certainly need you!

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  2. Hugh Webster says:

    We shouldn't be surprised when these self-styled "country folk" get it factually wrong. In my experience they struggle to differentiate between even red kites and buzzards, while the Scottish NFU managed to put a golden eagle picture on the front of their sea eagle "Action Plan" (http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/nfus-publishes-its-proposed-sea-eagle-action-plan/). These are all the same people who call for a cull of corvids to help songbird survival, neglecting to realise that corvids are also songbirds... Sigh.

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  3. As a shooter/conservationst..... (these are not mutually exclusive shooter, /preservationist are) I share your disgust at the killing of raptors on grouse moors. I'm also disgusted by the rampant hatred and ill informed views expressed by some in the shooting community in reply to your blog.
    I have two questions for you, when you have banned driven grouse shooting what do you see happening to that land, and how will this effect biodiversity?

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    • Mark says:

      Owen - welcome! And thank you for your comment. I will answer your question, which is a good one, in a blog later this week, so you'll have to keep an eye on this blog, please.

      Thank you too for the rest of what you said. there have been some in the shooting community who have said much nicer things to me too. Unfortunately, those people wouldn't want to be named for fear of the reaction of some of their fellow shooters. Many of the people who sign my e-petition will be completely anti-shooting - I respect their views but I do not share them.

      I do, however, feel myself drifting towards a more anti-shooter point of view every time I see facts being misrepresented, or intransigence or rudeness. So, a reasonable comment from a shooter and conservationist like yourself tends to be better received by me - thank you.

      Please feel free to comment here - one of my reasons for starting this e-petition is to get some of the views and arguments viewed by a wider public. I'm happy for people not to agree with me - the debate is useful.

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    • Hugh Webster says:

      I don't wish to pre-empt Mark's discussion of what might happen to land that is currently used for driven grouse shooting in the event of a ban, although I imagine it might involve some version of multiple use to include (guided?) rough shooting (thus employing ex-keepers and giving portly city bankers and gouty country gents - i.e. grouse shooters - some exercise) and even possibly/hopefully some re-wilding (to represent better value for the benefits payments claimed by moor owners and funded by tax payers whose wishes for that land are presently ignored). Indeed Andy Wightman has calculated in his book "The Poor Had No Lawyerst" that the King of Dubai could annually receive £439,000 for the estate in Wester Ross he owns, the Duke of Westminster could find himself enriched by £764,000 a year and the Duke of Roxburgh by £950,000. That no doubt helps those gentlemen keep the wolf from the door, but it also presently excludes the wolf from our landscape, despite a documented appetite for their return amongst the general public (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-26616451 and http://www.wolvesandhumans.org/wolves/is_time_right_for_wolf_reintroduction.htm)

      This is also interesting http://www.monbiot.com/2014/04/28/the-shooting-party/

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      • Mark says:

        Hugh - only slighly pre-empted. Thank you.

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      • Trimbush says:

        Re: Yellowstone : “the grey wolf was the biggest enemy of foxes there and that with the recovery of the wolf population at Yellowstone, the fox population declined”

        Perhaps the (protected?) Wolf would be easier to shoot than the fox

        I suppose they could bring back fox / wolf-hunting – just as a tourist attraction that is – who knows?

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  4. Andrew Gilruth says:

    Mark - delighted you agree with the GWCT conservation science that says that grouse moors can benefit the hen harrier. What is needed now is support for the Defra led Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan (JAP) to remove the conflict.

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    • Mark says:

      Andrew - I do agree with the GWCT science on that point. It is actually not nearly as convincing as the RSPB science, on a large sample of moors, which showed much the same thing about 15 years ago but it shows a similar thing. What it shows is that HH do perfectly OK on grouse moors if they are left alone. The issue is, that they are not left alone. What the RSPB study also showed is that HH don't do spectacularly better when they are left unmolested on grouse moors than they do on other moors.

      HH don't need grouse moors they just need people to obey the law. Criminality associated with grouse shooting is the HH's main problem. wouldn't you agree?

      I haven't seen a Joint Action Plan but I hear from plenty of people that it is not 'joint', contains little 'action' and is not a 'plan'. Maybe you'd like to show us the plan and tell us who is signed up to it?

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      • Circus maxima says:

        There are many places in Scotland with loads of hen harriers....but no grouse shooting....poor misguided birds- if only they knew that they weren't conforming to the GWCT norm....

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  5. Terry Pickford says:

    Mark, when you believe in a worthwhile cause as passionate as you do, receiving this kind of abuse for highlighting your beliefs in public tells me and many others you must be doing something right. From what I am hearing and reading your petition has undoubtedly upset one or two individuals, and thank goodness for that, because otherwise there would be a real reason to be concerned.

    Just think about this Mark, had you raised this issues a few centuries ago, you may have been charged with high treason for having the courage to even speak out against the establishment. The punishment then would have been the loss of your head, or worst, hung-drawn and quartered not just abuse.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(6)
    • Mark says:

      Terry - thank you. The abuse doesn't worry me much. The hot-headedness of some people who have guns worries me a bit more. Talk about shooting from the hip.

      looking forward to attending the Game Fair in July. Was thinking of growing a false moustache as a disguise - hang on! that won't work.

      Likes(10)Dislikes(4)
  6. kie says:

    Mark, I love how your own link manages to mess all over one of your key points:

    "Not true at all. The Red Grouse is a race of the Willow Grouse or Willow Ptarmigan which is found widely across Europe and North America (click here and here). So, it’s not a unique species to the UK and there are lots of British subspecies of bird –"

    and when you follow the link, what does it say:

    "Red Grouse may best be treated as a separate species from Willow Grouse L lagopus (Lucchini et al 2001),"

    LOL!

    Now, back to the point - you seem to have given us a long list of ad hominem arguments, circumstantial supossition, and not tackled in any way the actual point that Andrew Gilruth challenged you with.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(13)
    • Mark says:

      kie - I love the way that you avoid almost all of the points made and ask me to do something else.

      Patience!

      Gone are the days when we will jump to the command of the shooting community. You are now on the back foot.

      This is a week of blogs about Hen Harriers (and then we'll probably need a rest from the subject) - I believe I will have addressed Andrew's points by the end of the week but, if not, there is plenty of time. I am quite keen to make some of my own too. That's OK is it? On my blog?

      Here's the British List http://www.bou.org.uk/thebritishlist/British-List.pdf

      Likes(8)Dislikes(3)
      • kie says:

        Mark

        "Gone are the days when we will jump to the command of the shooting community. You are now on the back foot."

        Hang on - you've got a couple of thousand signatures, even the ridiculously optimistic and hopeless handgun legalisation one has got 16,000 (and thats still far more than the previous 'licencing of grouse moors' one got!) Its hardly motivating the masses, is it Mark?

        Now, back on topic -

        i) Do you accept that there is an ongoing debate within the scientific community on the correct taxonomic designation of the Red Grouse, that many eminent scientists have argued that it is in fact now a separate species rather than a 'race' or SSP of the willow grouse, and that if the 'Lagopus scotica' school were accepted would undermine your own point listed under 'Getting it wrong factually, 2: the Red Grouse is a uniquely British species'?

        ii) Inconvenient truths, how many Hen Harrier nests fledged on the huge areas of upland England where there is no grouse shooting and no persecution? How did they get on in the forest of Bowland without persecution?

        iii) is it true that the 'bowland betty' lead was actually a tiny fragment (not lead shot) of niobium/lead alloy (an alloy that has never been recorded anywhere in the making of bullets or cartridges?

        iv) Why are they refusing to release data on the mass poisoning in the highlands - is it true that the data indicates it was accidental rather than persecution?

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        • Mark says:

          kie

          We'll have to see how many signatures this e-petition gets. We haven't finished Day 7 yet. As I write this reply to you it is the e-petition, across all open ones affecting all government departments which has attracted the 2nd most signatures in the last hour (see the homepage). So that seems quite good for a start.

          i) there's a debate and the current position is the one I took. You should then move on to point 3 in the blog to which you refer which argues (shows I would say) that whatever the taxonomic status of the Red Grouse it is not dependent on grouse shooting.
          ii) not many, but you will need to read future blogs to get the full picture on why not. Those 'huge' areas are set in a matrix on 'huger' areas of grouse moors where HH would be wise not to tread. read on this week - you will love it.
          iii) no idea - interesting speculation that I had not heard before. when will we all know the answer to that question? And it isn't central to this topic so you have gone marginally off-topic here.
          iv) no idea about this Red Kite and Buzzard case - interesting speculation that I had not heard before (or not in that form). When will we all know the answer to that question? I would be interested to know although it is not entirely germane to this topic so you have gone off topic here.

          but v) you accept the other points then? In particular point 1 that HH don't need 'keepered land and don't need to be cuddled by a 'keeper? I'm glad you seem to have let that one go because you seemed to be a keen proponent of it in your comments on this blog a while ago. you could hardly get away from the subject however ridiculous the argument. When i saw it in the GWCT blog I thought of you - was I wrong to do that? And do you accept that almost wiping out the HH is a politically crass position to be in if you are an industry which claims to have problems from HH? I'm not too fussed about whether you agree with the other points really.

          Oh - and as I finish writing this reply to you, so if you are quick you can check too - this e-epetition is the top-trending of them all on the government website. But you ignore it if you like. That's OK with me.

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          • kie says:

            "you accept the other points then? In particular point 1 that HH don't need 'keepered land and don't need to be cuddled by a 'keeper?"

            Happy to come back on that Mark

            I would reiterate that despite your claim that 'they don't need a cuddle by a keeper' the data shows that they're still not breeding on the unkeepered land, though I guess we'll have to wait and see your magical matrix of mystery that somehow shows its all down to keepers somewhere else - of course, we'd best gloss over the nests that fail after birdwatchers and raptor protection volunteers have visited them, or put cameras on them, or just spent a couple of hours happily sitting there watching them from a couple of hundred yards way - the last HH nest site I saw on UU land was like Piccadilly circus! no doubt those failures are down to the keepers as well!

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          • Mark says:

            kie - 'the data shows that they're still not breeding on the unkeepered land' is nonsense. Thank you. I somehow thought you hadn't given this one up yet.

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          • Circus maxima says:

            Kie
            Keepers have made grouse moor marginal for harriers. There are many areas of un-keepered moor in Scotland where the harrier does very well. In my experience the densest harrier populations are found in a moorland scrub habitat which looks nothing like grouse moor monoculture.

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    • Mud-Lark says:

      Kie: & we're still waiting for Andrew to signpost us to the Defra JAP which I recall he was asked to provide a few posts back.

      Plenty of talk, so Andrew is there really an actual plan? It seems as rare as Hen Harriers?

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      'a long list of ad hominem arguments' - where?

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  7. Terry Pickford says:

    Mark, Please take care, remember what happened to a guy with a beard called Guy Faulks when he tried to blow up the houses of parliament? In those days there were plenty of hen harriers though!

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  8. Trimbush says:

    The First Law of Conservation (ists)

    There is greater pleasure to be gained by the class-driven green (with envy) “conservationists” by depriving the rich (of anything) - than by any benefit derived by the subject of the argument / debate eg shooting buzzards

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    • Hugh Webster says:

      "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Trimbush's comment makes me think we've progressed from stage one to stage two at least.

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      • Mark says:

        Hugh - indeed. Thank you.

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      • Trimbush says:

        Methinks you confuse (we) 'democracy' with 'mob-rule'

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        • Hugh Webster says:

          Democracy? Without proportional representation most of us (living in safe seats) are politically disenfranchised anyway, but if any group is guilty of allowing passion to rule over reason (one definition of mob rule) then I would argue that it is the grouse shooting community with their bizarre denial of the (literally) bleeding obvious and insistence on perverse arguments such as the "cuddly keeper" fallacy.

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      Your point is somewhat undermined, Trimbush, by the fact that all the so-called 'class warriors' who are fed up with grouse shooting interests killing birds of prey are equally opposed to - mainly working class - pigeon fanciers doing the same thing to protect their racing pigeons (I recall for example that a pigeon fancier's guest blog on this site produced a vast number of comments).
      For what it is worth I personally could not give a tinker's cuss that grouse shooting is carried out by wealthy people. What angers me is that in the selfish pursuit of their own interests some of them are prepared to drive a protected species to extinction in defiance of the law.

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    • Ed Hutchings says:

      Quite right, let us leave out the reverse snobbery, and concentrate on the issue in hand.

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      • Trimbush says:

        THis is the issue in hand -

        "a ‘sport’ that is mostly available to the landed and the rich. It’s bound to be a minority interest and it’s bound to be controversial.
        Speaking for myself, and that’s what I do here, those aren’t the elements of grouse shooting that most concern me, BUT you would have to be a bit blinkered not to realise that they are issues that would concern many, many reasonable and perfectly nice people"

        Mark votes 'Green' but actsl New Labour !! Very disappointing indeed!

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        • Mark says:

          Trimbush - I really am not trying to impress you so I don't mind if you are disappointed.

          You know that I am a Labour Party member (and almost certainly will vote so in the general election) because it says so on this website and i occasionally mention it on this blog. you know that I voted Green in the EU elections because i said so on this blog. I'll let you know when I join you in UKIP? Tories? too, but I wouldn't hold your breath, if I were you.

          I knew this subject would attract you back commenting again.And I didn't even mention badgers did I? I did mention badgers in the episode of Shared Planet I recorded at the hay Festival on Saturday though - I knew you would want me to...

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          • Trimbush says:

            Many many thanks for your reference to Badgers - but whatever you said about Badger TB will, I'm sure, be scientifically 'wrong' - incidentally did we touch a raw nerve or something? How is the cat?

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          • Mark says:

            Trimbush- you aren't UKIP I hope.

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          • Trimbush says:

            Believe me Mark - I'm a TORY - more so than most Conservative Cabinet Members - couldn't vote for any other. I can't understand a Labour member / supporter voting Green. Get in there and change it.
            One either does or one does not!

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          • Mark says:

            Trimbush - I thought so really 😉

            And that is what I am doing.

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        • Ed Hutchings says:

          Trimbush - The issue in hand is not what class of people shoot grouse. Many probably went to public schools just like myself. The issue is the distinct lack of Hen Harriers, and other raptors, on moors driven for grouse.

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  9. Adam says:

    Well done Mark!

    I am always puzzled by the argument purported, that suggests maintaining a grouse moor is a good thing for the environment. Surely anyone with half a brain knows that promoting a monoculture is a bad thing for the environment. By its very nature grouse moor management suppresses the bio-diversity that should be present.

    It reminds me of the Tobacco companies argument that "fags are good for you"

    I was brought up on a sheep farm, next to a grouse moor, in the North of England. At one point, the amount of lead shot falling on the moor started to effect our water supply. However this is beside the point.

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    • filbert cobb says:

      "beside the point"

      I don't think it is.

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    • Mark says:

      Adam - thank you and welcome. It is a bit puzzling, I agree.

      I'd be very interested in more details of lead contamination of your water supply. Either email me mark@markavery.info or leave another comment headed NOT FOR PUBLICATION if you'd like to say more.

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  10. filbert cobb says:

    Calling for the banning of an enterprise, affecting a large number of customers, because some agents of some entrepreneurs indulge in criminal acts for which there are already sanctions makes no sense to me. And it's not as if the hen harrier - a mythical bird what I have never knowingly seen although I would like to very much - is the only raptor targeted by criminals. You might equally call for a ban on all motor vehicles because some drivers drive while under the influence of drugs and or alcohol.

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    • Mark says:

      filbert - that's a point of view.

      You will enjoy Thursday morning's blog which lays out a whole host of reasons why you and i might want to ban driven grosue shooting - that's when we come out of the Hen harrier/bird/wildlife box a bit more - you'll love it, I'm sure.

      There is quite a lot of effort put in to catching people who drive too fast - I know, I've been caught a few times. And if you break the law you can have your licence taken away (a subject of a previous e-petition which didn't seem to find favour with this government). So with little enforcement and few penalties (where is vicarious liability in England for example - I believe it would apply to your employer if you drove badly (under some circumstances)) we must seek other solutions.

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      • Trimbush says:

        Yes Mark - I've always thought that my parents should be blamed and punished for my bad driving

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      Filbert, I have not yet decided whether or not to sign the petition.
      On the one hand, like you, I am uncomfortable about banning something "because some agents of some entrepreneurs indulge in criminal acts" .
      On the other hand I am very angry that the Hen Harrier has been effectively wiped off the face of England by the acts of a small number of people acting in the interests of grouse shooters. That is clearly totally unacceptable and existing approaches - and existing sanctions, have proven to be insufficient to bring the persecution to a stop so a different approach is needed. My own preference would be for the licensing approach, coupled with vicarious liability, which would provide a mechanism for banning those operators who can't abide by the rules whilst allowing those that do to continue.
      That said, a big enough response to Mark's petition might well not result in a ban but would still serve a valuable purpose if it demonstrated a sufficient groundswell of public opposition to persuade the government that this is an issue that it needs to take a lot more seriously.

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      • filbert cobb says:

        The weakness of the vicarious liability schtick is its susceptibility to evidence planting.

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        • Bob Philpott says:

          The weakness of the vicarious liability schtick is that (in my view) it would be bad legislation.

          Licensing though may be a different matter or even better, guidance on whether a person committing criminal offences is an appropriate person to retain a gun licence, that would leave the good keepers safe from any form of criticism.

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        • Hugh Webster says:

          True of many laws I'd have thought Filbert. Still, I can sympathise with those concerned at their vulnerability to such an act. It's why I wanted to see licensing, with only moors that have successfully fledged a number of harriers proportionate to their size in the previous year granted such a license. I can imagine some fiercely protective gamekeepers guarding nests from any disturbance! However, since the shooting community didn't like the licensing idea and since we now have virtually no HHs left, perhaps an unambiguous ban is all that's left to us.

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  11. Trimbush says:

    Mark says “push us into alliances that we would never have dreamt of in the past” – is he's speaking of 'ciminals' who threaten life and limb or 'scientists' who don't quite tell the truth?

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  12. Dennis Ames says:

    Regarding the Hen Harrier it is disturbing that the RSPB takes this neutral stance apparently because of the Royal charter,I guess they also forbid any employee from taking any stance opposing that view and even extend that to their forum.
    I thought we lived in a democracy but the RSPB would have us all back in the bad old days.
    It seems they cannot tolerate one member out of over one million thinking outside of their neutral view.
    It is a sad reflection on a charity but also amusing except in this instance it has serious consequences for Hen Harriers and other raptors.

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    • Mark says:

      Dennis - I think you are exaggerating a bit here. The RSPB does more than any other organisation to fight wildlife crimes against birds. I think they could do more. You will probably enjoy tomorrow morning's blog.

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  13. Jack Valiant says:

    I always think that what GWCT leave out of their papers is more interesting than what they put in. Take the harrier paper above. It "finishes" as I recall it, in 2007 (the un-keepered data run that is). The paper was published in 2013. What happened in 2008? Keepering was re-instated and continues to this day. You would have thought that GWCT would want to test their assertion that keepering brings benefits for hen harriers by comparing the data for when the keepering was put back in place. They would have had at least 4 years worth of data, they could have delayed publication for a year and made it a round 5 years of data (has a nicer ring I think). Why didn't they? The harrier data from 2008 onwards has been published on the Langholm webpage and in the GWCT Reviews and it is reported that productivity has been good. Surely, this would have supported their claims......or maybe it did not?
    I know that GWCT has some good people amongst their ranks but I find I am regularly disappointed in what they produce. They never seem to do the job properly which means it is difficult to take much of what they produce seriously. They should be a much more important player than they are but to do that, they perhaps need to do a bit of soul searching first rather than just being apologists for an environmentally damaging land practice.

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    • Mark says:

      Jack Valiant - well said! I used to have huge respect for their science and their principles. I have much less now for either. They still have some very talented and professional staff though.

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  14. Donald says:

    I for one would love to see the statistics of both visitors and comment numbers to this blog:
    raptor persecution versus other topics.

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    • Mark says:

      Donald - here's the link to what 'you' readers said in a questionnaire this February https://markavery.info/2014/02/10/11200/ (there are several pages not just this one). Raptor persecution is, just, the most popular subject but not far ahead of a few others.

      11,200 unique visitors read this blog in May - I haven't bothered, and I won't bother, to break that down by subject.

      Is that what you expected?

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  15. Roderick leslie says:

    For all the arguments to and fro, Hen harriers are still effectively extinct in England as breeding birds. Extinction isn't a matter of degrees, its an absolute.

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    • Rich Facey says:

      Roderick – no extinction is by degrees hence the word is often prefixed by “locally” and “regionally” and in the case of HH in England “nationally”. What is happening to HH in England is barbaric and hopefully good will come of Mark’s campaign. When it does I’m sure some Welsh and Scottish HH will find their way to England – at the UK level extinction of HH in England is not absolute.

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  16. Andy Roberts says:

    Not an area I know much about but enjoying the discussions. If management of a typical grouse moor ceased completely what habitat would it revert to?

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  17. Andrew Lucas says:

    Meanwhile, in Ireland, another white-tailed eagle is found poisoned...

    http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2014/06/03/another-white-tailed-eagle-found-poisoned-in-ireland/

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  18. Diapensia says:

    Is it not time that the hooray henrys in the UK realized we no longer live in Medieval times and do not need to hunt for sport or food? On the other hand, if beaver hunting were introduced I would be in favour, as well as muntjac hunting. Mink exterminating would be acceptable as well. As for grey squirrels, any time is open season. I thought I was a naturalist but now I,m not sure. Just following the lead set by our "superiors."

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    • filbert cobb says:

      "we ... ... do not need to hunt for sport or food"

      Isn't it really all about other things? Having a legitimate reason for playing with guns? Justifying ownership of a Chelsea Tractor? Having a reason to look like a complete dipstick wearing tweed? Being seen participating in something that says "I have a considerably larger amount of moolah than yow"? It's a class thing, even when you ain't got none, innit.

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      • Diapensia says:

        When one walks round the grinds one feels undressed unless one is carrying a shooter, old boy. As one is no longer free to pot a few peasants one has to make do with the odd rare bird or two. The top people do it so it must be jolly well all right. The same applies to the jolly old red deer. If we did not control them for their own good they would simply die of old age, don,t you know.

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        • I find it difficult to like the "game hunting people" In 1975 when I was 15 I excitedly took a BTO ringer to a kestrels nest which I had been observing. I climbed the tree and discovered all the chicks gone and the nest ledge completely raked out so they could not nest in future. As I climbed down an old keeper appeared and asked what we were up to. The bird ringer ranted at him a bit, the keeper said "they were taking the young pheasants" In 2011, while helping a farmer/ keeper unload hay bales a kestrel flew over and he said "we get them swoop through our place" I said "are you sure it wasn't a sparrowhawk?" He paused, then replied "whatever, they all gotta go" I said "I think farmers gotta go with that kind of attitude". A sensible argument didn`t ensue, I walked off in the end to avoid his barrage of expletives. For 40yrs I have witnessed many raptor crimes and still it continues. The shooters in my local complain "there`s too many buzzards" I tell them "there`s too many pheasants, too many shooters and ultimately too many humans"

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  19. Neil Collins says:

    Thank you Mark for this tremendously important article. I'm so fed up of reading the rubbish put out by those who argue that 'grouse shooting is good for conservation', etc etc. This all reminds me of a recent experience of walking across Grassington Moor in the Yorkshire Dales, which I first related at http://www.christownsendoutdoors.com/2014/05/the-devastation-of-eastern-highlands.html#comment-form (Chris's article is well worth reading), and which demonstrates the other negative effects of grouse shooting.

    Grassington Moor is 'managed' intensively (i.e. burnt, drained, and littered with numerous traps for small mammals - I must have seen around 50) for the benefit of 'ground nesting birds' (i.e. red grouse). Ironically, I only saw around three of these, and no other species whatsoever, despite the repeated claims of the shooting lobby that its work benefits all ground-nesting birds and biodiversity generally. This was in marked contrast to the limestone grassland I had previously crossed, which was alive with the sound of curlews, lapwings and skylarks. What was even more depressing was that Natural England had erected several posters to advise that 'conservation work,' including snaring, was in progress. It just goes to show how the shooting industry has been able to dominate the debate with its propaganda - I wonder if this is something to do with the number of Government ministers who participate in this 'sport'?!

    I know that this is purely anecdotal, but I'm sure it cannot be a unique experience. I sincerely hope that your campaign is successful, for the sake of all of our wildlife.

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  20. […] https://markavery.info/2014/06/03/wrong/ […]

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  21. […] this the sparrow hunters will tell you that they are the Sparrowhawk’s greatest friends and the hawks a…. When it is pointed out that in other parts of the world, House Sparrows and Sparrowhawks survive […]

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  22. Dave Mannifield says:

    Mark you have a growing army of people fully behind you. The truth will out and as long as we keep up this pressure then one day soon they simply have to start to obey the law. The longer this goes on the more eyes will be watching them. We must stand strong and attract more and more support. The end result is that we WILL win.

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Trackbacks

  1. Chrissie says:

    Its because the pro shooting body do not have one reasoned argument for this sport that they sink to this abusive behavior. May you carry on the good fight Mark, Hen Harriers certainly need you!

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  2. Hugh Webster says:

    We shouldn't be surprised when these self-styled "country folk" get it factually wrong. In my experience they struggle to differentiate between even red kites and buzzards, while the Scottish NFU managed to put a golden eagle picture on the front of their sea eagle "Action Plan" (http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/nfus-publishes-its-proposed-sea-eagle-action-plan/). These are all the same people who call for a cull of corvids to help songbird survival, neglecting to realise that corvids are also songbirds... Sigh.

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  3. As a shooter/conservationst..... (these are not mutually exclusive shooter, /preservationist are) I share your disgust at the killing of raptors on grouse moors. I'm also disgusted by the rampant hatred and ill informed views expressed by some in the shooting community in reply to your blog.
    I have two questions for you, when you have banned driven grouse shooting what do you see happening to that land, and how will this effect biodiversity?

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    • Mark says:

      Owen - welcome! And thank you for your comment. I will answer your question, which is a good one, in a blog later this week, so you'll have to keep an eye on this blog, please.

      Thank you too for the rest of what you said. there have been some in the shooting community who have said much nicer things to me too. Unfortunately, those people wouldn't want to be named for fear of the reaction of some of their fellow shooters. Many of the people who sign my e-petition will be completely anti-shooting - I respect their views but I do not share them.

      I do, however, feel myself drifting towards a more anti-shooter point of view every time I see facts being misrepresented, or intransigence or rudeness. So, a reasonable comment from a shooter and conservationist like yourself tends to be better received by me - thank you.

      Please feel free to comment here - one of my reasons for starting this e-petition is to get some of the views and arguments viewed by a wider public. I'm happy for people not to agree with me - the debate is useful.

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    • Hugh Webster says:

      I don't wish to pre-empt Mark's discussion of what might happen to land that is currently used for driven grouse shooting in the event of a ban, although I imagine it might involve some version of multiple use to include (guided?) rough shooting (thus employing ex-keepers and giving portly city bankers and gouty country gents - i.e. grouse shooters - some exercise) and even possibly/hopefully some re-wilding (to represent better value for the benefits payments claimed by moor owners and funded by tax payers whose wishes for that land are presently ignored). Indeed Andy Wightman has calculated in his book "The Poor Had No Lawyerst" that the King of Dubai could annually receive £439,000 for the estate in Wester Ross he owns, the Duke of Westminster could find himself enriched by £764,000 a year and the Duke of Roxburgh by £950,000. That no doubt helps those gentlemen keep the wolf from the door, but it also presently excludes the wolf from our landscape, despite a documented appetite for their return amongst the general public (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-26616451 and http://www.wolvesandhumans.org/wolves/is_time_right_for_wolf_reintroduction.htm)

      This is also interesting http://www.monbiot.com/2014/04/28/the-shooting-party/

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      • Mark says:

        Hugh - only slighly pre-empted. Thank you.

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      • Trimbush says:

        Re: Yellowstone : “the grey wolf was the biggest enemy of foxes there and that with the recovery of the wolf population at Yellowstone, the fox population declined”

        Perhaps the (protected?) Wolf would be easier to shoot than the fox

        I suppose they could bring back fox / wolf-hunting – just as a tourist attraction that is – who knows?

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  4. Andrew Gilruth says:

    Mark - delighted you agree with the GWCT conservation science that says that grouse moors can benefit the hen harrier. What is needed now is support for the Defra led Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan (JAP) to remove the conflict.

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    • Mark says:

      Andrew - I do agree with the GWCT science on that point. It is actually not nearly as convincing as the RSPB science, on a large sample of moors, which showed much the same thing about 15 years ago but it shows a similar thing. What it shows is that HH do perfectly OK on grouse moors if they are left alone. The issue is, that they are not left alone. What the RSPB study also showed is that HH don't do spectacularly better when they are left unmolested on grouse moors than they do on other moors.

      HH don't need grouse moors they just need people to obey the law. Criminality associated with grouse shooting is the HH's main problem. wouldn't you agree?

      I haven't seen a Joint Action Plan but I hear from plenty of people that it is not 'joint', contains little 'action' and is not a 'plan'. Maybe you'd like to show us the plan and tell us who is signed up to it?

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      • Circus maxima says:

        There are many places in Scotland with loads of hen harriers....but no grouse shooting....poor misguided birds- if only they knew that they weren't conforming to the GWCT norm....

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  5. Terry Pickford says:

    Mark, when you believe in a worthwhile cause as passionate as you do, receiving this kind of abuse for highlighting your beliefs in public tells me and many others you must be doing something right. From what I am hearing and reading your petition has undoubtedly upset one or two individuals, and thank goodness for that, because otherwise there would be a real reason to be concerned.

    Just think about this Mark, had you raised this issues a few centuries ago, you may have been charged with high treason for having the courage to even speak out against the establishment. The punishment then would have been the loss of your head, or worst, hung-drawn and quartered not just abuse.

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    • Mark says:

      Terry - thank you. The abuse doesn't worry me much. The hot-headedness of some people who have guns worries me a bit more. Talk about shooting from the hip.

      looking forward to attending the Game Fair in July. Was thinking of growing a false moustache as a disguise - hang on! that won't work.

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  6. kie says:

    Mark, I love how your own link manages to mess all over one of your key points:

    "Not true at all. The Red Grouse is a race of the Willow Grouse or Willow Ptarmigan which is found widely across Europe and North America (click here and here). So, it’s not a unique species to the UK and there are lots of British subspecies of bird –"

    and when you follow the link, what does it say:

    "Red Grouse may best be treated as a separate species from Willow Grouse L lagopus (Lucchini et al 2001),"

    LOL!

    Now, back to the point - you seem to have given us a long list of ad hominem arguments, circumstantial supossition, and not tackled in any way the actual point that Andrew Gilruth challenged you with.

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    • Mark says:

      kie - I love the way that you avoid almost all of the points made and ask me to do something else.

      Patience!

      Gone are the days when we will jump to the command of the shooting community. You are now on the back foot.

      This is a week of blogs about Hen Harriers (and then we'll probably need a rest from the subject) - I believe I will have addressed Andrew's points by the end of the week but, if not, there is plenty of time. I am quite keen to make some of my own too. That's OK is it? On my blog?

      Here's the British List http://www.bou.org.uk/thebritishlist/British-List.pdf

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      • kie says:

        Mark

        "Gone are the days when we will jump to the command of the shooting community. You are now on the back foot."

        Hang on - you've got a couple of thousand signatures, even the ridiculously optimistic and hopeless handgun legalisation one has got 16,000 (and thats still far more than the previous 'licencing of grouse moors' one got!) Its hardly motivating the masses, is it Mark?

        Now, back on topic -

        i) Do you accept that there is an ongoing debate within the scientific community on the correct taxonomic designation of the Red Grouse, that many eminent scientists have argued that it is in fact now a separate species rather than a 'race' or SSP of the willow grouse, and that if the 'Lagopus scotica' school were accepted would undermine your own point listed under 'Getting it wrong factually, 2: the Red Grouse is a uniquely British species'?

        ii) Inconvenient truths, how many Hen Harrier nests fledged on the huge areas of upland England where there is no grouse shooting and no persecution? How did they get on in the forest of Bowland without persecution?

        iii) is it true that the 'bowland betty' lead was actually a tiny fragment (not lead shot) of niobium/lead alloy (an alloy that has never been recorded anywhere in the making of bullets or cartridges?

        iv) Why are they refusing to release data on the mass poisoning in the highlands - is it true that the data indicates it was accidental rather than persecution?

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        • Mark says:

          kie

          We'll have to see how many signatures this e-petition gets. We haven't finished Day 7 yet. As I write this reply to you it is the e-petition, across all open ones affecting all government departments which has attracted the 2nd most signatures in the last hour (see the homepage). So that seems quite good for a start.

          i) there's a debate and the current position is the one I took. You should then move on to point 3 in the blog to which you refer which argues (shows I would say) that whatever the taxonomic status of the Red Grouse it is not dependent on grouse shooting.
          ii) not many, but you will need to read future blogs to get the full picture on why not. Those 'huge' areas are set in a matrix on 'huger' areas of grouse moors where HH would be wise not to tread. read on this week - you will love it.
          iii) no idea - interesting speculation that I had not heard before. when will we all know the answer to that question? And it isn't central to this topic so you have gone marginally off-topic here.
          iv) no idea about this Red Kite and Buzzard case - interesting speculation that I had not heard before (or not in that form). When will we all know the answer to that question? I would be interested to know although it is not entirely germane to this topic so you have gone off topic here.

          but v) you accept the other points then? In particular point 1 that HH don't need 'keepered land and don't need to be cuddled by a 'keeper? I'm glad you seem to have let that one go because you seemed to be a keen proponent of it in your comments on this blog a while ago. you could hardly get away from the subject however ridiculous the argument. When i saw it in the GWCT blog I thought of you - was I wrong to do that? And do you accept that almost wiping out the HH is a politically crass position to be in if you are an industry which claims to have problems from HH? I'm not too fussed about whether you agree with the other points really.

          Oh - and as I finish writing this reply to you, so if you are quick you can check too - this e-epetition is the top-trending of them all on the government website. But you ignore it if you like. That's OK with me.

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          • kie says:

            "you accept the other points then? In particular point 1 that HH don't need 'keepered land and don't need to be cuddled by a 'keeper?"

            Happy to come back on that Mark

            I would reiterate that despite your claim that 'they don't need a cuddle by a keeper' the data shows that they're still not breeding on the unkeepered land, though I guess we'll have to wait and see your magical matrix of mystery that somehow shows its all down to keepers somewhere else - of course, we'd best gloss over the nests that fail after birdwatchers and raptor protection volunteers have visited them, or put cameras on them, or just spent a couple of hours happily sitting there watching them from a couple of hundred yards way - the last HH nest site I saw on UU land was like Piccadilly circus! no doubt those failures are down to the keepers as well!

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          • Mark says:

            kie - 'the data shows that they're still not breeding on the unkeepered land' is nonsense. Thank you. I somehow thought you hadn't given this one up yet.

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          • Circus maxima says:

            Kie
            Keepers have made grouse moor marginal for harriers. There are many areas of un-keepered moor in Scotland where the harrier does very well. In my experience the densest harrier populations are found in a moorland scrub habitat which looks nothing like grouse moor monoculture.

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    • Mud-Lark says:

      Kie: & we're still waiting for Andrew to signpost us to the Defra JAP which I recall he was asked to provide a few posts back.

      Plenty of talk, so Andrew is there really an actual plan? It seems as rare as Hen Harriers?

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      'a long list of ad hominem arguments' - where?

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  7. Terry Pickford says:

    Mark, Please take care, remember what happened to a guy with a beard called Guy Faulks when he tried to blow up the houses of parliament? In those days there were plenty of hen harriers though!

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  8. Trimbush says:

    The First Law of Conservation (ists)

    There is greater pleasure to be gained by the class-driven green (with envy) “conservationists” by depriving the rich (of anything) - than by any benefit derived by the subject of the argument / debate eg shooting buzzards

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    • Hugh Webster says:

      "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Trimbush's comment makes me think we've progressed from stage one to stage two at least.

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      • Mark says:

        Hugh - indeed. Thank you.

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      • Trimbush says:

        Methinks you confuse (we) 'democracy' with 'mob-rule'

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        • Hugh Webster says:

          Democracy? Without proportional representation most of us (living in safe seats) are politically disenfranchised anyway, but if any group is guilty of allowing passion to rule over reason (one definition of mob rule) then I would argue that it is the grouse shooting community with their bizarre denial of the (literally) bleeding obvious and insistence on perverse arguments such as the "cuddly keeper" fallacy.

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      Your point is somewhat undermined, Trimbush, by the fact that all the so-called 'class warriors' who are fed up with grouse shooting interests killing birds of prey are equally opposed to - mainly working class - pigeon fanciers doing the same thing to protect their racing pigeons (I recall for example that a pigeon fancier's guest blog on this site produced a vast number of comments).
      For what it is worth I personally could not give a tinker's cuss that grouse shooting is carried out by wealthy people. What angers me is that in the selfish pursuit of their own interests some of them are prepared to drive a protected species to extinction in defiance of the law.

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    • Ed Hutchings says:

      Quite right, let us leave out the reverse snobbery, and concentrate on the issue in hand.

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      • Trimbush says:

        THis is the issue in hand -

        "a ‘sport’ that is mostly available to the landed and the rich. It’s bound to be a minority interest and it’s bound to be controversial.
        Speaking for myself, and that’s what I do here, those aren’t the elements of grouse shooting that most concern me, BUT you would have to be a bit blinkered not to realise that they are issues that would concern many, many reasonable and perfectly nice people"

        Mark votes 'Green' but actsl New Labour !! Very disappointing indeed!

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        • Mark says:

          Trimbush - I really am not trying to impress you so I don't mind if you are disappointed.

          You know that I am a Labour Party member (and almost certainly will vote so in the general election) because it says so on this website and i occasionally mention it on this blog. you know that I voted Green in the EU elections because i said so on this blog. I'll let you know when I join you in UKIP? Tories? too, but I wouldn't hold your breath, if I were you.

          I knew this subject would attract you back commenting again.And I didn't even mention badgers did I? I did mention badgers in the episode of Shared Planet I recorded at the hay Festival on Saturday though - I knew you would want me to...

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          • Trimbush says:

            Many many thanks for your reference to Badgers - but whatever you said about Badger TB will, I'm sure, be scientifically 'wrong' - incidentally did we touch a raw nerve or something? How is the cat?

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          • Mark says:

            Trimbush- you aren't UKIP I hope.

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          • Trimbush says:

            Believe me Mark - I'm a TORY - more so than most Conservative Cabinet Members - couldn't vote for any other. I can't understand a Labour member / supporter voting Green. Get in there and change it.
            One either does or one does not!

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          • Mark says:

            Trimbush - I thought so really 😉

            And that is what I am doing.

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        • Ed Hutchings says:

          Trimbush - The issue in hand is not what class of people shoot grouse. Many probably went to public schools just like myself. The issue is the distinct lack of Hen Harriers, and other raptors, on moors driven for grouse.

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  9. Adam says:

    Well done Mark!

    I am always puzzled by the argument purported, that suggests maintaining a grouse moor is a good thing for the environment. Surely anyone with half a brain knows that promoting a monoculture is a bad thing for the environment. By its very nature grouse moor management suppresses the bio-diversity that should be present.

    It reminds me of the Tobacco companies argument that "fags are good for you"

    I was brought up on a sheep farm, next to a grouse moor, in the North of England. At one point, the amount of lead shot falling on the moor started to effect our water supply. However this is beside the point.

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    • filbert cobb says:

      "beside the point"

      I don't think it is.

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    • Mark says:

      Adam - thank you and welcome. It is a bit puzzling, I agree.

      I'd be very interested in more details of lead contamination of your water supply. Either email me mark@markavery.info or leave another comment headed NOT FOR PUBLICATION if you'd like to say more.

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  10. filbert cobb says:

    Calling for the banning of an enterprise, affecting a large number of customers, because some agents of some entrepreneurs indulge in criminal acts for which there are already sanctions makes no sense to me. And it's not as if the hen harrier - a mythical bird what I have never knowingly seen although I would like to very much - is the only raptor targeted by criminals. You might equally call for a ban on all motor vehicles because some drivers drive while under the influence of drugs and or alcohol.

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    • Mark says:

      filbert - that's a point of view.

      You will enjoy Thursday morning's blog which lays out a whole host of reasons why you and i might want to ban driven grosue shooting - that's when we come out of the Hen harrier/bird/wildlife box a bit more - you'll love it, I'm sure.

      There is quite a lot of effort put in to catching people who drive too fast - I know, I've been caught a few times. And if you break the law you can have your licence taken away (a subject of a previous e-petition which didn't seem to find favour with this government). So with little enforcement and few penalties (where is vicarious liability in England for example - I believe it would apply to your employer if you drove badly (under some circumstances)) we must seek other solutions.

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      • Trimbush says:

        Yes Mark - I've always thought that my parents should be blamed and punished for my bad driving

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    • Jonathan Wallace says:

      Filbert, I have not yet decided whether or not to sign the petition.
      On the one hand, like you, I am uncomfortable about banning something "because some agents of some entrepreneurs indulge in criminal acts" .
      On the other hand I am very angry that the Hen Harrier has been effectively wiped off the face of England by the acts of a small number of people acting in the interests of grouse shooters. That is clearly totally unacceptable and existing approaches - and existing sanctions, have proven to be insufficient to bring the persecution to a stop so a different approach is needed. My own preference would be for the licensing approach, coupled with vicarious liability, which would provide a mechanism for banning those operators who can't abide by the rules whilst allowing those that do to continue.
      That said, a big enough response to Mark's petition might well not result in a ban but would still serve a valuable purpose if it demonstrated a sufficient groundswell of public opposition to persuade the government that this is an issue that it needs to take a lot more seriously.

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      • filbert cobb says:

        The weakness of the vicarious liability schtick is its susceptibility to evidence planting.

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        • Bob Philpott says:

          The weakness of the vicarious liability schtick is that (in my view) it would be bad legislation.

          Licensing though may be a different matter or even better, guidance on whether a person committing criminal offences is an appropriate person to retain a gun licence, that would leave the good keepers safe from any form of criticism.

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        • Hugh Webster says:

          True of many laws I'd have thought Filbert. Still, I can sympathise with those concerned at their vulnerability to such an act. It's why I wanted to see licensing, with only moors that have successfully fledged a number of harriers proportionate to their size in the previous year granted such a license. I can imagine some fiercely protective gamekeepers guarding nests from any disturbance! However, since the shooting community didn't like the licensing idea and since we now have virtually no HHs left, perhaps an unambiguous ban is all that's left to us.

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  11. Trimbush says:

    Mark says “push us into alliances that we would never have dreamt of in the past” – is he's speaking of 'ciminals' who threaten life and limb or 'scientists' who don't quite tell the truth?

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  12. Dennis Ames says:

    Regarding the Hen Harrier it is disturbing that the RSPB takes this neutral stance apparently because of the Royal charter,I guess they also forbid any employee from taking any stance opposing that view and even extend that to their forum.
    I thought we lived in a democracy but the RSPB would have us all back in the bad old days.
    It seems they cannot tolerate one member out of over one million thinking outside of their neutral view.
    It is a sad reflection on a charity but also amusing except in this instance it has serious consequences for Hen Harriers and other raptors.

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    • Mark says:

      Dennis - I think you are exaggerating a bit here. The RSPB does more than any other organisation to fight wildlife crimes against birds. I think they could do more. You will probably enjoy tomorrow morning's blog.

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  13. Jack Valiant says:

    I always think that what GWCT leave out of their papers is more interesting than what they put in. Take the harrier paper above. It "finishes" as I recall it, in 2007 (the un-keepered data run that is). The paper was published in 2013. What happened in 2008? Keepering was re-instated and continues to this day. You would have thought that GWCT would want to test their assertion that keepering brings benefits for hen harriers by comparing the data for when the keepering was put back in place. They would have had at least 4 years worth of data, they could have delayed publication for a year and made it a round 5 years of data (has a nicer ring I think). Why didn't they? The harrier data from 2008 onwards has been published on the Langholm webpage and in the GWCT Reviews and it is reported that productivity has been good. Surely, this would have supported their claims......or maybe it did not?
    I know that GWCT has some good people amongst their ranks but I find I am regularly disappointed in what they produce. They never seem to do the job properly which means it is difficult to take much of what they produce seriously. They should be a much more important player than they are but to do that, they perhaps need to do a bit of soul searching first rather than just being apologists for an environmentally damaging land practice.

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    • Mark says:

      Jack Valiant - well said! I used to have huge respect for their science and their principles. I have much less now for either. They still have some very talented and professional staff though.

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  14. Donald says:

    I for one would love to see the statistics of both visitors and comment numbers to this blog:
    raptor persecution versus other topics.

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    • Mark says:

      Donald - here's the link to what 'you' readers said in a questionnaire this February https://markavery.info/2014/02/10/11200/ (there are several pages not just this one). Raptor persecution is, just, the most popular subject but not far ahead of a few others.

      11,200 unique visitors read this blog in May - I haven't bothered, and I won't bother, to break that down by subject.

      Is that what you expected?

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  15. Roderick leslie says:

    For all the arguments to and fro, Hen harriers are still effectively extinct in England as breeding birds. Extinction isn't a matter of degrees, its an absolute.

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    • Rich Facey says:

      Roderick – no extinction is by degrees hence the word is often prefixed by “locally” and “regionally” and in the case of HH in England “nationally”. What is happening to HH in England is barbaric and hopefully good will come of Mark’s campaign. When it does I’m sure some Welsh and Scottish HH will find their way to England – at the UK level extinction of HH in England is not absolute.

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  16. Andy Roberts says:

    Not an area I know much about but enjoying the discussions. If management of a typical grouse moor ceased completely what habitat would it revert to?

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  17. Andrew Lucas says:

    Meanwhile, in Ireland, another white-tailed eagle is found poisoned...

    http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2014/06/03/another-white-tailed-eagle-found-poisoned-in-ireland/

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  18. Diapensia says:

    Is it not time that the hooray henrys in the UK realized we no longer live in Medieval times and do not need to hunt for sport or food? On the other hand, if beaver hunting were introduced I would be in favour, as well as muntjac hunting. Mink exterminating would be acceptable as well. As for grey squirrels, any time is open season. I thought I was a naturalist but now I,m not sure. Just following the lead set by our "superiors."

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    • filbert cobb says:

      "we ... ... do not need to hunt for sport or food"

      Isn't it really all about other things? Having a legitimate reason for playing with guns? Justifying ownership of a Chelsea Tractor? Having a reason to look like a complete dipstick wearing tweed? Being seen participating in something that says "I have a considerably larger amount of moolah than yow"? It's a class thing, even when you ain't got none, innit.

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      • Diapensia says:

        When one walks round the grinds one feels undressed unless one is carrying a shooter, old boy. As one is no longer free to pot a few peasants one has to make do with the odd rare bird or two. The top people do it so it must be jolly well all right. The same applies to the jolly old red deer. If we did not control them for their own good they would simply die of old age, don,t you know.

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        • I find it difficult to like the "game hunting people" In 1975 when I was 15 I excitedly took a BTO ringer to a kestrels nest which I had been observing. I climbed the tree and discovered all the chicks gone and the nest ledge completely raked out so they could not nest in future. As I climbed down an old keeper appeared and asked what we were up to. The bird ringer ranted at him a bit, the keeper said "they were taking the young pheasants" In 2011, while helping a farmer/ keeper unload hay bales a kestrel flew over and he said "we get them swoop through our place" I said "are you sure it wasn't a sparrowhawk?" He paused, then replied "whatever, they all gotta go" I said "I think farmers gotta go with that kind of attitude". A sensible argument didn`t ensue, I walked off in the end to avoid his barrage of expletives. For 40yrs I have witnessed many raptor crimes and still it continues. The shooters in my local complain "there`s too many buzzards" I tell them "there`s too many pheasants, too many shooters and ultimately too many humans"

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  19. Neil Collins says:

    Thank you Mark for this tremendously important article. I'm so fed up of reading the rubbish put out by those who argue that 'grouse shooting is good for conservation', etc etc. This all reminds me of a recent experience of walking across Grassington Moor in the Yorkshire Dales, which I first related at http://www.christownsendoutdoors.com/2014/05/the-devastation-of-eastern-highlands.html#comment-form (Chris's article is well worth reading), and which demonstrates the other negative effects of grouse shooting.

    Grassington Moor is 'managed' intensively (i.e. burnt, drained, and littered with numerous traps for small mammals - I must have seen around 50) for the benefit of 'ground nesting birds' (i.e. red grouse). Ironically, I only saw around three of these, and no other species whatsoever, despite the repeated claims of the shooting lobby that its work benefits all ground-nesting birds and biodiversity generally. This was in marked contrast to the limestone grassland I had previously crossed, which was alive with the sound of curlews, lapwings and skylarks. What was even more depressing was that Natural England had erected several posters to advise that 'conservation work,' including snaring, was in progress. It just goes to show how the shooting industry has been able to dominate the debate with its propaganda - I wonder if this is something to do with the number of Government ministers who participate in this 'sport'?!

    I know that this is purely anecdotal, but I'm sure it cannot be a unique experience. I sincerely hope that your campaign is successful, for the sake of all of our wildlife.

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  20. […] https://markavery.info/2014/06/03/wrong/ […]

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  21. […] this the sparrow hunters will tell you that they are the Sparrowhawk’s greatest friends and the hawks a…. When it is pointed out that in other parts of the world, House Sparrows and Sparrowhawks survive […]

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  22. Dave Mannifield says:

    Mark you have a growing army of people fully behind you. The truth will out and as long as we keep up this pressure then one day soon they simply have to start to obey the law. The longer this goes on the more eyes will be watching them. We must stand strong and attract more and more support. The end result is that we WILL win.

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