Talking to the deaf

Last week the RSPB wrote to the Moorland Association thus;

Amanda Anderson
The Moorland Association 16 Castle Park Lancaster LA1 1YG
Dear Ms Anderson
The RSPB has always sought to work with the sport shooting community to create grouse moors that are environmentally sustainable and provide a safe home for birds of prey and other threatened species. For example, the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project in Southwest Scotland has allowed us to devise and test out practical solutions to the hen harrier-grouse issue. We are also working with moorland managers in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Northern England to secure truly sustainable grouse moors.

However, we don’t see a collective will within the grouse shooting community to improve the stewardship of our upland habitats.

There is evidence that birds of prey continue to be persecuted, impacting on their populations, and many important sites for wildlife are being damaged or destroyed by intensive management activities such as inappropriate burning. Intensification is increasing and it is clear that many in the industry are moving further away from common ground with conservation interests.

This has to stop.

This is why we have today called on political parties to introduce, after the next election, a robust licensing system to govern grouse moor management to deliver environmental outcomes.

We believe that this law-abiding, environmentally sustainable grouse shoots would have nothing to fear from new regulation and would benefit from improved public confidence in the sustainability of their sport. But the public will not stomach the continued destruction of our natural heritage and it is clear that grouse shooting must change.
I call on you to support the introduction of a modern regulatory regime for driven grouse shooting in England to help protect our amazing upland wildlife, restore our internationally important peatlands, and return the magnificent hen harrier to its rightful place in the sky above.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

That told ’em!

This week they have written back thus:

Dr Mike Clarke
Chief Executive, RSPB
The Lodge
SG19 2DL

Dear Mike,

The Moorland Association welcomes the RSPB’s support for sustainable grouse moors that “provide a safe home for birds of prey and other threatened species” and agrees that “our amazing upland wildlife” needs our collective care. Thank you for your letter.

I can assure you that the aim of the Moorland Association is to encourage and promote the conservation and enhancement of the ecology and natural beauty of heather moorland. We take great pride in the flora and fauna that are doing well under the careful management of our members; the black grouse, ring ouzel, merlin, lapwing, golden plover and curlew are just a few amber or red listed birds that have refuges on driven grouse moors. All are benefiting directly from grouse moor gamekeepers undertaking predator control and habitat management funded by grouse shooting.

As red grouse are wild, sympathetic management of the moors is all our members can do to safeguard the population and encourage a viable surplus to then be harvested by shooting. With that in mind, it makes no sense to deliberately ‘damage or destroy’ the very habitat on which the grouse depend.

Over 70% of grouse moors are designated as SSSI for flora and fauna largely delivered by the way grouse moors have been managed so well over the last 200 years, with 96% in favourable recovering condition. Clearly, there is still room for improvement, but with designation comes regulation and the Moorland Association feels that a further regulatory framework is at least unnecessary red tape and at worst could be damaging to the huge progress now being made with statutory and other bodies on peatland restoration on grouse moors. Equally, the hen harrier conflict is well recognised and we hope to see Defra’s Joint Recovery Plan, which you have helped write, signed off and implemented so that we can build on the success of this year’s breeding on moorland managed for red grouse in Bowland across England in a sustainable way.

The definition of what sustainable and successful land management in the uplands looks like is perhaps the nub of the question that needs answering. The Moorland Association, whose members look after one fifth of the uplands of England and Wales, need to work with you and other partners and through constructive dialogue create a Code of Practice for all upland land managers based on clear outcomes that also take into consideration the multiple objectives of the land use; be they water quality, conservation, agriculture, access and grouse moor management. Surely a healthy abundance of a suite of waders and an economically thriving local upland community are just as important as re-wetting the moors and encouraging sphagnum moss growth to clean water and lock up carbon?

This is challenging work, but I am sure we are more than tenacious enough to rise to it and rediscover the common ground that I think we still share.

The Chairman and I look forward to meeting you to discuss in the near future.

Yours sincerely,

Amanda Anderson BSc., MSc., PGCE


Talking is going so well – please join over 6000 others and sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting in England.


30 Replies to “Talking to the deaf”

  1. Hi Mark – would you want to ban these ‘truly sustainable grouse moors’? and if so why?

    1. Secondly (apols for two comments) do you oppose ” a robust licensing system to govern grouse moor management to deliver environmental outcomes.” – and if so why?

      many thanks

      1. ps (and apols for 3 separate comments).

        I ask because the impression I am getting is that there are three positions here and while one could argue about levels of compromise and listening exhibited by position #1 and #2 there can surely be little doubt which one is the least compromising and by far the most deaf – that has to be #3 right at the bottom there.

        I’m assuming you are caricaturing your own stance here Mark of so bravo!

        Or is my analysis too nuanced?

      2. giles – try to get your act together before you reply please – you’re a great one for afterthoughts aren’t you?

        1. many apologies I was actually wondering if you’d add them together – interesting though that you can’t seem to say if you support the RSPB’s approach of a licensing system or not. It seems to me it might well be more practicably obtainable than your complete ban. And is this blog meant to be poking fun at yourself or am I getting the wrong end of the stick? You do seem to have adopted the least consensual most deaf approach of all three don’t you think? It *might* be that you are pushing this ban idea in order to try and push the grouse shooters towards the licensing idea – but that would be a little devious don’t you think?

          I would say that given that so many moors are SSSIs and given that they seem to be being trashed there also would seem to be something seriously wrong with the protection afforded by SSSI status. If you do agree with that would you say that the degree and nature of such protection also needs to be looked at further?

  2. Mark.

    Astounding but helpful. Demonstrates that from the very top down, the Moorland Association has:

    (a) absolutely no idea how to manage upland communities for the benefit of biodiversity and the ecosystem as it should be;
    (b) absolutely no idea how to communicate their argument; and
    (c) absolutely no grasp of the concerns and issues being raised.

    It seems that everytime a representative from the various pro-grouse shooting lobby responds, they immediately shoot themselves and the people they purport to represent in the proverbial foot. All to the good.


  3. Should have done it already but I’ve just signed the petition. You’re doing well Mark, a lot of people are signing it.

  4. ‘Surely a healthy abundance of a suite of waders and an economically thriving local upland community are just as important as re-wetting the moors and encouraging sphagnum moss growth to clean water and lock up carbon?’

    With regard to the economics of the uplands the question posed is a false dichotomy, but putting that to one side – surely the answer is no?

  5. I found it hard to believe she wrote the following

    “The Moorland Association, whose members look after one fifth of the uplands of England and Wales, need to work with you and other partners and through constructive dialogue create a Code of Practice for all upland land managers based on clear outcomes that also take into consideration the multiple objectives of the land use; be they water quality, conservation, agriculture, access and grouse moor management. Surely a healthy abundance of a suite of waders and an economically thriving local upland community are just as important as re-wetting the moors and encouraging sphagnum moss growth to clean water and lock up carbon?”

    Her members look after less than 20% of the uplands of England and Wales yet she wants to talk about creating a code of practice, we already have one, its called the law of the land, if you don’t agree with it the way forward is to discuss it amicably, not pay employees to break the law to bring an outcome that suites you.

    We don’t have a healthy abundance of a suite of waders neither, please look at the status of birds you refer too, Curlew had to be taken off the game list, Golden Plover, Woodcock and Snipe all in decline yet still on the game list, please if your going to make a comment on something you profess to know about have the decency to do your homework on the subject first.

    “Economically thriving local upland community” how many thousands of pounds of tax payers money are being spent in these thriving communities, I know of one that has received over 500k in 2 years and how much of this money is being paid back into the treasury in the form of taxes, we’re often led to believe that despite thes grants most of these estates run at a loss, which to most of us comes across as a tax scam

  6. It’s very important to keep talking and very important to keep reasonable. People should take a look at the Hunt Saboteurs facebook page and their posting about a young woman from the USA who shoots wildlife in Africa. There are many many comments on there which are truly shocking.

    Take this one for example:

    “I hope she ******************”

    🙁 There are many others also very shocking.

    I dpn’t like what the girl has done but this type of attitude is completely wrong.

    This is what happens when people stop talking and blind hatred takes over. It’s much better to talk even if it does cause annoyance than go down this kind of route.

    1. giles – I’ve edited your comment as you must have known I would. The best alternative to being shocking and unreasonable is not to be supine. Should we have kept talking to Hitler rather than build Spitfires? No, in the end (not at the beginning) if the talking gets nowhere then you have to look elsewhere. Signing my and over 6000 other people’s e-petition is the middle road between inaction and armed struggle ;-0

      1. I appreciate that Mark and I think you did the right thing – even I had partly edited it. There are about 50 more such comments on that thread. Nasty isn’t it???? I am still curious about whether you also support the RSPBs call for licensing and what you think about a more general tightening of regulations protecting the uplands.

        It seems to me that the licensing route should not be discounted as it is probably more likely to bear fruit politically. You might however oppose it on the grounds that it could get in the way of your more draconian alternative.

          1. Ah ok – as the time for talking is ‘over’ you obviously aren’t in a position to give any kind of reasonable response to simple and perfectly reasonable questions. I am indeed attempting to talk to the deaf.

          2. giles – you’ll discover my views on a wide range of issues if you keep reading these blogs – but I don’t do requests! I’ll come back (because it will be back) to licensing soon.

    2. The ‘young woman’ in question is

      The rest of this comment has been deleted as the ‘person’ making it was using a false email address.

      1. a complete ban on wildlife killing, does this mean we should stop children fishing? maybe they can have more time to spend watching television, something i know most children neglect…. and should we also stop mowing the lawn because grass species are wildlife too? and how about managing woodland by cutting down trees? should this stop too?
        All our food should come from where? to grow food you need to remove an area that could be used for wildlife, be it an intensive arable farm? or digging up the weeds in your veg patch, all leads to less wildlife.

        ( i know this has nothing to do with grouse shooting but daft comments about killing wildlife always bug me.)

      2. I personally don’t think a complete ban on wildlife killing is an option – we are hardly going to ban swotting flies and headlice treatments and in actual fact Mark isn’t even calling for a complete ban on shooting grouse. From what I understand he just wants to ban people from shooting a grouse that has been driven towards a gun. You could still drive grouse (although not sure why you’d want to) and you could still shoot them just not both at the same time. This is seen as a panacea for all sorts of problems on the uplands I *think* rather than implementing stricter regulations and enforcement to tackle those problems (although maybe he wants to do that too).

        Note from Mark: Last two paras edited out because this is a place for comments – comments on these blogs. If you keep dragging other issues into them your comments won’t appear here. I’m pretty tolerant, I believe, but you are stretching my patience a little.

  7. WE manage 20% of the uplands so we can destroy Black Grouse which used to be so common they covered most of these moors. Our habitat management is against the Black Grouse so there is only one grouse hence why everyone including conservationists call them ‘grouse moors’.

    1. John – yes you do make a good point. We should call them ‘Red Grouse farms’ or ‘Red Grouse killing fields’ I guess?

  8. Giles I’ll answer your question (on my own behalf not Marks) I would favour a very robust licensing system and I mean robust, transgress any of the provisions or the law or any of the local management conditions on the relevant moorland SSSI and the license is withdrawn for at least one shooting season, any future transgressions and removal terms would increase. As I don’t think this will currently happen I am in favour of a complete ban. The very tone of the reply deliberately missing all of the RSPB points indicates why its almost pointless talking to these people, you can only bang your head on the wall for so long!
    Going back to the BBC report on countryside reporting, whenever raptor persecution in general has appeared and its not often enough the Beeb have given the CA or MA a right of reply, yet when I see local news programmes discussing a crime wave of car theft or burglary I don’t see the culprits getting a right of reply. Yes the MA want to talk but that’s all they want to do to appear reasonable, it never results in change on the ground and even if it did their members are not bound by any decision made centrally. so even if they were not deaf its still nearly pointless talking to them.

    1. Thanks for that Paul,

      I’d quibble on two points.

      Firstly your apparent logic is that we have to have a ban rather than licensing because of MA recalcitrance does not seem to make sense to me. I’m sure they will be even more recalcitrant about a ban than licensing and the instigation of either does not depend on their acceptance (although no doubt it would help).

      I would have thought that politically a licensing scheme would almost certainly be far easier to achieve. With or without co operation of the MA. Mark might well know more about the political realities of achieving either end.

      You are correct generally people that commission a crime don’t get a right of reply to a news story about it – although in principle if they did and took it up then it might make the police’s job easier. However of course neither the CA or the MA are the culprits as I am sure we all realise. The culprits may or may not be members of the CA and/or the MA but that is hardly the point.

      A similar case might be for instance if there was a spate of crime of which travellers are accused. They might well get a representative of the travelling community in to discuss it. That seems quite reasonable to me. b Of course not all travellers are criminals and when a traveller commits a crime it is not the ‘travelling community’ that is committing it but an individual. I think this is an important point actually.

      I’d very much hope that both the CA and the MA would adopt a position of opposing Hen Harrier persecution.

  9. Giles, this government has already ruled out a licensing system and I did say robust and currently I have no confidence that either DEFRA or NE would be prepared to be robust. The latter have already moved the goal posts on the state of moorland SSSIs in favour of the game lobby. So I’m not sure whether a ban or licensing is the more easily achieved, but what is sure is that we need in the strongest possible terms to register our disgust at the current status quo.
    Of course the CA ( known to a number of raptor workers as ” countryside areliars” and MA ( and if it comes to it NGO) condemn raptor persecution, yet it is largely although not entirely their members doing it.
    it is very difficult not to entirely despise them when one has been in the room when on the one hand the MA rep has denied harrier persecution takes place at all, yet later says they will continue to do just that until they get a favourable deal on species management. If not the criminals themselves they are certainly apologists for it. Shooting in this country is almost the least regulated anywhere yet even the good guys in the shooting lobby are opposed to the very regulation which would force the criminal element either into the open where they could be dealt with or forced out of the “sport”.

  10. Giles,think you are just antagonising Mark.
    Do you really think that if Chrissie,John and Mark had not put lots of effort into e-petitions the RSPB would have done anything for Hen Harriers,they certainly took their time about putting any effort into helping Hen Harriers even though several people tried desperately to get them to back those petitions.
    Even so well done RSPB restored my respect for them,better late than never.

  11. Indeed Dennis indeed. Its a shame other NGOs don’t grasp the same nettle and realise that whilst we might still talk to the likes of MA, NGO, GWCT and BASC that we should be——— 1 registering our disgust at the current status quo
    and 2 trying to do something about it.
    I find myself increasingly frustrated and annoyed that organisations like GWCT and BASC support attempts at solutions that cannot work without targets and sanctions for noncompliance and failure yet are opposed to better regulation of a sport/industry that desperately needs if only for the sake of the Harrier, Peregrine, Short-eared Owl and clean water , hence my whole hearted support for Marks petition along with Chrissie and Johns before ( although Chrissie won’t believe that). Currently DEFRA and government are not listening, at least not enough, so we need to make them take notice.

Comments are closed.