And now from AA to RSPB

Thunderclap-requestNo, not those nice people who fix your car by the side of the road, not those nice people who help you give up the booze, but those people, who sent me thousands of postcards disapproving, in no uncertain terms, of the RSPB’s position on culling Ruddy Ducks many years ago – Animal Aid.

Animal Aid have published a report, updating a previous one, on the ills of grouse shooting – called Calling the Shots 2014.

Animal Aid’s two campaign aims are to remove public subsidies for grouse moor management and to licence grouse shooting estates. They’ve gone a bit soft since the old days!

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddBut isn’t it interesting how suddenly things are changing, and a swell of opinion is building. It’s as though lots of people have been too scared to talk about grouse shooting and its ills for ages and now they all feel a little bit empowered to do so.

So we have:

And the response from the grouse shooting community is…?

No realisation that they have to change. No admission of error. No public sign of contrition. Just silence…

…silence…

…silence…

…silence…the sound of intransigence.

…silence…the sound of arrogance.

And…

…silence…the sound of the world leaving them behind.

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31 Replies to “And now from AA to RSPB”

    1. And yet not only formally support herds of flushed wild deer being shot - you formally support them HAVING to be shot as soon as possible. Total hypocrisy!

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  1. Mark, if you go on like this you'll be walking across Derwent Reservoir on the 10th not standing by it, your tone is becoming a bit messianic if you don't mind me saying so. Not so much Voldemort, more St John the Divine. Your demands for contrition and admission of error would not disgrace the Inquisition.
    You should be given credit where it is due. You have managed almost singled handed to sow discord at precisely the moment when co-operation was about to bear fruit. The Hen Harrier situation is better this year than last and the Joint Recovery Plan is drafted and there was every hope that we could have rapid recovery if everyone had the courage of their convictions and now what? Everybody is shouting and reasonable people are taking cover.
    A possible reason why most people do not respond to you is that they are afraid of the consequences. I am but I carry on regardless. It will be interesting to see how much direct action takes place this August, there have been historically low levels of intimidation and criminal damage over the last few years, if the level goes up this year I think you can safely take the credit.

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    1. This sounds very much like the response of someone whose world is changing and who doesn't like it! Sorry Ian I don't know you, but change does not normally happen through patient dialogue, and - is it seven years we have waited for the yet unpublished Joint Recovery Plan? - and still no breeding harriers in England? Mark has brought the real effects of driven grouse shooting into the open, some people may shirk, but many will not. Its time to stand up and understand what we unwittingly support when we do nothing. Many people are realising this now.

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    2. Ian you're meant to be being silent - don't spoil Mark's blog by saying something.

      I think you are right to be worried about possible violence *********'s ex is ********** - I posted a press cutting about what he got convicted for in 2002 but Mark refused to publish it. She was involved in that court case too. You could google him but he's exercised his 'right to be forgotten' - try "***************" and you'll see "Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more "

      What on earth would ************* have done with an iron bar which he might not want people to know about?

      Animal rights are all very well but I'm all for people's rights not to get clobbered on the head.

      Note from Mark: names have been removed from this comment because I do not have the time, inclination or energy to check them out. Any further comments of this sort will simply be deleted because, Giles, you are taking up too much of my time trying to get your views about certain individuals published here. They aren't relevant to this blog. Start your own blog or try posting comments elsewhere.

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    3. Pathetic last remark Mr Coghill. Too little too late from the grouse shooting community. You're on the back foot now.

      The impetus should now be on you to put your own house in order.

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    4. Ian, As someone who in the past has always thought in terms of co-operation I think this comment has actually helped push me the opposite way that you would have wished.

      "co-operation was about to bear fruit" - To the layman with an interest in wildlife protection but not a shooter that is not evident at all.

      "The Hen Harrier situation is better this year than last" - Is it really. That is using statistics to the extreme. Last year 2, this year 3 (with 2 of those on protected sites). Last year 2, this year 100 would certainly be better than last and that doesn't seem likely to happen in the near future.

      "There was every hope that we could have rapid recovery if everyone had the courage of their convictions" - Why hasn't there been rapid recovery before. If the Grouse shooting industry is waiting for a plan before they take action on stopping wildlife crime there is something very wrong. As for the courage of convictions that is also part of the problem; in common with most crime, convictions are hard to come by and most legislation relies on people behaving lawfully. Most people offend because they don't think they will get caught but we don't go out and talk to burglars allowing them a little bit of thieving in order to get crime down.

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    5. Bear fruit? Where exactly?

      With landowners trying to convince DEFRA that the best approach is to "manage" predatory species all that we are seeing is a return to the days when raptors could be glibly regarded as vermin.

      Mark has, I believe, been even more patient with grouse shooters than I could have been in his (earlier) position. Now he has stimulated a large latent protest that is actually having some effect. Your personal criticism of him is unworthy.

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    6. Ian - I don't mind you saying so, but I'll not take much notice of it, as I'm sure you'd expect. It reminded me of the Life of Brian - 'he's not the messiah - he's a very naughty boy!'. Made me smile, anyway.

      I wouldn't claim all the credit - but you didn't really mean credit , I know - for anything. there is a coalition of interests and groups clearly coming together on this issue. You, and the grouse moor managers and owners who fund GWCT, have to take the 'credit' for provoking so many people to be so moved against driven grouse shooting. The 'credit' is all yours, honestly.

      Any criminal needs to be prepared to take the consequences of their actions. This campaign is about criminality - wildlife crime.

      Thanks for your comment, though - I gave it a 'Like'.

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  2. This is co-operation that led to the killing and later discovery last year of tagged hen harrier Bowland Betty in 2012? Or what about the co-operation that led to the killing of at least 5 buzzards and 14 red kites in April? It seems to me that the grouse shooting community have had quite a few chances at co-operation and now people have run out of patience.

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    1. I though that it was last year and realised upon researching it that it was 2012, it seems I've been reading this blog longer than I thought.

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  3. Ian ,your comment shows how much Mark with others has achieved,for once you are on the back foot especially when you talk about it will be interesting to see how much direct action and insinuating that if level of direct action etc goes up this year which if you mean action against shooters then Mark has never put this forward as a option and it is mean to attribute anything like this to Mark.
    Do we see a start of trying to discredit Mark.

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  4. My Thoughts about Bird of Prey persecution.

    First I should say that I don't consider myself an expert or particularly knowledgeable in these matters. These are just my thoughts as someone who knows right from wrong where the welfare of other living creatures are concerned. As a long time birdwatcher & nature lover the idea that some of this countries most beautiful and iconic bird species are murdered to increase profit is abhorrent.

    I can’t understand why any one gets a kick from shooting any living creature for pleasure, however I don’t really blame the shooters themselves for the problem with raptor persecution. We are all different and live by different values, they turn up and pay their money for a days shooting. I know that not every one cares for the natural world and some people are oblivious to what goes on around them.

    Some land owners, and I emphasize some, with their instructions to their gamekeepers are the ones that should hang their heads in shame. To put profit before the very environment that provides them with their wealth is very short sighted and greedy. These birds are part of this ecosystem and should be allowed to live a natural life. So what if some of Grouse and Pheasant are taken by these birds, that’s the natural world and how it works. I wonder how many shooters would get a thrill from seeing a Hen Harrier or a Peregrine whilst out on the moors, a fair few I’m sure.

    Would an increase in predator numbers make shooting harder? I don’t know but if it does then surely that should make it more of a challenge for these ‘brave’ marksmen.

    I will be at Derwent Dam on the 10th of August to show my support for this campaign against the bad practices carried out by the guilty landowners. After becoming very disillusioned with the RSPB in recent years I'm glad they have added their voice to this movement and I am so pleased that the Wildlife Trust has shown its support too, I can now wear my Derbyshire Wildlife Trust volunteer T-shirt with pride.

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  5. Where reason has failed, Mark and indeed Chris Packham with the Maltese Migration Massacre have taken a principled stance, we should applaud them & keep pushing the 9,666 to the 10k & then 100k signatories.

    It is pleasing to read that the RSPB are supporting, likewise the WTs, but sadly there doesn't seem much evidence in the petitions latest statistic referred to above?

    I recall 1992 when Fison's and English Nature (rebranded later as NE) came to a disgraceful agreement over peat extraction at Wedholme Flow in Cumbria and Thorne & Hatfield Moors in South Yorkshire (the carnage carried on regardless) on land gifted to the nation because of the public pressure. The 'PR' coup distracted an otherwise reinvigorated peat campaign which was working and had brought the company to the negotiating table, so compromise came along and what happened the pillage carried on at a greater relentless pace!

    Seven years at draft, long grass or rather leggy calluna .... quite vulgaris!

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  6. This time last year we were told that there were between none and three pairs of Hen Harriers nesting in England and there were two pairs nesting 10 miles over the border just inside Scotland, probably birds that spent most of their time in England. This year there are at least three pairs nesting in England and 12 pairs nesting 20 Harrier flying minutes north of the border, again including a significant number of birds which spend most of their lives in England.
    Obviously neither I nor anyone else would say that this is remotely approaching a satisfactory state of affairs but it is an improvement on last year and is better than was predicted from where we were then.
    Last year there was no Defra Joint Recovery Plan, this year there is one. I can understand and share the frustration but it is equally frustrating to be within touching distance of something that could see Hen Harriers widespread and successful and watch the chance slip away because 'they need to be taught a lesson'.
    I'm a pragmatist, I am interested in what works not in what makes me feel good. I see no point in demanding contrition or the admission of error, it is a fatuous waste of time.
    Implement the plan. You and the LACS can still campaign to ban grouse shooting, or pheasant shooting or the Grand National or what ever you like but we can get on with practical business of Hen harrier recovery.

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    1. Ian Coghill it would be a great turn of events if you would condemn the keepers who are blatantly killing our hen harriers and also the moor owners who employ them. I used to be a wildfowler but now all I want to see is a complete ban on the shooting of our native wildlife !! I am basically disgusted with the shooting industry as it is now.

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    2. Co-operation was not about to bear fruit, the conservation side is still not happy to agree the "plan". If the grouse lobby wanted to help the harrier they could have done so some years ago by showing good fath and stopping killing them, if it had all gone wrong for them ( which I doubt as whatever arguments are put forward Langholm is not typical of all moors or even a few) they could have gone back to being harrier criminals. But no they've killed them and stopped them breeding at almost every opportunity and now expect us to agree to a DEFRA plan that limits their numbers to way below carrying capacity and thus perpetuates the myth that harriers are grouse specialists and an anathema to grouse management, they are probably not. Nor are they as has been suggested colonial in any real sense. Sorry Ian, the push to publish the plan is all from the shooting side not agreed at all and I for one am highly suspicious as a result. Will the plan allow the 7 pairs to breed unmolested in the Bowland SPA and the 11 in the North Pennines as designated or allow in the fullness of time the English population to rise to circa 330 pairs in the uplands? If not why not and if not many of us might not be terribly interested. Can you guarantee that without sanctions many if not most moors will agree to it and adopt it, will the real problem, winter roost shooting stop? Who will police it and how will success be measured? 3 in protected areas still means there are none on commercial moors to show good will whether there is a plan or not persuade your members/ supporters to stop killing them now, if they don't, shop them, may be then we will start to believe you.

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  7. One of the problems is arguing from the particular to the general. You know the sort of thing Dave, someone from some community or other is caught stealing and the bigots immediately start generalising that that everyone from that community is a thief. The next stage is people start demanding that they prove they are not, which is both impossible and insulting and very quickly the whole thing drifts into chaos, because nobody can prove a negative and there is they always say no smoke without fire.
    That is sort of where we have got to with this. Of course I condemn illegal persecution, so what? What earthly difference does that make?
    When I first meet Mark he asked what should happen to people who illegally kill Hen Harriers and I answered that they should be brought before the courts and face judgement. That is still my view and I really struggle to see why it is wrong.
    What does seem wrong to me is when people want to condemn and indeed destroy the chosen way of life of hundreds of thousands of law abiding citizens by a process of guilt by association.
    It is as unreasonable of you to condemn the whole of the shooting community in this way as it would be for me to condemn the membership of the RSPB because one of its Vice Presidents got locked up for fraud.

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    1. Ian - one of the problems is that you can't cope with the generality. Without driven grouse shooting we'd have less damaged blanket bog (the burning seems to be general rather than isolated, don't you think?), better carbon storage, less discoloured water, lower flooding risk and less wildlife crime. Oh and more than 1% of the numbers of Hen Harriers that the English uplands could support. Tell us which are the bad apples and how much money they have donated to GWCT work over the years and we can start there if you like.

      But there are three more signatures needed for our e-petition to reach 10,000 signatures in 65 days. So I'm going to pour myself a celebratory Scotch and you can drown your sorrows, And then I'll start looking for the next 10,000 signatures tomorrow and you can keep saying 'it's not fair'.

      Feel the wind of change?

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  8. Ian,you seem to misunderstand probably on purpose that almost all of us accept shooting as it is a legal activity and probably lots of us have shooting friends.
    You know very well that all we object to is the illegal activity associated with shooting.
    Clean that part of it up and you know that the vast majority will be quiet.
    In your guest blog you stated more or less word for word that your organisation was very good at seeing problems and then solving them so why have you not solved the problem of persecution of raptors especially Hen Harriers,in fact you almost go as far as to suggest that there is not much of a problem.

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  9. Without the over burning of moorland we might well have less damaged blanket bog &c. If moors are currently being over burnt to the detriment of the environment then we need better environmental protection laws, better enforcement and stronger penalties. Moor burning is hardly something people can do secretly.

    Such an approach applies across the board rather than singling out particular groups or activities. It won't appeal to you Mark because it is a liberal approach which does not involve confrontation or making a blanket characterisation of an entire group of people and it also might not rally as many people as having a clearly defined enemy.

    There is good and bad in most people and in many activities. Good laws attack bad practices and are not devised to attack specific groups of people.

    Alongside better and stronger protection of endangered species we could introduce stronger and more enforceable vicarious liability for environmental damage - not vicarious criminal liability which would give people criminal records unjustly but vicarious civil liability whereby businesses and individuals are liable for the damage caused by people in their employ. One big benefit of this is that it would jno0t require a criminal standard of proof so legal action would be much easier. Damages could also be massively higher than criminal fines would ever be meaning that businesses who's staff persecute protected species or cause environmental damage would quickly become unsustainable. Again that would not target one particular group of people but everybody - from grouse shooting estates that kill raptors to builders that kill bats or farmers that dog up orchids. If such a system were made to really bite then conservationists could play a huge and worthwhile role spotting such damage.

    And why not introduce legal protection for all wildlife from being caused unnecessary suffering? Something that LACS currently oppose. That is a classic liberal approach - a law which directly targets something bad - cruelty rather than one made on the basis of one group of people attacking another. It doesn't matter who is being cruel or how they are doing it - all cruelty should be illegal.

    All these things might well have a significant impact on grouse shooting as well as all sorts of other activities - if it did then so be it.

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  10. Apparently, all this fuss about persecution is damaging the reputation of shooting and, as a result, the potential signatories to the harrier action plan are going to throw their toys out the pram? Which of the potential signatories’ cooperation is predicated on keeping quiet about killing birds of prey? This might give the impression that some of those bodies involved might be complicit with wildlife crime. I’d be intrigued to know. Is it G&WCT, the Moorland Association, DEFRA?

    This particular theory has been doing the rounds for years. It is patent nonsense and I always credited those who peddled it with enough intelligence that, privately at least, they recognised it for what it was. If keeping quiet or dismissing hen harrier persecution was the key to the species’ salvation then there would be no need for an action plan – we could have an inaction plan instead (although we have unfortunately already trialled this approach unsuccessfully for a number of decades).

    If this is not the case, then presumably if Mark’s petition hadn’t attracted any signatures, or if hen harrier day was cancelled, all the fuss would die down and those nice folk involved with driven grouse-shooting would have a bit of a rethink and decide that harriers were not too bad after all?

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    1. The joint action plan is the clear enemy here and need to be identified as such. Any campaign needs enemies and they are most definitely it.

      The spectre of co operation haunts this campaign and the dread has to be that hen harrier numbers might actually start recovering because of it. This would be a disaster.

      It's vitally important that the banning petition achieves more signatures than the petition favouring co operation.

      If for example the banning petition gets 30,000 signatures and the co operation one got a measly 10,000 then that would be .05% of the population for banning and 0.02% for co operation. The government are obviously going to have to act in the face of such a huge majority in favour of banning.

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      1. Giles what you have written is utter tripe! If and its a big if the recovery plan is signed, a few estates will comply with it but not enough to really aid the harrier because they have built up such a hatred of this bird that nobody in the grouse moor industry wants them. They will say privately "not on my moor."
        We will probably get as a result of various pressures including Marks petition some form of regulation of grouse moors but the money won't be available to police it and little will change. There will be a few more harriers in the hope it will keep us quiet but in the long run they will carry on killing harriers, peregrines, short eared owls, goshawks and the like for many more years and then and only then will a future government grasp the nettle and ban it.
        That's not a scenario I want or like, I want the killing of our protected wildlife on grouse moors to stop NOW and for our uplands to be more diverse but I would be quite happy for this to happen if the other issues were solved with grouse shooting continuing. Currently that is unlikely but not impossible, if the grouse lobby grasped the nettle instead of having their heads in the sand who knows?
        I think its notable that whenever questions are asked of the grouse lobby on here they do not answer them.

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        1. Paul - thanks. I find myself agreeing with you almost completely, and almost always!

          I think you are right about licensing - it simply won't work because it can't be enforced.

          And you are right about the visceral loathing felt by the grouse shooting industry for the Hen Harrier - they just hate this bird in a way that is very difficult for us to understand.

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          1. Thank you Mark, its something that I've thought about alot for a very long time, something to talk about further next weekend!

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  11. I think the silence is because they genuinely are not sure what to do next.

    The grouse shooting industry has effectively won the debate up to now. They have lots of grouse to shoot, and can persecute birds of prey more or less at will, because the chances of being caught are very small (and the penalties fall on the low paid keepers, rather than the owners).

    Conservation interests can be kept at bay by vague promises of change in the future, whilst the industry continues as it has done before. I also suspect many who take part in this activity are driven by extrinsic thinking, which focuses on the acquisition of wealth and status. They simply lack the ability to understand why they should care about the views of others.

    The recent upsurge in hostility to grouse shooting creates a new dynamic because, for the first time, there are negative consequences of their behaviour for the industry. I foresee a number of things happening:

    (a) There will be appeals to reason and a promise of change. This is basically the industry seeing if plan A still works.

    (b) The industry will turn inwards with a mixture of denial and victimhood (‘This can't be happening. Why us? It’s so unfair.’) This is almost like a bereavement.

    (c) Anger will be directed outwards to the perceived enemy. Expect abuse and lots of comment in capital letters. There may be accusations of envy. After all, why would anyone act for reasons beyond personal self-interest? To extrinsic thinkers, envy is the only explanation.

    This will continue until one of three things happen. The hen harrier campaign may well just run out of steam. Wise heads may prevail in the grouse shooting industry that see that accommodation now will be in their long-term interest. Finally, an incoming future progressive government may ban driven grouse shooting.

    The industry might want to consider that such a government could do this will very little electoral cost, whilst appealing to its base. A perfect policy option, in other words!

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  12. Andrew, nice analysis, I think the silence is because they know that the proposed solution does not answer these questions and rather than inflame the situation they are at "the I wish they would go away stage" and hope that they can persuade the majority to swallow their "solutions", because it delays the inevitable way into the future.

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