A Peak Day

Photo: Guy Shorrock
Photo: Guy Shorrock

When I wrote in my blog of 1 January that I would help to organise a peaceful protest against Hen Harrier persecution in August it was a little like jumping off a cliff – with my eyes shut!  It was my way of committing myself to do something even though I didn’t know how, where or when – but I did know why.

Yesterday I landed after that long jump – on a wet patch of grass in a crowd of 570 others in the pouring rain in the Upper Derwent Valley in the Peak District.  And despite the torrents of rain – I couldn’t have been happier.

As we gathered at 10am we knew that not only were three other events happening (in Lancashire, Northumberland and, of all places, Radipole in Dorset) but also 2.3 million social media messages were being sent across the world, and, in fragrant Lush stores across the UK, Sunday shoppers were learning about Hen Harriers.

Never before have people started talking about Hen Harriers in July, way ahead of the Inglorious 12th (the start of the Red Grouse shooting season), and kept the conversation going for so long.  Never before have so many people learned that 300 pairs of Hen Harriers are missing from England’s uplands because they are killed, illegally, by some in the grouse shooting industry.  Never before have so many birders come together and said that this criminality must stop.

In April 1932, a few miles from where we stood, sodden, in the rain, a group of people carried out a mass trespass on Kinder Scout to reclaim access to the moors for the people,  Maybe, yesterday we, the sodden 570, started to reclaim the wildlife for those moors. We were standing in a National Park which has a blemished and tarnished reputation because of the level of illegal persecution of birds of prey within its boundaries in fairly recent years. A National Park which is famous for wildlife crime amongst raptor enthusiasts – rather like many of the rest of our National Parks.  This is a scandalous situation.

Yesterday we sent a very strong message to grouse shooting that it should have cleaned up its act and to politicians to stop treating wildlife crime as unimportant.

One politician who has clearly listened is the Shadow Environment Minister, Barry Gardiner, who was getting as wet as the rest of us. Barry had travelled up to the rally to meet people and talk to them, and he has spoken out in Parliament on the subject of raptor persecution more than but a handful of other MPs.  It was great to have him with us for the day and I hope he takes the message back to the Labour Party that it needs to promise us some tough action on wildlife crime if it is elected next May.

So our thanks to Barry but my thanks go to every single person who came to the Peak District yesterday. You came from as far afield as Essex, Upminster, Cornwall, Wales and Inverness to show your support for the Hen Harrier and your outrage at wildlife crime.  Thank you for coming. You made it a soft and very happy landing.

That bloke Chris Packham made a great speech and Findlay Wilde brought a six foot Hen Harrier with him.  It should all be on You Tube later today.

And the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting passed 13,000 signatures yesterday!
Peak HH Day G Shorrock RSPB_017

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29 Replies to “A Peak Day”

  1. A brilliant event Mark. Full marks (!) for your commitment and drive, to Chris Packham for his excellent speech, Barry gardiner for turning up and to Findlay and his brother too of course!
    If you happen to know which media are covering the story this morning, that would be helpful. Maybe if some are not covering it, we could be encouraged to email/tweet/phone them and ask ‘why not’?

  2. Thanks To Mark and Chris for organising this event. It is people like you who are prepared to stand up for nature that will help secure its future. Although we were all smiling in adversity due to very wet conditions we are all very well aware of the seriousness of the situation! Hopefully with continued pressure the rest of the politicians will start to realise the gravity of the Hen Harrier population.

  3. Thank you for organising this great event and for making it possible to raise awareness in such a positive way. Isn’t it great that so many people care, it fills you with hope and I hope it fills the sky with dancers again soon.

    1. It was featured on Look North in West Yorkshire yesterday at about 6.30, although the interview with the woman from the Moorland Association explaining why they are such good guardians of the moors and their wildlife stuck in the craw somewhat.

      1. Yup. The suggestion that Hen harriers love the moors because of how they’re managed for grouse shooting was disingenuous in the extreme. Still a lot of misinformation to be countered. At least the topic is being covered in the mass media though. That has to be a good starting point and a tribute to the hundreds who made the effort to turn out yesterday.

  4. Hi Mark, sorry I couldn’t be with you on sunday, my mum is very ill at present. I just wanted to say how proud we all are of you. Standing up for nature takes an awful lot of organisation and hard work. Most of that has fallen to you. You’ve raised the issue of Hen Harrier persecution up the political agenda and united the conservation movement behind a very important cause. You’ve also used your blog and social media contacts to great effect. People power will overcome persecution in the end and the Hen Harriers will have you to thank for it.

  5. Have seldom seen so many drenched so much for so few.

    Was delighted to be one of the waterlogged.

  6. Congratulations to all who had a part in organising these events and a big thank you to Barry Gardiner as we need people like him to put the case for stopping this illegal persecution.
    Those organisers did a lot of costly unpaid work and did a excellent job and made it a pleasure to attend the various events.
    Nice also that Chris Packham who must be considered as a moderate gave a good interview on T V,really good to have him on board.

  7. Justice is blind, to be dispensed with neutrality, impartially and without favour. Not so when dealing with wildlife crime. Then justice turns a blind eye and really doesn’t see. August 10 2014, Hen Harrier Day, the day good people pulled the blindfold away – fantastic! How wonderful that you decided to ‘jump off that cliff’!

  8. It’s a shame you’ve started censoring perfectly reasonable comments on your blog. This place used to be one where all points of view could be expressed.

    1. giles – I think you’ve been over-doing it old boy. You need a rest. You can post your next comment here on 12 November provided it is on-topic and polite.

      You remind me of grouse moor managers – I don’t mind too much what you do and say provided you don’t push it too far. But you seem to think you can do whatever you like wherever you like and it’s my job to give you a platform. No, you can’t use comments on my blog to admit to a crime in Devon to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire! No, you can’t conduct a campaign against LACS through the comments on my blog. You pushed your luck too far and now I’ve lost patience with you. But you can come back another time – on 12 November.

      1. I’ve recently had quite an involved conversation with Giles and actually

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

  9. I didn’t;t go to a HH day event but I joined in the thunderclap and celebrated it by taking my dogs out and attempting to commit some wildlife crime.

  10. Mark, Excellent response. I popped into Swindon Lush to fill in a postcard today. 150+ already signed there to add to the total.

    My concern is now how do we win the media war. I read the Times today in the coffee shop. As far as I could see no news mention of Hen Harrier day but a 2 page spread about how gamekeepers are the best thing ever for wildlife, how Harriers have a higher population in the UK for over a 100 years and how the only ones in England are found on Keepered Grouse Moors with the RSPB having none because of the fox population. No mention that 2 of the 3 pairs need 24 hour guard by the RSPB and others. There was one sentence mention of Hen Harrier day in that article referring to it as a damp protest.

    I know when I next go to the pub with my neighbours they will have seen such articles and have a totally different opinion of wildlife on grouse moors than I do.

    1. Re the media war, you tweet the papers, the broadcasting stations, leave comments to counter act what they say, put the other side everywhere you can, it is a long road but to be heard you have to confront whats out there in every which way you can make time for, the more voices that join in this the more it will get heard, everyone who cares must try, even when you think it won’t make a difference one day it just might. 530 voices yesterday it can grow.

      1. When the Simon Barnes sacking from The Times was covered on this blog there was speculation that The Times was being pressured by the grouse moor classes. There was no substantiating this view but my comment then was that The Times coverage of Hen Harrier Day might give an indication … and you cant get a clearer view of their stance than this!

  11. Proud to be part of what was hopefully the start of the end of Raptor persecution. That so many people turned out in awful conditions is testament to how much we all detest this vile crime against nature. Very pleased to see Barry Gardiner being active and talking to lots of voters about his support for the campaign. Chris Packham was really approachable and is obviously very passionate about putting an end to the killing of our birds, he even agreed to a selfie with me that i intended to post on Twitter but decided to go with my selfie with Findley Wilde instead (no offence Chris), what a breath of fresh air he is. We need more young people like Findley to secure the future of our wildlife. Well Done Mark & BAWC for organizing the day, didn’t get a picture with you, maybe some other time.

  12. Fantastic effort with great results. It was very pleasing to see the Northumberland protest featured on the local BBC News. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I was not given the opportunity of being there.

  13. Congratulations to all concerned for raising the profile of this issue. Illegal raptor and owl persecution in this country is a national disgrace that needs courage and perseverance to counter. There is far too much disinformation about the supposed benefits to wildlife of game rearing practices, so it is refreshing to see that people who know otherwise are beginning to find a voice. Keep up the good work.

  14. Thank you Mark, the very fact that Amanda Anderson was there to record it all for the MA says a very great deal about the success of it all. The raising awareness of raptor persecution on the blog, the petition and Harrier day itself. I thought Chris Packham’s speech was very very good especially the end quote from Gandhi. But mostly as somebody who has watched and worked for harriers paid and unpaid for thirty years I’d like to say a huge thankyou to all who turned up yesterday knowing the weather was likely yo be foul. Meeting and talking to so many was inspiring, Young Findlay and family were as special as his blog suggests and his harrier —– fantastic.
    We need of course to keep the pressure on todays Times proves that, I shall be contacting my local MP about the whole issue again, I’m sure I’ll come up with a question or two so he has to respond.
    Again to you Mark, Chris and all who were there in person or spirit thank you.

  15. What a brilliant day. Congratulations to both of you for the organisation and speeches and to all others involved. It was worth travelling up from Northants, it was worth getting soaked to the skin and if this is the beginning of the end of raptor persecution by moorland owners then it was certainly worth it.

    Thank you

    Sue and Chris Green

  16. Great day on Sunday. Two of us travelled from Billericay in Essex. We get hen harriers in winter here if we are lucky and I have to try and get a fix in wales every spring but it’s getting harder.
    Just tried to get a voice on bbc radio 2 Jeremy vine show which is debating grouse shooting. Sadly only got quoted and not asked to speak. But at least the Sunday protests got a mention.

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