Government response to e-petition 65627

Photo: Tim Melling
Photo: Tim Melling

Our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting passed the 10,000 signature mark on 31 July and received a response after nearly five weeks of brow-wrinkling thought on behalf of Defra on 1 September (maybe they thought I’d be touched by it appearing on the centenary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon).

The sections in bold are the Defra reply and are followed by my comments.

As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:

It has been estimated that £250 million per year is spent on management activities that provide significant benefits for conservation. Shooting makes an important contribution to the rural economy. An interesting place to start. It has been estimated by people who have an interest in making that figure as large as possible, hasn’t it? Does Defra accept these figures? How much of that figure, which is a UK figure, is spent in England (the area under consideration for this e-petition)? How much of that sum is agri-environment funding that comes from the taxpayer? How much is from NE (or other statutory agencies) and therefore comes from the taxpayer?  And, rather critically to this particular e-petition, how much of that £250m is spent on grouse moors? Who does write these replies? Does a Minister sign them off?

By the way, prostitution and drug-dealing add £10bn (that’s 10,000,000,000 not a paltry £250m (250,000,000)) to the UK economy each year http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/30/drugs-prostitution-uk-economy_n_5415554.html . Should we encourage more of those in the uplands? Quite what is the point you are trying to make here?

When carried out in accordance with the law, shooting for sport is a legitimate activity, and our position is that people should be free to undertake lawful activities should they wish to do so.  This is an e-petition to make driven grouse shooting illegal – all you have just told me is that it is currently legal.  I knew that. That’s why this e-petition exists.

Driven grouse shooting depends on people breaking the law.  The large ‘bags’ of Red Grouse attained in the north of England would not be possible if the law were obeyed. That is the lesson of Langholm. If I’m right, then driven grouse shooting is not a legitimate activity at all – that’s one reason we should ban it.

Landowners are free to manage wildlife on their land, provided it is carried out appropriately and legally, in accordance with any the relevant wildlife legislation. And we know that criminal activity is the reason that the English Hen Harrier population is at c1% of its natural potential. So grouse shooting interests, and nobody else, are responsible for the dire conservation status of a fully-protected (and wonderful) bird. So enough landowners aren’t acting legally and that’s why we should either invest massively in policing (not my preferred option and not in your remit) or we should ban this pointless and damaging activity.

Hen Harriers

It is encouraging to learn that there are four hen harrier nests this year which have chicks, given that in 2013 there were no known hen harrier fledglings in England. Some of these fledglings will be tracked with satellite tags we have funded.  You don’t comment on the fact, mentioned in the e-petition and based on science, that there should be 300+ pairs of Hen Harriers in England if it weren’t for illegal killing of this protected bird.  You do remember, don’t you, that you are the department with responsibility for wildlife? How many pairs of Hen Harrier would Defra like to see in England and what is your plan to get them? 

The English Hen Harrier population has fallen under this government. You don’t have a plan, you don’t have an answer and it appears, you don’t have a clue. It is also clear that you really don’t care.

The Uplands Stakeholder Forum Hen Harrier Sub-group was set up in 2012 with senior representatives from organisations best placed to take action to address the decline in Hen Harriers. These include Natural England, the Moorland Association, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Parks Authority and the RSPB. Defra welcomes the involvement of all parties. The police might be the organisation best placed to enforce a pretty simple law – don’t kill Hen Harriers – but I note they aren’t in the room. I agree that policing of this issue would be very difficult and expensive – that’s why a ban on the activity responsible for the lack of Hen Harriers in England is such a cost-effective and red tape-free solution.

The Sub-group has developed a draft Joint Action Plan containing a suite of complementary actions intended to contribute to the recovery of the hen harrier population in England. We are working with Sub-group members to finalise the Plan. My prediction is that you will never publish this plan because there is no agreement amongst the participants and unless, you, Defra, knock some sense into the shooting community, to give considerable ground, there never will be. There is no joint plan – at the moment you have a ‘non-joint’ ‘non-plan’ and you do not appear to have any ideas for moving things forward.

By the way, the organisations in your group have no mandate to speak on behalf of UK nature conservationists and naturalists.  Any plan you seek to implement that is inconsistent with EU Directives or domestic legislation will be open to legal challenge.

As you will know, there is another e-petition asking you to publish the ‘non-joint’ ‘non-plan’ and that e-petition is being supported by just one side of this debate – the shooters. What could make it more obvious that there is no agreement than that one side wants a draft plan published and the other side does not? When, fairly soon, that e-petition reaches 10,000 signatures you will, I guess, spend around five weeks crafting another response (unless the Countryside Alliance has already drafted one for you – have they?).

What are you going to do then? I’d love to know. I’d love to know so much that I have signed the other e-petition to put you in that position as quickly as possible.

You, Defra, need to produce your own plan to save the English breeding population of Hen Harriers as part of your response to the ills (they are many) of grouse moor management.  I’d love to see the Defra plan – for the conservation of protected wildlife is your responsibility – on the way forward with Hen Harriers.  Publish your plan and then we can take it into account when we vote in May. Let’s see the coalition government’s plan for dealing with criminal killing of protected wildlife as soon as possible – then the people will decide.

Illegal killing of birds of prey

The killing of birds of prey is illegal, all wild birds being protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Anyone who kills or injures a wild bird is committing an offence and could face jail if convicted. When will you publish the data, on satellite-tagged Hen Harriers collected over the last 12 years by NE? Will that show that Hen Harriers don’t live as long as they should? Will it show, as suggested by an interim report on the work under the previous government, that Hen Harriers are being killed at roosts and on grouse moors? These data should be published now and no longer kept secret. I already have a PhD – I promise I won’t dash off another one with the data.

Bird of prey persecution is one of the six UK wildlife crime priorities. The England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group leads on action to address these crimes through prevention, intelligence and enforcement activity.  Hen Harrier numbers have fallen during the lifetime of ‘the greenest government ever’ (that’s supposed to be you, in case you have forgotten).  This species is close to extinction in England and is at c1% of its potential breeding population given the availability of suitable habitat. c99% of English Hen Harriers are missing.  You seem very complacent under these circumstances.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit gathers intelligence on illegal activities affecting birds of prey, providing assistance to police forces when required. Earlier this year the Government confirmed that the Home Office and Defra would together provide funding until 2016, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to tackling wildlife crime. We’ll be the judge of whether we feel you are committed to tackling wildlife crime – I have to say I think you are incredibly complacent and have not demonstrated any real commitment to tackling these issues.  You are pretty much hopeless. You should be enforcing the law and bringing criminals to court – you haven’t done that.  You have already ruled out vicarious liability and licensing as options in response to previous e-petitions on this subject.

Alongside this, there have been successful conservation measures which have led to increases in buzzard, peregrine and red kite populations over the last two decades.

Peatland

In February 2013 we, along with the devolved administrations, made a statement of intent to protect and enhance the natural capital provided by peatlands in the UK. In September 2013 the Pilot Peatland Code was launched with the aim of promoting the restoration of UK peatland through business investment. It is intended that the Code will assure restoration delivers tangible benefits for climate change alongside other benefits such as restoring habitats for protected species and improving water quality. I’m quite interested in this bit of your reply. It must have been written by a different civil servant from the rest of your response as it actually addresses the issue a little bit.  I will take this as tacit recognition that the upland management associated with driven grouse shooting is a considerably wider problem than simply wildlife crime.

But here you are recognising that there are broader issues in play over whether the management of land for driven grouse shooting is good or bad. It’s not just about Hen Harriers – this is a far broader issue.  Thank you for recognising that. If you come up with a Hen Harrier plan (which I cannot see you doing) it won’t be the same as a Peatland, Water Quality or Flood Risk Management Plan.  Banning grouse shooting will address all these issues in one.

How are you getting on with the complaint to the EU by the RSPB over the overburning of blanket bogs by grouse moor managers? What steps are you taking to ensure that your delivery body, NE, tackles this problem with all the powers it has? Why did NE cave in in the Walshaw Moor case?

The last decade has seen increasing numbers of conservation initiatives (such as Nature Improvement Areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest) many of which are focussed on peatland restoration in the UK. We are working with a wide range of partners on peatland restoration, including land owners and environmental NGOs. You are the government – remember? You have lots of money and lots of power which you can withhold or wield to deliver your policies. You don’t seem to be very energised on this subject though.

Rural Development Programme

We are committed to helping create a more sustainable future for the English uplands, which are endowed with natural assets that are important for delivering a range of valuable “ecosystem services”, including food and fibre, water regulation, carbon storage, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities for health and wellbeing. Let’s see your plan for that then. Where is it? What have you done in the last four and a bit years to move this forward? NE used to have quite a good one but then it was pulled.

We will be investing over £3 billion in agri-environment schemes (Environmental Stewardship and its successor) in the next Rural Development Programme 2015-2020.  That’s my money (not all of it is mine admittedly) you are talking about there. I object to it being spent in the uplands rewarding criminals who are depleting my wildlife.

Addressing loss of biodiversity will be a priority for the new Programme. It was for the last Programme.  Do you think that’s worked well?

In addition funding will look to maximise opportunities to deliver biodiversity, water quality and flooding benefits together. Defra is working with a wide range of interests to finalise scheme details in good time for 2015. I look forward to seeing them.

This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.

This is as appalling a response to public concern as you could possibly imagine. This e-petition is the 20th most successful open e-petition across all government departments at this moment.  It has gathered considerable public support in a very short period of time and it addresses legitimate public concerns.  It is also the third e-petition on roughly this subject in the last few years to have received an inadequate government response.  Defra clearly don’t have a clue on this subject and appear not to care.

The response from government is complacent, misses the point and offers no solution except carrying on with the approach that has failed the public, failed the Hen Harrier, and quite simply failed for decades. The status quo only works well for those who profit from driven grouse shooting.

Banning driven grouse shooting is still the best way forward given the intransigence of the grouse shooting industry.

You never know, we might get to 100,000 signatures by the end of March although it looks rather unlikely and then there would probably be a debate in Parliament on this subject once a new government is in place.  This issue will not go away – we won’t let it go away – and the more signatures there are on this e-petition the more a new government will have to address the issue.

Please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and the find some mates to sign it too.

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103 Replies to “Government response to e-petition 65627”

  1. The League Against Cruel Sports celebrated reaching 100,000 members the other day, surely a push from them could add many signatures? Just a thought. Let's hope the next government has less MP's that are involved in shooting and contains less land owners. This is a really poor response from DEFRA, doesn't address the issues at all, they are confident we won't reach 100,000 signatures so have brushed you off.

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    1. The League Against Cruel Sports has around 4,000 members

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        1. Here is what i read, i mistake on my part but the figure was sort of correct.

          We have a range of supporters who do different things for us, at different times. Our mix of members, donors and campaigners adds up to over 100,000 people who regularly act to support us on campaigns against cruel sports.

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          1. Supporters are not

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  2. This makes me so sad. Mark, you are fighting this issue so hard, so intellectually, so eloquently and with such passion but our case seems to meet with such a dull disregard from our government that I despair of any measure of success for years.

    If it takes this long to fight the case for such a charismatic bird what chance for the future of our yellowhammers, skylarks, cuckoos, turtle doves and meadows?

    I am at least cheered a little to know that my life's passion (and I hate that word being used so commonly these days so I do not use it lightly here) has your intellect and determination on 'our side'.

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  3. Alongside this, there have been successful conservation measures which have led to increases in buzzard, peregrine and red kite populations over the last two decades. - No comment! Peregrines have become extinct on most driven Red Grouse Moors!! Remember Red Grouse became the bird to shoot due to it being able to be pushed over the butts without the presence of any Hen Harrier, Short eared Owl low down and Peregrine, Buzzard and Golden Eagle high up. Black Grouse were wiped out on many Red Grouse moors for taking the reds over the flankers not the guns! I once watched a family of Kestrels push down a large group of Red Grouse on a drive only for the beaters to walk straight through them not flushing one bird!

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  4. "there is another e-petition

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    1. Gordon - Mark Avery is

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      1. Henry - it's a bit pointless making up my views in a comment on my own blog which publishes my views so that people can read them. My views are here for all to see if they wish. Your slant on them is a bit irrelevant really.

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        1. I'm not

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          1. Henry - no, not true. And, as I say, anyone can read my views and make up their own mind - they don't have to take your inaccurate summary.

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          2. Interesting that Henry fails to mention the seven years gestation & counting of their JAP.

            If there was any genuine compromise etc. in their tool box then put simply it ain't delivered anything to date, other than presiding over virtual extinction of an iconic & protected species that is.

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          3. You're right Mark,

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          4. Gordon - no. I favour cooperation but that isn't the same as caving in. And cooperation has failed on the subject of driven grouse shooting so there isn't much cooperating left to be done. So Henry is inaccurate.

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          5. reply to Gordon - yes I have made up my mind.

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          6. Henry - those aren't my arguments. My arguments are written all through this blog.

            You aren't being 'criminalised' - I'm trying to get an anti-social activity banned. There is a long tradition of doing that - when done right we look back at it and call it progress.

            It's not just about Hen Harriers - the management of upland areas for driven grouse shooting is bad in carbon terms (affecting us all), flood risk terms (affecting many who do not shoot Red Grouse), water quality terms (increasing my water bills) and is a major factor ( because of too-frequent heather burning regimes) leading to damage of blanket bogs which are protected by international law. There are so many reasons for banning driven grouse shooting, not just the fact that grouse shooting is founded on wiping out fully protected wildlife from large parts of the uplands of Britain.

            Driven grouse shooting is a pastime where much damage is done and experienced by the many so that money can be made by a few by selling shooting of birds for fun. There won't be driven grouse shooting in England in 20 years time.

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          7. @Mudlark

            here's a genuine attempt at

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  5. I'm not always comfortable with the 'style' of your responses to issues on the environment {must be influenced by my connections with NGO's which are somewhat too 'conservative' with their responses in these hard times} But in this case I think DEFRA's appalling response to the hen harrier issue requires exactly what you provided. DEFRA's position pretty much ranks up there with Owen Patterson's record on the environment and his rant on 'the green blob'. So congratulations on keeping emotions in check something I am afraid I would not in this case be able to do! Not sure however whether its possible to breach the selective deafness employed by DEFRA {Government} to rational argument by supporters of our fragile environment.

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  6. Is there a public services ombudsman that a legitimate complaint about the pathertic response from DEFRA can be made to?

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  7. RSPB have a million members! If Mark's e-petition could be front page on their next issue of Nature's Home, with a plea to sign it emblazoned across the cover, would it not add significantly to the number of signatures? Who else is as well placed to Protect Birds? Obviously not the responsible government department.

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  8. Now that's what I call a response! I must admit that now, I have an unpleasant picture of high class call girls plying their trade in the more secluded butts on the moors. Maybe with their pimps and dealers in tow.

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  9. At this point I am once again reminded of the Welsh language command which sounds identical but is spelled with 2 fs "Deffra!" . It means "Wake up!"
    I think they should.

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  10. Money from illegal drugs

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  11. The folk that own the grouse moors hide their money and ownership of land in offshore companies and banking arrangements.......isn't that what drug dealers and terrorists do too...?

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    1. ah I am starting to get

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        1. It's a pleasure Mark. Always good to play back people b*ll**ks

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          1. Henry, you don't seem to have understood at all. Mark's argument is that the practice of driven grouse shooting (with its associated very high densities of grouse rearing) has created an industry rife with harmful practices. In the last 150 or so years, all kinds of industries and activities have been either moderated or, in some cases, stopped completely when their harmful effects came to be understood.
            Mark has been involved in attempts to moderate the driven grouse industry through dialogue and compromise and has come to the conclusion that the industry is so resistant to change that calling for it to be banned is the only realistic approach remaining. He does not advocate a blanket ban on shooting because his issue is not with shooting per se, but with a specific form which requires specific "management" approaches in a specific habitat.
            I thought you could have worked that out from reading his articles but there we go.

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          2. @john I understand Mark's argument

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          3. Henry - no. We should ban driven grouse shooting (you can still shoot grouse if you like) because the land management regime it depends on has bad consequences for lots of other people and depends on wildlife crime. So it's anti-social and if you really do shoot grouse, you are benefitting from others' criminal activity.

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          4. Mark,

            Flushing a grouse

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          5. Mark you appear to not be able to answer very simple questions. If I am a bit dim

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          6. Henry - if you'd rather the proposal were to ban all grouse shooting then start the e-petition and I'll sign it if you like.

            If you read the material on this site you'll see that the objections to the package of impacts of driven grouse shooting on people, wildlife and the environment are many and various. The easiest. cheapest, simplest and least bureaucratic way to deal with them is to ban driven grouse shooting rather than tinker with each aspect individually. Banning all grouse shooting would be another route.

            It really isn't very complicated. Maybe that's why over 17,000 people have already supported this e-petition.

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          7. Henry,

            Mark's approach is very

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          8. Henry,

            There's another angle to this

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          9. "Let's take a simple example

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          10. Simon - if you'd rather the proposal were to ban all grouse shooting then start the e-petition and I'll sign it if you like.

            If you read the material on this site you'll see that the objections to the package of impacts of driven grouse shooting on people, wildlife and the environment are many and various. The easiest. cheapest, simplest and least bureaucratic way to deal with them is to ban driven grouse shooting rather than tinker with each aspect individually. Banning all grouse shooting would be another route.

            It really isn't very complicated. Maybe that's why over 17,000 people have already supported this e-petition.

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          11. Henry - the problem with

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          12. Joyce - you are suggesting breaking the law then. Maybe you support breaking the law on using non-toxic shot to shoot wildfowl - so, apparently, do large numbers in the shooting community as incidence of lead shot in sold wildfowl has not lessened since lead ammunition was banned for this practice in England over a decade ago. Maybe you also support breaking the law on killing Hen Harriers, as do enough people engaged in grouse shooting to restrict the number of hen Harriers on driven grouse moors to c5 successful pairs in 2008 when the science says there should be around 500. Which other laws would you be happy for people with guns to break?

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          13. There's a big difference

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          14. Henry - it is not mathematically provable that only a few people kill Hen Harriers. There are c2000 missing pairs of HH in the UK and that's 4000 birds. And they are missing every year. How many grouse moors are there in the UK? Let's make it simpler still - there are, I'm told by BASC, 147 grouse moors in England. There are c330 pairs of HH missing from England. Therefore, it's quite possible for everybody to be 'at it'. And even those that don't kill a HH this year may only be deprived of the chance by others doing it first. That is just the maths.

            It is actually only politeness on the part of me and many others when we say that it is only a minority of 'keepers who kill birds of prey. I don't know what the evidence is for that (it would be difficult to gather) but it certainly isn't mathematically disprovable for HH.

            There are laws against driving like an idiot but there are also laws against speeding because society decided that driving too fast is a good enough proxy for driving dangerously that it would do. And yes, i have speeding points on my licence. This law affects all of us whether we have killed anyone through dangerous driving or not. It affects David Coulthard if he drives over 30mph in a speed limit as well as you and me. It's not uncommon to ban the proxy.

            You are concentrating on the killing of grouse and I am concentrating on the whole package of ills associated with driven grosue shooting. Don't be dim. As I've said, if you prefer all grouse shooting to be banned, that's OK with me.

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          15. I have to say that

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          16. henry - from wikipedia: Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a global, civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities.

            Yes, of course it's politics. When is the law not used for politics?

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          17. Hi Mark,

            How many hen harriers

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          18. henry - you don't disappoint me at all. How could you - I have no idea who you are? All I know is that you have suddenly decided to take on the mantle of Giles and post long comments on this blog to wind me up. Welcome! Good luck.

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          19. "When is the law not used for politics?".

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          20. henry - no I don't want to attack you - those are your words not mine. Why don't I leave you alone - probably because you keep leaving dim comments on here?

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          21. Mark - your maths is appalling! Are you really a doctor? How many people shoot grouse and how many hen harriers are shot? Divide one by t'other man it's not rocket science!!! Unless we have some kind of Murder on the Orient Express situation whereby large numbers of shooters are all killing one bird it's surely not possible for "everyone to be at it". There are simply too many grouse shooters and too few shot hen harriers for that to be the case.

            The reality is surely the opposite - rather than hundreds of people killing each bird I would have thought it far more likely that the individuals who are killing birds are killing several each. If this is true and I strongly suspect it is then the number of grouse shooters that are killing hen harriers is even smaller.

            And else where you say they 'benefit' from it. Do they? If it leads to their sport being banned they would hardly have benefited.

            You seem obsessed with making people criminally responsible for things they have not done. It is highly unfortunate that people get away with crimes such as hen harrier persecution and indeed other crimes such as rape and murder. However we should not start lashing out at entire communities just because some members get away with committing crime. We really really should not go down that road as a society even though there are forces on all sides trying to get us to in all sorts of respects.

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          22. Granville - has anybody ever told you that your writing style is very similar to several other people who come on this blog hiding behind pseudonyms to argue the toss? No? I'm surprised.

            Nothing wrong with my maths.

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          23. Nothing wring with your maths?

            Please divide the number of hen harriers shot per year by the number of people that shoot grouse. Unless the number is 1 or more then how is it possible for all of the people who shoot grouse to also have shot a hen harrier?

            let's make a finger in the air estimate

            say 300 HH shot? say 30,000 grouse shooters?

            300/30,000 = 0.01

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          24. Granville - the original point of Henry's was that it is mathematically provable that it must be a TINY proportion of grouse shooters who kill Hen Harriers. I suspect it is only a proportion but I'm not at all sure how big a proportion it is. And the maths don't help Henry's case, but then he isn't making any serious case so he won't mind being wrong here, there and everywhere. But since 2000 pairs of HH are missing that's 4000 birds, plus their young that are missing, and they have been missing for decades. It is entirely possible, mathematically, that everyone shooting grouse has shot a Hen Harrier in his or her life. And the ones who may have missed out have only done so because someone else got there first.

            However, I don't think that is a very close approximation to reality. Gamekeepers kill HH because they are expected to as part of their jobs. Which gamekeepers? I don't know. A small proportion? Maybe not. Enough almost to wipe out a species from the uplands of England - certainly!

            The shooting community is best placed to tell us whether they are all at it or just a few. And are best placed to root out the few. But they haven't, and they won't, so let's just ban the overall activity. Cameron's Big Society approach has failed - let's get serious about ridding our hills of wildlife crime.

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          25. It's possible for

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          26. I wouldn't have thought

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  12. My sincere thanks Mark for your responses to DEFRA's totally inadequate reply. Any department who subjects voters to these pathetic inadequacies obviously hopes that we will get fed up and walk away from the issue....no such luck! We are all here to the end of the fight.
    When voters do not receive correct replies to questions that are asked they will vote elsewhere, and I know many who will be doing just that.

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  13. An absolutely dreadful response missing, quite deliberately the main issues we ought not let them get away with this. I shall you todays blog to frame a whole series of questions to my ( tory) MP. We must not let this rest.

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  14. These types of 'stock' answers are worse than no answer. It really would be so much better to just say sorry we disagree than spout irrelevant 'facts' that anyone with the slightest interest (and hence quite likely to have signed the petition if a supporter) would already know. What we really wanted to know was what are you -aka DEFRA- going to do. Apparently nothing. As someone else suggested a case for the ombudsman maybe? Certainly can't see them responding to the eloquent riposte on this Blog.

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  15. There is a simple answer to all this under a future Government - can we please have our Environment Department back ? Defra was always MAFF in sheeps clothing - and just like in Little Red Riding Hood the disguise is now off - and the landowner elite wolf is baring its teeth - fortunately, rather ineffectually (perhaps because the nice woodsman dealt it such a blow very early in this Parliament !).

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  16. It is useless to sign petitions to get this government to do anything. Look at the badger cull, 304,000 signatures and it still goes on. We have to get rid of the Tories if we are going to have a chance of saving our wildlife,until then I will be supporting the sabs who are at least making life difficult for the shooters and hunters. When democracy fails , as it has, the only way is Direct Action. I am not taking this action lightly but as a pensioner I feel I have no option.

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  17. I have emailed Mark twice privately and have posted a comment on this blog about the proposal made by Redpath, Baines et al to resolve the harrier ' problem'. Mark has made no reply. Does no one out there think that this is even worthy of consideration? The paper is easily accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12315/full Basically it is saying that there is a certain density of harriers above which driven grouse shooting becomes uneconomical. Those of you who say ' so what?' be careful what you wish for. Do you want the uplands given over to sheep run or commercial timber?
    I have held a schedule 1 licence for merlin and hen harrier now for 40 years. I have worked in upland areas with no shooting but for the last 30 years on managed heather-clad moorland. I last found a harrier nest in the 90s apart from one in 2004 which failed as have 50% of them. I'm now 66 and would like to see harriers back before I die!
    Reluctantly I am coming round to the view that something like the plan outlined in this paper yumay be our only hope in the short term.
    The grouse - shooting lobby is far too rich and powerful to ever be the subject of a ban. If we call their bluff (i.e. agree to the brood management plan for a limited trial period) and still no harriers breed they will find it very difficult to explain. For example harrier pairs increased from 2 to 20 on Langholm so we are entitled to expect a pretty rapid recovery.

    I need no convincing about the iniquities of grouse shooting management and I sympathise with and have signed your petition. I also think the 70 or so pairs the paper refers to is far too low. However if it worked it would be 70 pairs we don't have now. If it didn't work the shooting fraternity would have to explain why not.

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  18. Having read your response to Defra Mark, I think it is excellent it "hits all the right nails on the head", altogether very perceptive. As you say, a pathetic response to you from Defra indicating that they are pretty complacent and really only interested in maintaining the "status quo", with no real initiative or determination to solve this problem.

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    1. Reading through Henry's comments

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      1. Joyce - if you'd rather the proposal were to ban all grouse shooting then start the e-petition and I'll sign it if you like.

        If you read the material on this site you'll see that the objections to the package of impacts of driven grouse shooting on people, wildlife and the environment are many and various. The easiest. cheapest, simplest and least bureaucratic way to deal with them is to ban driven grouse shooting rather than tinker with each aspect individually. Banning all grouse shooting would be another route.

        It really isn't very complicated. Maybe that's why over 17,000 people have already supported this e-petition.

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        1. Mark,

          It not being very complicated

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          1. Joyce - it's very clear what banning driven grouse shooting means and it would be very easy to enforce. It would be impossible to sell grouse on the menus of restaurants, or in supermarkets or game dealers. It would be impossible to market days of driven grouse shooting at the Game Fair and in the Shooting Times, The Field etc. A line of beaters and a line of guns on a hillside is quite conspicuous and it would be easy to video.

            As to why we might want to do this, it is laid out in the e-petition and in blogs on this site in quite some detail. the 17,000 folk who have made this one of the most successful e-petitions to date may have a great variety of reasons why they want to ban this activity - I've made mine quite clear.

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  19. A fascinating discussion!

    I can see why moorland management should be regulated

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    1. Granville - no, I just want to ban driven grouse shooting. As do over 17,000 others making it one of the top 1% most successful e-petitions on the official government website.

      You can chunter on all you like but we know what we want, this e-petition is just one way to get it, and, in the words of Chris Packham at the Hen Harrier Day rally in the Peak District 'We will win!'.

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      1. Mark -

        no you don't want

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          1. I think he's asking

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          2. It makes no odds all shooting should be banned

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  20. It would make far more sense to have

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    1. But it's

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  21. To produce an

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    1. Janice - to make your first comment on this blog an attack on its author for something he didn't write is worse than disingenuous. Interesting email address.

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      1. What's interesting about my email?

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    2. Perfectly possible, indeed highly likely.

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  22. Just to chip in again...
    A number of commenters are asking Mark why he's worried about how the grouse is flushed. He's not, particularly. The issue is with differing types of shoot management. Please, anybody, educate me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, a grouse shoot can be either "driven" or "walked-up". It can't be both at the same time. Walked-up shooting involves a relatively small number of mobile guns, with a relatively low density of grouse required. A driven shoot involves static guns so there can safely be many more of them. As the birds must necessarily come from a small area, they must be densely packed. Therefore, moors which specialise in driven shoots need to rear grouse at much higher densities than moors which don't. Bag size drives shooting fees so even higher densities are encouraged. It is this quest for incredibly high densities of grouse that leads moorland managers to adopt practices that harm the environment and other birds and animals.
    This is why the petition calls for an end to driven grouse shooting. If anyone else asks, "why should I go to jail just because my friend made the grouse fly up, rather than his dog?" I think we can safely assume they're trolling (talking nonsense to detract from the issues and waste everyone's time). Cheers.

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    1. That's an interesting post.

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      1. odd that this doesn't get published

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  23. As so often in these sort of debates

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    1. Henry - thank you for your fart in a bus shelter. The Avery position is articulated in this blog and doesn't need your mistranslation of it.

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      1. Mark I assume you

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    2. Henry, when I suggested you might be trolling, I was being kind. I can't really believe you've spent all this time engaging with this debate but still don't understand it in the slightest. Therefore, surely you're pretending to misunderstand in order to keep Mark hammering patiently on his keyboard when he could be off doing something more constructive with his time.

      However, let's assume for a moment that it is just an honest misunderstanding on your part and you are sincerely trying to get to the heart of the matter.

      Driven grouse shooting is a specific type of activity. It doesn't happen by accident. It doesn't mean "any grouse shooting where the bird is put to flight by a human". Unlike non-driven shooting, it requires very high densities of grouse to be reared and maintained. Mark and others have laid out considerable evidence that the management decisions taken to achieve these super-high densities lead directly to harmful environmental outcomes. These include increased flooding, reduced water quality, reduced biodiversity and, specifically, drastically reduced Hen harrier numbers.
      Over a period of years, those representing the shoot managers have insisted that they have the Hen harrier's best interests at heart and that persecution must be due to rogue gamekeepers or other people entirely. Mark's contention is that these assurances haven't delivered any real benefits for Hen harriers. Furthermore the evidence correlating driven grouse shooting and Hen harrier persecution is compelling and irrefutable. The petition therefore calls for an end to the specific and distinct practice of driven grouse shooting, with its attendant management practices, as this is a) a last resort and b) far more simple and enforceable than attempting to police vast tracts of moorland looking for poisoned baits, traps, disturbed nest sites etc.

      So, to use your words, the activity of driven grouse shooting has been shown, in the opinion of the petitioners, to cause unacceptable harm: therefore it should be stopped.

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          1. Mark, from what I understand

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      1. " Furthermore the evidence correlating driven grouse shooting and Hen harrier persecution is compelling and irrefutable.". What do you actually mean by that?

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  24. Also if walked up grouse shooting isn't nearly so damaging then why is Mr Avery now offering to try and get that banned too?

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