The non-joint non-plan is a non-joint non-plan says Defra

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddThe Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust launched an e-petition in mid July asking Defra to publish a plan developed by a group of stakeholders (as I believe we should call them – I loathe that term) to aid the recovery of the Hen Harrier.

This e-petition has been enthusiastically promoted by GWCT, the Moorland Association, Countryside Alliance, gamekeepers and BASC.  Despite all this support it reached 10,000 signatures only in September and the GWCT et al. have been waiting expectantly for a response from Defra.

This blog has given short shrift to this e-petition as right from the start it appeared to be a poorly judged publicity stunt rather than a serious contribution to the debate.  I have called it the non-joint non-plan and Defra’s response, see below, does much the same.  Because it isn’t agreed it isn’t a plan, and until it’s agreed it won’t be joint.  Well, no surprises there then.

The Defra response is rather perfunctory – it made me smile. However, it does, for once, actually answer the question posed rather than ramble around it in an unconvincing manner as has usually been the case.

The Defra response also reminds us all that as recently as 2010 there were a dozen pairs of Hen Harriers in England and that is a poor show when there is enough available habitat for 330+ pairs (although Defra don’t mention the 330+ figure – they never do – it’s too embarrassing).  Under this government the Hen Harrier population has fallen in just four years from 12 to four pairs and there is just the hint in the Defra response that they are waking up to the fact that they need to do something about this (bit late now chaps!).

The conflict between driven grouse shooting and the conservation of protected wildlife is a real one.  It is clear that you can’t have lots of Hen Harriers and enormous ‘bags’ of Red Grouse shot for ‘sport’.  At a time which is described as a ‘golden age of grouse (shooting)’, with bags reaching record levels on many moors, the Hen Harrier population is at pretty much an all-time low in England because of illegal killing of these protected birds.

No, you can’t have lots of shot grouse and lots of protected Hen Harriers. You have to choose. Which do you choose?

The ill-judged plea to publish the non-joint, non-plan, was an attempt by the grouse shooters to railroad Defra, the RSPB and the public into agreeing that we want lots of grouse shooting and will live with few Hen Harriers.  That, quite palpably, isn’t what we want.

The non-joint, non-plan would have allowed, it seems, chicks to be moved from one of the Hen Harrier nests in the Forest of Bowland this year because it was too close to the other nest – and we have four pairs in England.

Even this government wouldn’t be foolish enough to position itself, after buzzard-gate and badger-gate, as being on the side of the grouse shooter instead of the Hen Harrier this close to a general election.  Maybe after the general election…

The shooting community, and nothing else, has reduced the Hen Harrier population to its parlous position through illegal acts – at a time when grouse bags are booming.  The choice is stark – lots of grouse shooting and very few Hen Harriers or very little grouse shooting and rather more Hen Harriers?

And it isn’t just about Hen Harriers ( or Peregrines, or Goshawks or Short-eared Owls), or Stoats, or Mountain Hares, it’s also about climate change, flood risk and water bills, it’s about blanket bogs and what sort of uplands we want.

Society as a whole needs a plan, preferably a joint plan, for the future of the uplands, and when you take that wider longer perspective there is no place for driven grouse shooting and its ecosystem disservices and its assault on wildlife. So please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.




The Defra response to the GWCT’s e-petition.

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

The Government is concerned about the hen harrier population in England and acknowledges the need to take urgent action.

The latest survey undertaken in 2010 found only 12 pairs in England. In 2013 no young fledged for the first time in over 50 years and although we are encouraged that there are four nests this year with good numbers of young, hen harrier populations are so low that recovery across their former range is unlikely to occur unaided.

In its document “Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services”, the Government set out priority actions. One of these is to “Take targeted action for the recovery of priority species, whose conservation is not delivered through wider habitat-based and ecosystem measures”. The Government considers that hen harriers merit additional action to reverse the decline in their population numbers.

In 2012 Defra established the Uplands Stakeholder Forum Hen Harrier Sub-Group to seek shared solutions for hen harrier recovery. The Sub-Group comprises senior representatives from Natural England, the RSPB, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, National Parks UK and the Moorland Association.

Since the establishment of the Sub-Group, the members have developed a draft Joint Action Plan which contains a suite of complementary actions intended to contribute to the recovery of the hen harrier population in England. The e-petition suggests that the Joint Action Plan could have been published in January 2014, but final agreement is still being negotiated. Since the Sub-Group members all have a role to play in delivering the suite of actions, it is important to secure as much agreement as possible before publication so that it can be implemented in the co-operative and pragmatic way needed to help the recovery of the hen harrier in England.

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.

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16 Replies to “The non-joint non-plan is a non-joint non-plan says Defra”

  1. I think the GWCT and their petition can be summed up with their disgusting behaviour on Hen Harrier day. When all the parties actually interested in saving Hen harriers united, they took out a Google Ad titled 'Hen Harrier Day' with a link to their website and their petition, rather than the one to ban driven grouse moors.

    Mind you what should we expect from organisation formally known as Game conservancy, which 10 years ago had a president that called for a cull of Hen harrier, then in a PR move changed their name to include the words wildlife and conservation, whose aim seems to be eo criticise the RSPB and other REAL conservation bodies, while pushing policies that are pro badger cull and anti beaver reintroduction

  2. The sub-group seems very heavily bias towards the Grouse industry, doesn't it? How could an agreement ever be reached with only one voice for the Hen Harrier?

  3. These dated wildlife damaging practices, such as driven grouse shooting, that certain groups of people keep clinging onto have no place in our modern suffering environment. They need to wake up and see what is really happening to our delicate ecosystem. The time has long passed since we could do as we wish to wildlife without consequence. We all have to move with the times and change accordingly but these groups of people ignoratly and stubbornly continue with their practices from a bygone era. We are at a crucial point in time where change is the only thing that will stop anymore damage being done. It's time for change, it's time for a ban, we must act now.

  4. Birds of prey (except those being preyed on by other birds of prey) are flourishing in this country as never before in living memory.

    Meanwhile populations of ground nesting birds, like the black grouse, decline, year on year.

    The hen harrier is a ground nesting bird whose preferred habitat almost exactly matches that of the black grouse.

    The decline of the black grouse has been caused by habitat degradation and predation by foxes, corvids, mustelidae.$FILE/fcs-action-blackgrouse.pdf


    There is the distinct whiff of a political agenda on this blog.

    May I ask how this blog is financed?

    1. Monro - you may ask, although as a newcomer it is a bit rude of you. It's funded by me. Feel free to send me a cheque though!

      There certainly is a political agenda - the agenda is to agitate to change the state of wildlife for the better.

      1. My apologies for any rudeness; none intended, simply an attempt at brevity.

        Fab. In that case, why not agitate for the rspb to join the defra hen harrier joint action plan, only in draft at the moment due to the rspb's deliberate intransigence.

        You're a labour party supporter. So is the rspb, covertly. The agenda is to hang on until the 2015 election so everyone can go back to the nice clubbiness of 2010, rudely interrupted by democracy. Then the whole (expensive) licencing/(mad) banning of grouse moors might take wing.

        Meanwhile habitat degradation and predation by foxes, corvids, mustelidae. continues to blight the breeding chances of all ground nesting birds in this country.

        'Evidence from these cameras and post-mortem examinations showed that predation by Red Foxes was the commonest cause of nest failure, 65%of failures being attributed to foxes. In 75% of cases predation took place after dark. Foxes killed two incubating adult females on the nest. Foxes mainly predated young from two to four weeks old, but as recently fledged young return to the nest site to roost, they are also at risk. As fledglings increased in size, nest sites became more detectable by foxes. In the absence of nest camera evidence, it was often impossible to attribute a cause of failure, as no conclusive evidence was left at the nest site. In one instance, foxes visited nest sites over a period of up to 10 days until all the young were removed. At another site an adult fox brought cubs to a nest when small young were removed. There was little evidence that adult Hen Harriers can successfully defend their young against an incursion by a fox either in daylight or darkness.'

        So while you were running around getting signatures to ban grouse shooting because of one proven case of a hen harrier being shot in England, not necessarily by anyone who had anything to do with grouse shooting, between 2009-2012, 54 hen harriers were killed on Skye by foxes (reference above).

        Might I suggest that your commendable industry may be somewhat misdirected?

        1. Monro - the RSPB has been described as a membership of Telegraph-readers with a staff of Guardian-readers - though I cannot run that reference down to any source. However, like any charity the RSPB's political work, trying to persuade governments of all flavours to do a good job for wildlife, is not party-political. Interesting that, as a new commenter on this blog you already have questioned my motives, my funding and the RSPB's politics and approach to protecting wildlife.

          Yes foxes predate Hen Harriers (and have done for thousands of years before men in tweed starting interfering), and Hen Harriers eat Meadow Pipits; Meadow Pipits eat a wide range of insects. I'm not exactly sure that I know the full range of species eaten by those insects but eventually we get back to some plants which make their living through harnessing the energy from the sun. It's called ecology. There's a lot of it about.

          More Hen Harriers on Skye than nest in the whole of the English uplands. Because you clearly haven't paid much attention to the story so far, just a reminder that the available habitat could support 330+ pairs of Hen Harrier in northern England (and some of them would be eaten by foxes) but this year there were four because of man in tweed.

          But then, it's not all about Hen Harriers anyway, is it?

          1. Sorry to ask so many questions, but then a bit of perspective should always be welcomed by the genuinely apolitical, should it not?

            You were an rspb director whilst being a member of the labour party.

            You are funded by LUSH, a direct action animal rights financier of sea shepherd, amongst others.

            Your numbers for a potential hen harrier population in England come from a computer modelling exercise (these always work so well, don't they, particularly with regard to predicting recessions...oh, hang on...).

            The point is that foxes, corvids, mustelidae all meso predators, are present in overabundance as a result of man's activities - large quantities of readily available road kill food sources, extinction of top predators.


            European research in this area is far ahead of that in the UK. Why would that be?

            So your hen harriers have no chance to flourish in England, just as black grouse, grey partridge populations plummet.

            'Persecution' is the least of your problems.

            You, and the rspb, only concentrate on it because, an emotive issue, it keeps you and they in funds.

            But I have a better plan for you.

            You despise people in Tweed. Here's your chance to do something about them. Why not introduce species that eat them:


          2. Monro - I'm not genuinely apolitical. I rather like politics and quite a lot of politicians (of most parties). Your 'perpective' is so fuzzy you ought to change your spectacles.

            I joined the Labour Party after it lost the last general election, in July 2010 I think. And I left the RSPB in April 2011. So yes, I was an RSPB director while a member of the Labour Party, for all of 8 months. Several of my director colleagues were members of political parties at various times - one was even a parliamentary candidate. And your point is?

            I am not funded by LUSH, directly or indirectly, nor by anyone connected with LUSH. The only financial link between me and LUSH is that I bought some bath-bombs and soap from them in August! I'm not too fussed, but you owe me an apology for lying about me.

            And you may find yourself banned from posting here if you try to post any more lies about me. So - that apology please.

  5. My apologies. I was wrong.

    There isn't even one proven case of hen harrier persecution in England. If there was all parties would unite in condemnation of it:

    Oh, and by the way, Skye is a disaster area for hen harriers, with only one 'known' incident of 'persecution' in the last ten years, but over fifty hen harriers killed by foxes in the last five years. That isn't normal predation. That is a downright massacre. If you truly have the interests of hen harriers at heart, why aren't you doing something about it?

    Hen harriers won't breed in England in sustainable numbers until the population genuinely spills over from areas of breeding success in Scotland.

    You have entirely the wrong target in your sights and, until some balance is added to the polemic of this blog, your motives will always be in question.

    'In the Skye study, only three nests were found in 2013, the lowest number recorded since the study commenced.'

      1. Mark Avery has unreservedly given me his word that he has never received any support financially or in any other form, expenses, administrative support, motor mileage, train fares, telephone bills, subsistence or anything else, from LUSH.

        I am consequently obliged to withdraw my accusation and apologise for making it in the first place, which I am delighted so to do.

      2. My comments are polemical in the sense of critical because there is a lot to criticise on this blog: a campaign to ban grouse shooting based on zero evidence of any persecution of hen harriers in England. A campaign that will remove scarce jobs in upland regions. A campaign that will reduce the uplands of this country to the same birdlife deserts that exist on Exmoor and Dartmoor, both, shamefully, National Parks.


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