Yesterday the RSPB issued a toughly worded statement:
The RSPB is (today) urging Defra to publish the workable elements of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, which we believe could bring about the recovery of one of England’s most beleaguered birds of prey.
However, we’re also highlighting our rejection of one point of the six-point plan, known as brood management, as we believe that immediate removal of chicks from the wild and rearing them in aviaries is unacceptable and legally ambiguous. As our position on this issue has been widely mis-represented, the RSPB’s view is set out in our position statement.
Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. He said: ‘The hen harrier is one of our most iconic birds of prey, but it is currently in danger of being lost from England and it needs urgent action to save it. Defra has worked hard with the shooting industry and conservation groups to produce a Hen Harrier Action Plan, and we believe that the workable parts of this plan must be published and implemented now to help save this bird of prey. We think the more contentious elements, for which there a plethora of unanswered questions, should go for public consultation, while the rest of the plan fulfils its purpose of protecting harriers.‘
We believe that brood management is a distraction, taking emphasis and resources away from tackling illegal killing. Martin Harper firmly added: ‘Brood management is worth considering once the hen harrier has returned to the hills and moors of England. But to do it early could see young birds released to their deaths.
The Society has no confidence that released birds will be allowed to fly free from harm. It is a sad reality that illegal killing of birds of prey continues, often linked by those with an interest in shooting. The evidence is real and compelling – gamekeepers continue to be convicted for the illegal persecution of birds of prey and there is a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management. We will have no part of a project that could put a species at risk.’
Martin Harper added: “We recognise that brood management has become a totemic issue for the shooting community, and that some have chosen to use strong-arm tactics against the RSPB. We reject the industry’s claim that only by removing chicks from nests will gamekeepers and shooting estates accept the plan. Aggressive and intransigent campaigning by the shooting sector is threatening to derail the plan, consign hen harriers to further years of persecution and ride roughshod across attempts to work with progressive voices in the industry.
Ministers are accountable for preventing the human-induced extinction of species, and the illegal persecution of the hen harrier is the main reason for this bird’s desperate plight. It surely makes sense to publish elements of the plan which has agreement. We’re urging Government to recognise the urgency of this situation and implement a plan to save the harrier, so that hen harriers can once again be a regular feature of the skies above our moors.‘
Martin Harper also wrote, in detail, of the RSPB’s position, its questions and doubts over brood management, and the campaign mounted by shooters against it, in his blog.
The RSPB is asking for the contentious brood management scheme to go for public consultation. That’ll be interesting if it ever happens!
What is out for public consultation at the moment is the proposition that we should ban driven grouse shooting – please consult and sign here like over 19,000 others.
Although this might feel like a momentous moment, it isn’t. The RSPB has not walked away from the process, it has just said that much is agreed and all parties ought to get on with those elements. It has listed the problems with brood management and they are all the right issues that should be addressed. If the intransigent untouchables were better able to read the real world, they would have seen this coming a long time ago. Maybe they did. Maybe they haven’t got anything that resembles a Plan B and maybe they are still just playing for the long grass to delay the inevitable demise of driven grouse shooting. I don’t know what they are thinking but then again, I’m not sure that there is much evidence of thinking.
I love the Hen Harrier, and I want it to have a much better time in the huge wildlife crime scene that is upland England, but this is not solely about Hen Harriers. Sorting out the brood management scheme, were it to prove possible (which it might not be) does not sort out the burning of blanket bogs, the pollution of water courses, the increases in greenhouse gases in any way. And those issues will all need addressing to make driven grouse shooting sustainable in environmental terms. The intransigent untouchable will have even less appetite or brain power to deal with those issues and they will have to be dealt with. No, a ban on driven grouse shooting is inevitable and the likes of Sir Ian Botham, and the people behind him, have hastened its end just a little by adopting tactics that have spurred the RSPB into a harder, steelier public position.
And I will just mention again that Defra is not, as it might appear, the neutral facilitator in this matter. They are the government. We elect governments to govern and there has been precious little leadership from the Defra team on this issue. Whose side are they on? When will Defra actually say something and do something on this subject? Defra too need to look at the bigger picture and might want to reassess their response to the e-petition on banning driven grouse shooting. Defra – what is your plan for the uplands that delivers public benefits? I don’t think you have one. What have you been doing for nearly five years?