Bullying doesn’t work

IMG_2604Yesterday 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.

Unanswered questions

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.’

Strong-arm tactics

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.


Peak HH Day G Shorrock RSPB_017Although 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?




37 Replies to “Bullying doesn’t work”

  1. Which means they are not encouraging their members to sign the petition unless that is plan B!

  2. Come on DEFRA, you can’t hide in the bushes forever. This thing is not going away. You are beginning to look like you are in league with these law breakers. Are you?

    1. Don’t blame Defra. Blame the politicians who instruct them. Because believe me, with SPADs and not so permanent secretaries, the civil service is little more than an extension of the ruling party these days.

  3. The best option available to the RSPB now to silence their detractors is to urge all RSPB members to sign to ban driven grouse shooting, and I say that as a member with the greatest respect for the RSPB.

  4. The only bullying going on around here is from the rspb and its various lackeys, inside government and out.

    In this regard, the rspb has form:


    The petition referred to only has as many signatures as it does as a result of a variation on the art of ‘chugging’:


    A tried and tested tactic that lush has used many times before:


    ‘Chugging’ is, itself, a form of bullying:


    There is no evidence whatsoever of any illegal killing of hen harriers by grouse shooting interests in England.

    Indeed the rspb’s own figures show only 5 successful prosecutions related to game shooting last year, resulting in the death of 8 buzzards, 8 too many, the perpetrators rightly punished, but a tiny problem when set against the 80,000 breeding pairs of buzzards abroad in the countryside.

      1. Monro- you sound like you’ll be keen on my new campaign. I’m going to call it You Forgot the Facts. I’m going to put a website together in my bedroom and hire former darts world champion Eric Bristow to front it after getting him drunk on sloe gin. Then I’m going to tap up all my shooting mates on the national papers and get them to run stories about the RSPB without declaring their lack of objectivity. Because I’m a very angry person who has hated not getting my own way ever since Nanny took my silver teething ring away.

        The RSPB doesn’t use chuggers. Who’s the bully now, eh?

        1. Oh for heavens sake!

          Asking someone to sign a bit of paper as you hand them their goods is a variation on the art of chugging.

          That is what lush do, with this silly petition, every time someone buys something in their shops.

          I’m very sorry that nanny took your silver spoon away, but she is no relation of mine.

    1. Excellent response from Monro there. We need plenty more comments (even guest posts) from individuals with similar views.

      The strength of such argument, the intelligence of the composition can only further alienate the public (informed and uninformed) views on grouse moors.

      Looking forward to Monro’s response.

        1. Mark – with your powers of recollection of your ‘blog stats’ has Monroe suceeded in being the recipient of the most dislikes of a blog post ever?

          As Richard says, keep the responses coming Monro you’re doing an excellent job on recruiting support to the cause for radical reform of archaic institutions & practice etc.

    2. There is no evidence whatsoever of any illegal killing of hen harriers by grouse shooting interests in England.

      Really , Monro you must live on a different planet ( or head in the sand). You obviously have not yet read “A future for the Hen Harrier” yet as I suggested, nor the frame work document on the species, nor talked to many keepers about it. I have and you are as usual talking bullshit ( or heaven forfend something worse). In the words of a retired WCO “the only grouse keepers who do not kill harriers are those who do not have harriers ”
      When satellite tagged birds “disappear” with no sign of predation or failed tag( which is rare anyway) why is it almost always on grouse moors do you think?

      1. Bless!

        A future for the hen harrier relies on references that date back to 1962.

        The only actual data of ‘birdcrime’ referenced by the references (!) comes from the rspb, leading the campaign against the DEFRA hen harrier action plan and grouse shooting.

        The rspb data comes from rspb members.

        It’s a self licking lollipop.

        1. Monro: the Countryside Alliance, GWCT and RSPB have all called for the draft Hen Harrier Action Plan to be published.

          The RSPB has asked for the ‘brood management’ component of the plan to be subject to public consultation.

          Do you agree that the public’s views are worth hearing, or do you feel the details should be kept secret?

          Public consultation on the ‘brood management’ element need not delay the rest of the Plan since there are only four pairs of hen harriers in England, so there’s no early reason to undertake brood management.

          1. Errrrr…….Britain is the world’s most advanced democracy, the least worst form of government.

            Public consultation is the cornerstone of that democracy. Who can say whether their views are worth hearing, for we cannot see into the future, but they indubitably should be heard.

            Nevertheless, property rights also form a fundamental part of that democracy.

            For any hen harrier conservation program, brood management plan on private property, to succeed, cooperation from the relevant property owners will be required.

            How well does that sit with a petition to infringe those same property rights?

            Since three out of five young hen harriers in England have recently been killed by natural predators, brood management cannot come soon enough.

        2. Again, the appropriately anagram-ed Monro does a splendid job of getting his facts utterly wrong.

          Dearest Monro, you can justify any argument if you simply seek anecdotes that back it up. Really though, you’re supposed to weigh up all the evidence, dear. You don’t seem to have done that, do you? I could claim that Huddersfield Town are the world’s greatest football team by finding web links that back it up.

    3. Monro – whenever I take sides on a controversial issue, I always worry that I may have missed some important points or arguments that might have made me change my position. But I am regularly cheered up by reading your posts. They often contain misrepresentations or distortions of the facts, and when I follow the links that you supply, I almost invariably find that they simply do not provide support for the arguments you are trying to make. I come away reassured that the ‘other side’ is either unwilling or incapable of putting together any form of rational case, and my confidence receives a welcome boost.
      Please keep up the good work!

      1. Thank you for your genial response.

        The fact remains that there were only 5 successful prosecutions last year for illegal acts by individuals connected with game shooting, out of 28 altogether, all the rest to do with falconry, pigeon racing, egg collecting, poaching and vandalism (rspb figures).

        With regard to the hen harrier in England, no credible evidence has ever been produced that supports the proposition, within the silly petition, that grouse shooting interests are engaged in the illegal killing of hen harriers in England.

        No, the truth of the matter is that study after study shows that the main threat to the hen harrier, as with so many upland ground nesting birds, is predation, overgrazing, afforestation, human disturbance, wind farms, loss of habitat.

        But those are difficult problems, so the idle and indigent find it much easier to tap into the zeitgeist of toff and banker bashing.

        Good sport, I grant you, but neither intellectually coherent or at all praiseworthy in pursuit of a too narrow but, nonetheless, noble endeavor.

    4. Munro says, “There is no evidence whatsoever of any illegal killing of hen harriers by grouse shooting interests in England.”
      That’s hardly surprising given that there are hardly any breeding hen harriers left in England. Four pairs this year, none last year. That means that there are over 300 pairs “missing”. It’s also misleading to suggest that successful prosecutions are in any way a measure of the level of criminality that is causing this shameful situation. We don’t measure car crime by the number of successful prosecutions for car theft – it’s the number of missing vehicles that show how much thieving is going on. It’s the same with hen harriers. The Birdcrime report itself, if you read it carefully, makes it quite clear that detection rates, especially in remote moorland habitats, are inevitably low. So successful prosecutions will be even lower.
      You need to look elsewhere for the evidence. The police for example. The National Wildlife Crime Unit’s latest strategic assessment says, “intelligence continues to indicate a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management”. Or look at Government scientific reports. Natural England’s paper on the future of the hen harrier in England says, “The critically low breeding numbers and patchy distribution of the hen harrier in England is a result of persecution…especially on areas managed for red grouse or with game interests”. There are many other reports worth reading such as JNCC’s hen harrier framework. The conclusions are similar.
      It’s important to read the evidence rather than promote the rather flimsy argument that just because no-one’s been caught, the problem simply doesn’t exist.

      1. The JNCC report relies on rspb data, collected by rspb members.

        It also contains an important caveat:

        ”hen harrier productivity is being held back by nest failure rather than the number fledged from a successful nest’

        ‘Almost 65% of the incidents were related to destruction or disturbance of a nest’

        ‘for the ‘probable’ cases of persecution it is possible that some of the nests may in fact have failed for natural reasons, such as desertion due to prey shortage or predation.’

      1. Doesn’t apply here at all. More half-baked ideas. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from you. Keep ’em coming.

  5. Monro should definitely be encouraged to keep supplying comments. His spectacular ignorance is truly heart warming. It gives us all great hope. It’s really quite sweet that he thinks that pasting links to other people’s ill-formed opinions off the internet are proof of his arguments. Bless him.

    1. Indeed, though I’m beginning to suspect that he’s just an invention by some mischievous imp (note the anagrammatic username), in order to make the tweed disease appear even more cretinous than they really are (if that’s possible). Come on Mark. Fess up. 😉

    2. & it seems reasonable to assume that it also acts as a good recruitment tool for the RSPB ….

    3. Thank you.

      Long live Capercaillie, also suffering from predation, wind farms, loss of habitat, disturbance.

        1. The threat to Capercaillie from wind farms is one of disturbance, but of course you already knew that, didn’t you?

          Still, using the good old rspb standby of ‘they have disappeared so they must have been illegally killed’, this one:


          The Scottish government now includes a document entitled ‘Capercaillie survey methods’ in its planning and development guidance to windfarm developers:


  6. I worry about the principle of brood management at all. It sets a dangerous precedent. What next? Buzzards, Sparrowhawks? The answer is very simple. The shooting fraternity needs to stop illegally killing birds of prey and look at alternative methods of protecting their ‘birds’. Be that through diversionary feeding or other methods where pheasants are involved. The large numbers of pheasants in the countryside suggests that lack of birds should never be an issue on lowland shoots anyway.

      1. Monro – it’s internationally recognised in cases such as a combine harvester heading towards a nest in a wheat field. Not as a means to legitimise illegal activity for private profit.

        1. For Montagu’s harriers, yes. That by no means invalidates the technique. Quite the reverse.

          Predation, disturbance, of hen harriers and their nests by foxes, badgers, eagles, goshawks, buzzards, ravens, corvids, eagle owls, wild cats, ramblers is no less devastating than noisy and lethal agricultural machinery:


          There is plenty of scope for grouse shooting and hen harriers to co-exist:


          But bullying the owners of grouse moors with threats will simply cause them to sell up and their successors to put the moorland to other uses.

          And we know what happens next:


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