This time it’s the Storygraph

I spent yesterday at the NERF conference in Derbyshire but a couple of people talked to me about the latest anti-RSPB article. This weekend it was the Sunday Telegraph’s turn (and I got a mention too).

It’s a very mixed-up piece. I’m not sure that the criticism of the relatively new, though not that new!, hide at Titchwell is real evidence of the RSPB losing its way. I think the hide is a bit ugly, a bit over the top, and I wonder when the windows will stop working (and was amused when I was in the said hide recently when two staff had to come round to clean the windows inside and outside (thus scaring a few birds away (but not many interestingly))). But an ugly hide (which was, by the way, partly externally funded I believe) doth not an evil organisation make, in my book anyway.

The piece then moves on down the road to the Lambert case where the writer clearly is on the same side as the RSPB because he states that Lambert got a 10-month suspended sentence whereas it was actually a paltry 10 weeks.  But who expects accuracy in this type of piece?

710px-Henry_Thomas_Alken_-_Grouse_Shooting_-_Google_Art_ProjectAnd speaking of the writer, I didn’t recognise the name William Langley so I thought I’d just Google his name (other search engines are available – though not so good in my opinion). Trying ‘william langley grouse shooting’ was just a shot in the dark really but seems to have hit the target with this article written in praise of the Glorious 12th in 2011.  I think we can see what side of the argument William Langley might be on from that article. If there is any doubt of Langley’s pro-shooting credentials then his article of last year about deer stalking will nail the fact.

By the way, I found that article very interesting and useful as it tells me that our beloved Prime Minister usually heads to Jura for a spot of deer stalking when he isn’t trying to take the Conservative Party to stand alongside UKIP’s politics. How interesting.

It seems as difficult for the Mail and Telegraph to find a shooting-neutral journalist as it is for Theresa May to find someone who isn’t mates with Lord Brittan to chair an enquiry in which he might be asked some questions.

‘Old hands in the birding world’ are bemused that Langley couldn’t find anyone more convincing than someone who earns a living from painting ‘sporting’ pictures (rather good ones I admit) to criticise the RSPB. Rodger McPhail is bemused.

And then the Countryside Alliance and the Game Conservancy are trotted out to criticise the RSPB. Well, we may have started with an irrelevant bird hide but we are on solid shooting ground now aren’t we? It’s so kind of Andrew Gilruth to come clean and criticise the RSPB for losing touch with its members and its mission. Let the mask slip a little there didn’t you Andrew? You’ve been so careful to appear as though GWCT and the RSPB were best mates all summer – sharing the same love of the Hen Harrier, sweating away together in the Defra group to find a way forward with shared enthusiasm and being the very best of friends. Ooops!

avatar2I talked to a long-standing acquaintance of mine, who would certainly rate as a long-standing friend of the RSPB, yesterday at the NERF conference.  She wasn’t the least bit bothered about a bit of Botham botheration. She had actually bought the Telegraph, as I suspect she does every Sunday, and I pointed her towards Langley’s piece and she wasn’t bothered about that either. She was more bothered about the RSPB going down market to the Vote for Bob people (which I really don’t mind at all – isn’t it funny?) and the name change of the magazine, especially to such a naff name, still rankles with her. An attack on the RSPB from a bunch of shooters who can’t even disguise where they are coming from, really doesn’t register with her except to make her jump to the RSPB’s defence when she was feeling a bit narked with them. Well done Beefy! Well done Langley! Well done GWCT! It takes a great knack to build up your enemy’s defences by attacking them. But you have done it!

And the other thing you have done is to show that you are the enemy. Shooting is gunning for the RSPB. ‘We’re all on the same side really’ has never sounded so thin and unconvincing – thanks to you all for the clarification.

And, by the way, the Conservation Director of the RSPB is called Martin Harper, not Mark Harper. It’s so difficult, it seems, to get the facts right. Even the simple ones, let alone the complicated ones.



29 Replies to “This time it’s the Storygraph”

  1. Another erudite round up which hits the bullseye. The question surely is, how pathetic do you think these people will become in their infantile name calling charade?
    Well done Mark, keep it up.

  2. Speaking of how easy it is to get names wrong, it’s RoDger McPhail.

    But back on the substantive, aren’t Journos supposedto declare their own interests when writing partisan articles? Esp when accusing others of hiddden agendas.

  3. Are you against deer stalking? I think it’s hard to be against deer stalking per se. I can see that there might be arguments about the deer stalking industry and how it affects deer management but it’s hard to be completely against it in my opinion because without some kind of management in the absence of predators wild deer can do considerable damage to ecosystems and also their own herd – health.

    These arguments can in my opinion become over polarised.

    (dunno if I am allowed back on but I thought I would test the waters with a bit of an olive branch) – promise to be good 😛

    1. Giles – I think you have served your time in the sin bin.

      Welcome back but do, please, behave.

      No.I’m not against deer stalking, or wildfowling, or pheasant shooting etc etc I have come to be against driven grouse shooting because of the illegal behaviour of too many associated with it.

      1. Many thanks Mark, I think this is the main difference between us. I am probably as against and quite possibly agree with you on what is a lot of the ‘bad behaviour is’. But I want to better target the bad behaviour itself wherever it occurs. My approach no doubt would allow some such behaviour to carry on – as all laws can be broken but lets be honest theft, murder rape, fraud &c &c all carry on too in spite of the laws against them.

        I still think you should consider what I said about much much and more effective better civil liability to be placed on businesses – all businesses for illegal persecution of wildlife by their employees. Such a liability would involve a much lower standard of proof and could also be more effective as it could involve far greater penalties. How much is one Hen Harrier worth?

        I know that’s an economic approach as it involves putting a value on a hen harrier and then making an estate pay for the damage of it being illegally killed but the criminal penalty on the actual killer would still be there.

        I’ve not seen this approach spoken of much (except by me) and I’d be genuinely interested in what you thought of it.

        For the sake of argument how about if an estate had to pay £100,000 compensation per hen harrier it’s employee killed what would you think about that?

        Very best wishes.


  4. Yet more sloppy journalism from another tainted journo. Looks like Gilruth is firmly out of the closet and spreading shooting memes around an increasingly delusional minority bunch of self interested arse holes. Time to publish the Grouse Delusion Mark?

  5. Yes, conservation can be a bit tunnel visioned. Were it not, Mark, you would have realised the sheer irony of the misnaming of RSPB’s conservation director – because Mark Harper is, of course, the bête noire of the half a million people who want to keep our public forests public – the pro-sell off MP for the Forest of Dean ! That’s the same people who shot the 38 Degrees petition against the Government’s Infrastructure Bill to 169,000 signatures in not much more than 24 hours – and resulted in the explicit exclusion of the public forests from the bill.

    What should be really worrying for shooting is that, despite many conservationists struggling with the new popularity of the forests we are, I think, all after the same thing – its just a slightly wider river than the sometimes narrow, self-limited stream of nature conservation. I’m not sure the shooting lobby has quite picked that up yet – despite the fact they’ve notched up a really notable, solid achievement which despite the best efforts in the 1960s and 70s intensive forestry never managed – the extinction of an English breeding bird.

    1. Not correct I’m afraid.

      Because of the planting of the sitka slums of Kershope etc the Black Grouse is now extinct in north-east Cumbria.

      Thank goodness it seems to be thriving on Langholm Moor just over the Border.

        1. Yes, I know there are Black Grouse at Geltsdale. That is wonderful.

          Kershope Forest is a long way to the north of Brampton (about 17 miles) and there are no Black Grouse there. They used to live in the area in great numbers until the sitka slum was planted. (c.f. Ritson Graham).

  6. What the comment about the Tichwell hide amounts to is some Tory toff saying that a rickety old shed is good enough for us.

  7. The Moorland Mafia trying to poison their foe again. A tactic they should be well practiced in. Why let the truth stand in the way of mindless propaganda? Come on Martin Harper, the gloves are off. It’s time to urge the ‘Million Voices’ to sign Marks petition. Sadly its the only way to resolve this. given the mentality of the opposition.

  8. You would think that these fools, and remember the RSPB is not anti grouse shooting but thinks it should be a robustly licensed activity, would at least do their homework and not make sloppy mistakes. Laughable really, giving us easy targets seems to be their new sport!
    Its quite clear that they have finally realised we’ve rumbled “we all love harriers” I think if they didn’t still weald some power and influence we could describe them as pathetic. No Giles not anti deer stalking but probably anti the sort of stalking the PM does, as opposed to proper control. But then wolves and lynx would do a better job for us and probably increase tourist revenue.

    1. “sort of stalking the PM does”. – well that’s an interesting comment. I’m not completely sure what sort of stalking the PM does or has done but maybe you mean ‘paid for by rich people’? – again whether that is good or bad probably depends more on it’s effect on the wildlife and bio diversity &c than whether someone pays for it.

      I strongly suspect the sort of stalking that the PM does is a damn site better than a lot of the deer killing done round here which is by poachers. One might argue that it would be better at least ecologically to have a rich tory toff paying shed loads of cash harvested from the poor for stalking and the money going back into maintenance of a stalkable deer herd than some oik out at night with a lamp smacking a few beasts in the belly with an inappropriate weapon and slinging them in the back of a truck. Just one could produce a similarly politically unsound comparison between rich white big game hunters and hungry poachers in Africa. The problem is perhaps that social and environmental politics don’t align in every case.

      “wolves and lynx would do a better job for us” or packs of hounds? Never completely got the wolves = good / hounds – bad argument. Again IMO these things aren’t black and white but I do agree with you about the at least theoretical superiority of wildlife management by predator.

  9. Well personally, I rather like “Mark Harper”. Whoever “they” are, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of putting the wind up the shady end of the shooting community. Long may “they” continue to do so!

  10. The grouse shooting industry’s propaganda machine has recently been polluting the letters page of BBC Wildlife magazine. In November, Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association writes how wonderful “moorland management” is for merlins, conveniently forgetting that it’s not so wonderful for golden and white-tailed eagles, goshawks, sparrowhawks, hen harriers, buzzards, red kites, short-eared owls, eagle owls, peregrines, crows, ravens, magpies, foxes, stoats, weasels, mountain hares, badgers, trees, clean water and carbon storage.

    In December, Andrew Gilruth from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (they should really drop the wildlife bit) mentions the non joint, non plan as being the solution for more hen harriers, that there is “genuine conflict between hen harriers and red grouse” (I thought the conflict was between the grouse shooting industry and people who like hen harriers and other wildlife) and how heather moorland provides breeding habitat for curlews, golden plovers and lapwings – so it’s not all bad!

    My response to Amanda Anderson’s letter was too late for the December issue, so hopefully it will be included in January’s magazine.

    1. Langholm grouse moor is excellent for buzzards, on the increase, badgers, on the increase, ravens, on the increase. Unfortunately, as a consequence, the computer generated numbers of hen harriers that should populate Langholm have failed to materialize; added to which, there has been no grouse shooting there since 1999 with which to offset the swingeing running costs.

      On the other hand, ‘breeding black grouse, dunlin, curlew, golden plover, lapwing, redshank and snipe……..We found positive associations between presence/absence and percentage management for all these species (see Figure 3). Management for red grouse led to significantly improved chances of having breeding waders and black grouse on the moor. There is little doubt that moorland management has benefits that extend far beyond red grouse.’

      1. Monro – you’re rather off the pace, almost as if you are a long way out of things.

        Lots of HH at Langholm this year. Vole year? Lots of diversionary/supplementary feeding. And yet no grouse shooting. Can’t be the HH can it? If they are feeding hardly any grouse to the HH young then where are all the grouse going? It’s very odd – but clearly not bad news for HH.

        And the last time I was at Langholm – quite a few years ago in the early days of LangholmII, I visited with a grouse moor owner, who believed they had enough grouse to shoot even then. Something a bit funny going on isn’t there?

        when were you last there by the way?

  11. Neither the rspb nor any of its members should feel bothered about the ‘you forgot the birds’ website.

    Whether or not the rspb is fulfilling its charitable mission is a matter for the charities commission alone.

    Nevertheless, any and everyone has the right to enquire of the charities commission whether certain charities are fulfilling their mission in a correct and proper fashion since charities are given tax relief, so are, to some extent, supported by the taxpayer in the form of that relief.

    If the rspb is fulfilling that mission, and I have no doubt, myself, that it is, then it has nothing to fear.

    It must, though, be a slight concern to all that the rspb felt it had to remove its claim to spend “90p-in-the-pound” on conservation from its website since that assertion ‘could be seen as misleading’.

    Hot under the collar bluster about ‘shooting gunning for the rspb’ adds to that concern.

  12. Andrew Gilruth saying there is “genuine conflict between hen harriers and red grouse” is the same as saying “genuine conflict between blue tits and caterpillars”.

    Pathetic really.

    1. Ed – yes, it is probably just shorthand but it may be deliberate. The conflict is, of course, between a protected and valued element of our shared natural heritage and the private selfish interests of a few.

      1. And just to broaden things a little (forgive if slightly off topic) – if it is correct we are living through a man made mass extinction event – and I strongly suspect we are – between the immediate short term interests of all of us and those of life on earth as a whole.

  13. Monro’s latest post in the Telegraph states that:

    ”There is no incentive for the owners of expensive, not very profitable, upland estates to accommodate hen harriers so their keepers drive them away by disturbance (not difficult) should they look like settling; perfectly legal.”

    Sounds perfectly illegal given it’s an Annex 1 species, and also if the moor in question is an SPA.

    1. Bless!
      A keeper on his rounds with his dogs driving a noisy quad bike will disturb hen harriers, but not grouse. That is neither harassment nor persecution, in fact, or in law.
      At the moment the hen harrier, like all other wild ground nesting birds in England, has two hopes and one of them is Bob Hope who is no longer with us.
      If the rspb really wants the hen harrier to have a future in England, it has two options:
      1. Do nothing in the hope that a future labour government will licence/ban grouse shooting and allow the rspb to introduce ground nesting hen harriers onto suddenly unkeepered grouse moors once more awash with predators.
      2. Work with grouse moor owners to make a future for hen harriers in England, since other ground nesting birds are enjoying a bright future on keepered grouse moors in England.
      It has chosen option one, while young hen harriers in England that could have been saved by brood management have been killed this year by natural predators.
      You may think that doing nothing is a sensible approach for a billion pound business whose sole mission is supposed to be bird conservation to adopt.
      Clearly not many agree with you:

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