It’s a wasteland for Bowland Beth

Bowland Betty being fitted with satellite tag.  Photo:RSPB
Bowland Betty being fitted with satellite tag. Photo:RSPB

David Harsent has won the prestigious TS Eliot prize for poetry for his collection of poems, Fire Songs. He is, the judges said, a poet ‘for dark and dangerous days’.

This might seem a little off-subject for this blog, although I do try to maintain the appearance of having  a thin veneer of culture.

However, one of the poems is right on-subject for this blog as it is ‘Bowland Beth‘ – the everyday story of the death of a satellite-tagged Hen Harrier on a shooting estate but told in a very different way.

You can hear the author read Bowland Beth here (after 14minutes and 40 seconds) – don’t you find it moving?  David Harsent makes the point before his reading of his poem, that birds of prey are fully protected by law but are illegally killed by gamekeepers because they take game. He says ‘none more so than the Hen Harrier because Hen Harriers take grouse and grouse shooting is a high end business‘.

The more mundane story of this satellite-tagged young Hen Harrier, reared in the the Lancashire Trough of Bowland and killed in Yorkshire can be found here and here. The science shows us that the fate of Bowland Beth is common in the north of England where the swathes of estates given over to the industry of driven grouse shooting should be regarded as an enormous crime scene.

If moved by this poem, then please sign this e-petition calling on the government to end this time of slaughter by banning driven grouse shooting in England.



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11 Replies to “It’s a wasteland for Bowland Beth”

  1. Today's Guardian has a 3 page 'long read' spread by Patrick Barkham on the plight of the Hen Harrier !

  2. The red grouse moors of northern England have become a black hole for so called 'protected' raptors bringing shame on our country and the Tory government. Words come too easy but sadly do nothing to address the mindless slaughter of raptors taking place; its positive action that is needed along with a strong political will to bring persecution to an end once and for all, and prosecute those responsible. The lack of any legal enforcement throughout England's uplands has allowed gamekeepers generally to kill birds of prey and destroy their nesting sites with a level of impunity unequalled since the second world war, which in my view is beyond belief and totally unacceptable. I would go so far as to say raptor killing is now much worst than it has ever been on moorland used to shoot red grouse in England.

    In the last three or four years there has been much welcomed publicity highlighting the current appalling hen harrier situation following their widespread persecution bringing the species to the very edge of extinction. Why has this mobilisation taken so long I often wonder. It was clear in the mid 1990's the English hen harrier was under intolerable pressure on red grouse moors. After spending perhaps over £1 million on various hen harrier protection schemes nothing beneficial has so far been achieved?

    In the last five years fifteen Forest of Bowland peregrine territories have been found abandoned resulting in the loss of the same number of breeding pairs of peregrines in the region. This year of the five pairs of peregrines that attempted to breed in Bowland, only one pair was successful fledging a single chick. What is even more illogical to understand, non of these suspicious disappearances have been recorded in the RSPB annual crime report, why not? Was this because of claims by one RSPB official these losses were the result of bad weather and a lack of food in Bowland? If this was the cause for such a calamitous population crash, why are peregrine territories that closely encircle the Forest of Bowland's boundary continue to produce good numbers of fledged chicks with far less prey availability and the same climatic conditions I wonder?

    We can all shout and protest about the plight of raptors, but their eventual salvation must be spearheaded by a government with a strong will, this we do not have. While I support Mark Avery's petition to ban driven grouse shooting, I fear it would not resolve the persecution of birds of prey on red grouse moors in the long run. If driven grouse shooting was ever banned, estates would simply continue to shoot other game species like pheasant and partridge, as well as red grouse but using a different methodology to do so. More importantly, I have a fear that if legislation was ever introduced that banned driven grouse shooting land owners and their gamekeepers would vent their anger and frustration by destroying every bird of prey on their property.

  3. I know there are people who read this blog who are not in principle opposed to shooting our fellow beings, but surely the last sentence of Terry's comment above is a terrible indictment of our destructive species.

  4. Terry,surely by your talk of it sounding about Tory Government being to blame you must be the only person who thinks a Labour Government would stop raptor persecution.
    Why did they not do anything all those years that they were in office.
    No they are all tarred with the same brush and I bet several Labour politicians either shoot Grouse or are really friendly with lots who do.

  5. Dennis, I blame the Tory landowning estate owners and their gamekeepers for the demise of England's raptors. I concur with you, it is very doubtful that a Labour or any other government would be prepared to stand up and introduce steps that would make a difference, although there have recently been a number of Labour MP's who are not happy and have said so about the plight of so called protected raptors of moorland. If we are being honest, there are other more important matters to consider by any government well ahead of raptors I am sorry to say. What happened in France this week just goes to show what a dangerous society we are all living in. I do know that the RSPB have been in touch with representatives from the Labour party bringing MP's up to speed with the disappearance of raptors from our upland regions, and the reason why. Frankly I hope the Labour party are re-elected in May, I honestly can't envisage matters getting much worse for wildlife under a Labour government than they are now under our Tory leadership. It will be down to priorities in the end, but I am 100% sure the problems raptors are facing will only be resolved by a strong political will and an effective enforcement policy, that will cost money, and lots of it.

  6. Terry, David Harsent has written a wonderful poem and his - few- words will help make a difference. Public awareness is not everything but it is a start.

  7. Terry,I agree with all you say,only problem is really it is much more difficult to stop what would be called upper class bloodsports than it is stopping working class bloodsports whichever party is in control.

  8. Just heard David Harsent recite his poem Bowland Beth on R3. Sad and beautiful. And another on 'global warming' (?) read this morning on R4. So pleased that David Harsent has won this prize.


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