Guest Blog – The Good Intentions Paving Company by Tim Bidie (aka as ‘Monro’)

bidie‘Monro’ posted over 100 comments on this blog between 11 October and 14 December on the subject of Hen Harriers and grouse shooting’.  On 14 December, because I was getting a bit fed up with his repetitive comments, I offered him a Guest Blog to get it all off his chest in one go. I didn’t hear anything from him until last weekend when Monro revealed himself to be Tim Bidie (which I rather suspected from his email address).

Tim writes: I am a 60 year old retired British and Sultan of Oman’s Army Officer living overseas, in Oman, running a small business advisory consultancy in Muscat, helping small to medium sized British and European Companies achieve business there.

I am a salt water (mainly) catch and release fly fisherman who occasionally shoots for the pot (with the famous labradog Bingo) and, once in a while, supports the pack of beagles that I whipped in for over 40 years ago.
Bidie is a Scottish name traceable back to the 18th century, around Stirling, possibly French Huguenot before that.
My recent ancestors served the Crown in India for very nearly a century: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2298621/pdf/brmedj07272-0051b.pdf

 

 

‘THE GOOD INTENTIONS PAVING COMPANY’ (Saul Bellow)

‘Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbours the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land.’
Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull, the victor of Little Bighorn, was a hunter gatherer who valued wildlife. There is no contradiction there. Animal life was exploited, yet cherished.

Most countrymen in England today hold to that same belief.

Eradication of apex predators in Britain by man has allowed other, smaller, predators to flourish, at the expense of various prey species, particularly ground nesting birds. That creates a responsibility for wildlife management.

The introduction of reared gamebirds into the countryside is no different to the introduction of beef cattle. Both end up on the table. The gamebird, arguably, has a better life and death.

Poultry, lambs, gamebirds, all require protection.

This point of view is a minority one in the country at large. But Beatrice Hall’s comment “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” should still hold good in 21st Century Britain.

Anything less would be a tyranny of the majority:

‘Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.’

On Liberty, English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

A good recent example of the tyranny of the majority was the hunting act of 2004, lacking, as it did, any foundation in peer reviewed and published evidence.

A former cabinet minister referred to the forcing of that act through parliament as ‘the most illiberal act of the last century’

The Prime Minister of the time later wrote:
‘On hunting, I think yes on balance it was (a mistake) in the end. It’s not that I particularly like hunting or have ever engaged in it or would. I didn’t quite understand, and I reproach myself for this, that for a group of people in our society in the countryside this was a fundamental part of their way of life. Anyway, we came to a compromise in the end that, as I think I say in the book, was not one of my finest policy moments’

And the ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’ kicked in:
As a direct consequence of the two dog follow up limit imposed by the hunting act, admitted by animal rights activists to be useless for flushing foxes from cover, thousands of shot and wounded foxes in England, unrecovered, now die a hideous lingering death underground.

It has kicked in elsewhere in the countryside as well.

As a direct consequence of opposition to a nationwide grey squirrel cull, thousands of red squirrels die a dreadful death from squirrel pox, carried by grey squirrels, every year.

As a direct consequence of the failure of predator control in national parks, populations of ground nesting birds, including hen harriers, are wiped out, never to return.

Rspb researchers themselves are in no doubt as to the major threat to ground nesting birds:
‘Curlew nesting success tended to be higher, and population changes more positive, on sites with higher gamekeeper density (as a surrogate for predator control intensity). Nesting success tended to be lower, and population changes more negative, on sites with a greater area of conifer plantations surrounding the open moorland where the curlew bred. Fox abundance indices were higher on sites with a greater area of surrounding woodland…….changes in upland land use are associated with curlew declines, with predation a likely mechanism.’
http://www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/science/research/projects/263911-investigating-the-causes-of-uk-curlew-declines-

Upland land use is associated with curlew declines, with predation a likely mechanism, and this may apply to other breeding waders. The removal of isolated woodland plantations from otherwise unafforested landscapes may help reduce predation pressure across a range of systems including moorland. However, direct predator control may also be important to conserve ground-nesting birds in these landscapes…..
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12167/abstract

In conclusion, even the best habitat management options for lapwings are not, in general, in the uplands as they are today, compensating for poor levels of breeding outputs across large areas of north England, Wales and Northern Ireland. While the suitability of the breeding habitat is clearly important, increasing evidence from other studies suggests that predation will also be an important factor…….
http://www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/science/research/projects/318273-do-agrienvironment-schemes-provide-benefits-for-upland-breeding-lapwings

So, will the ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’ rumble into action once more by the passage of another expensive and illiberal bill through parliament, banning grouse shooting in England, based on zero peer reviewed and published evidence from England?

For the rspb ‘birdcrime’ report cannot be relied upon to support new legislation to licence grouse shooting England, let alone banning it altogether

It is not, in fact, even an rspb document, a joint effort between the rspb and paw, from which, curiously, both organisations disassociate themselves: ‘The views expressed in birdcrime are not necessarily those of the rspb or paw’

The actual evidenced, attributable, birdcrime detailed consists of 32 prosecutions, only 5 of which have any connection with game shooting, 21,000 Pounds Sterling in fines and two custodial sentences.
All other incidents are ‘reports’ listed according to the rspb’s own recording format, which vary from other published reports.

The report makes claims an order of magnitude greater than any attributable evidence within it.

‘The failure of any hen harriers to breed successfully in England in 2013 is primarily the result of years of illegal persecution on intensively managed grouse moors, which also affects populations in southern and eastern Scotland.’

‘Hen harriers are one of the most intensively persecuted birds of prey on UK grouse moors’

With the benefit of hindsight, since the report was written, we can now see that, at least on Langholm, breeding pairs are up from 2 in 2013 to 12 pairs in 2014, as a consequence of nothing other than a mild winter.

This improvement, for the same reason, is also noted in England, three successful breeding pairs.

The only recent evidence of the killing of hen harriers is three young hen harriers killed in England 2014 by predators, and a peer reviewed and published report showing over 50 hen harriers killed on Skye alone 2009-12 by foxes, confirmed by CCTV as causing hen harrier ‘disappearances’ leaving no trace of evidence:
‘….most fox intrusions occur when broods are at the later stage of development and that is supported by results from the Skye study’
‘……studies of two areas of Mid-Argyll and north Kintyre, where breeding birds have disappeared and this has been attributed to a large proportion of failures due to predation, possibly by foxes (ap Rheinallt et al 2007). J. Halliday (pers. comm. 2013) has updated these data showing that four territories in Kintyre occupied in 1997–2008, were abandoned and this he attributed to a high incidence of failure due to predation, with foxes the most likely predator.’

‘In 50% of the camera activations in this study, there was no other evidence to suggest that there had been a fox intrusion at the nest, in other words there had been a ‘clean lift’ by foxes at the nest. There is a risk that failures could be attributed to other causes.’

Even JNCC 441, the 2011 government report most often cited as evidencing ‘persecution’ of hen harriers does nothing of the sort. It simply uses, references, the rspb’s own ‘birdcrime’ data, with a massive caveat ‘for the probable cases of persecution, it is possible that some of the nests may in fact have failed for natural reasons’

The rspb is not a small organisation. It has not far short of 100 million pounds available to spend every year.

It calls for new legislation to licence grouse moors. Why, then, is it unwilling to fund the research necessary to provide a peer reviewed and published evidenced report in support such a potentially expensive (to the taxpayer) and illiberal scheme?

By the way, hands up who thinks a licensing scheme for grouse moors will never, ever, spread to all estates where gameshooting, even walked up only, just for the pot, takes place?

Alongside this controversial stand sits another one.

The rspb stands out against the Defra hen harrier joint recovery plan, citing difficulties with the idea of brood management. Yet, all the while, hen harriers that could have benefited from brood management in England are being killed by predators, three birds killed out of three breeding pairs in 2014.
Brood management is a widely used and successful conservation technique:
‘Reproductive success has been further increased through the careful manipulation of nesting birds. For example, infertile eggs are exchanged with fertile ones and excess chicks are removed from large broods and given to foster parents.’
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/257
…..direct manipulation is currently illegal under the Birds Directive, but in theory…… they could be translocated; there could be a brood management scheme. In this last case, there would be no limit on hen harrier settling densities, but should numbers of nests containing chicks on a given area exceed a certain threshold level, then young from additional nests would be removed, reared locally in aviaries and then released back into the wild (as proposed by Potts,1998). Within the law, a similar technique is currently employed in France and Spain, where hen harriers have been successfully reared to protect them from being killed by agricultural harvesting (Amar et al .,2000)…….. translocations motivated by the desire to remove hen harriers from areas where they are already persecuted would be illegal and would contravene the IUCN guidelines for species reintroductions.’
http://www.academia.edu/5322580/Redpath_Amar_et_al_2010_SNH_proceedings_Final
The rspb’s idea that brood management for hen harriers would be illegal seems to rest on the idea that they are being persecuted in England, a point of view for which no peer reviewed and published evidence exists.

The rspb knows from its own reports, the value of gamekeeping to ground nesting birds.

It knows the threat to these birds from predators.

It knows that poorly sited non native forestry plantations allow predators to flourish close to sensitive upland bird populations.

It even knows, recommends, funds, the benefits of brood management for threatened species other than the hen harrier:
http://heritage-expeditions.com/news-category/spoonbilled-sandpiper/

But the rspb still holds out against the Defra hen harrier joint recovery plan and contends that expensive new legislation is required to licence grouse moors.

If grouse moors are to foot the bill, many will simply remove keepers.

So the ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’ is all set to strike again, yet further reducing the number and variety of upland birds, particularly ground nesting, including the hen harrier, in England.

In the words of 4 Non Blondes:

 

 

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91 Replies to “Guest Blog – The Good Intentions Paving Company by Tim Bidie (aka as ‘Monro’)”

  1. The Sitting Bull analogy is apposite. Sitting Bull and his people exploited wildlife to live. Monro's freedom lovers came in and destroyed both his livelihood and in the end his people as well. For profit - and outright ownership of resources that were seen as common to all by the native Americans. So in the same way do the people who kill the Hen Harriers destroy something that belongs to all of us. Liberty is not an outright right as people like Monro would like to claim - especially not when it is used to justify destroying things to which we all have a legitimate claim. If owning a piece of land entitles you to destroy anything on it regardless of the consequences for others - a view increasingly promoted by so called 'libertarians' - then we have a real problem with how we perceive ownership. Societies have always restricted outright freedom, especially where people need to pull together to face the challenges of a hostile environment. They have also defined what is acceptable. Where, as with shooting and Hen Harriers today, a group finds itself in opposition to the majority it is surely incumbent on them to stop and think about the reasons behind that opposition. It is morally right - but also may affect the group's survival.

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    1. There is no evidence of grouse shooting interests killing hen harriers in England.

      Of course thought should be given to this opposition to property rights, effectively what the petition represents, but, when that thought is given, it immediately becomes apparent that the fundamental premise of the petition to ban grouse shooting in England is unevidenced.

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      1. "There is no evidence of grouse shooting interests killing hen harriers in England."

        As a shooting man myself I am continually amazed by the above oft quoted remark.

        A lot of the shooting community appear to be either incredibly stupid and don't realise raptor persecution goes on OR are liars.

        I know which I believe.

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        1. This point is trotted out over and over again.

          That does not make it any the more valid.

          The petition is about banning grouse shooting in England because of alleged illegal killing of hen harriers in England by grouse shooting interests. No evidence exists to support that allegation.

          The rspb birdcrime report lists 5 convictions out of 28 or so that were connected with game shooting last year.

          Illegal killing of birds of prey goes on and the offenders are rightly punished but the scale is tiny, 0.1% of gamekeepers involved, and nothing to do with hen harriers in England who, this year alone, have already lost around 10% of their numbers to natural predation.

          That is the real problem.

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          1. Tim - the e-petition is self-evidently not just about hen harriers - read the first paragraph.

            Aside from that, there is loads of evidence that grouse shooting interests kill hen harriers. The 2008 report by Natural England. 'A future for the Hen Harrier in England?' is quite a good place to start.

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          2. You are confusing numbers of crime with convictions brought to back up your argument.

            Look at other crime figures - Domestic Violence, Robberies, Burglaries - how many are recorded as having been committed and how many actually get to prosecution? This is especially hard to achieve in cases where a)the victims cannot speak for themselves to give evidence or report the crime and b)the evidence (or corpse) often mysteriously goes missing when a radio tagged bird is killed, never mind the non-tagged birds.

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          3. Sorry Tim you cannot use convictions or even conviction rates to suggest that a crime is none existent. The police do not do it the government does not do it, they use reported crime rate.
            Bowland betty was provenly shot, yes no culprit was found but it is roughly a minimum 3 miles in every direction grouse moor. There are other instancies RSPB video shows a man in a balaclava in broad daylight on an english grouse moor shoot and recover a harrier. Certainly a crime conviction no because he acannot be identified. We know from discussions with keepers it happens its not rare just rare to get a conviction. No keeper worth anything is goiung to shoot a harrier with witnesses. Your argument here is utterly provenly false.

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          4. From the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s current strategic assessment: “Intelligence continues to indicate a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management”. From Natural England’s 2008 ‘A future for the Hen Harrier in England?’: “...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 rearing interests.” From JNCC’s 2011 ‘A Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers in the UK’: “Wales and Northern Ireland appear to be on track to achieve favourable status. However, England is unlikely to achieve this unless illegal persecution is considerably reduced.”

            You are disparaging about the RSPB’s annual ‘Birdcrime’ figures yet you are happy to use them if you think it suits your purpose. You are right that the latest Birdcrime report identifies five gamekeepers convicted of wildlife crime offences in 2013. But the “28 or so” prosecutions include all wildlife crimes including egg collecting, trade in endangered species etc. If you look at only raptor persecution convictions there are 8 in that category. So gamekeepers have committed 63% of the proven raptor persecution crimes that year.

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          5. Crime figures are notorious for being politically manipulated.

            'the National Statistics designation has been removed from all crime data recorded by the police after the UK Statistics Authority said it could not be approved owing to claims of unreliability.'

            http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-25858421

            So it is with the rspb's 'birdcrime' figures.

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          6. Come now Tim, you have to see the hypocrisy there - Crime figures are all well and good when you are quoting them to 'prove' that the scale of illegal bird killing is 'tiny', but as soon as others talk about crime figures you are claiming that they are 'notoriously open to political manipulation'?

            Hen Harriers are moving the goal posts!

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        2. I leave it to others to judge to what extent the petition is about hen harriers.

          The Natural England report does not consider the latest research, particularly from Skye, referenced above. It relies on some very old references dating back to 1962 and some, more recent, that themselves rely on unconvincing rspb data.

          The evidence concerning the other alleged ill effects of grouse moor management concludes by stressing the need for a great deal more research.

          You may think that a sound basis for new legislation. I doubt many will share that view.

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          1. Tim - you have already scooped the prize on the Sandringham index, but you keep digging.

            My reply to you was not whether I 'think that a sound basis for new legislation' (although I could answer that too) but was replying to your oft-repeated contention that there is 'no evidence' that hen harriers are killed by grouse shooting interests in England. There clearly is evidence - you are wrong. But you simply cannot admit it.

            You rely so heavily on one study from Skye - which shows that foxes predate HH nests - that you keep scurrying back to it at every opportunity. We know that foxes predate HH. That's it is it?

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          2. The Sandringham index simply highlights your problem: zero evidence of illegal killing of hen harriers in England by grouse shooting interests, only 'reports' of dubious veracity, as at Sandringham

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  2. "The only recent evidence of the killing of hen harriers is three young hen harriers killed in England 2014 by predators"

    Errrr, the autopsies undertaken on behalf of the Peak District raptor monitoring group indicate these harriers died from infection/disease: https://pdrmg.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/news-update-peak-district-hen-harrier-2014/

    Three breeding HH pairs in England in 2014? Are you sure about that Monro?

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    1. The National Trust press release reads as follows:

      'All indications are that two of the birds were killed by a natural predator. The body of the third has been recovered and, along with the remains of the other two, has been sent for post-mortem.'

      It is dated Sept. 12, the same date as your reference.

      I use the rspb's own figures for hen harrier breeding pairs in England:

      http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/donations/campaigns/hen-harrier-appeal/

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      1. With respect to the good people of the National Trust press office, I'm sure they don't spend their time yomping the Peak District recording raptors nor spending 24 hours a day sitting in a tent monitoring a Hen Harrier nest in case of human intervention.
        Tim, I'm rather surprised a practical conservationist with such an interest in this subject wasn't aware of that. Perhaps you overlooked the PDRMG page in the results of your Google search?

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        1. I think we can safely assume that if the autopsy report had confirmed death by disease rather than from predation, we would have heard about it by now.

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  3. Well, I think I just about disagree with all of what Monro has said and I do not believe that the science supports many of his contentions as he would have us believe. However, the challenge was put out to him and full marks for responding.

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  4. To sum up.
    We like to kill lots of grouse. To enable us to do this we get someone to kill all your hen harriers but give you some curlew to compensate.

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    1. If you have evidence of the illegal killing of hen harriers, you should present it to the proper authorities.

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      1. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt........but no conviction.

        Dead bird found shot on a grouse moor.

        Go figure!

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  5. You are remarkably selective in your use of science. You lambast other organisations for not providing ‘peer reviewed and published evidence’ to support their assertions, but then say things like “As a direct consequence of the failure of predator control in national parks, populations of ground nesting birds, including hen harriers, are wiped out, never to return.” Where is the ‘peer reviewed and published evidence’ to support this claimed relationship between predator control, hen harriers and national parks?

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    1. I'm not sure if this particular report has been peer reviewed yet, but this information comes from rspb research reports:

      http://www.southwestwater.co.uk/media/pdf/r/e/Exmoor_Mires_Project_bird_survey_2012.pdf

      I reference other rspb research reports above that make the same point concerning the problems of predation for upland ground nesting birds using habitats commonly found in many of our upland national parks.

      The National Parks Authority sits on the Hen Harrier Sub-Group of the Uplands Stakeholder Forum for good reason.

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      1. That’s an extraordinarily evasive answer. The study on Exmoor you provide a link to is not a peer-reviewed scientific paper. It is a study of mainly breeding snipe and curlew on mires on Exmoor over a two year period. It arrives at the conclusion that declines in snipe may be linked to poor quality of mire habitat due to insufficient grazing by cattle and ponies. For curlews, the authors speculate that other factors such as predation by foxes and crows, and climate change may be implicated in that species’ disappearance but they provide no evidence to support this. Nowhere does it mention hen harriers or any other national parks or predator control. How does this support your statement that “As a direct consequence of the failure of predator control in national parks, populations of ground nesting birds, including hen harriers, are wiped out, never to return.”? And how can you accuse others of failing to supply ‘peer reviewed and published evidence’ to support their claims when you are guilty of just this?

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        1. Curlew extinct on the National Park of Exmoor, blamed by the rspb on foxes and crows, in the reference that I give

          Red grouse, black grouse, golden plover, hen harriers and, by now, no doubt merlins as well, all extinct there, for exactly the same reason.

          There's more here:

          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01772.x/pdf

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          1. The Exmoor study produced no evidence that foxes and crows were the cause of curlew extinction. It merely speculated it might be a cause given that habitat was clearly not the issue. That’s not evidence. It made no mention of black grouse, golden plover, hen harriers or merlins. That’s pure invention on your part.

            But, finally, you provide a reference for some peer-reviewed published science that you are always insisting others should produce to support their arguments. Well done. However, the problem is this paper does nothing to support your case. It’s about the relationship between in ravens and waders in a suite of uplands. It says, “Our study found no significant negative associations between raven abundance and population changes in upland waders, and so does not provide support to justify granting of licences for the lethal control of ravens in the interest of population-level conservation of these upland wader species. However, the near significant negative associations with lapwing and curlew merit further investigation.” That’s it. Absolutely nothing to support your assertion that “As a direct consequence of the failure of predator control in national parks, populations of ground nesting birds, including hen harriers, are wiped out, never to return.”

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          2. I ask for peer reviewed and published evidence to support a change in the law. That would seem reasonable, I believe, to most people

            I provide research that points the finger at predators, including ravens, for a decline in some waders, good research that shows even more research is needed, including within National Parks.

            You may not agree with the somewhat grey conclusions of that research. I clearly do since it confirms my personal experiences on Exmoor.

            The fact remains that grants have been available for habitat improvement on Exmoor for many years. Yet more and more species of birds have become extinct there.

            The Skye paper, referenced above, brand new research, gives a strong hint as to why and drives a coach and horses through the idea that 'disappeared' harriers have all been illegally killed.

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  6. What a load of old tosh. And do we really need to know that your "recent ancestors served the Crown in India for very nearly a century"? Sounds like delusions of grandeur to me, which is very much a shooting disease.

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    1. I was asked to provide some background for readers to know a little more about me.

      I was delighted so to do.

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          1. You seem to be very adroit at missing the point. Your evasiveness will stand you in good stead with the Arabs.

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          2. The infrastructure had changed a great deal. The Arabs have not. I have nothing against them. I have travelled all over the Middle East and camped with the Bedouin in the desert. I understand them.

            You are right on the other count though. Your bigoted views on shooting stand testament.

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          3. If you regard all Arabs as the same, you are clearly no student of events in the Middle East today.

            Remind me of my testamentary bigoted views on shooting.

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          4. I didn't say I regard all Arabs as the same. You don't listen, do you? The evidence of your bigotry is all about your blog and the resulting comments. I have wasted enough time indulging your pompous and condescending trolling.

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          5. And yet you claim to have the measure of all of them?

            The readership here certainly now have the measure of you.

            Thank you.

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          6. Arabs vary according to their tribal origins but are essentially the same in character. For example, they always want the upper hand in a conversation. Very much like yourself I imagine.

            I think you'll find this blog is about you and has shown you in your true colours. You trolled under a sobriquet until you were challenged by Mark.

            You are clearly a little man clinging to the coat tails of your family history.

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  7. There are a lot things I would like to argue against but one stands out to me

    "rspb's idea that brood management for hen harriers would be illegal seems to rest on the idea that they are being persecuted in England". No, the fact that disturbing broods of hen harriers is actually against the law and would require some form of legal change. The rspb's argument is relatively clear that no one should change the law without first stopping illegal activity in the first place.

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      1. Tim, I think you have misunderstood, It doesn't matter what techniques are used in other countries, they are used for different reasons and under different legislation. In this country it has been illegal to disturb Hen Harriers for over 30 years. To change that would require making disturbance of hen harriers legal for that purpose. The RSPB is not arguing that brood management would be illegal because HH are being persecuted it is saying it would not support legalisation in this respect unless, for a start, the current illegality stopped.

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        1. A position impossible to sustain without evidence, of which they have none that will survive a judicial review.

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          1. Judicial Review, Tim - bring it on! Any brood management will have to be subject to Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Regulations, which will likely conclude that artificially constraining hen harrier population density at a low level would be illegal. If the government (as the competent authority issuing licences for any brood management) would be liable to Judicial Review if it fails to undertake an Appropriate Assessment, or if its assessment is flawed.

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          2. If they can manage it, perfectly legally, in France and Spain, it would be a poor government indeed that could not manage it in Britain.

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  8. Comedy gold - many thanks!

    Well at least you do exist, so I take that back (although I did initially wonder if Mark had managed to persuade Charlie Higson & Paul Whitehouse to write a spoof guest blog!)

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    1. That's exactly it, Ernest. Scrolling down Mark's blog I saw this item and did the proverbial double-take, is-this-April-Fools-yet sort of thing.

      It's very long and rambling, poorly set out and quite unreadable. I'm still at a complete loss to understand what any 'paving company' might have to do with anything, nor why the apparent author would imagine that in this day and age anyone would be in the least impressed by his being in the pay of some bizarre, anachronistic outfit that isn't even in this country.

      If anything, the fact that he's living it up in a foreign country reduces any authority he might have had. What right has he got to have any say over what goes on here?

      Or the video?????

      Still shaking head in bewilderment .....

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  9. Mark, we may have our first Sandringham Score of 10 on the LDI. I'm not sure on one of the criteria though (certainly a 9.5). If so what's my prize?

    Tactics to use

    Avoid answering a question - Yes, 0.5 points
    Create a straw man and attack it - Yes, 0.5 points
    Be selective in quoting data - Yes, 0.5 points
    Use of anecdote - Yes, 0.5 points
    Deny criminality in community of interest - Yes, 0.5 points
    Assume superior knowledge - Yes, 0.5 points
    Deflect attention (e.g curlews) - Yes, 0.5 points
    Listen/quote someone unqualified to comment on an issue - Yes, 0.5 points
    Promote opinions that ignore peer-reviewed data - Yes, 0.5 points
    Mention of town & country ('most countrymen') - Yes, 0.5 points

    Avoidance tactics

    Balance of evidence - Yes ignored, 0.5 points
    Admit salary/money/financial inestment dependent on not recognising an issue ('supports pack of beagles')- maybe (arguable) 0.5 points
    Listen to other people's point of view and re-evaluate own position- Yes not done, 0.5 points
    Consider weight of probability - Yes ignored, 0.5 points
    Acknowledge other people may be better qualified to comment on issue - Yes ignored, 0.5 points
    Comply with law in own community of interest - Yes avoided recommended this, 0.5 points
    Answer straight question honestly (Mark's request for an honest piece on hen harriers and countryside criminals)- Yes ignored, 0.5 points
    Recognition of criminality on grouse moors will be responsible for destroying shooting in these areas - Yes ignored, 0.5 points
    Face up to responsibility - Yes ignored, 0.5 points
    Societal benefits - Yes ignored, 0.5 points

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  10. I don’t often comment on these internet places, what with having been dead for 140-odd years, but I was surprised to find myself quoted in this blog post. “Misappropriated” may be a more apposite word.

    I am always a bit narked when people quote my principle of the “Tyranny of the Majority” when trying to justify often indefensible minority interests. It’s funny how that happens. I have recently been working, from my grave in a pleasant part of Avignon, on a new principle. It is called “The Tyranny of the Internet Quote” and it refers to the common practice of justifying any old argument through the lazy practice of copying quotes off the internet and using in a way that is both misleading and far removed from their original context.

    I would like to remind you that I devised the Tyranny of the Majority as a philosophical conundrum, to which I also offered a solution. My solution to the problem of exactly when it is, and is not, right to interfere with individual liberty is delivered by way of my ‘harm principle’:

    “The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

    When I talk about harm to others, you can reasonably assume this to include harm to animals.

    "Nothing is more natural to human beings, nor, up to a certain point in cultivation, more universal, than to estimate the pleasures and pains of others as deserving of regard exactly in proportion to their likeness to ourselves. ... Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral? And if, exactly in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the slough of selfishness, they do not with one voice answer 'immoral,' let the morality of the principle of utility be for ever condemned.”

    I have also said:

    “It is by the grossest misunderstanding of the principles of Liberty, that the infliction of exemplary punishment on ruffianism practised towards these defenceless beings has been treated as a meddling by Government with things beyond its province - an interference with domestic life. The domestic life of domestic tyrants is one of the things which it is the most imperative on the Law to interfere with. And it is to be regretted that metaphysical scruples, respecting the nature and source of the authority of governments, should induce many warm supporters of laws against cruelty to the lower animals to seek for justification of such laws in the incidental consequences of the indulgence of ferocious habits to the interest of human beings, rather than in the intrinsic merits of the thing itself.”

    You people are obviously familiar with google. Why not google my name in connection with “animal rights” and you will quickly understand why I am horrified to find myself quoted in support of the arguments made here?

    Going back to being dead now...laters x

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    1. Great stuff. Thank you for a most amusing comment.

      I did a 2 minute google, as you suggested:

      'You can use utilitarianism to argue either way on a moral issue, such as either to abolish animal suffering or to inflict it.'

      http://www.animalethics.org.uk/utilitarianism.html

      Ho hum.

      RIP

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  11. So, in far fewer words;
    It is essential to kill predators like Foxes and Stoats, so that they don't kill predators like Hen Harriers, but we then have to kill predators like Hen Harriers so that they don't kill predators like Curlews and Grouse, but we're not really bothered about the little things that they predate as we can't really see them so we'll make sure there's far too many of them so that we can justifiably kill them anyway.
    Oh, and anything that may have been controlled by the Foxes Stoats and Hen Harriers in the first place, like Hares, Rabbits, Squirrels, if we don't like them then we can justifiably kill them too because 'somebody' killed all the predators...

    I guess it just comes down to that fact that some people like killing.

    Time to ban the one activity that industrialises all of this killing perhaps?...

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  12. Others are better qualified to comment on the detailed science - but even I can see that this is rather cherry picked and selectively quoted evidence that avoids addressing the basic point about “So where are all our Hen Harriers then?”

    There is however a genuine core philosophical difference I think both “sides” need to acknowledge. This is about whether we view managing and controlling nature as the normal and desirable state of affairs always and everywhere (Munro and eg those who oppose beaver reintroduction, want to see dredging of rivers and ever higher flood banks, etc) or whether we see it as something regrettable to be avoided as much as possible when and where we can (those who think beavers will enrich the environment and bring economic benefits that outweigh the costs, who want floodplains to be allowed to flood, etc.). It’s an honest difference in core beliefs we should all respect.

    However the heart of Munro's argument is about liberty, about "freedom to". "Freedom from " is equally important, in this case freedom from illegal persecution of part of my birthright. So too is consideration of when your freedom to do a thing impinges on my freedoms. In this case my freedom to see hen harriers. Especially if you expect my taxes to subsidize the costs you incur while removing my freedom to see hen harriers.

    I suspect that Munro is a Royalist (I am too by the way) and he's clearly a student of history. In that case he should know that property rights are not absolute in England. "Freehold" means that the land is held freely from the crown without an obligation to provide knights in times of war, unlike previous feudal obligations. It is the crown - the state - that actually owns the land. This is the legal underpinning of a wide range of English law, including access and planning law - and nature conservation law. It’s all part of the journey from a feudal state where the “freedom to” of the elite was absolute to a modern democratic state where both the “freedoms to” and the “freedoms from” of ordinary people are fundamental.

    So in that sense nothing particularly new is being proposed by Mark, just a more effective means of enforcement of long standing nature conservation objectives that are designed to protect something the state values – in this case hen harriers – from the total elimination that they now face. Waders are indeed declining in England, but they’re not facing imminent extinction, so the state would be right to prioritise harriers over a few more curlew even though curlew are special and declining too.

    Munro also raises the hunting act. I have a personal story about hunting which I thinks shows that, like driven grouse shooting, fox hunting has only itself to blame for its loss of legitimacy. It would be legally inappropriate to go into details here, but let’s just say that when I used to work for a land owning conservation organisation the arrogance of the local Hunt changed my view of fox hunting from benign indifference (esp in contrast to the animal rights terrorists I also had to deal with) to a very firm dislike.

    If driven grouse shooting had got its own house in order we might discussing whether there should be brood management when there were 100 pairs of harriers in England or when there were 200, but that’s not where we are. We have next to no harriers and driven grouse shooting interests have no-one else to blame for the situation.

    The shooting interests would have a lot more credibility when they propose brood management if they had also been making strenuous and public efforts to put their own house in order. Instead they've largely been acting as apologists for criminality within their ranks. There is an overriding whiff of “we’re above the law” in their tone. Well, sorry, you may be vastly richer than most of the rest of the population, but the elite stopped being above the law, at least on paper, a long time ago. We all live in the same country, under the same laws, and under the same sovereign.

    Oh… except Munro lives in a different country under a different sovereign! (sorry! cheap shot I couldn’t resist! ;-))

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    1. My point is very simple.

      Particularly after the Scottish Independence referendum, changes to English law will require supporting evidence from England.

      There is no evidence from England to support this petition, only highly partial rspb data of dubious provenance, veracity and a research paper from Leeds highlighting the need for more research; much less than a row of beans.

      There are over 600 breeding pairs of hen harriers in Britain, more than ever previously recorded.

      The Sultanate of Oman may very well owe its existence, in its current form, to the presence here of British Forces during the Dhofar War 1963-75. The fact that they worked in Oman for a time did not make them any less British.

      http://web.mit.edu/polisci/people/gradstudents/papers/DeVoreMarc-LastHotWarofColdWar.pdf

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      1. Tim, re British forces in Oman. I have a family member who is ex SAS, my end comment was tongue in cheek and not intended as any disrespect to the Armed Forces.

        Since it's come up however, there is a more serious point underlying it. I was born and raised in the country, have lived in the countryside for most of my life and spent my entire working life there. As a conservationist I've often been told I'm a townie who knows nothing about the countryside by people who disagree with me - mostly by people who have either retired from London or who made/make all their money there and have a second home in the country. The cursory dismissal of RSPB's research by a long term ex pat does have a slightly similar ring to it. Certainly the attitude of some of the landowning community that their local knowledge trumps major research projects has a similar ring to it. You'd make a better case if you critiqued the research and evidence that shooting interests are behind the absence of hen harriers than you do by simply dismissing it, asserting that because it's work done by conservation organisations it must be unreliable.

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        1. New legislation in England requires evidence from England.

          The petition concerns only England and has two basic premises:

          1. Grouse shooting in England is responsible for the near extinction of hen harriers in England

          2. Moorland management for grouse shooting causes some other problems, including discolouration of drinking water (!)

          There is no evidence from England at all that supports premise 1.

          The evidence that supports premise 2. is one research paper whose major conclusion is that a great deal more research is needed.

          That cannot be a sound basis for new, expensive and illiberal legislation.

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  13. The reference to support the statement about hen harriers being wiped out in National Parks due to a failure of predator control was a broken link to a bird survey for a mire restoration project. This project did not involve hen harriers, it did not involve multiple national parks, it did not take place in an area within the recent range of hen harriers and did not study predation.

    Evidence that shows predation of harrier nests in England is not an issue has been ignored. There are excellent productivity data available demonstrating that, when left alone, harriers are very productive.

    Finally, the evidence of persecution in England (that apparently does not exist) includes shot harriers, a video of somebody shooting a harrier, witnesses observing attempted shootings, destruction of eggs, theft of eggs, birds going missing whilst breeding (just on grouse moors where there are few / no other natural predators), missing radio-tagged birds, missing satellite tagged birds. In fact, persecution was recorded at each and every grouse moor location where harriers attempted to settle since 2002. There are also a number of peer-reviewed papers which study the effects of bird of prey persecution in the uplands.

    Despite all this, Tim's contribution has been thoroughly entertaining and I think we might need to adopt a Spinal Tap approach to the Sandringham Score.

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  14. Driven grouse shooting likened to hunter-gathering. That's a new one for me. What complete tripe.

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  15. At least we know who Monro is now, a "libertarian" ( usually a name associated with the rights claim to trample on the rights of the rest of us) living in one of the Worlds most autocratic regions.
    As somebody who has been a "harrier man" since being a teenager ( and I'm a little older than monro sorry Tim) and worked on them seriously as a professional and amateur for thirty years I know his arguments are false totally false. He cherry picks data yet refuses to acknowledge other data that proves otherwise. Skye data is quite simply the wrong context to compare with English grouse moors, although one might add that despite all the fox predation the harrier population in Skye is still there. In 1979 Bowland had 39 pairs of harriers, habitat has not changed significantly, yet last year had two and they were the first for a couple of years. England should hold 330 pairs in the uplands and yet does not and ALL the evidence points to persecution as the major reason.
    Even the stuff about brood management is at least very slanted. How can anyone agree to brood management until we have a viable population with a proven decline in persecution. The other objection was that the starting density is 30 times too low, based on science Grouse moors can support 1 pr per 10 sq km yet the game lobby want it to start at one pair per 314 sq km.
    THe licensed would pay the cost of running any scheme not the tax payer.
    Others have argued about the basic philosophy dominion or none dominion put simply and like them I prefer the latter.
    What did nature do before predator control one wonders!
    Finally Tim you're wrong just plain old wrong.

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    1. And not just plain old wrong, he doesn't even want to be right, he's just determined to ignore the truth: "there's none so blind as them as WON'T see".

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    2. Langholm last year had only two pairs of hen harriers, this year 12 pairs; simply due to the weather and the birds semi colonial nesting habits:

      http://www.langholmproject.com/raptors.html

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  16. In fact Tim you should take pride in the fact that you are almost as right as the Fox news "terrorism expert" who claimed Birmingham was a no go area for non muslims.

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  17. In my opinion this is a very clear, well constructed, well informed argument for the opposition to Mark Avery's campaign to ban grouse shooting in England and I think Mr Avery deserves credit for allowing this guest blog to appear. It is a clear sign of his good character as it is always difficult to acknowledge a counter-argument to something one is so passionate about. Especially when it is as eloquently written as Mr Bidie's post is.

    The two sides of this argument have now been laid out- for and against- but in reading the comments left on this post it is obvious that this blog as a whole is supported mainly by the former (no pun intended). Mr Bidie is brave in subjecting his opinion to what he cleary knows will be harsh criticism, as indicated by Mr Avery's comment that he has 'posted over 100 comments on this blog'. However, far from wanting to criticise Mr Bidie (aka (not 'aka as'- that is gramatically incorrect) 'Monro'), I wish to congratulate him for his commitment to and passion for his cause, which it could be said is equal to that of Mr Avery. There will always be two sides to arguments such as this and both gentleman do an admirable job of fighting their corner- regardless of one's preference for one or the other.

    We are very lucky that this country is a democracy and it is important that it remains that way. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My opinion is that groups or individuals who abuse animals should be punished. However that does not have to involve placing a ban on shooting for those who enjoy it in a responsible, fair and controlled way. This can and will be seen by them as punishment for a crime which they did not commit. I believe one repercussion of a ban such as this would be the further alienation of the different sections of society from one another- as was the case after the hunting ban was enforced. Instead, perhaps, it should be attempted to seek out those groups or individuals who are causing harm to our wildlife through illegal traps or shootings etc. I don't believe that grouse shooting- when carried out in a responsible way- should be banned as a direct result of actions such as these. Of course there are irresponsible shoots where excessive quantities of game are shot and which can hardly be considered sport, and action should be taken against this, but, again, punishing this by banning shooting altogether would be unfair to those who do not conduct shoots in this manner and who love their sport.

    I would therefore sum up this ridiculously an unintentionally long comment ('aka as' flow of consciousness) by saying that I think a ban on grouse shooting is unnecessary but that there should be continued effort to catch those responsible for animal abuses and to control those whose actions have attached the stigma of 'cruelty' to hunting and shooting which more often than not they do not deserve.

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    1. Madeleine M - Welcome! And thank you for your comment, which is long, but represents most of the support that this GuesT Blog has, so far, received.

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      1. On the contrary, there has been a great deal of (if mainly backhanded) support from a congenial and generous group of commentators, for all of which I am most grateful.

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    2. "Instead, perhaps, it should be attempted to seek out those groups or individuals who are causing harm to our wildlife through illegal traps or shootings etc."

      Considerable effort has been expended on just such attempts, Madeleine, and this will presumably continue to be the case (though the degree of effort the government, police and the courts put into it may vary with time). Unfortunately, the nature of the crimes we are talking about is such that it is extremely difficult to catch someone in the act. The moors are vast and it is easy to commit the crime without witnesses and to hide away the evidence afterwards.

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  18. Mr Avery, thank you for your welcome. I agree my comment is long, yes, but not as long as some.

    And Mr Bidie, not at all. I believe people should be informed of the opposite side to the argument even if they whole-heartedly, and sometimes unecessarily rudely, disagree. There is the dangerous reality of the 'fixed-mindset', as famously put forward by Constance Beren in her publication 'How Not to Live Your Life', which one must try to conquer. I propose the nation-wide adoption of the quote you mentioned earlier by Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

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    1. The right to state one's views whether or not they are consistent with orthodoxy is, of course, very much to the fore of current discussion and debate in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack. It is not really clear, however, why Tim Bidie felt it necessary to invoke Beatrice Hall's maxim (which was an attempt to synthesize the views of Voltaire from 150 years earlier). No-one has challenged his right to express his views and the responses here simply (if robustly) take issue with the arguments he makes and seek to argue why he is wrong. He has, after all, been allowed to express his views in over 100 comments and in this guest blog even though his views are clearly very much opposed to those of the host. I'd suggest that the reference to Beatrice Hall is in fact a slightly disreputable rhetorical device to support the argument that he is some kind of victim.

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    2. Of course people have the right to express their views, but we're talking about actions, not merely views. To my mind, to persecute birds of prey is plain wrong; to set a pack of dogs on a fox for fun is plain wrong.

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  19. Munro / Tim,
    Even though I disagree with most of what you say, I applaud your willingness to contribute on here.

    Early in your blog you state that the 'Eradication of apex predators in Britain by man has allowed other, smaller, predators to flourish, at the expense of various prey species, particularly ground nesting birds'. I do not doubt the ecological value of apex predators, or that predators must impact on ground nesting birds, but any connection to current bird populations is wholly unsubstantiated. Wolves were extirpated sometime around 1700, bears around 1000AD and lynx approximately 400-500AD. How do you suppose the ground nesting bird populations have managed to hang on?

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    1. Ground nesting bird populations have hung on through predator control.

      Hunting took over as the apex predator.

      Having, effectively, removed hunting as the apex predator, many who lobbied for the hunting act now wish to, expensively for the taxpayer, re-introduce apex predators.

      I refer you to 4 Non Blondes.

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  20. Tim Bidi. What a load of cods wollop. (no doubt you know what that is, with your salt water fishing).
    I have written a response to the: 20 years at Langholm – what have we learnt?

    The most efficient predator that needs control is man with gun, trap and poison. Nature does not need help in natural predator control.
    Profit is the driving factor that sustains the shooting estates argument, to kill all predators (except man). I know that protected species status upsets the estate management but we all need to obey the laws of this country, don't we?
    Then what do you do? Go out and have jolly good shoot (for fun) and of course fat profits. Decimate the population of the "precious" game birds! Then intensive grouse/ pheasant breeding to produce more gun fodder to waste.
    It is time that the shooting industry especially the archaic driven game shoots, grew up and joined the 21 century.

    Answer to another response:
    The game shooting industry should go the same way as the Dodo, the sooner the better.
    It is amazing how the shooting and angling industry can conjure up such figures. They did it with cormorants some years ago. The figure from angling and RSPB meant that the average cormorant weighed in at a mere 5 tonne.
    So, I conclude that the raptors in this argument must be in the same category as the mutant cormorants.
    .............................................
    I have recently seen some cave paintings of stone age man, depicting a driven game hunt. They needed to do that to feed their families. Modern man has no such excuse.
    I do not condemn shooting for the pot. But shooting for fun and profit is abhorrent, primitive and cruel. Especially when the corpses are destroyed or buried because they are not needed.
    Clay pigeon shooting was brought in when the use of live pigeons was banned. So, when will grouse and pheasant be replaced with clay?

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  21. A thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking blog, laced with common sense and written by a man that speaks my language - well done Sir!

    Although what the blazes this has to do with a paving company is beyond me!

    Are you any relation to the Shropshire Bidies?

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