There is no stopping the Hawk and Owl Trust’s Chair, Philip Merricks, in his eagerness to tell us all how brilliant a brood management scheme is, and how popular it is, and how clever it is, and yet there is little start to him telling us what it is.
We are told by Philip that ‘The Trust’s approach to resolving this dreadful Hen Harrier/grouse moor issue was formulated at the Trust’s AGM at the end of last year where all members present voted (nem con – ie no one against) for the Trust becoming involved in the HH issue.’ Since Philip has used similar words more than once here I think we can take it that the AGM did not approve the HOT promoting a divisive brood management scheme without coming clean to its membership that it was doing so.
It was, Philip tells us, at a ‘formal meeting of the Board of Trustees where the Trustees voted unanimously to involve the Trust’s expertise in a brood management scheme trial‘. That all sounds very proper and I expect a paper was produced that listed the pros and cons of such an involvement. Did it commit the HOT to promoting a brood management scheme I wonder? Did it say that HOT would sign up to a particular brood management scheme and did it specify that scheme? If so, then I’m a little surprised that Philip, the HOT in fact, has been so incredibly vague about what this scheme actually is. Let’s be clear, the words that Philip uses to describe the trustees’ decision, ‘involve the Trust’s expertise in a brood management scheme trial‘ could mean many things to many people.
Philip tells me that he is sure that I ‘will be pleased to know that the Board of Trustees will discuss the whole issue at their meeting next month when all opinions received will be fully considered.‘. I am, indeed, interested, not least as a member of the HOT, to hear that.
It would be very difficult for any ordinary members of the HOT, like myself, to voice an opinion on a brood management scheme that hasn’t been published or disclosed. The HOT’s Chair’s enthusiasm for the scheme is evident; what the scheme is, about which he is so enthusiastic, is undisclosed. It’s very odd.
What is clear to all though, is that the HOT has entered a highly contentious issue and has aligned itself with pro-shooting interests and against what many might normally be seen to be the HOT’s natural allies of raptor workers such as the NERF and the RSPB. The RSPB’s Conservation Director, Martin Harper’ recently reiterated the RSPB’s disquiet over brood management, and repeated the Society’s wish that the details of such a proposal be published by Defra. The trustees of the HOT may wish to be reassured by their staff and Chair that the HOT has answers to the RSPB’s 25 questions about brood management before going much further.
Philip keeps on saying how popular this position of the HOT is, and how new members are being recruited day by day. That might be the case. The very nature of taking one side or the other on a highly charged and divisive issue is that some will love your position and some will hate it. If the HOT is thought to have played a major role in advocating for a brood management scheme then that will appeal to some and put off others. Many of us are waiting to hear what the scheme might be. The HOT’s Chair has been unable or unwilling to explain it here despite comments involving thousands of words. When we know what it is, and Philip could be a lot more forthcoming on that score, then we’ll know whether we like it a lot, a little or not at all. And that will determine our view of the HOT too.