Occupying the butts

Thur 7 May - Copy

Henry took this photo of me in the North York Moors.

Have you got some grouse butts near you where you could be photographed?


That was as far as I’d got with writing this blog when the news of three missing adult male Hen Harriers from active nests in the Forest of Bowland came out yesterday.

How stupid are the Hen Harrier killers?  It’s possible that one of these birds might have died of natural causes but it strains credibility too far that in an area of driven grouse moors, where Hen Harriers have disappeared in recent years, that we should not make the assumption that these birds have been bumped off. If one of your neighbours disappeared unexpectedly you might be worried and perplexed. If three young men, family men, from the same small village all disappeared at the same time then you’d be pretty sure that something fishy was going on. If last year, two young ones had disappeared just down the road too then you’d be looking with suspicion at the locals. We are looking with grave suspicion at the Forest of Bowland but also at every grouse moor in the north of England, and most grouse moors in the UK. Where are the harrier-killers? Who are they? Why hasn’t driven grouse shooting cleaned up its act even after last year’s increased publicity? I say again, how stupid are the Hen Harrier killers?

The GWCT says that it will comment on this matter today. Let’s wait and see what they say. And what the Moorland Association says. And BASC. And the CLA, and the Countryside Alliance. And the grouse moors, including the Duke of Westminster’s Abbeystead Estate, in Bowland. Silence won’t cut it after these events. And nor will some limp ‘Let’s not leap to conclusions’ statement.

And what will the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB say?

Maybe it’s best if the Hawk and Owl Trust don’t say too much unless it is to abandon their ‘Working with landowners is the only option. Let’s try brood-meddling’ option.

But whatever all these organisations say, there is a head of steam building behind more public, more challenging, legal responses to the wildlife crime that stains the reputation of grouse shooting in the British uplands. Some say that the suggestion of ‘occupying the butts’ should be done on 12 August or when shooting is underway – bad idea! Illegal and also too late.  We should be occupying the grouse butts, calmly, peacefully and taking nothing but a photograph over the next few months ahead of Hen Harrier Day.  We are the good guys, we want the law to be enforced, we must remain on the right side of it ourselves.

In a few days time it should be possible to launch the next e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. How stupid are the Hen Harrier killers?



Vote for Hen Harrier as our national bird.



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18 Replies to “Occupying the butts”

  1. “Hope” is the thing with feathers -
    That perches in the soul -
    And sings the tune without the words -
    And never stops - at all -

    by Emily Dickinson

    1. This latest news is sickening. However, you are right, Findlay. There is lots of hope still. I remember when to see a buzzard, kite, peregrine was beyond hope for me as a child. Rivers were too mucky for otters and few people knew or cared what was shot on migration. Often to be a young naturalist was to choose isolation.

      I don't blame the gamekeepers much. I assume they are following orders. I think the SkyDancer project needs to be in the public schools and the landowners need to be in court.

    2. Findlay - and a very good book by Chris Cokinos about extinct birds of the USA (Hope is the thing with feathers)

    3. Having only just caught up with the dreadful news about the Bowland Harriers Findlay's post of that wonderful poem brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I'm just fed up and very, very angry about this. Can we please have some details about Hen Harrier Day 2015 asap. I'll be there!

  2. Totally agree Mark that our efforts have to remain on the legal side, we cannot and should not stoop to the levels of the law breaking idiots that carry out these terrible acts.

  3. I agree Stewart, but, that said, it seems even more clear that elements of the dark side have absolutely no intention of working towards a solution other than the one they have always wanted and are taking no notice of any things done to date.

  4. Is someone trying to be a bit sneaky here? While the media are totally focused on the election, are they hoping a media story about birds will be drowned out by politicians and election commentators?

    1. Indeed Chris, I was about to say the same when I read your comment. The killers aren't "stupid" at all - their timing is perfect. The story will get no mainstream coverage, and hence no traction, because of the election and the negotiations that will follow.

      A professional spin doctor couldn't have done better.

      1. jbc - the fixed term parliament act was probably a conservative/LibDem plot all along just so that this could happen. 😉

  5. Having said that, it could be coincidence. Elections happen, raptors have disappeared in dodgy circumstances. I agree it looks incredibly suspicious, but I run the risk of looking like an arrogant tit if I apply dodgy theories...

    I do wish I'd thought it through more carefully before posting comments sometimes...

  6. What a wicked act, and how arrogant the perpetrators must be. I feel very sad.
    As for the grouse butts- while hiking over windy moors they make very comfortable toilet stops - and that sums up nicely my attitude to grouse shooting.

  7. If as seems likely this becomes a confirmed rather than suspected case of illegal killing I think this demonstrates one thing very clearly. That we need some serious detective lead police investigation of raptor persecution on a much larger scale than hitherto, leading to convictions and deterrent sentences if we're to significantly reduce it. I think we need this whatever legislative or regulatory things happen - whether part of the solution is to ban driven grouse shooting, or introduce a licensing system (or a combination both). This kind of wildlife crime is organized crime, it is also effectively a hate crime against all who love wildlife and birds of prey and should be pursued as such.

    1. MK - no, what we need is to ban driven grouse shooting for the sake of Hen Harriers, other protected wildlife, other unprotected wildlife, and the ecosystem services that management for 'sport' shooting diminishes. Well, that's what I think - and what I have written a book about.

  8. The choice was there. This is confrontation - and sadly fully justifies the equally robust response of banning grouse svhooting - how can people be so stupid ?


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