Lions’ den? Four weeks today 2.


I’ve been asked to take part in a Game Fair ‘debate’ a month today – and I’ve said yes. I am clearly the token leftie on the panel whose other members are Owen Paterson MP (the former Secretary of State at Defra), Philip Merricks (Chair of the Hawk and Owl Trust) and Ian Coghill (Chair of the Game (and Wildlife) Conservation ‘Trust’.

The subject that we are ‘debating’ is ‘Landowners and Wildlife: Friends or Foes?’. I really can’t see that there is anything controversial there.  I’ll probably just sit back and let the other three agree with each other!

The fact that this event takes place the day after the publication of Inglorious- conflict in the uplands, which sets out the case for banning driven grouse shooting, makes it all the more fun. Will my fellow panellists have been up all night choosing their favourite bits from the book? Will I be asked to sign copies as a memento of the Game Fair?

This year the Game Fair is at Harewood House, near Leeds. It would be nice to see a friendly face in the audience.

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18 Replies to “Lions’ den? Four weeks today 2.”

  1. Mark. I'll try and help you out. If I'm not swigging champagne at RSPB's Game Fair reception...
    Least I can do in return for your kind, well kind of, 'endorsement'

    Feel free to comment on my first blog
    Best, Rob

  2. Blimey, good luck Mark! I won't be at the Game Fair although I know a few friendly faces that will be. I am sure it'll be standing room only.

  3. The title of the debate seems to imply that landowners are a homogeneous group. I presume they are not including large institutional landowners such as the MOD, RSPB, utilities companies, etc in their intended scope of discussion but even if it is just restricted to individual private landowners there is still a tremendous range. People own land for various different reasons and in different amounts and their attitudes to its management and where wildlife fits in to that management are equally varied. I presume that in reality the intention is for the debate to focus on whether, on balance, management of land for game shooting is good or bad for wildlife. In this case it would seem as though you really are stepping into the lions' den as I imagine the audience and the rest of the panel will all be arrayed against you. Good luck. Whilst it may be unrealistic to expect many in the audience to be cheering you on at least you can hopefully make some of them pause to think. It is a pity Ian Botham is not also on the panel as that could have provided some comic value.

    1. The debate's title does seem odd and I think Jonathan is probably right to suggest that the intention is for the debate to focus on whether, on balance, management of land for game shooting is good or bad for wildlife. This strikes me as a more interesting question and the answer, predictably enough, might be that it can be good for wildlife (e.g. safari shooting zones surrounding national parks in Africa can, when well managed, act as buffer zones keeping out poachers and protecting habitats less viable for photo safaris), but usually (e.g. majority of UK uplands) shooting definitely isn't good for wildlife.

      That then begs the question of why not and the answer here might be that generally wildlife only benefits as an occasional accidental consequence of managing land for game shooting, e.g. some waders on grouse moors. Langholm currently suggests that viable driven red grouse shooting is incompatible with healthy, biodiverse and natural predator populations, a prerequisite for healthy ecosystems.

      As for other land uses, the state of nature report suggests that arable and livestock farming (presumably the largest land use in the UK) have been a foe to much of our wildlife, with habitat loss, pesticides and herbicides all contributing to the documented wildlife losses. Certainly sheep farmers are rarely keen on reintroducing predators, even eagles. Even the angling trust (a land user of sorts, if not a landowner) aren't keen on beavers because of misguided fears that they'd negatively impact on their fishing fun.

      My sense is that many self-styled "sportsmen" consider wildlife to consist of pheasants, red grouse, a few species of deer, ducks and fish and the rest are vermin or LBJs. You might test this hypothesis and have some fun by asking Owen Patterson or his supporters to identify some UK animal species not on the "sportsmen's" list. Nothing super hard, just something like a photo of a marsh harrier, a gatekeeper butterfly, a smooth snake, a bee fly and perhaps a fox moth caterpillar. I've long wanted to carry out such a survey on the attendees of a Game Fair to compare to the scores of the attendees at somewhere like the Rutland Bird Fair.

  4. It looks like the odds are stacked against you, but I'm sure you will hold your own in front of an "appreciative" audience! You are up against three people who believe that predator control is good for wildlife, two who are in favour so more game birds can be shot, the other so that he can have more lapwings on his farm/er nature reserve. Make sure that Henry stays at home and don't forget to ask P.Merricks how the brood management proposal is going?

  5. Don't chew them all up in one bite Mark. Toy with them a bit first.
    I hope they've got more to offer than Robin Page otherwise it'll feel like another instance when you could have sent a cardboard cutout to deputise.

  6. Gadzooks 3:1, but what else would one expect from a Game Fair? Wonder if any one of them would be brave enough to do a similar at say the (Rutland) Bird Fair?

    Ha, now there's a thought ....

  7. Good luck Mark. I think that any landowner should be accountable for their actions, particularly those members who are more Game than Wildlife. I understood that most (the silent majority) are of good intent when I studied an HD in Agriculture a number of years ago. However, unfortunately agriculture is way down on the list for people that back Grouse shooting, they really are carrying out this for their mates/profit, no serious intent to farm the land for agriculture. There is a good argument that this land should be handed back for sustainable wildlife management or appropriate recreational use for the benefit of us all, not just the "few" . Let's have determination for ONE NATION, an inclusive society, not one just determined by the thoughts and wealth of the wealthy minority .
    All the best Andy

  8. Come to the Game Fair!

    Sorry I'll be rather too busy sawing my own leg off as a alternative!

  9. Spot on Dennis ....

    & someone posts it on u-tube - what odds will the bookies offer on the number of hits it would receive?

    Drove past Harewood last week, five fantastic Red Kites in the air. Excellent carrion feeders mopping up the road kill / winged pheasants, they'll be with you fighting for their 'cousins'.

  10. Would it be too much to expect them to be sporting and recognise how game you are by stepping into a lions den?

    1. Mark, I wouldn't admit to being Game with all those shotguns around.

      Good luck the facts speak for themselves!

  11. Please invite all of them to come the Hen Harrier event near Buxton on August 9th and say a few words,that sounds quite fair.

  12. Watch your back. takes real courage and commitment to debate with people who have already made up their mind's. I do however wish you the very best of luck. There may be individuals in the audience who do not have the blinkered one-dimensional views of the rest of the panel. Let's hope. There may be some souls to save.


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