Ahead of today’s RSPB AGM, Martin Harper posted a very robust blog about the RSPB’s position on driven grouse shooting (click here).

Just as I did yesterday, Martin asked the question whether there are any grouse moors out there that do all the right things. He clearly doesn’t know of any (which makes licensing a bit of a tall order really).

His blog also has some other strong words, such as:

Intolerance of any predator appears to be part of the “business model” of some driven grouse shoots.’

While there are those within the moorland community calling for reform, their voice is not loud enough or being heard.   What’s worse, is that much of the grouse moor sector seem to be in denial of the impacts this intensification is having on our shared environment and wildlife.

Intensive driven grouse moor management, as currently practiced in much of the UK, is environmentally unsustainable and damaging.

Failure to act will simply mean calls for a ban will intensify.’

The status quo is not an option and we cannot allow it to persist much longer.’

These are strong words, and welcome words.

But if they are not to be empty words then they must be followed by strong action. The RSPB should give Defra until Christmas to come up with a plan that will tackle wildlife crime and environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management and if none is forthcoming promote our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting to the RSPB’s 1.1m members in order to secure 100,000 signatures by 21 January and a debate on the subject in parliament.

The RSPB is stirring, and the country is stirring. Please sign this e-petition and help secure a debate in parliament on driven grouse shooting.



End note:

Martin did link to this blog, you’ll notice, in his blog – for which I have thanked him.


Also Jeff Knott, who is talking about Hen Harriers at today’s RSPB event, said last night on Twitter, in answer to this question from Samantha Farrell:

Hi @jazzy_jeff44 could you say this tomorrow pls, 2 encourage members 2 consider @MarkAvery petition 2 ban DGS? T Y

and Jeff replied

@BlackLabrador10 @MarkAvery Will do.



13 Replies to “Two AGMs – RSPB”

  1. A very good blog from Martin and showing signs of frustration that the RSPB’s current approach is not working. In fact acknowledgement that the Grouse Moor situation continues to get worsen, suggesting that a need for more drastic action is in their thoughts. I hope so.

    I had a long chat with Jeff Knott after the Hen Harrier Eve event in August. He is an energetic and well intentioned guy but was quite adamant that banning DGS was not the way to go, so his reply to Samantha’s tweet is encouraging.

    Is the sleeping giant beginning to stir? Again, I hope so.

  2. Great to read the bottom line in Martin Harper’s blog:

    “The status quo is not an option and we cannot allow it to persist much longer.”

  3. There are only two sides of the fence on this issue and until the RSPB clearly come down on the side of a ban they bare supporting the wildlife criminals. For all their words unless they support a ban they ae supporting a continuation of the crime which is the mass killing of hen harriers.

  4. Mark, There does seem to be some misunderstanding over what licensing means. people seem to comment on the RSPB’s position as though with licensing the activity somehow remains lawful. In order for any activity to be licensed it must be unlawful in its own right or there is no need to licence it. When we drive a car on a road that act is actually unlawful but pass a driving test and you get a licence to undertake that act. This is the only way licence removal means anything.

    In any RSPB licensing proposal the first thing that must happen is that grouse become a fully protected species as with other birds and therefore taken out of the current schedule of close season etc. Once the shooting of grouse becomes totally unlawful then you can design a licensing regime that impose restrictions and allows a shooting regime that is supported (walked up shooting etc). To do this I don’t think legally you can really define ‘driven shooting’ because all shooting of grouse would have to be licensed and it is the restrictions imposed on that licence that stop the problems that you have identified with driven shooting.

    1. Very good explanation Bob,there seems to be different groups wanting different things and we should respect the fact that they all want a end to Hen Harrier persecution,even if we do not agree with their ideas even H&OT we should not rubbish what their aims are as all these organisations and individuals have impressive records.

  5. Bob’s question is a variation on my own. It’s easy to say what you’re against, harder to say what you want instead, esp when it comes to the law. There’s lots of criticism of RSPB in these comments; I’ve never worked for RSPB but I worked for other NGOS and I know it’s often not as simple as we’d like it to be to change things. As a for instance, if we’re asking for changes to the W&CA then what else may get changed at the same time, given the current political environment? – things we might not like, eg removing protection from troublesome species that are no longer rare like, oh, I’d don’t know, Buzzards for instance. There is at least the potential to be opening a can of worms.

    So I ask again;

    Mark, I’ve been wondering. It’s good to ask RSPB to justify their licencing idea.
    Can I ask you how you see the ban working? How will you legally define driven grouse shooting in a watertight way? I have in mind as a cautionary tale the fudge around fox hunting, which seems to have satisfied neither party.

    Through what statutory instrument do you see the ban being imposed – are you asking for a whole new wildlife bill, and amendment to existing legislation (both potential cans of worms – be careful what you wish for) – or is there another mechanism open to a sympathetic minister?


    1. jbc – I’d have thought that Bob’s comment suggests that whatever the means of licensing might be, could be quite similar for a ban – except you wouldn’t have to issue licenses!

      However you look at it – banning is likely to be simpler than banning and then issuing licenses for some activity to continue.

      I’m asking for parliament to debate this issue – maybe lots of great ideas would emerge from that debate, and that focus. Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      1. Here’s my concern having been mulling it over, and with the caveat that while I’ve fought a few Public Inquiries in my time I’m not a lawyer.

        In order to ban driven grouse shooting I suspect that you have to ban grouse shooting generally. You then have to allow by licence those forms of grouse shooting that the law wishes to continue to permit.

        At this point you either have a licencing system, as RSPB proposes, or you’ve banned all grouse shooting, not just driven grouse shooting. .

        What have I missed? Personally I have no problem with banning grouse shooting, but that’s a different ask to anything now on the table.

        If a licencing system, I foresee legal challenges (judicial review etc – these guys have deep pockets) if NE denies a licence not because of concerns about the species in question – in this case Red Grouse – but because of alleged links with wildlife crime against other species that will be very hard indeed to link to the specific applicant in question. I also see legal and indeed practical challenges to any regime that permits grouse shooting only if other species (eg Harriers) breed successfully on the same estate, in the same area, the same county, etc.

        If a ban (with or without licencing of some shooting by some people under some conditions) is introduced I would expect Red Grouse numbers to decline somewhat, given that they are maintained at a higher than natural level through intensive management now. I foresee a legal challenge to this “conservation” measure which directly results in a reduction in the population to of the very species that, in legal terms, the measure aims to protect.

        You begin to see my concerns, now, I hope.

        Of course another route to the same end would be for the politicians to simply tell NE to stop going so soft on other damaging activities in scheduled sites, eg refuse consents for intensive predator control, hare control, excessive burning, etc, and then leave economics to run their course. But in this case I foresee compensation bills heading NE’s way, and NE is skint already; although at the very least it should be possible to remove all subsidies for the land being inappropriately managed (cross compliance and all that).

        Bottom line is, whichever way I try to unpack it, I just see more and more practical and legal issues. Don’t get me wrong; I’m asking now because I don’t want us to look daft when the MA or even the minister asks us the same question. But as we get closer to our goal, the more pressing the need for a credible legal mechanism becomes.

        1. One other option of course is bespoke legislation. Like the Hunting with Dogs Act 2004. The one that the Government now wishes to repeal… perhaps not great timing?

  6. I was at the RSPB AGM yesterday. You might like to know, re Jeff Knott, I can confirm- he did!

  7. “We believe that the effective regulation of grouse shooting and its associated management practices, delivered through a sensible licensing regime and effective enforcement, can deliver a grouse shooting industry fit for the 21st century.” Surely an oxymoron if ever there was one? The RSPB is in the ridiculous position that it is prohibited from taking up an issue that the vast majority of its members care about – the killing of birds as a so-called ‘sport.’ It can’t call for a ban on grouse shooting because it is banned from expressing the majority opinion of its members. Can someone please explain why the Royal Charter can’t be amended to make it ‘fit for the 21st century’? Or what benefit would the society lose by giving up its Royal title?

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