A bit of perspective

Our e-petition to ask government to ban driven grouse shooting received 33,615 signatures (and it is still going up slowly as people click on their confirmation emails).

I think that is pretty good and certainly represents considerable progress on last year.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped – but I can’t name everyone here because some people wish to remain anonymous and there will be many people who have done things of which I am unaware. So I would like to say ‘Thank you!‘ to everyone – whoever you are and whatever you did.

My mind is moving towards the next e-petition – it has been for a while.

The first question is ‘Should there be one?’. I’m pretty sure the answer to that is ‘yes’ because we still have momentum.  As we approached the finishing post we were still gathering lots of names.  Next time, we can do even better. And, to be fair, we (that’s mostly me, but a bunch of mates as well) are learning all the time.  But I am interested in what you think – either publicly, as a comment here, or privately by email.

The second question would be what should it say – and is there a possibility of engaging our sleeping wildlife conservation organisations to join us. We’ll see.

Standing back for a moment, 33,615 signatures is a lot. An awful lot.

The bit of perspective is that when 100 UK environmental and wildlife organisations joined together to ask the public and their members to support the nature directives they persuaded ‘over 100,000‘ people in three months.

Honestly, give me the membership lists, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and a small fraction of the money that those 100 organisations invested in the nature directives (which are well worth supporting) and I promise you, absolutely promise you, that I’d deliver 100,000 signatures in six months to get a debate to ban driven grouse shooting.

We’re doing well – and we are building a movement for change.

Have a few weeks off – but there is more to do.




45 Replies to “A bit of perspective”

  1. There has to be another without a doubt!
    I guess the question is how do we get the fence sitters to jump to our side.
    The most common reason for this has been the question ‘what happens to the moors if DGS stops? We’ll lose it’

    If that can be put to rest then more will sign.

    More signed this time because of links to flooding and environment so more will sign the future petitions as the situation gets worse, and I’m sure it will.

    Come on, let’s keep on pushing and shouting, we will win!

    1. I agree Stewart.
      I don’t feel like this question has been answered to my satisfaction yet (including by Mark). It was this reason that I didn’t sign the petition this time. Conifer forest and sheep walk are often the sad result of loss of management.

        1. Already done that Mark – as I said, hasn’t been answered to my satisfaction. “in essence we should encourage landowners to re-wild much of the uplands” – good luck there! Landowners will always want to turn a profit. If not from grouse, then from sheep and sitka. Plenty of areas have seen that.

          1. Gordon – you obviously haven’t read it carefully enough. Have another go. Your quote misses out the first part of my answer – doesn’t it? the bit that most clearly answers your concern. Have you read Chapter 6 of Inglorious – doesn’t sound like it to me? You need to understand the power of the designations in preventing certain land uses.

  2. Im not sure it’s the right vehicle for this mission. We’ve tried it twice, people will start to think they’ve signed it already or worse still that there’s no point in signing it when it’s “failed” twice previously. I’m quite dubious of what even a 60,000 signature e-petition could achieve. What else have they led to in terms of substantial changes in the law?

    I’m supportive of banning driven grouse shooting, just not convinced this is the route to achieving it.

    1. Paul – welcome and thank you.

      You make good points but I do think that a petition gives focus to the growing size of support for change. The way I look at it is that most people, including most RSPB members, know nothing about these issues of poor management of opur uplands, wildlife crime in the hills, and the impacts of grouse moor management on floods, water treatment costs etc. The more people we can get to the more will give us their support. We aren’t asking for their money so asking for their signature is a good way of measuring support – and in a democracy it really does make a difference. It makes a difference slowly, but it makes a difference.

  3. As mentioned in previous posts, I believe that we have to get NGOs ‘on board’. The obvious first choice is the RSPB. A number of us have responded to the RSPB’s response go the Hen Harrier Action Plan (http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2016/01/14/hh.aspx)- perhaps you could encourage more of the readers of this blog to do the same. When the RSPB recognise that there is a groundswell of opinion amongst their members, perhaps we’ll see a change of policy.

  4. Ok, you asked for a bit of perspective. I’m going to stick my neck out again! As someone who used to work for one of the wildlife NGOs you’d like to get on board, I think there’s an aspect of their decision making process that hasn’t been explored here. It’s all very well saying that they’re too rich(!) or too close to the powerful to want to upset them etc. Maybe sometimes and in some places there’s some truth there, in the latter anyway. But that doesn’t help us.

    As an NGO you also have to choose your battles. If you asked your membership to sign every petition for every wildlife related good cause they would soon get bored and the weight attached to those petitions would soon diminish.

    I can see how petition fatigue has already happened for me; I’m asked to sign at least three or four petitions every week, by two or three or four organisations (I really have lost count, they’re a blur) . They remind me of the infuriating telephone calls I have got once or twice a week for three years because I was once dumb enough to answer a legitimate marketing questionnaire and thus got on some marketing survey suckers list. No NGO wants to make its members think of it like that, and remember that when it comes to being annoyed by emails and direct marketing and phone calls most people, me included, no longer discriminate between the sources. A curse on all their houses. There’s just TOO MANY OF THEM! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

    Most petition emails I get are for causes that sound plausible but not necessarily enough to inspire me to check them out, quite a few are annoyingly simplistic and emotive. I sign the very few that I know are good causes, which are proportionately fewer with each passing month. The barrage of emails is starting to make me want to unsubscribe from any and all of them entirely though. I’m on way too many suckers lists.

    I know from my MP (he seems likes good one even though I’d never vote for his party, and replies thoughtfully to my occasional personal letters) that he no longer pays so much attention to e petitions because there are too many of them and they’re just too easy to get people to sign up to. In my own professional life I’ve been on the receiving end of several ill-informed and emotive paper petitions, but at least they were few and far between. The currency was already devalued before e petitions created huge inflation.

    From an NGO point of view, getting behind a petition might seem like risking a high reputational cost with their members for low impact in parliament. Reducing the risk that they simply annoy their membership with yet another bleedin petition requires that they spend significantly more resources taking them on the journey, and setting the petition in the context of a much wider lobbying campaign, both of which makes the choice of this or another cause even more stark.

    So… the NGOs need a convincing argument, not just that ending driven grouse shooting would be a good thing, but that it’s a better and more important battle to fight than all the other battles they could be fighting instead – the protection of the nature directives being a prime example. SPAs and SAC protect the most important wildlife sites across the whole of Europe and underpin European nature conservation in the most strategic fashion possible. DGS is an issue in some parts of one EU member state affecting a small number of species (birds of prey and hares) which are not endangered in any wider context. Do the two issues really compare in priority?

    Don’t shoot the messenger – I’d like to see RSPB, WTs, and lordy help us the NT (fat chance) get behind banning DGS. But you asked for a bit of perspective, and I think we need to step back from the easy ad hominem attacks on the UK NGOs, even if they might deserve some of the criticism, and make better arguments that are persuasive in their terms and through their eyes. They have some big fish to fry, why should DGS join issues like the Nature Directives or climate change in their frying pan? Getting members to pay attention to more than one campaign at a time is difficult. It IS a zero sum game.

    My tuppence worth; I think DGS is winnable. I think the NGOs would make the difference and get a slice of the credit. I think that the anti floods and anti “everyone else being ripped off by the mega rich” arguments will play well across a broad part of their membership’s political spectrum. There are wider strategic wildlife benefits in unpacking the flooding issue in particular. And I think the default cost of not picking up DGS, or at least of not supporting some other bit of activism that has at least some edge, is an increasingly disillusioned and indifferent membership.

    The nature directives argument is won, or nearly so, climate change is now Mom and Apple Pie at least as a political issue, so what’s next? DGS might just be the next issue, but only if it is placed in a strategic political and membership context. It can no longer be seen as all about Hen Harriers.

    Standing well back now…

    1. ‘If you asked your membership to sign every petition for every wildlife related good cause they would soon get bored and the weight attached to those petitions would soon diminish.’
      I don’t think that is a given fact.
      The RSPB used to have Action Pages. Not everyone will have read them but even if 1% of members used their right to protest regularly that would be 12,000 signatures. Nothing to be scoffed at. I don’t know the RSPB’s reasons for apparently avoiding direct action nowadays but if it because of a fear of losing support one has to wonder if it has lost a sense of priorities.
      You mentioned choosing battles. Outside the UK there are more important battles the RSPB are fighting such as their excellent work on vultures but within the UK surely the miriad of problems associated with driven grouse moors (a massive part of our landscape) is one of the very top priorities.
      Isn’t ‘sign every petition for every wildlife related good cause’ a straw man argument? Who is suggesting that?

    2. JBC – I think you make good points. I too used to work for an NGO and I recognise a lot of what you are saying. I’ll happily sign another petition on the right subject but I think the DGS issue is just one part (albeit a significant one) of a wider problem, and the key will always be getting people who are not as well informed as followers of this blog to understand, agree, and do something. For example, during the recent flooding discussions in the media, I asked my husband (an engineer, but as he is married to an ecologist he is (hopefully!) better informed than most), who trawls the news pages on a daily basis, what he had picked up in relation to upland land management and “using nature as a flood defence”. The answer was very little, and absolutely nothing about DGS. He had picked up the issue of using farmland lower down as flood storage areas, but in terms of the management of the uplands, hardly anything. It’s not that there was nothing in the media, but there was not enough.

      1. Lisa – your husband should read the Guardian! And if he does read the Guardian then he should read it more carefully!

        But seriously, I used to work for an NGO too!

        But almost everything is a small part of a bigger thing! That isn’t necessarily the route to success on the small thing. But it might be.

        So, I know what I have done on this subject over the last 18 months – what do you commit to do in the next year to help make more progress?

        1. Hi Mark
          he might have read the Guardian – I don’t know. My point was not that there was nothing in the media but that there wasn’t enough for someone reasonably well-informed, relatively speaking, to pick up on it and remember it well enough to repeat it later. And the thing with the Guardian, no matter how good the coverage was, is that it is at least partly preaching to the converted – long may it continue to do so, of course, but how do we widen the coverage?

          Of course I know you worked for an NGO – how could I not?! But I do think for example that local wildlife trusts are slightly different beasts to the RSPB. I am not disagreeing with you Mark, I just think that, from my knowledge of how the wheels grind in county wildlife trusts, JBC highlighted some valid points.

          I’m not sure if your comment on personal commitment was specifically aimed at me or more generally, but were you suggesting anything in particular? I already do a lot, on many levels, but that is not to say I can’t do more.

  5. Mark. Thanks for making the first question an easy one. Should you run another petition? Answer – a resounding yes. The way the last one was gathering pace at the end it felt as though it was cut off in it’s prime.

    So we know there are at least 33,615 people who are now aware, supportive and prepared to put their names to it. If each of us managed to persuade just 2 other people we know to sign, we’d have our debate. Obviously a debate that a Cameron led government would attempt to rubbish from the outset but another big milestone. We know of MPs who would fight our corner and the voting public at large are waking up to the fact that economic growth isn’t the end all and be all of society. The environment is pretty bloody important too.

    I agree with Stewart that the environmental and ecological aspects of the campaign probably helped significantly to boost support. After all they are huge issues in their own right. The awful flooding and subsequent human misery in places like Hebdon Bridge were tragic evidence of this.

    The last question is a real head scratcher. What do we do about our apathetic NGOs? Wish I had a miracle solution to that one. ‘Keep the pressure on’ is about as constructive as I can be I’m afraid.

    Of course there are some NGO’s who definately don’t suffer from splintered backsides and I think we need to do all we can to promote these. I’m talking about people like BAWC and Raptor Persecution Scotland, who do have the balls, the conviction and commitment to strive for change. Lets big them up and support them as they do put the lily livered lot to shame.

    A long rocky road ahead but I truly believe we can do this. “WE WILL WIN”

  6. Come on NGO’s ! RSPB ? The clue is in the name really . Thanks for all you’ve done Mark – a great deal of hard work i’m sure !

  7. Hi Mark,
    While I support the principle of another e-petition, my concern is the subsequent parliamentary debate should we reach the magic number. The Government response to the last petition was dismissive and I cannot believe a full debate will achieve a very different outcome unless we are able to convert a few more MPs to our cause. This will take a carefully coordinated lobbying campaign by supporters of this blog and many others.

    1. George – you are right. But if there were a debate then we certainly would expect the RSPB and others to be briefing MPs on the options, issues and problems. Also we would each, as constituents be able to contact our MPs and ask them to do whatever we wanted them to do. We could send every MP in parliament a copy of Inglorious and see whether that made them sit up and take notice. There is much that we could do – and it would all move things on.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Nobody said it was going to be easy!

      1. How do you get the select committees interested in something? For instance the impacts of upland management on flooding? I know the committee probably has some fairly unreconstructed views but also people who might pitch some difficult questions?

        Not sure about another immediate petition.

  8. Hi Mark (“Mate”)

    You may not want to muddy the main message but there is a lot of overlap between grouse shooting/ destruction of uplands and land ownership/ land reform in Scotland (feudal and undemocratic variety). You probably know (Dundonian 🙂 ) Andy Wightman and his work – including http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14614429-the-poor-had-no-lawyers Also yesterday in The Times – news about eviction of tenant farmers: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4672745.ece. Might be worth considering whether you could get other alliances with people upping the debate/ campaign for better/ equitable land management for people (not just the elite few) as well as for ecological and environmental reasons?

    1. Nonie – welcome and thank you!

      You are right. The tricky thing about devolution is that this e-petition is aimed at the Westminster government and has therefore (?) received less support from Northern Ireland and Wales than it might otherwise have done – perhaps? Support from Scotland has been strong however, probably (?) because driven grouse shooting is a live issue there for all the reasons that it is in England but also because of land reform issues. But those are Scottish land reform issues and difficult to tie in to a UK e-petition aimed at the Westminster government.

      Though, of course, if someone were to start a similar e-petition n Scotland, all we English could sign it too… Just thinking out loud really.

  9. Thinking out loud it occurs to me that continuing the petition is a good idea but we also probably need to be fighting fire with fire.
    It is obvious from their press releases and slick if not false PR campaigns that the enemy (yes i do see it as a war) are much more organized than we are. They obviously have a lot of money (or very experience pro bono) professionals spin doctors behind them. Someone suggested putting adverts in newspapers. It sounds like a very good start.
    I don’t think we can win this war without money and a good press office.
    I don’t know if that is at all feasible but those are my thoughts. We just aren’t getting heard enough outside of a couple of excellent blogs (RPS and Mark’s) and Hen Harrier day (that was a stroke of genius).
    I agree with Mark it is a movement and we have to keep the ball rolling.
    I have started writing regular rants on my blog. No one reads it but it is catharsis and keeps my mind agile on the issue. I am not going to stop. We have just got started.

  10. It is difficult to legislate to ban an activity – full stop. You have to legislate against something specific to that activity and for specific reasons otherwise it could be called oppressive. Would you draft legislation to ban the driving of grouse, or short rotation muirburn, or would there be welfare issues ? Fox hunting was effectively banned by specifically outlawing hunting with dogson welfare grounds but it’s hard to see the equivalent for DGS.
    A ban provides a focus for opposition to DGS but it has to be credible as legislation and it is difficult to see that, which is possibly why NGOs concentrate on influencing regulation and management of the activity, however currently ineffective, rather than banning it. Greater regulation and more aggressive enforcement of existing regulation of muirburn and other management activities on flooding grounds might see DGS out.
    I signed both petitions but the doubt remains.

  11. I agree with most of the comments. In addition, your talks, Mark have been effective in spreading the word – so more, please. How about one in or near Bowland?
    Broadening the issue beyond birds of prey has been useful (flooding/water catchment/pollution/biodiversity etc)?. More of this. Can we encourage research at Universities etc to give us additional scientific ammunition? Is anything in the pipeline?
    More in print in magazines & journals about the issues. Social media seems to be useful – your foray into Facebook seemed to gain support. More locations for Hen Harrier Day and some celebs to draw attention to them? Maybe set up a fighting fund for adverts or such like – although the admin of this might be prohibitive? A travelling exhibition (for bird fairs; agric. shows; nature reserves) on the problems of grouse moor management.
    I understand there might be petition overload but it was a focus for supporters. In fact, I am suffering withdrawal symptoms. I sit up in the middle of the night shouting “30,000, 30,000” and “Calder Valley!”. Is there anything I can take for this?

  12. While it may be a difficult task persuading some NGOs to support us (e.g. RSPB) I wonder how firmly against us one NGO, the National Trust, will prove to be. I’d like to test how solid their commitment to a few shooters really is. Should protests begin on shoot days on their land how will they respond? Strong arm tactics? They can hardly fence the moors off so would their response be hiring security guards to chase down ecologists protesting environmental crimes? How would all that high vis tearing around the moor effect the shoot (seems like a nice, and free, force multiplier to me). How much would it cost to prevent access to a moor when, at least in the Peak District, anyone can walk in from any direction from a public road? Can they stop a gathering of (loud) musicians on a particular moor the night before a shoot? How much of their publicity budget can we spend for them in their attempts to justify what they are doing? If it’s a war it’s a asymmetric one so instead of trying to match power like for like why not seek ways to turn that power back against those that use it? How would Hen the Hen Harrier, or Molly the Mountain Hare, being wrestled to the ground by National Trust bouncers look on the news?

    1. Apologies for asking an obvious question but has anyone researched the extent of NT shooting licenses? What is their value? The estates which these are on, what is the extent of raptor breeding successes and what type of management do / are they allowed to practice? Are these moorlands in favourable condition if they are SSSI / SPAs? All the questions Mark & others have rehearsed before, but ultimately it is the membership who need to ask these questions to raise the profile of bad practice? Conversely potential members might mention or raise the issue, if recruitment slips then revenue slips and is this compensated for by the patronage of the ‘elite’?

      It would then surely need a motion presented by the appropriate number of members to it’s AGM? Probably as difficult to deliver as one to the RSPB / WTs AGMs?

      Such information widely disseminated ahead of any day of action would surely be of interest across social media if not the establishment controlled media?

  13. Thanks, Anand Prasad in particular, for the contributions to Martin Harper’s RSPB blog – I was starting to feel a bit lonely with everyone else saying what a wonderful thing the Hen harrier plan is – although slightly reassured (as martin must have felt undermined !) that the next comment, praising the plan, came from Keith Cowieson of Songbird Survival.

    Picking up on Jim Clarke’s comment, there is form on this sort of thinking: opposition to deer hunting in particular focussed on Forestry Commission land, especially in the New Forest, because it was public, open access land and there was no possibility of banning protestors short of them committing public order offences. Much the same might apply to the National Trust: assuming they try the switching trick – one moment a great public institution, the next claiming to be just another private landowner, they risk blowing up the question which I suspect more and more people have been asking, especially since the forest sales fiasco: who does the National trust really belong to ? There is little doubt that the Forestry Commission came out of the fiasco far more clearly real public land’ ‘for everyone, (and hopefully) forever’; I think the feeling that this really was land we all owned was a huge factor in that protest, and one a wide and varied establishment would dearly like to sweep under the carpet. I fear the Trust will get themselves in a terrible mess over all this, partly because they are still traumatised by the problems they faced over hunting, and especially deer hunting, in the run up to the ban. But the issue is there – as somebody commented, it may not be the one conservation NGOs want to get involved in but as Harold Macmillan said ‘events, dear boy, events’.

    1. Ah yes – the wonderful Forestry Commission. An organisation that over the last century has managed to ruin hundreds of thousands of acres of our uplands.

  14. Yes another petition! The momentum is definitely building. The fb page was deliberate boost and I think it’s fair to say that when grouse shooting supporters left comments on it they usually didn’t do themselves any favours. They were inadvertently a great advert for BDGS. The League Against Cruel Sports and World Parrot Trust both publicly endorsed the petition. Given the full range of social and ecological problems stemming from muirburn and shooting wouldn’t it warrant having Greenpeace, FoE and the Green Parties directly asking their members to support it? Not only potentially tens of thousands of additional signatures, but also taking the issue to many people who would be more sympathetic, but currently subject isn’t as well known to them as it should be. If these organisations can be brought on board before new petition gets going would make a massive difference.

    1. Les, some of us – maybe many – did ask the Green Party el al to support the petition. I made copies and took the text and link to the GP conference last year in Liverpool and asked many stalls to promote it to their visitors.

      And I think GP members were asked by the leadership to support it.

      I think it needs more than another petition, though we should have one too. As several contributors here have said, it needs constant pestering of our MPs, constant letters to the press. We all have to do this.

      The gov. doesn’t want to change its policies and practices and they rely on the fact that most campaigners do not have the tenacity to keep going.

  15. In partial answer to Mark’s question “Is there a possibility of engaging our sleeping wildlife conservation organisations to join us?” Commentators on this blog regularly express surprise and disappointment that RSPB do not themselves promote a ban on driven grouse shooting. I do not feel that they should be surprised, though they may well be justified in their disappointment.

    Firstly, RSPB is a partner in the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, which I understand potentially runs for another two years. See http://www.langholmproject.com/project.html. Here the Partners (including RSPB) are seeking to demonstrate “a model for modern, sustainable grouse moor management”, which includes a return to driven grouse shooting. It would be odd if RSPB were to promote a ban on DGS when it was seeking to demonstrate that DGS could operate while “maintaining the hen harrier population as a viable component of the SPA”.

    Secondly, and I think more significantly, careful attention to statements by the Chief Executive and Conservation Director of RSPB consistently show that they do not rule out a hen harrier brood management scheme. For example they have said that this “could be included in a recovery plan and may merit experimental investigation in England in the future, but only once hen harrier numbers have recovered to an acceptable level and diversionary feeding has been widely trialled”. The necessary reduction in illegal killing of hen harriers, and significant recovery of the English hen harrier population, are both highly desirable but are, as yet, entirely hypothetical. RSPB statements on a brood management scheme are so caged in nuanced phrases, that I for one find it impossible to be certain what their final position will be. But by not ruling out a brood management scheme, it seems to me that RSPB may be able to envisage a scenario where some sort of cap is put on a recovered hen harrier population in England. The only reason for this would be to sustain driven grouse shooting.

    Thirdly, Martin Harper’s contentious statement on his blog, regarding the DEFRA Hen harrier Action Plan, saying that “I welcome this plan – not because it is perfect, it isn’t – but because it reflects real potential for progress on one of the most deep-rooted conflicts in conservation”. This suggests that RSPB is still committed to the long haul of dialogue and debate over hen harriers, and is yet to reach the point of saying enough is enough and campaigning for a ban on DGS.

    Lest anyone misinterpret my views, I have happily signed both of Mark’s petitions (though I live in Scotland). I just think that, for all the above reasons, there is no immediate prospect of RSPB supporting a ban. So, if there is to be a third petition, Mark, I suggest you keep it simple and uncompromising.

  16. Hope for another petition but think more pressure could come from the flooding and destructive things happening on the moors than from the persecution of Hen Harriers.However cannot see how we can tap into that side of it.
    Think there is no chance of large organisations seriously backing a private petition.
    The only thing I wonder about is what would be Mike Clark’s reaction be if Mark,Chris and there were a couple of senior RSPB men at the Quarry on Hen Harrier day asked if a flyer could be put in RSPB magazine at our expense.
    We desperately need to get ordinary RSPB members to know about this persecution and petition.

  17. Mark’s mention of the support for the nature directives through the large membership NGOs contrasts well with their failure to support ‘us’ on raptor persecution by (some) upland moor managers and the damaging management practices used on upland moors. Yes, I’ve read all the ‘excuses’ and yes they sound plausible etc. but the problem is then that I read the dribble emanating from pr spin bowlers like YFTB, the Game Trust, MA, HOT et. al. as well as witnessing the arrogance displayed by estates in receipt of public funds delivering damage as well as death on the upland moors.

    Mark then suggests that he’d have achieved far more with their budget etc. in terms of communication and getting a debate. Of that I have no doubt, but as we all know information is power and gatekeepers (shall we call them) in some of these organisations are possibly quite content with their comfortable status quo without upsetting the ‘Establishment’?

    Is there an extension to that question which asks is there a need for a new conservation campaigning organisation? One which is not principally about project gardening or hog-tied with tradition or prestigious status?

    It has been done, there was a gap in the market BAWC is a recent, very focused organisation.

    Many more specialist groups have become established over recent decades, in part because of either specialism or failure by the usual suspects? There should be common ground, but let’s be honest – there is competition for funds, hearts and minds etc.

    If it is linked to flooding, habitat damage, water pollution etc. then it ought to interest a wider audience and thus should appeal to Greenpeace, FOE et. al. and when the others sense the temperature change then they too might step up to the mark (no pun intended)? The Green Party has signed up to the bigger issue, t’others, well …. depends on the photo opportunity & then they are on to the next?

    The economic case is the one which ought to have people worried, the cost and benefit to the public purse vs private profit etc.?

  18. Yes- another petition should follow. The work you have done so far has been superb at raising awareness of what was previously only of concern to a tiny minority – but actually affects us all. I think a petition is a great focus and is a fantastic method of measuring continued and growing support for the cause, rather than being an immediate end in itself.

    What I would really like to see is more attention on what the alternatives are to driven grouse shooting (and sheep grazing)- and what our uplands could (or should?) look like. George Monbiot has done a great job stirring this up and pointing out how naked and degraded our uplands are….but I think there is a long way to go with this debate amongst nature conservationists, let alone the general public.

    A dilemma for you, I guess – to keep the message clear and simple or try to link in with a broader debate about what our uplands should be like.

  19. Congratulations on ‘your’ achievement Mark. You appear to have worked tirelessly over the course of the two petitions and it is encouraging to see the last minute increase in signatures.

    I do, however, worry that the day of the petition is passing for many of the reasons outlined above. Nearly 600 000 signatures on the ‘Donald Trump’ email led to only a token debate. I see no problem in starting another but I begin to wonder whether more committed action is needed. I for one would buy a second copy of ‘Inglorious’ and send it to my MP. Might it be more effective to do that in a coordinated manner? How about a week where MPs got deluged with books rather than just electronic ticks? It would prove that some of us care enough to reach for our wallets.

    Probably not a very environmentally sensible suggestion but I think we need to show a genuine commitment to this cause. Other ideas?

  20. Mark,
    I’ve asked this before and not really arrived at an answer, but I think it’s time to return to the question of legal practicalities. No-one could doubt how much your (our) petition has galvanised supporters and gained political momentum, but we should be interested in *outcomes* not *outputs*. The Law of Unintended Consequences can be awfully powerful.

    Let’s look at Outputs first.

    How exactly – by what mechanism? – can Parliament outlaw driven grouse shooting? I have in mind the attempt to outlaw hunting with dogs, which may have greatly reduced the numbers of overt “kills” but is widely seen as unsatisfactory by both sides of the argument. I don’t think a fudge like that will achieve what we need to achieve when it comes to the moors.

    First, we need to legally define driven grouse shooting in a way that would enable a conviction beyond reasonable doubt for someone engaging in the activity. Remember that defining the activity precisely has proved very problematic for fox hunting, despite it having a MUCH higher political profile.

    We can’t just ban all grouse shooting (or at least that’s not what we’re asking for, and it’s probably not a politically tenable ask). Trying to come up with a legal definition of armed people standing still while other unarmed people drive grouse towards them is going to be very tricky. “We lost a dog/watch/mobile phone, m’Lord, and we were just standing around doing a spot of rough shooting to pass the time while our nice estate workers walked across the moor looking for it”.

    “It was not driven grouse shooting, m’Lord. My friends and I were simply walking forward slowly, hoping to put up some birds ourselves, when the West Pennine Moors Estates Rambling Club happened to put the grouse up in front of us”.
    “And how often does this happen?”
    “From time to time – we share transport you know. We try to be environmentally friendly and we take our social responsibilities very seriously”.
    “Happens quite a lot doesn’t it?
    “No it doesn’t sir, and you can’t otherwise beyond reasonable doubt”.

    And now let’s think about outcomes. If a watertight definition of driven shooting *can* be devised, the only logical difference between banning DGS and banning almost all commercial pheasant shooting will be the species in question. Some may want to deal with this by simply banning all shooting, period, but I don’t think that’s what we’re about here, and anyway if you thought banning driven grouse shooting was a tough campaign to win…

    Seen through neutral eyes (not our own ones) that immediately begs the question “why grouse and not pheasants?” And the answer of course is all the collateral damage associated with DGS, as set out so well in Inglorious. But then the reply will come “But those issues are already addressed in existing legislation – birds of prey are protected, burning and drainage on SSSI moorland already requires an NE consent”, and so on. And then we’re into an argument about “hard to enforce” – to which one might reply “just like the ban on hunting with dogs, for instance?”. Or worse yet an argument about NE not being fit for purpose, in which case we’re in danger of strengthening the hand of those who want to get rid of NE entirely.

    What outcomes do we want? For me banning DGS is a means to an end. Can we reach that end by other means? Maybe a petition addressing the adverse impacts of grouse moor management on communities downstream, for instance?

    Just as DGS cannot survive economically without illegal raptor persecution, I suspect that it also can’t survive without very damaging moorland management practices. Maybe getting those damaging practices stopped will close down DGS and save our raptors just as effectively as a head on attack? Maybe it just requires an end to the current laissez faire policy that subsidises flooding and instead enforces existing regulations properly at last. Sounds like a more appealing ask to me – more appealing to the general public, for sure.

    This is just a “for instance” but my basic point stands – we need a different angle, and one with the added advantage of not being yet another DGS petition. An angle with a wider societal and ecological benefit and incidentally about a new topic that the NGOs can support without losing face. And it doesn’t mean that all the raptor focussed groups have to take the direct pressure off either, we should carry on with hen harrier day and everything else.

    But I think it’s time for a new front, not another frontal assault.

  21. My view remains that we should look to agree a wording for the next petition that as many of our NGOs as possible will support. If this means changing to a broader objective,which may include licencing and an outright ban as options, this might enable RSPB to come on board. I think RSPB did include an article with a short pitch from the various sides and a link to Mark’s petition at one stage. Surely, the main priority is to get the subject to a debate and this will inevitably raise the public’s awareness. The floods and people like George Monbiot have added to the debate and we must keep up the pressure.

    In addition I agree that we each need to do our bit and I think writing to as many outlets that sell game should also be part of our campaign. Many of them are also totally unaware of the issues,but it is a big job for any one person to take on board.We could break this down into Parliamentary areas and devise “templates” that we can amend to our liking. Each time an outlet agrees to stop selling grouse from driven moors, this is a small success. Obviously, as I am finding,not everyone will agree with us!

    By taking the small steps and getting the occasional success, all adds up to pushing us nearer to where we want to be.

    1. It would be great if Ethical Consumer would use their expertise to lead us in this campaign to get outlets to turn their back on grouse.

  22. Well done Mark that was a huge effort and should be seen in the future as a milestone.

    Could I suggest that the next petition “grouse petition” is aimed at the Scottish Parliament?..There is real widespread support for the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill..and as is mentioned in a couple of comments above the Driven Grouse Ban may well have more chance if its linked to wider land use legislation. We could be in a situation where Scotland gets a ban first..and UK parliament would follow. As with fox hunting, the smoking ban and several of the changes to Wildlife Legislation that youll be aware of…

    1. Dave – that is a thought that had occurred to me. Being an Englishman living in the south of Britain it would hardly be something appropriate for me to do. but I would be happy to support and give advice to anyone who was thinking along those lines…

      Some would say that licensing of shooting estates is a more viable option in Scotland than England, and that ought to be the aim, but I’m not steeped in these things so i don’t know.

      PS and we do have a Facebook page that could potentially be useful.
      PPS and to any grouse moor owner reading this – you see, we aren’t going away.

  23. I think the momentum is there, it’s also important that every newspiece negative about grouse shooting must be shared by all enthusiasts and that there should be an internet site with those on there. I also think if a petition was done in the future, a downloadable campaign pack would be useful, including poster, generic letter to be sent to people in power ect. Also, building on the success of shops such as Lush helping out, we need to get more shops to help. A good idea would be for volunteers to be assigned a local area, where they would have to ask ethical shops (such as Lush) to get involved. Just a couple of ideas, that I think could boost support for a petition.

  24. First of all Mark, a big congratulations on keeping this going, and we do need our conservation NGOs to grow a pair on this.

    Every time the nasty shooting brigade attack and demonize me on the Guardian comments sections for highlighting their misdeeds, it just makes me less tolerant of them. So I’m a stubborn bugger, and the more they abuse me personally, the more I step it up a gear and highlight more of their unpleasant activities.

    Just had a blood boiling moment watching Winterwatch, the last in the series with your old mucker Chris Packham. It was on about the decline in Mountain Hares, and Michaela Strachan was interviewing scientists studying the reason for their decline, as if it’s a big secret why they are in decline. The shooting estates have been slaughtering Mountain Hares in huge numbers to protect the grouse shooting. I thought why is the scientist beating about the bush, until I found his partner is from the GWCT.

    This is the reason why Mountain Hares are in decline.

    We discussed this before. There needs to be a powerful hard hitting film made about all the nasty stuff done by the shooting estates to get all their dirty secrets out into the open. If this happened, there would be a lot more people signing a new petition and the conservation NGOs would be shamed into speaking out.

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