Spreading the word

Photo: Gordon Yates

Photo: Gordon Yates

I’ll be talking to what I am told is a sell-out crowd of around 100 people in Glossop on Tuesday evening. My message will be that we should ban driven grouse shooting.

In the last couple of weeks I have spoken to a crowd of Cambridge undergraduates (c50 folk), my local RSPB group (c100 people), a group of Exeter University students in Falmouth (c150 crowd), the Friends of Rainham Marshes (c50 people) and the Nottingham RSPB group (c50 people).

Everywhere I go, I meet some people who are already fired up about grouse shooting, and often its impact on bird of prey populations, but I also meet people for whom the story is a new one; at least some of those people come thinking that they might be about to have a dull evening but the group is part of their normal schedule and some of them go away fired up on the issue. Many people ask why they haven’t been told about this issue before and some ask me why the RSPB has been completely silent on this issue.

It’s left to me to defend the RSPB, which I do because I am used to doing it, and it reminds me of when I was Conservation Director of the RSPB when I was often told that we (as it was then) had been silent on an issue when we had been talking about it loads and loads (it seemed to us and to me). That’s one of the things about communication – it’s better to measure its success by who has heard you than by how often you sent out the message.  That’s one of the reasons why an e-petition is a useful part of our campaign; provided support for it grows, it shows us, and it shows them (choose whichever ‘them’ you like) that more and more people are getting the message.

I often tell people that hardly anybody knows about Hen Harriers. I use the entirely fictional suggestions that 1% of people love Hen Harriers (and some of them are usually in the audience in front of me) and about 1% of the public loathe Hen Harriers (they sometimes turn up to my talks too) but that most people are unaware. The more we spread the word about Hen Harriers, Peregrines, greenhouse gas emissions, damaged peat bogs, increased flood risk etc the more people will recruit to the view that driven grouse shooting should be banned and the more difficult it is for politicians to sit idly by issuing Hen Harrier non-plans and doing nothing to make upland management for the many rather than for the few.

If five or six people leave my talk at Glossop fired up and with their minds changed it will have been a good evening. Maybe a few will buy Inglorious and become even more sure that things must change. they may lend the book to their friends who might  become energised too.  Watch this space for another e-petition that will show us all how much the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting is growing.


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  1. murray marr says:

    Thank you. Keep talking. Keep writing. Keep keeping the keepers to account.

    Have ordered Inglorious and for the sake of all those super rich landowners, The Joy of Tax.

  2. John Miles says:

    Murray - Its not only the super rich that don't pay their tax but the keepers themselves. Why do you think they think it is good to remove any raptor that may take a grouse, a pheasant or a partridge regardless of the law. The reason is because they are given a tax free incentive by their lord and master as well as from the guns as well through the shooting season to make sure everyone has a great day on the moor, in the woods and out in the field. One keeper was raided and the police found a box containing £4000 in cash in his house. This was taken thinking it was drug money but returned when the keeper told the police where it had come from! This sum is small fry for what is actually given through the shooting season!

    • murray marr says:

      Well, the next time I’m trespassing and end up having an unfriendly talk with a gamekeeper, shall I try to slip The Joy of Tax into his back pocket?

  3. Daphne says:

    I know very little about the political in and outs of managed grouse shooting, though I am learning. I do know a bit about the psychology of communication. One useful maxim - whether in raising awareness, or in interpersonal relationships - is that the effectiveness of the communication (verbal or written) is in what is RECEIVED, not what is SENT. Even when appropriate, detailed communication is given, there is no guarantee whatsoever whether, or how, it has been received. Particularly so with the messages sent via magazines such as the ones produced by RSPB, WWT etc. Wonderful as 'Nature's Home' (mostly) is, I suspect not many are read in detail, if at all.

    And I had a personal jolt the other day: my son is an ultra-runner and trains/runs a lot on all the northern uplands/moors (Cumbria, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire etc). We spoke about his experience of the landscape, and he believed (until I enlightened him) that landowners were doing 'good works' in that they had made the uplands more accessible for recreational use via what they were doing for grouse shooting. He is not unintelligent by any means, but he had no idea of the connection between the state of the uplands, and flooding.

    I'll carry on carrying on, as I'm sure all we 'converted' here are, but there's still plenty to do to find ways to raise awareness where none, or very little, exists.

    What Mark outlines here about his own work over the last few days is excellent, although we have to ask how do we get beyond membership of conservation bodies, and other interested parties, to those folk like my son, who have no real idea about the depth and extent of this issue?

    • Mark says:

      Daphne - thank you. When's your son's birthday? Give him a copy of Inglorious! That's one reason I wrote it.

    • murray marr says:

      I’m new to all this too.
      Shouldn’t we, the converted, be encouraged to trawl the numerous young nature bloggers out there and spread the message when and where appropriate?
      And then there are the various articles in the broadsheets E.g Monbiot/Guardian/blogs where links and plugs can be slipped in. The more people who subscribe and comment the better.

      • Daphne says:

        I think so many conservation issues, not only raptor persecution and upland management, are in the hands of the young.

        As a (not young) nature blogger/writer myself, one of the things I do is look out for young nature writers to offer as much encouragement as possible, and send them links (if they want them) to blogs like Mark's, and to relevant websites like Rewilding Britain, New Networks for Nature, etc etc.

        As a writer/proof reader/former English teacher I also offer to help with their writing, which may not always be as good as it could be. But their enthusiasm, energy and commitment are what we must develop as much as possible. So, happy to offer that service to anyone reading this who might need it...

        • murray marr says:

          That’s great. People like you who are supporters and mentors and who give freely of their time and knowledge, are rare these days. Lucky are those who cross your path.

  4. jbc says:

    I have lent my copy of Inglorious to my shooting brother whose wife hunts. I would bet good money that both will always be pretty indifferent, at best, to Hen Harriers and other BoP.

    It was the connection to flooding that interested him. Let's see what he says next time we meet...

  5. Dennis Ames says:

    Admire everything that yourself and other individuals are doing also all that raptor groups are doing but it will take decades to have any effect unless Mike Clarke comes on board.
    Think all the above have to seriously consider trying to come to some agreeable compromise on the way forward with RSPB.
    I realise it might not come to anything but it would make a huge difference even if we did not get everything we wanted.

    • Nimby says:

      Might understand them not wanting to upset the 'r' or the establishment, but the flooding issue is surely something they don't want to miss the boat on in terms of pr for them?

      Perhaps they might be encouraged to promote an interest in that more, then they might gain more credibility amongst conservation hardliners?

      Dr Tim Melling of the RSPB has done a number of excellent interviews relating to the Walshaw Moor case currently with Europe. See http://www.downloadsearch.club/?do=watch&v=GHfUVfEagJg

      Europe takes its time with complaints but given the recent weather events and the consequential flooding exacerbated by moorland management for grouse then is there a case to enquire when a decision might be made and published, particularly given increasing public interest in moorland management and related issues?

  6. Mark it's a fabulous job you have/ are achieving keeping the hen harrier's plight on the front page. Your correct, a number of adults are unaware, but children who are our future conservationists have no idea what hardship hen harrier's are against. So that's my bag, Skydancer is slowly gaining momentum and with world book week first week of March it's an opportunity to help children engage in this beautiful bird of prey.

  7. Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group says:

    It is very clear to me that our hen harrier message is not reaching the wider British public. The RSPB are doing a sterling job with their TV advert 'Give Nature a Home'. It's a pity their advert contains nothing about the loss of homes on red grouse moors for hen harriers. Providing publicity via a well constructed series of television adverts informing the public about the serious plight of hen harriers would be as important as engaging with the public about homes for garden birds?

    It should be possible for the 30k plus supporters of Mark Avery's recent e-petition to band together to fund a reputable PR company to run a series Television Adverts on similar lines, possibly titled 'Give our Hen Harriers a Home'. These adverts could then inform millions of TV viewers about the ongoing plight of our hen harriers and the reasons why these special birds are being destroyed on grouse moors.

  8. Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Group says:

    Mark,PS, I would be the first person to donate £100 to help fund the initiative if it was taken on board.


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