A bit of a round up

  • five MPs were treated to a day’s shooting by BASC, to the value of £772 each. The five MPs were the chair of the all-party shooting and conservation (ho! ho!) group, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (Con, Cotswolds), Bill Wiggin MP (Con, North Herefordshire), Sir Edward Garnier (Con, Harborough, former Solicitor General), Graham Brady MP (Con, Altrincham and Sale West) and Mark Spencer MP (Con, Sherwood). Although the Morning Star seems to think that they went grouse shooting, since the gift is registered as having been received on 17 December this is unlikely – BASC wouldn’t take them shooting grouse in the close season, so I guess they were popping away at Pheasants.  I don’t think this is such a terrible thing – it’s the things we don’t know about that are worse.Although if any of these gents were my MP I’d be writing to ask them about it and their views on raptor persecution, lead shot etc.
  • the Defra non-plan for Hen Harriers, welcomed by the RSPB, is reported on on the other side of the Atlantic here.
  • the Hen Harrier has won Countryfile conservation success story of the year for being brave about its low numbers and for having its plight better publicised than ever before. Chris Packham says ‘It’s a wonderful species that is in dire straits solely due to human intervention – something that is wholly unacceptable.‘.
  • Defra, in answer to constituents writing to their MPs, is saying that ministers are looking at the issue of lead shot and that it is a serious ‘debate’ and ministers are looking at the issue closely. What debate? Defra have an expert report which they are suppressing from the public – and they have to decide what to do about it. Where’s the debate? Oh, they mean they are being shouted at by the shooting lobby, I guess.
  • SNH call for ‘old wives’ to tell their tales about predation. In a bizarre publication presumably intended to placate the unscienced side of every environmental argument, a piece of work argues that local knowledge has similar standing to scientific studies – it seems.  This is just gobbledygook of the worst order.  Have a look at the discussion of this document and see what a pile of nonsense it is.  And a minister spent her time launching it rather than doing something useful! Horrendous! Please send any daft ideas you have about how the laws of the universe work, marking them ‘Local Knowledge’ to Aileen McLeod. She will be particularly interested in views such as ‘The Earth is flat because we’d fall off it if it really were a sphere’, ‘The Earth is still and the sun goes round it because otherwise we’d feel the wind on our faces and anyway, everyone can see the Sun coming up every morning – it’s obviously moving’ and especially ‘There are too many [fill in the blank with any predatory species] and they are wiping out [fill in the black with any other species] and I know because I live in the countryside and shoot things because I love them so much’. Don’t tell Defra about this – they’ll say they’ll use ‘local knowledge’ as the reason, or lack of reason, to ban lead shot.
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36 Replies to “A bit of a round up”

  1. The bizarre publication wouldn’t come up for me – maybe someone has realised what it is saying and withdrawn it.

    1. Had a look through this document and concluded that there is nothing to worry about.
      In the land of verbage all is verdant, as shown by the following quotes:

      From the Introduction:
      ‘….this Report…..has established a new starting-point and roadmap going forwards for resolving the predator-prey relationship conflicts that cause concern. (Lord Lindsay, Chair of the Moorland Forum)

      From the Discussion, ‘going onwards’ for a few thousand pages, (along with a couple of whiskies, served by Lord Gushmoor’s butler):
      ‘Building on the process and outcome of this project, we can perhaps hope to gradually move from local, specialised strategic knowledge to integrative knowledge, which stresses the ‘’mutual acceptance of an overarching framework, direction or purpose, derived from a shared interpretation of the issues.’’ {Read more about knowledge here.}
      (sorry, didn’t have the strength to click on that last bit).

  2. Hi Mark, the “bizarre publication” link doesn’t work – or I can’t get it to. I was so looking forward to reading it too!

  3. Thanks, Mark, the ‘bizarre publication’ link did not work:

    This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.

    1. Its still OK to download here (Cut and paste into your browser) – I did it OK 12th Feb 8am. Its only 382 pages long!

      Also, do note – the Report does not have SNH logo on it, but does have CEH, BTO, and 2 Universities. But – in the acknowledgements it does state “The support and advice from Scottish Natural Heritage, notably Roger Burton and Des Thompson, have been vital.”

      Lord Lindsay’s final comment is
      I commend the findings of this project to the Scottish Government.

  4. The “bizarre publication ” link isn’t working for me either. It also isn’t working from the link inserted into the post from Raptor Persecution Scotland that you have shared on Facebook. Interestingly, I was showing the George Monbiot video clip on re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park to my students this week, which illustrates very clearly the benefits of apex predators to the whole ecosystem. They loved it. Have the authors of the un-clickable link heard of trophic cascade I wonder?

  5. Sorry Mark but it doesn’t work for me either & I tried googling a variety of possible options for title.

    Perhaps you could offer us the title in full & we can access via search route?

    Or perhaps we’re all missing something 😉 That and you have direct lines to areas we mere followers don’t ….

  6. On another topic I see that Countryfile this Sunday is concentrating on “training the next generation of gamekeepers”! In Norfolk I think. I wonder what they’ll say about hen harriers?

  7. There are scientists from SNH, Aberdeen University and the BTO involved in the ‘Understanding Predation’ Report. Like the Scottish Government they (I am told) rationalise this exercise as an attempt to foster collaboration by taking gamekeepers fairy tales seriously with the (very) long term aim of ‘conflict resolution’. That might be a way forward in other conflicts but in this case collaboration is not possible where one party habitually acts outside the law. Ignoring that particular elephant in the room (as apparently was the case at the launch) is just naive.
    Local knowledge, anecdote and observation are a basis for hypothesis and scientific investigation and presumably the scientists involved see some openings there, not least for funding, but it has to be intelligent observation. It is hard to believe that they genuinely see any basis for respectable investigation in the primitive ranting of gamekeepers. We may see yet more public money poured into investigating/pandering to prejudice. You pander to children and half-wits for the sake of peace and that seems to be the long and short of Scottish Government policy here, but it does not address the fundamental problem.

    1. The link came up eventually,i put some wood on the fire while i waited. Not all opinions voiced by gamekeepers are primitive rantings.

      1. Trapit – not all local knowledge comes from gamekeepers – or are we supposed to think that it does?

      2. The SGA’s proposal for further investigation, voiced at the launch, was for the removal of buzzards, badgers and ravens, in the interests of curlew conservation. That is, in every respect, a primitive proposal and quite typical. It no doubt does not reflect the views of every gamekeeper, but it is their collective view expressed through their Association. Will collaboration with scientists and others through an initiative like this moderate these views ? On the basis of all previous collaborative exercises that is extremely unlikely.

  8. If you go to the Morlandforum website you can get the information and also a list of the participants including the RSPB and BTO.

  9. Mark
    Please try and understand the purpose of the project before slating it. The workshop I went to with raptor groups, wildlife wardens, gamekeepers and foresters was a revelation in how a cycle of mistrust can be broken for the benefit of biodiversity and human interests. No, not just shooting interests but other land use conflicts such as conifer forestry v open upland birds i.e. curlews.
    Here’s the link, yes the language is clunky at times but this is a complex matter, not just a simple ‘thunderclap’ with a single sentence solution.
    Take the time to download the scientific pdf of Steve Redpath’s presentation: social, not just ecological science, has an important role to play in these matters. You as a doctor of science might recognise that!
    Best, Rob

    1. Rob – please give me the credit for having read this guff and for understanding it. The language is not clunky at times it is awful at times.

  10. Stevenson – thanks for a very interesting post. Don’t you think it sounds like the Scottish equivalent of the Defra Hen harrier plan ?

    1. They are equivalents in the sense that both are window dressing. DEFRA however are reflecting the straightforward support of a right wing government for grouse shooting. I suspect that the Scottish Government finds the conflict itself embarrassing and there is some desire to, at best to pursue conflict resolution, and at worst just to keep it quiet.

  11. It worked for me but who is going to read 384 pages! Redpath has lost his way. And as for Yorke many of these folk have no understanding of the countryside. Kill or be killed seems to be the solution to everything. Sure we are going to loose some species as they are artificial numbers now but just look at Curlew which the big boys claim is a moorland species when in fact the bulk of the population was found on the lowland and had has been wiped out by SILAGE! Sadly this same process is now happening on Orkney where the largest population is found on farmland. Have you ever heard the Curlew when their young are being cut to pieces by the mower!! It is the worst sound in the British countryside.

    1. Lived over seventy years in lowlands never seen a Curlew only by going to special wader places on coast.
      Cut silage fifty years never seen or heard a Curlew so some confusion there.
      Ironically when visiting Peak District they are there in the uplands but like Lapwings being severely restricted by Cows and Ravens.

      1. Anything chopped by the mower in a silage field ends up in the clamp of silage perfectly preserved as the airtight acid conditions preserve it perfectly.
        Can tell you two disbelievers that in probably 50,000 tons of silage fed have seen most things but not one wild bird.
        That is local scientific knowledge,what do those two disbelievers need evidence.
        There is by the way evidence in South Africa of some type of Eagle doing better in farmed area than in its natural habitat,how about that.

        1. I’ve seen plenty of chopped up pheasants in the swath over the years Dennis, and quite a few leverets for that matter. Although I’ve never seen a curlew chick in the swath it’s hard to believe that curlew chicks don’t get killed in mowing fields. Second cut taken late June / early July coincides with the peak breeding time.

          1. In simple ecological terms, the lowlands are more productive and therefore more attractive habitats. The uplands are less productive and hosted the margins of the populations.
            The Curlew pastures were ploughed up and then sown with intensively managed silage grasses. The Silage crop is too vigorous, dense and intensively managed for the farmland birds (and the inverts they depend on)… very few even attempt to breed in these fields before the early cut would see them off.

    2. Thanks John.
      ‘As for Yorke….’ I was wondering if you fancied publishing a book of my 102 Letters to The Times on understanding complex matters of the countryside?
      Perhaps that’s the sound of you slicing up my offer…
      We will get there, together in a peace accord, not a battle won.
      best, Rob

      ps I would be delighted if you, or anyone else interested, could make one of my walk’n’talks to add colour in the drab Black Mountains 28 Feb and 4 March via Crickhowell Walking Festival http://www.crickhowellfestival.com/

  12. Of course ‘local knowledge’ (or anecdotal knowledge) has a value – I am not sure that anyone has ever said it doesn’t. Scientific developments often spring from anecdotal reports that are subsequently investigated in a more scientific way. The problem arises when anecdotal knowledge is given equal weight to scientific evidence in any decision making process. Without a rigorous scientific approach to the investigation it is very easy to be led to false conclusions, particularly to conclusions that support one’s position. This is not just a problem affecting the management of the uplands – there is pressure for anecdotal evidence to be given undue weight in all sorts of areas including, for example, in the allocation of health funding.
    I was also struck by the fact that the report indicates that the project was based “on a shared aspiration to establish and maintain ‘balanced’ and ‘healthy’ populations of all wild birds in Scotland, and their predators”. This seems quite disingenuous to me when clearly the aim of grouse estate managers is to establish grouse populations that are way above ‘natural’ density levels and to eliminate predators completely from the more – not much evidence of an aspiration for balance there! As for ‘healthy’ we have read here about how these high densities exacerbate the spread of various parasitic diseases amongst the grouse and, potentially, from them to other species. The report’s authors may have decided not to include the red grouse within their study because it is too controversial, but it is hardly irrelevant to the discussion!

    1. “…to eliminate predators completely from the more…”
      Of course, that should read “…to eliminate predators completely from the moor” 🙂

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