Before launching the current, third, e-petition on driven grouse shooting I went to talk to the RSPB about whether there might be a form of words, not using the ‘ban’ word perhaps, or at least not exclusively, that would enable them to support an e-petition on this subject. But I was told there wasn’t. That was when I went off to LACS and talked to them, and their support has been super. Thank you LACS!
In his kind reply, Prof Ormerod (I’m going to call him Steve from now on, I know him well enough!) said that RSPB Council had considered this matter in about February 2013 to establish their line. It might just be time to think again?
RSPB has hinted, several times, that the world might get fed up with driven grouse shooting unless there is some change for the better, but we haven’t seen any such change, have we? Let’s just pick out a few things:
- Since then, the ‘British grouse industry’ has launched a series of attacks on the RSPB – that’s hardly indicative of progress is it?
- Last year five male Hen Harriers ‘disappeared’ under very suspicious circumstances including one from the RSPB’s own Geltsdale nature reserve – that’s hardly progress is it?
- The RSPB’s complaint to the EU over grouse moor management from Walshaw Moor to the ends of the earth is not yet resolved (although rumours are that there might be some progress on that) – but as yet there is no progress on the ground at all.
- The evidence for harm to the environment and society from grouse moor management has grown (eg the EMBER study) – so the evidence base is stronger.
- The Committee on Climate Change has criticised grouse moor management on environmental grounds – further strengthening the evidence base.
- The government published a plan for grouse moor managers and called it a Hen Harrier Plan (and the RSPB were weak enough to welcome it despite it not giving them, or Hen Harriers, anything useful) – that is definitely not progress.
- But the support for a ban on driven grouse shooting has grown from 22,000 signatures in nearly a year, to c34,000 signatures in six months to 31,000+ signatures in far less than six weeks – now that is progress and the RSPB is not part of it.
Let’s just do a few thought experiments;
What if Hen Harriers disappear from nests again this summer? What is the RSPB going to do? Express its disappointment but stick with the government and the grouse industry and hope that things will eventually get better?
What if evidence emerges of killing of, or attempts to kill, Hen Harriers on grouse moors this season? What will be the RSPB response?
What if the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting gets another 30,000 signatures in the next five months and reaches 60,000 signatures? Will the RSPB ignore all those voices? Take a look at the map of signatures – these are your members by the look of the map – will you continue to give the discredited grouse shooting industry, who fund attacks on the RSPB remember, one last chance, and another, and another?
What if, though this seems unlikely to me, we actually achieved 100,000 signatures this time around without any RSPB support? Will the RSPB brief against a ban on driven grouse shooting in any debate in parliament? Really? How many members would that cost you?
I’m sometimes told by RSPB staff that the RSPB has traction with the minister Rory Stewart although it is rather difficult to see what this influence is from the outside. Are you sure you aren’t being played for suckers? I asked, in a chance meeting at The Lodge last week, what the best thing was that Rory Stewart had done – and there was a long pause before the answer came ‘He has come out in favour of the EU’. Well so have I! And I have the same number of votes as the minister on that issue. We have seen nothing from Rory Stewart on lead ammunition and nothing from him on the upland environment that justifies hanging on to any hope that he is going to do anything useful at all. Of course, you may, and should, know better than I, but a lot of other folk think you are betting on a rank outsider here.
I guess the rest of the world is wondering whether the RSPB has a line in the sand or whether it is having sand kicked in its face.
So, Steve, I bet there is a Conservation Committee meeting in June, and a Council meeting in July, isn’t there? There is just enough time for the RSPB to look at its position and decide to be a bit more dynamic on these issues; we would welcome RSPB support for a debate on the future of driven grouse shooting. How about it?