Thank you Steve.


It was kind of the Chair of the RSPB Council, Prof Steve Ormerod to make a rapid, initial, response to my blog of yesterday (and it is clear that he has read your comments there too). In case you missed it as a comment (posted this morning) here it is in full.


14.06.11 mh Cardiff Univ Steve Ormerod 13Mark, I want to recognise the extent to which your current petition, your wider activities, and the comments of your contributors here do to highlight the depth of concern and anger that many feel around the management of the UK’s uplands. I’ll respond to the specifics of the request above in due course.

The need for reform in the way our hills are managed is a real and serious challenge to the land use practices that support the grouse-shooting industry. The RSPB’s approach has been to engage and seek that reform where intensive management for grouse shooting takes place. In that context, you and the readers of your blog should be in absolutely no doubt about the RSPB’s commitment to improving the environmental condition of the hills. As you know, my own research work takes me there often – and not just in Wales.

On Hen Harriers specifically, the RSPB wants and needs the Defra plan to drive real change, including the cessation of illegal killing of raptors and a more positive outcome for those harriers that settle on England’s uplands this year. For this plan is to work, everyone – including the grouse shooting community – must play their part to deliver its key objective: more hen harriers.

Best wishes,

Steve Ormerod


Thanks Steve. In the meantime – let’s all continue to promote the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting which passed 32,000 signatures this morning. Last time around it took six months, less a couple of days to get to this total (c26 weeks), this time it has taken five weeks and a day.  It is clear where the momentum is in this friendly disagreement between friends on how to improve the state of the uplands and secure a better future for Hen Harriers and other raptors.

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24 Replies to “Thank you Steve.”

  1. I know someone who has not renewed RSPB membership over this, and in a world of priorities stand up to be counted does actually work.
    Get off the fence and see if telling the story how it is, in "Birds" magazine (oh, natures home or something!) might get this petition signed by more people who care!
    The RSPB still has "..............Protection of Birds" in it's name.

    1. To my mind, not renewing one's RSPB membership, or simply not being a member, is counterproductive. The RSPB is outstanding, it's simply one of the best, if not the best, wildlife conservation charity globally. Remain a member, or join if you're not already a member. Examine the RSPB's position on the uplands with a critical eye, lobby for change, but do so with understanding and as a member. Continue to provide support because the RSPB has a huge amount to do, with hen harriers being one part of a vastly bigger challenge.

      1. Messi - you highlight a good point. Because the RSPB is a charity - it must act in the public interest; not its members.

        1. I don't think there's any conflict between members' and public interest when it comes to fighting illegal persecution of wildlife, ecological damage that increases flood risk and water treatment charges, and opposing propaganda and lies from vested interests.

  2. I assume you've already had the mealy mouthed response to this petition from DEFRA where it didn't address any of the concerns in the petition. Just a reference to look at all the lovely money it makes for our rich friends.

  3. Whilst I have every respect for Steve Ormerod as a scientist as a politician he's pretty hopeless. His response is just anodyne bollocks (Mark - feel free to substitute tosh).

    Does the RSPB share the "depth of concern and anger that many feel around the management of the UK’s uplands"? Steve carefully does not say so.

    "The RSPB’s approach has been to engage and seek that reform where intensive management for grouse shooting takes place." What metrics and success indicators does the RSPB use to gauge its success in this regard? Again, Steve carefully does not tell us.

    "On Hen Harriers specifically, the RSPB wants and needs the Defra plan to drive real change." Again what metrics and success indicators does the RSPB use to gauge success in this regard? Again, Steve carefully does not tell us.

    The upshot of this is that we, the members, have no real means of holding the RSPB to account. This is typical of the slippery, political approach that typifies major NGOs nowadays. Remember guys that we pay your salaries.

  4. the biggest flaw in this is the assumption that the people at the grassroots actually read or give a damn what BASC, the Moorland Ass or GWCT say or do, they don't! for all the words and proof that harriers don't predate Grouse chicks if diversionary feeding takes place and even though the RSPB has agreed with the DEFRA plan we have evidence of a keeper going out trying to lure in Harriers to shoot. we now know what happened to the five disappearing Males in Bowland last year! Andrew Gilruth and Amanda Adamson have no control over what happens on individual estates, for all the hot air they spout it is a pointless exercise talking with them, these gamekeepers are sticking two fingers up at these clowns just as much as they are to the rest of us

    1. I agree with you Merlin but for one minor point. Some years ago A gamekeeper I liked and trusted spoke at a raptor meeting. (No Not Lyndsey) He said that in thirty years of keepering he had yet to meet a keeper who persecuted without being instructed to. So yes the keepers are criminals but their bosses are just as guilty, if not more so for commissioning the crime. So it is both keepers and owners/agents who are giving us the finger.
      Gilruth and Anderson on the other hand are apologists for this criminality.
      Last time I saw that "keeper" he was running a fish and chip shop!

    2. The 5 males that disappeared last year....down to natural causes. And amazingly the Countryside Alliance "saw them leave the nest..."

  5. Sorry Prof Steve.... see the video below(and this years dead kites falcons and buzzards) for evidence of the effectivenes of the DERFA plan and the sincerity of the people who are pretending to work with you.
    The crux of the the plan and every previous initiative that has gone before... over the decades... has been that the killing would stop. It never has. They are just spinning you along until its time to wheel out the next meally mouthed promise of good behaviour.

    We dont need a plan, we just need the killing to stop. As long as the "leaders" spend all their time wandering around in the long grass chewing the cud NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE. The change has to be significant, its time time to actually stand up and say we are right and tell the shooting community "your inability to conform to the law has demonstrated that your activity needs to be curtailled".

  6. I am pleased to read the response from Prof Steve Ormerod and I understand the engagement and hard work required in order to facilitate acceptable management of our uplands.

    However the recent concerns expressed by Mark and many others regarding the latest response from the Government (DEFRA) re Marks DGS petition, highlights the difficulty that many RSPB members and others have re: the present strategy of the RSPB to tackling the wildlife persecution and environmental damage that has been evidenced by research.

    In the present circumstances, a public call for support from the RSPB membership for Marks petition is not I think unreasonable.

    I look forward to the RSPB Councils full response and thoughts on this important matter. It is time that Mark gets the support that his work deserves.

  7. Just substitute Steve Ormerod for Neville Chamberlain I'm afraid. Aren't these guys aware that the shooting industry has declared all-out war on the RSPB? The Bothamites (joined by the simply hard of thinking) have been extremely active on FB for the last week or so, trolling RSPB, BAWC and your own page of course, Mark, with all the old, discredited rubbish, and many straightforward lies. There's simply no point in trying to appease these degenerates any more. Stuff the royal charter. Tell the truth and shame the devil!

    1. Have to agree the utter garbage going on the RSPB Scotland fb page some days is pretty despicable - RSPB seems reluctant to even hit back with pertinent facts e.g re actual wader populations on its reserves where they have supposedly crashed far less engage in full argument. Yes members sometimes have freedom to say things RSPB doesn't, so we need to wade in, but the RSPB's 'nicey, nicey let's pretend no one said anything unpleasant' stance is infuriating! Maybe coalition with other groups make's it easier to hit back with a few home truths, which is being left to this blog and RPS, plus a few others at the moment, but it needs to be done loudly and frequently by ALL the players in UK conservation. Coop you are right they are a bunch of degenerates - a wildlife centre mocked because they mistook a young cuckoo for a kestrel, its volunteers being referred to as f***wits, talk of using Syrian refugees for target practice down at the rifle range etc, etc. They are bringing their 'sport' into disrepute not anyone else. Loved the Chamberlain analogy!

      1. Cheers, Les. Pleased to give you a smile. It's sad that some just don't appear to learn from history. In the same vein, Phillip Merricks' kowtowing to the grouse industry could be likened to the Stalin/Hitler non-aggression pact. 😉

  8. Imagine if all the members of the RSPB, a million plus, were well informed about the current plight of the UK's raptors. Imagine 50% of those informed members signing the petition. That's all we would need to get the message across to all the official bodies who CAN put a stop to driven grouse shooting. Imagine.

  9. If the RSPB value their members' opinions and trust their judgement (as I'm sure they do), then why not have a double-page spread in their magazine - one page written by Mark, making the case for banning driven grouse shooting, with a call to sign the petition; one from the RSPB, making their case for supporting the DEFRA plan.
    The members can then decide for themselves which they support. I suspect we'd see a big increase in the number of signatures.

    1. James R - and a third for the Moorland Association maybe? Puts RSPB back on the moral high ground and there's nothing like giving idiots a big patch of sand, a shovel, and an audience.

      I don't work for an NGO now and have never worked for RSPB - I have worked for quite a lot for other NGOs though, and was for a time a trustee of one. I can understand why the call for a ban on driven grouse shooting doesn't look quite such a black and white issue when seen from a Trustee's (Council member's) point of view. However even with that understanding I think it's high time that RSPB changed direction on this.

      The petition has gained public momentum and profile in a way that the minor successes (?are there any successes?) of the RSPB's existing very low key non confrontational approach has manifestly failed to do. I'm all for seeking consensus and compromise - that's how business gets done - but the Grouse industry, through YFTB, their direct public utterances, and more than anything else the continued persecution of birds of prey, show beyond any doubt that the RSPB's low key approach has been consistently met with contempt not respect. It has manifestly failed. The danger for RSPB is that the continued lack of effective action is now damaging its credibility amongst its supporters as well as its enemies.

      Personally I can see a variety of legal issues with attempting to impose an outright ban, but I see no issues at all with putting major public pressure on the industry by campaigning for one. Mark's petition has put the issue on the agenda far more effectively than anything RSPB has done. Now maybe RSPB Council are uncomfortable about calling for a ban because they can also envisage some practical/legal issues; well OK then, RSPB, put forward your own plan B. Supporting the petition now is probably the best way to create the political momentum and credibility needed to deliver plan B later in any case. But either way the time for continued appeasement is long past.

      So as an RSPB member, I appeal to the Council to formally reconsider this issue, and to come up with a more effective policy than continuing to talk to people who ignore you and fund others to tell lies about you. I'm all for RSPB backing formally the petition, but if not that, then the Council had better come up with a convincing alternative. There's a thin line between appeasement and collaboration, and your members, and the birds, deserve something better than more of either.

  10. As an RSPB Member and intent on staying an RSPB Member, I concur with jbc's comments, well put. It is time for the RSPB to adopt a different approach. The Recovery Plan clearly carries no credence with those on the ground who can actually make it work, even if it is desirable that it should work. It's time to speak up RSPB (and NT) and seek radical change in the management of our uplands, as a matter of urgency.

  11. Just one massive problem no one seems to mention.
    I am assuming that the RSPB are telling the truth then membership is indeed growing,if it was falling due to their Hen Harrier tactics then just maybe they would take that into account.
    Forget about the RSPB doing anything to help any other H H campaigns,it will not happen ,they obviously believe in their own strategy.
    You might as well bang your head against a brick wall.
    Sorry if this sounds abusive to all those critics of RSPB but facts do not lie.
    Just maybe what Steve means to say but in much more political terms.

    1. Dennis - that is about the most damaging thing you could say about the RSPB, there, Dennis. You're suggesting that they might go for members instead of conservation?

      1. Mark,well that interpretation never honestly entered my head it just seemed the logical answer.I am sure you have noticed that since speaking with Mike Clarke that I feel rightly or wrongly that I understand their position much better than before.
        However if anyone including yourself now feels that that was intended to be damaging I can assure them differently BUT what other interpretation could there possibly be for there seemingly passive views on the H H problem while having the campaign to widen their objectives with nature and get more children in the society,they certainly seem happy with increasing the leadership.
        I certainly do not think that they go for members instead of conservation in general but doubt the loss of a very small number because of their ideas on H Hs cause them any distress.
        I am sure that they have many important conservation projects that lots of us have benefited from,for sure we have as only a few days ago two Cranes flew close to where we live and never expected to see that if we look back only a decade.


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