A comment from a regular

This comment was posted earlier today on this blog by ‘jbc’.

It’s so well written that it deserves a wider airing. Thank you all for your comments – they help make this blog what it is – whatever it is!


I don’t work for an NGO now and have never worked for RSPB – I have worked for quite a lot of 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.

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22 Replies to “A comment from a regular”

  1. I find it incredibly exasperating that the RSPB will not commit to supporting the petition's actions to encourage a debate on DGS issues ......

    1. Some regional RSPB groups have re-tweeted Mark's Ban Driven Grouse Shooting petition in recent days. Hope this is a good sign for future change in RSPB's stance, but won't hold my breath!

  2. There's now so much overwhelming evidence that the diabolical pastime of DGS has no place in a civilised society and that negotiation is futile, that it begs the question why are RSPB still digging their heels in. Could it be fear of losing face. Being told we told you so. Surely not. That would be scandalous. I wish they would offer a credible argument though, just so we could rule out stubbornness.

    1. Yes I believe that it is, in part, a case of not wishing to lose face, a sort of 'corporate ego', that has to lead not follow and this dog is not going to respond to the wag of a tail. My prediction - that the RSPB will never join up to the DGS petition approach. The most we can expect is for them to come up with a variation of their own invention in the hope that we will move over, en masse, to their approach.
      Unfortunately the RSPB and NT are such large businesses, financially dependent upon their large membership that they fear to move in any direction and upset their funding base. We have to accept that having such a broad base membership sees our views at the very edge or beyond the edge of the normal distribution curve of membership. The RSPB will be preoccupied with the likely impact of making a move, on this topic, on the membership - do they try and appeal to us and regain some members, and how many will they lose at the other end of the curve in doing so. Sad to say it all becomes a political issue for them and compromises their conservation objectives.

      1. 'We have to accept that having such a broad base membership sees our views at the very edge or beyond the edge of the normal distribution curve of membership.'
        Then let the members decide.
        After being fully informed on the issues.
        I really hate any form of RSPB bashing and hope this isn't perceived as such but the other day it occurred to me that the position of the RSPB seems to be highly undemocratic and it feels like there is a almost colonial psychology 'We know best for you'.
        Letters to me from Martin Harper still claim that grouse moors are a good thing.
        'You and others would like us to go further but our tone/style of campaigning on this issue is designed to get the best results for hen harriers, other birds of prey and all wildlife in the hills.'
        In that same e-mail he wrote 'That's why we continue to call for licensing as part of a wider package of reform of a largely unregulated industry.'
        But i for one don't hear this 'call' more like a whisper heard once a year.
        Actually i had pretty high regard for Martin harper before that e-mail.
        He hints of a plan B but when is it going to happen. The Wildlife Act is 62 years old are we going to wait for its centennial until something changes. Well if so i won't be around.
        RSPB numbers are the highest ever so that is something to consider.

        1. I have been having a ridiculous e-mail exchange with Andrew Gilruth the GWCT spin doctor.
          His response to the Peak malpractice incident is pathetic but one thing he mentioned was interesting, for different reasons.
          He pointed out page 13 of this report of Langholm Moor Demonstration
          Project Seven Year Review – December 2014
          which states
          'It has not yet proved possible to restore Langholm to a productive grouse moor with the available policy and management tools.'
          'It is anticipated that there will be a need to trial further adaptive management options (in addition to the existing successful diversionary feeding of harrier nests) to benefit both raptor conservation and grouse management and achieve
          the target for grouse shot.'
          In other words an open door for either culling or brood persecution. I am sure there many other such statements in that report of which the RSPB is a member and has technically signed off on.

          And yet Stuart Howsden on the RSPB website made very positive statements about the above report and are what i would expect from a conservation body.

          My point is that doesn't this show yet again that the RSPB is hopelessly out of its depth when negotiating with organizations which are not willing to give an inch in trying to stop raptor persecution (legally or illegally).
          If they continue with these partnerships i can see only one conclusion, brood persecution (brood meddling).

          I have accused the grouse lobby of playing the waiting game because it suits their purpose i.e. business as usual but i wonder if the RSPB is playing the same game.
          Frankly it is all very confusing.

          Mark is right 'the only solution isn't it amazing' is ban driven grouse shooting.

  3. To me the best way to start thinking about the legal issues would be stop think about how such a law might be drafted.

    Here was Casper's initial stab from a previous blog post. It's based on the Hunting Act - a law which can be and is broken openly and with complete impunity...

    Note from Mark: Giles, you can't just cut and paste other people's comments to fill up space. Those comments are still there, and I assume that people have read them.

    Do you comment on other people's blogs? Don't they need more of your attention for a while?

    1. The hunting act could be made to work very easily. All packs of hounds involved in a hunt must wear muzzles. That is all it would take to draw a bright line between those good faith trail hunters, pack runners, and flushers-out from the people intending to break the law and have an animal savagely torn apart. Sadly when the act was drawn up, everyone was too reasonable to consider just how many bad faith actors there are. A common flaw in progressives is the desire to be reasonable and assume good faith. We need to start matching our opponents in flagrant bastardry, at least a little bit.

      1. Muzzles aren't practical when sending dogs through dense undergrowth and don't prevent chasing.

  4. Well said 'jbc' you have expressed my sentiments exactly. I am, and will remain a committed member, I support so much of the work they do which is vital for nature conservation in the UK and beyond. But reading the DEFRA reply to Mark's petition I cannot see how the RSPB can continue to support the statis quo. Now, right now, is the time to act.

    1. I hear what is said and can see all sides but ex-members might like to be able to consider rejoining, but they need a reason and this is just the opposite, it's a serious obstacle for return.

      Support will be channeled elsewhere as clearly they [RSPB] must be satisfied with their 'standing' in the conservation movement? This issue is rapidly escalating and becoming a high profile issue and they've missed the boat?

      Large NGOs have often been accused of being quasi quangoes - so of course they'll support DEFRA, how would/could they not? Let's not forget that Govt. need to make sure charities don't rock the boat and campaign?

      1. 'and they've missed the boat?'
        Yes i totally agree there. They are acting very similarly to a political part but even government is more flexible.
        They just can't seem to see that their policy is failing badly and hint at Plan B but with no promise of when if will start.

  5. jbc and Richard you are right but I fear it may take another disastrous breeding season for harriers with birds disappearing or killed to get them finally off the fence. By which time they will have lost some of us for good.

  6. RSPB Council response needs to be robust, determined & effective in support of @MarkAvery Petition

  7. I was surprised to hear the news this week that RSPB membership has increased. I suppose all that money spent on marketing worked after all.

  8. 'jbc' expresses my concerns exactly, and much more eloquently than I could. I am a long-standing RSPB member and intend to remain so; but having recently retired I find myself in possession of a sum of money larger than I ever thought possible and have been considering becoming a life member with a substantial donation - but I haven't done so, and am not at all sure I will. Why is that, I wonder? Its because while I enjoy and appreciate the facilities the RSPB provide on the ground I remain unconvinced by the commitment of the organisation's upper echelons, illustrated not only by their pussy-footing approach to driven grouse shooting but a lack of backbone in general. Only yesterday they saw fit to issue 'guidlines' to local members' groups regarding how they should respond in public to the annual bird slaughter in Malta and Chris Packham's outright condemnation of it. We get more than enough equivocation and double-speak from our politicians; we don't need it from single-issue organisations like the RSPB.

  9. Mark, I read both your contributor's entry and these comments after I had put something out on my own Blog (http://www.birdingodyssey.blogspot.com/
    "RSPB.......wherefore art thou"? ) My comments might usefully have added to those of the people above, who may or may not now choose to read my Blog entry.
    I dislike taking the RSPB to task after having so many years in their employ, but they really do need to take stock. Their influence generally may be waning, but they are also failing to convince their own too ! john.

  10. I have never looked into the democratic credentials and constitution of the RSPB of whom I have been a member and committed supporter for over 40 years. Is there scope to table a motion at the next AGM calling upon the council to support Mark's petition. Give the members a vote!

  11. I don't want to indulge in RSPB bashing either but, as a long standing member, I do sometimes wonder why we are never asked for our views before policy is formulated. I' m sure that any credibility the RSPB has is based on the size of their membership and yet we are told rather than asked. Their position on grouse shooting is a good example of this.

  12. Doubtless the RSPB currently has well over a million members (myself being one of them.) I'm willing to bet that a quite a high percentage of these people have no idea of the plight of our hen harriers but would doubtless jump at the opportunity to sign Mark's petition if they had. How about the RSPB doing an article in their monthly magazine (which obviously goes out to every member) highlighting the dire predicament which our harriers are in and also the 'probable' reasons behind this situation? No need for the RSPB to take sides or advise anyone, just to present the facts to their members who then, once they have been made aware, can decide for themselves with regard to how they would like to react to the information. A link to Mark's blog could be provided in the article to offer additional information for anyone interested in finding out more.

    The RSPB do lots of sterling work and are to be commended for this but, I spend many hours every week on my local RSPB reserve and I get the distinct impression that they have 'taken their eye off the ball' a little and seem to be more driven towards making as much money as they can and in some cases seem to have forgotten what RSPB actually stands for.



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