Good news for wildlife – bad news for driven grouse shooting?

Drainage ditches on Walshaw Moor

Drainage ditches on Walshaw Moor

The news that the European Commission is starting infraction proceedings against the UK, presumably for lack of action in England, over upland management issues, revealed on Martin Harper’s blog today is very welcome.

It’s very welcome because it shows that the EU is a force for environmental good (but we knew that anyway) – although it moves very slowly.

It shows that the RSPB is a force for environmental good (but we knew that anyway) – although it moves very cautiously and timidly.

And it shows that there are real conservation and wider environmental concerns about driven grouse shooting – but then we knew that anyway.

And as well as ‘Well done!’ to the RSPB we should also say ‘Well done!’ to the Ban the Burn campaign based in the Calder Valley which is the constituency with the highest number of signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

If you really want to get into the Walshaw Moor story then there are 52 blogs on the subject (so far) ending (so far) with this one, or you could get a potted version (and much else besides) in Inglorious: conflict in the uplands.

Martin continues to talk up Defra’s grouse moor managers’ plan (aka, by some, a Hen Harrier Plan, as welcomed by the RSPB) which doesn’t seem to be a plan for Hen Harriers at all.  He also invites comments on his blog about the RSPB’s position. I’ve submitted one.

33333 2

One third of the way to 100,000 signatures – inside 6 weeks. 20 weeks to go!




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  1. Jim Clarke says:

    I posted a comment on Martin Harper's blog and it will be interesting to see if it published, or answered; if the petition reaches 100,000 signatures and a Parliamentary debate is held will RSPB be advising MPs to support a ban, or will they be advising MPs not to support a ban?

    • Mark says:

      Jim - I wish I had asked that now.

    • Anand Prasad says:

      It would be great if others made their views known. There are so few comments. Has everyone given up on the RSPB that much?

  2. Jim Clarke says:

    I think for many, many members this is the key question. My membership renewal certainly depends on the answer.

  3. Dennis Ames says:

    Well several critical comments there,maybe you will all get banned as when I was critical in response to his "I would like to hear your views" then he found the easiest thing to do was block me.What a wally.

  4. Messi says:

    This is outstanding news - well done to the RSPB for pursuing their formal complaint to the Commission against the UK government, and well done to Mark for keeping us all so well informed via this blog.

    A great illustration of why we should all remain RSPB members, or join, and lobby the organisation where we feel their policies or approach fall short. Birds would be in a far worse state without the RSPB.

  5. Jim Clarke says:

    There is a line between appeasement and collaboration, and establishing on which side of that line the RSPB are is the reason for my question. No trickery in it, just a straight up question. If the answer is appeasement then fair enough, grind your teeth, pull your hair out, whatever, it's very frustrating but there you go. Crossing the line to actively support grouse shooting is a different situation entirely. I'd really like to know where RSPB are positioning themselves and I think their membership deserve a clear, unambiguous answer.

  6. Jim Clarke says:

    Well the comment has been published, let's see if it gets answered.

    • Bob Philpott says:

      Jim, To be fair Martin Harper has explained the RSPB view on Licensing and 'the plan' several times on his public blog. He has also hosted alternative views of the subject on his blog. I can also recall items in Birds (Whoops), maybe not enough.

      The RSPB does have constraints on it that other commentators may not, Solicitors, Charter, Charity rules among others.

      I have signed Mark's petition but on balance have a personal view that licensing may ultimately be a more effective outcome. We still need this petition to get to 100,000 to ensure discussion. I would certainly agree that RSPB members should be given better information so that they can make their own mind up.

  7. Jim Clarke says:

    Bob, there are four possible courses of action the RSPB can take in the event of a Parliamentary debate;
    1) abstain from all involvement
    2) support a ban
    3) propose an alternative (e.g. licensing)
    4) oppose a ban.
    Option 1 surely isn't tenable.
    Option 3 isn't on the table, the RSPB aren't pushing for it in any visible way and, in any case, the grouse industry will neither offer or accept it. If option 3 is not achieved then, in practice, option 4 is being upheld.

    • Mark says:

      Jim - no, I think Option 3 would be what the RSPB would do. That is their agreed position even though you would hardly notice that it is. Remember that the RSPB were offered a golden opportunity, by John Armitage, to support an e-petition on licensing but failed to promote that to their membership. Indeed, if people remember, and if they don't then they can read about it in Inglorious, this blog was very active in promoting licensing too. But the RSPB stood by and did not promote that option.

      • Jim Clarke says:

        That's the issue Mark. If they don't actively push for an alternative (e.g. start there own e-petition rather than, as would be the eventuality, co-opting yours, or by making it a precondition for cooperation with shooting interests) then they are simply acting as a spoiler for the only serious attempt to get the situation sorted. So, over to you RSPB, if you want to see licensing as an alternative to a ban when are you going to do anything about it? Just more ineffectual whispering behind the scenes or perhaps you could allow your membership to have a say? What about a direct mailout to assess your members views? Do you know if your members support a) doing nothing, b) a push for licensing, c) a push for a ban?

  8. Jim Clarke says:

    PS. 100 Club Update

    27. Sheffield Hallam

  9. Andy Amphlett says:

    In an earlier Comment - - I said 'Commentators on this blog regularly express surprise and disappointment that RSPB do not themselves promote a ban on driven grouse shooting. I do not feel that they should be surprised, though they may well be justified in their disappointment'. I refer readers back to that post if interested in my reasons.

    By way of additional explanation I would add, or so it seems to me, that it is in RSPB's very DNA to work within the parameters set by the status quo. RSPB is not Revolutionary nor revolutionary in outlook. It looks at the prevailing situation and seeks to nudge, push or cajole it in a more desirable direction. Often such an approach works, but it may preclude consideration of more radical options.

    I like thought experiments. Imagine that a magic wand could be waved, and driven grouse shooting disappear tomorrow. But the catch would be that outcomes for land use, habitats, species and landscape would be uncertain. Would you wave that wand? Or would you say, no, let's not be so hasty, let's keep the status quo and re-double our efforts to ensure better outcomes for raptors and habitats etc. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that RSPB would not wave that wand.

    • Mark says:

      Andy - thank you. At the moment, on this issue, the RSPB is drowning not waving. It has an agreed position, no doubt promoted by staff and fully agreed by Council, that licensing of grouse shooting is their preferred option but nobody would notice that they have that position. It isn't being actively promoted to the public or the RSPB membership. The effect of that is certainly that the status quo hasn't changed and without a lot more effort by the RSPB then it won't. The Defra Hen Harrier 'plan' is a good example: the RSPB were in the room for all that time, none of the rest of us were, and came out with nothing, and then welcomed the 'plan'. In fact that whole process set the status quo backwards rather than maintained it.

      • Andy Amphlett says:

        I agree with your assessment; I was perhaps being too nuanced in my post. That RSPB welcomed the DEFRA 'plan', which is no more than a draft outline of a possible future plan, and one that includes placing a cap on numbers of hen harriers in parts of the English uplands, does set the status quo backwards.

        In this and a previous post, I was simply trying to tease out some of the reasons why RSPB does not support a ban on DGS.

    • Giles Bradshaw says:

      How about a magic wand where tougher regulations on land use made the future for raptors habitats &c more certain? So rather than a technical change to hiw grouse are driven/flushed we had a change that made a difference?

      • Anand Prasad says:

        I know i'm illiterate but i didn't understand a word of that or for that matter any of your posts. I can't mind read so please fill in the gaps for me. Thanks

        • Giles Bradshaw says:

          What I am suggesting is that the best way to combat intensive land use would be to regulate it rather than banning people from shooting grouse in one particular way. Let me know if that isn't clear enough for you.

          • Jim Clarke says:

            I look forward to seeing you start an e-petition in that regard then Giles.

  10. Tim says:

    Have the rank and file membership been made aware there is a petition?

    • Les Wallace says:

      I've certainly seen no sign of it. At the very least they could do this, they did the first time, but no excuse not to at least mention that a new petition is up and running again. There's a massive slice of upland Britain that could become good quality wildlife habitat without in any way compromising food security, rural or national economies in fact would create opportunities in green business development, principally eco tourism, and also flood alleviation plus reducing the soil erosion which increases need for dredging downstream, better fishing too. Just about every conservation related organisation there is with the possible exception of the Marine Conservation Society has a stake in a change from producing ludicrous over population of red grouse and red deer for shooting for fun. Even the red grouse itself has different habitat requirements old heather to nest in, new heather to feed on. So a mix of scrub, trees, bogs, beaver damned rivers and a greater selection of flowers than a heather monoculture and bumblebees, dragonflies, bats, hedgehogs, butterflies and moths, spiders (!!!), badgers, amphibians, a lot of bird species will benefit from the change as well as plants, terrestrial invertebrates and reptiles no longer incinerated by extensive muirburn. What have the Woodland and Bat Conservation Trusts to risk by pissing off either grouse moor owners or traditional deer stalking estates? Absolutely nothing. All the conservation organisations should be looking to the hills, licking their lips and rubbing their hands a lot of juicy new habitat we just have the hard sell of a more attractive and vibrant countryside and drier homes to foist on the public. Oh that's a difficult one! RSPB should be a, even the main player on this issue, but by no means the only one they all really need to be discussing this with their members. I'm trying to recall the Woodland Trust mentioning grouse moors, coming up with a complete blank. Not going to get a lot of trees with muirburn are we, so what is there to lose?

      • Marian says:

        Thanks, Les, excellent thoughts.

        The very fact that incineration of the moors inevitably means the terrible death of so many defenceless creatures is enough to put our group against it.

        Again, how could anyone think it is an ethical practice - or is it merely collateral damage?

        Good news that GB will be called to account for this - another reason why we need to stay in the EU.

  11. John Stone says:

    I would judge from the little cluster of red on the petition map around NE Beds and SW Cambs that a few individual members of RSPB HQ staff have signed the petition 😉

    Aren't there ways that the RSPB could make their membership aware of the petition without endorsing it? A soft reference to the work of their former conservation director - even a short interview or Q&A in Nature's Home (yuk!).

    Anyway, the work on the Habitat's Regulation does show the RSPB in a great light, fighting through legal avenues for damaging practices to be stopped. Well done to them, and let's not forget on June 23rd how important these particular Euro regulations are to us as an environmental backstop.

  12. Anand Prasad says:

    I thought the Walshaw Moor issue demonstrates the pecking order very nicely.
    Wish i had Ralph Underhill's skills

    1. EU (Possibly top of order?)
    2. Grouse moors owners (scared of no one except Mark Avery, RPUK and friends)
    3. RSPB (scared of grouse moor owners and conservative voters but not government)
    4. Government (scared of everyone except the public)
    5. Public (not scared of anyone but ignored by everyone)

  13. ProMoorlander says:

    I really struggle to understand what the long term intentions for the land use is if you remove driven grouse shooting, I'm sick of people referring to grouse moors as a rich mans playground- what about us? I am an average person living in an average house with a distinctly average salary and I absolutely love the moors that surround me, I love waking up in the morning hearing the call of grouse, bubbling black grouse, lapwings, curlews, ouzels and so on, by trying to ban this you will remove the very people who can produce these birds and special habitats! I don't want to wake up to a barren ground of rank habitat with no waders- like the moors in Wales! These uplands are rich with wildlife. Yes there are gamekeepers doing wrong...please tell me which industry doesn't have their bad sides but gamekeepers can deliver in terms of fauna and flora, work with them don't continually condemn the industry, a licensing system is surely better than an outright ban? I know so many young people who go beating on the moors, where do they spend that cash? In the local community!!! Without driven shooting he money will not come in and will not be spent during the difficult months! The banning of grouse shooting will be the final nails in the coffins for so many rural businesses.

    • Mark says:

      ProMoorlander - thank you for your comment. Welcome!

      All those species evolved in a world without gamekeepers didn't they?

  14. Gina says:

    My Dad is just the same over in Australia – his favourite fishing spots are an hour and a half drive from home and down a steep hillside, even through we live 15 minutes from the water.On thing that is different is our definitions of &#1e26;undersiz1d  fish – my relatives came over from Hong Kong a few months back and they were amazed at what my Dad was happy to throw back in the water, because he knew much bigger fish were out there.


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