Guest blog by RSPB Chair of Council, Prof Steve Ormerod

14.06.11 mh Cardiff Univ Steve Ormerod 13

Mark,

As I promised, I’m responding to your questions and challenges set out in your earlier blog.

You regularly and accurately point out that we are all basically after the same thing: we a future for England’s moors and hills that is free from the illegal killing of birds of prey and where land management supports upland recovery with all the benefits that brings for wildlife and people. The RSPB shares the passion and anger at the illegal persecution of birds of prey and the state of affairs on some of our finest wildlife sites. And why wouldn’t we, given our struggle over decades to bring strong protection to species, habitats and special sites. These are my own very powerful feelings every time I hear another report of a shot red kite or hen harrier. I’ve been both impressed and encouraged to see the increasing role that Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC), raptor groups north and south of the Scottish border and the Raptor Persecution UK blog, have played in raising awareness of the issues associated with intensive management on some grouse moors. You, too, have played a significant role in framing debate and articulating widely-held concerns around the impact of the grouse shooting industry and how society should respond.

While the RSPB shares much of your analysis about the threats and the new data that gives clarity to those impacts, our approach to finding a lasting solution is clearly different. Your challenge to me in my role as Chair of RSPB Council was whether we would revisit our position, which currently advocates licensing of sporting estates, rather than a ban of driven grouse shooting.

Since you posted your blog the context has changed considerably. It is now public knowledge that the European Commission has begun legal action against the UK Government over its approach to implementing the Habitats Directive on Special Areas of Conservation in the English uplands (see here). The RSPB’s complaint that triggered this action was the result of years of patient behind the scenes work assembling the case, and pursuing this through diligent advocacy, much of which has been unseen. But it has the potential to alter fundamentally the context of the debate about the future of our English hills, and in time land use practise in other parts of the UK. These legal proceedings strike to the heart of the issue – land management practices that support an intensive industry that can often badly damage priority habitats and the species that rely on them. We are also mindful of the fact that bird of prey persecution occurs in areas that are not managed for driven grouse, so banning this would probably not end the persecution, whereas a tightening up of regulation, with associated penalties and withdrawal of the opportunity to shoot on all areas if breaches are found, will achieve what we want incrementally.

Licensing could help deliver these desired reforms. We believe there are real opportunities in Scotland for progressing this once the Scottish Governments review of sport shooting regulation has reported.  This could set the standard for other parts of the UK.

So, having carefully considered your suggestion, I don’t feel the time is right to review our plans. Of course, as with any policy area, we will periodically assess progress and any changes to the external situation and respond accordingly. We are committed to implementing our current strategy, which we believe has the potential to bring real change. We remain committed to working with progressive voices on all sides of the issue.

I started by acknowledging the role that you and your blog have played in framing the debate and while I don’t anticipate that our commitment to see our course of action through will provide the answer you want – I do expect you to recognise the effort, commitment and determination that staff and volunteers at all levels of the organisation are putting into this issue. Just think about many of the wildlife crime convictions which are now celebrated, or the success of achieving the vicarious liability sanctions in Scotland. The RSPB continues to involved right through those processes, so our staff deserve support, and I hope that critics are ready to commended our Council for its steadfast courage in the face of pernicious public criticism from the ‘grouse industry’ and its spokespeople. I am the first to admit that it is easy to be cynical. On the ground evidence for progress is hard to come by, not least with the continuing absence of hen harriers across much of northern England and parts of Scotland.

On hen harriers specifically, we are very clear that the Defra Hen Harrier Action Plan must lead to real change (see here), including the cessation of illegal killing and a more positive outcome for those harriers that settle on England’s moors and hills in this and future years. For this plan to build credibility it must clearly deliver positive progress. Everyone – including the grouse shooting community – must play their part to deliver its key objective: more hen harriers.

We believe fundamentally that grouse shooting practices need to change and we are determined to use the European Commission process and DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan to test the industry’s willingness to tackle bad practice. But, where positive steps are taken, and change occurs, we will welcome them. That will help drive reform and isolate those who behave as if they are not subject to standards set by Parliament.

I can’t stress enough how important this year’s breeding season has become. On 6-7 August we will be supporting BAWC’s third Hen Harrier Day, including on three of our reserves. I hope that we can take that opportunity to reflect on a season of success and one that points to a more positive future for our most persecuted bird.

 

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37 Replies to “Guest blog by RSPB Chair of Council, Prof Steve Ormerod”

  1. Thank you for explaining the RSPB's stance with respect to the uplands and raptor persecution. Personally, I have never considered that the RSPB has merited some of the harsher criticisms laid against it by people who think you are not doing enough to save raptors: I recognise that at all levels the organisation is working hard to address a pernicious and intractable problem and I don't believe that it is 'pulling its punches' in order to avoid offending this or that interested party.
    Having said that I do think that there are questions to be raised over RSPB policy and friendly criticism should not be seen as an attack. With regards to the Defra action plan I am not clear what the RSPB feels it gets out of it. It includes several 'pillars' around actions that are or should be already happening but includes the very controversial brood management pillar. We know that hen harriers are perfectly able to rear their own broods successfully if they are not shot at or poisoned so this measure seems to me to be a major concession to the shooting industry that sets a precedent for accepting the notion that there can be 'too many hen harriers' on a moor. Apart from more widespread diversionary feeding I can't see that the grouse shooting side has made any significant concession and it is far from clear that their representatives have it in their gift to stop the persecution. So I am unclear what the RSPB has gained whilst the Moorland Association et al have gained brownie points with the government for their 'commitment' to solving the problem... I would be interested to hear your views on this.

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  2. Natural England recently co-funded research which found clear evidence red kites are dying of lead poisoning. Natural England now tells me they have no idea how much lead is being deposited on the Dark Peak SSSI, and are doing nothing to find out, or find out what damage it is doing. The illegal killing of raptors is on the rise. Snares are still legal. Our conservation agencies and the BBC offer propaganda and euphemisms to paint the killing industry in a favourable light ~ when the story surfaced in March about a truck load of dead hares in the middle of the Cairngorms national park we heard about "sustainable harvest" and "managed culls" from SNH and the park authority although no one could tell us how many hares were being killed, what the population of hares was like, or whether anyone in authority wanted to know. Professor Ormerod himself here hints at the negative effects of the burning, although without mentioning those incidents when the burning gets out of control, as when two years ago Fort Willliam almost went on fire, because it is being done in dry weather and everyone knows no one will be held accountable.

    I don't expect the RSPB to change its position overnight. I do think the RSPB need to see some positive results of its strategy pretty soon, or join us in calling for an end to this depravity. At least RSPB might counter some of the industry's propaganda by agreeing that an end to driven grouse shooting and all that goes with it would not actually harm our bird life, our wildlife, our uplands or our sense of ourselves and our nation.

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  3. I agree that this years breeding season is important. I think when the figures are released for the success (or total lack of success) of the breeding of the hen harrier this year have been revealed, we can ask the question again of our representatives in the RSPB. The appeal from North Yorkshire police about the 8 red kites shot or poisoned in 2 months is another reminder of how things are, and why so many of us think that the RSPB adding it's support to proposals by representatives of criminals is not how the organisation started, and it has lost it's way.

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  4. Excellent response, Steve. I remain to be convinced that the RSPB is serious about licensing as a key part of the mix - you're so quiet about it - where's the public advocacy? That said, your work behind the scenes to secure EC action against the UK government illustrates the enormous value of quiet, determined, evidence-based advocacy by an organisation that law and policy makers clearly trust. This EC action has the potential to fundamentally change the context. So well done to the RSPB. But without Mark's concerted, very public campaigning, this issue simply would not have the public profile it now has, and public support is needed to win the hearts and minds of English politicians and Eurocrats.

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    1. Totally agree fine to try and work with other parties for resolution as long as it doesn't entail the relevant issues being kept out of the public arena. If grouse moor owners don't like the public knowing about the negative effects of muirburn on terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, increase in water treatment charges or exacerbation of flooding then that's their problem. I hope the RSPB doesn't think it has to or is entitled to sweep this under the carpet to keep the shooting fraternity happy to facilitate negotiations. That would be immoral and tactically weak. I have had concerns about this for a long time, as is also the case about saying how pheasant shooting can be a conservation boon without doing a proper assessment of its ecological footprint.

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      1. Les - I agree that as much detail should be in the public domain as possible. It's fairly astonishing that NE is able to withhold details of its case against the Walshaw Moor owners, for example, and we should all lobby NE hard to release all relevant information. The RSPB has included a reasonably meaty synopsis of the case it made to the EC, initially regarding Walshaw then its expanded case about grouse moor management - this information is on its casework web pages. There was a long period of relative silence between the RSPB presenting and supplementing its case to the EC, and the recent announcement of potential infraction proceedings - but I suppose what more could the RSPB say other than we've submitted our complaint to the EC and due process is now being followed? I am REALLY disappointed that the RSPB continues to ignore calls for it to set out publicly how a licensing scheme will work and on what timescale it thinks it should be introduced. I can only assume that the RSPB is pushing for such a licensing scheme forcefully behind the scenes, but I think I'd be wrong - I don't think they're doing much at all to push for licensing. Regarding pheasant impacts, having watched the very severe damage to ant hills and associated plant communities at various chalk grassland sites in Wessex, I thoroughly agree that the RSPB's stance on pheasant shoot management is half-baked, and so too the Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, Plantlife, BugLife etc etc.

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  5. Not good news from Langholm. Looks like a fox is the guilty party.

    'Satellite tag news

    Hattie and Grainne are safe and well on the moor, sad news about Cyan

    Transmissions for Cyan ceased on 29th February with his last known location being an area of upland farmland to the NE of Lockerbie in Dumfries-shire. RSPB Scotland Investigations staff, in liaison with Police Scotland and Natural England made a thorough search of the area in the days following his disappearance. Although neither Cyan’s body nor the satellite transmitter were recovered, part of the skull and a significant number of feathers from an immature hen harrier were found, along with considerable signs of fox activity. This evidence strongly suggests that Cyan was predated by a fox, most likely while roosting overnight in a patch of rushes. Cyan was being satellite-tracked as part of an on-going Natural England research using a publically funded transmitter, in liaison with the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project.'

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    1. Why on earth is it not good news that a fox ate the bird. Surely it is good news that the bird was not poisoned, trapped or shot?? What do expect foxes to eat - Winalot from Sainsburys?

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  6. A clear response from Prof. Ormerod and some excellent replies with which I mostly agree. I am a keen advocate for HH Day and for the RSPB and it's great that they are hosting three of the events this year. I have concerns about the viability of the DEFRA HHAP and would like to see much clearer objectives, numerically and temporally. It is essential that we all work together and a major objective I would like to see is the 100,000 petition votes and a proper parliamentary debate rather than the ridiculous and insulting written response from DEFRA.

    I don't agree with Alex that RSPB has lost it's way. We are still all on the same road moving towards a solution. Perhaps the RSPB could move a bit faster and keep in step and not stop and turn over every stone and look under every bush.

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    1. Richard, I'm sure you, me and the RSPB are on the same side here. I would however contrast the excellent work that the RSPB does in the rest of it's work, a typical example being how it has not backed down over burning, and stating that it is happy over the Hen Harrier action plan. It just does not make any kind of sense, and I feel that the RSPB is letting us down in this one instance.

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  7. Very well put Steve, but I'm afraid I'm not convinced. Its a wider problem than just HH and Grouse: How is it that the conservation lobby as a whole is carrying on in its relations with Government as if nothing had happened, through the abuse, inaction cuts and most of all the headline claim that that looking after the environment is damaging the economy ?

    I commented previously on another NGO CEO welcoming the 25 year plan for biodiversity - which any student of Government can see is simply a ploy to substitute talking for action (and, especially, spending money).

    I do agree that RSPB's infraction proceedings in the EU are a very clear exception to this and I hope real evidence that at last there may be some move from the 'steady as you go' approach which has seen a drastic decline in conservation influence since 2010. However, the Hen harrier plan looks like exactly the opposite - surely RSPB should have laid down some clear conditions for joining in ? I fear they didn't because the grouse shooters, thinking they have the whip hand, wouldn't agree.

    However, all is not lost - as Steve points out, the unavoidable proof of the pudding is in the Hen harrier numbers. My feeling is that the shooting lobby have gone into this quite cynically and that nothing will change - especially as it means someone breaking ranks and allowing HH to breed - and that will probably take more than one owner in any particular area. In two or three years time RSPB may be left red faced (or more probably, blustering !) as the plan falls apart with HH successes still in single figures. Rory Stewart will be happy if he steers the issue to the next election without a blow up and the shooting lobby will be left high and dry - the political wind always changes and for grouse shooting to survive now, when they have allies in power, is the time to put their house in order. Little sign of that.

    For me 30 pairs of (successful) HH would be the threshold - only 10% of what there should be, yes, but requiring a complete sea change in attitudes. I'm not holding my breath. We shouldn't forget that stopping driven shooting and therefore removing the keepering from the moors would solve the problem overnight.

    Whilst I may not agree with RSPB's current position I'd like to make two points - strongly !

    First, RSPB species protection on the ground is nothing short of heroic and over the years the single biggest factor in checking the wholesale slaughter of our raptors. trying to protect our raptors is incredibly gruelling, with the attackers having most of the cards on their side, the scale of the uplands, their ability to choose their own time and place to kill raptors. It is a miracle so many cases successfully come to court and a huge tribute to all involved.

    Second, if you are thinking of cancelling your subscription, why don't you use the money to join the Countryside Alliance or Moorland association? You might as well, as every resignation because RSPB is not going far enough will be seen as a triumph by the persecutors - sowing dissension and fragmentation in the enemy camp. Yes, there needs to be an argument, but not one that plays into the hands of the people at the heart of the problem.

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    1. Roderick - that's your 603rd comment here. Sorry I didn't note the 600th but 603 is a nice number too. I'm afraid there is no prize for being a dedicated commenter here - but if there were, you'd be a contender for it.

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  8. Crumbs ! That's scary - I must almost be up there with Giles. I am I about to be banned, do you think ?

    More seriously, its a great blog, Mark, and as well as boring people with my comments I've learnt a huge amount from both you and your many brilliant commenters - it really is an online community, and as I said earlier this week I'm amazed and delighted that whilst often impassioned the debate on this blog is almost always intelligent and polite, and respecting of differing opinions.

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  9. A very measured, reasonable and entirely sensible response, but I fear that the 'other side' are playing an entirely different game and all too often getting away with it. Some of this, the easy access that critics spouting their ill-informed anti-RSPB propaganda have to the print media and the biassed silence of the BBC "country programmes" for example, is outside of the RSPB's control. However, what often seems like excessive caution by the RSPB is not and for all Prof. Ormerod's sanguine words, one has the niggling feeling that a more robust, bullish response will never come until it's too late. Yet for all that Roderick's final point firmly hits the nail on the head and resigning from the RSPB will only be counterproductive although if enough people join the Countryside Alliance it might just do the trick!

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  10. More of the same then.
    I am afraid it is a lot of hot air and with this attitude i'm not going to see the end of raptor persecution on grouse moors in my lifetime or even within Martin Harper's and, if that photo is recent, Steve Ormerod's.
    The whole blog is based on a dream like future with no real path to get there. It reads almost like some religious pillar. 'Maybe in the afterlife but not now sorry, keep on praying'.
    I thought the RSPB was supposed to be science based.
    The only hope is when the RSPB wakes up from this pipe dream.
    When they write 'Just think about many of the wildlife crime convictions which are now celebrated, or the success of achieving the vicarious liability sanctions in Scotland'
    i know we are in trouble.
    Many wildlife convictions. Where?
    The RSPB's own paper (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2405296?) tells us that 55-74 females are killed each year, 11-15% of the total population of breeding females.
    That is not counting males and juveniles.
    Has there ever been a conviction for a Hen Harrier?
    And to use Scotland as a defence is really desperate. Yes Scotland is moving on one direction and England in the opposite. Is that good news?
    Even vicarious liability isn't working.

    Another desperate political-speak quote:
    'We are also mindful of the fact that bird of prey persecution occurs in areas that are not managed for driven grouse, so banning this would probably not end the persecution'
    No, but it would end 57% of poisoning crimes by habitat.
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/illegal-killing_tcm9-411686.pdf
    It would eliminate the killing of upland species: Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and upland Red Kites and Peregrines.
    That would be a real cause for celebration, an entering the gates of paradise type celebration.
    But yes more common species would still be persecuted including Peregrines.
    How is licensing any better.
    After a driven grouse moor ban, if the lowlands continues persecution the ban can be extended to game shooting. Solved.

    Langholm proved that grouse moor management and Hen Harriers can't co-exist without diversionary feeding'
    The grouse bags of 'intensive' grouse moors are not legally possible as the grouse lobby's attitude to Langholm has demonstrated.
    The elephant in the room is of course that now they will continue the killing again.
    Only once the organized crime is exposed can there be real progress.
    The RSPB is very adamant about how courageous they are. Yes in many ways they are but not when it comes to the grouse lobby. Certainly they take some stick but there is no doubt who is winning this battle. Why is diversionary feeing not in the so called Action Plan. That to me says it all. The grouse lobby have gained everything in this 'plan'. What did the RSPB get for us and Hen Harriers?
    The grouse lobby doesn't like diversionary feeing so RSPB does what they do want and supports an untested plan to make it legal to move Hen Harriers off grouse moors by brood meddling and hope that re-introduced Hen Harriers in the lowlands will not stray onto grouse moor killing grounds
    And my biggest doubt, how is this 'plan' going to help Golden Eagles, Red Kites, Peregrines, White-tailed Eagles, Buzzards and Mountain Hares etc.?
    Please explain RSPB! That isn't science it is religion.

    All this would be forgiven if i knew there was a time limited ultimatum from the RSPB that if things don't improve fast we will give up negotiations and push for an all out ban.
    Perhaps someone who understands mandarin speak can persuade me that
    'I can’t stress enough how important this year’s breeding season has become'
    is hinting at a plan B. But i'm afraid i am tired of clutching at straws.
    I would even understand if the RSPB was really pushing for hard for licensing because yes licensing would be good. But first of all if the RSPB is calling for this then it just isn't very loud and it certainly isn't having any effect. Are you sure your 1.2 million members know about this?
    I would also like it explained in detail how it could work. If it had to fulfil legal requirements it can't work. If people aren't being prosecuted now then how can it work.
    If it had a lower level of proof than a court as in the withdrawal of subsidies then that might.
    If licensing was introduced and it didn't work would that make the case for a ban less or more likely? Would it be a half victory like fox hunting?

    The RSPB is fantastic they are doing a lot and for that i'm thankful but it is time to realise that with raptor crime it just hasn't been doing enough and it isn't working.

    A ban is the simple and only sure solution which will work for all upland raptors in the here and now.

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  11. Steve, ever heard the expression "one club golfer"? The RSPB strategy could be left high and dry if Brexit occurs. What's the problem with riding two horses at once? An appeal direct to British voters via our RSPB membership to sign Mark's petition is what the raptor persecutors fear. Not a decades long process that sees them getting what they want in the short term from their criminal behaviour. These grouse shoot owners are akin to the banksters who will commit criminal behaviour for short term profit knowing they can play the system to avoid criminal sanctions. Savvy up mate, they are not gentlemen even though you may be.

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    1. If i spent half an hour thinking about it i'm sure i could come up with a list of 'one club golfer' analogies from this guest blog.
      The first one that has been bugging me all day is the Hen Harrier only golf club.
      The phrase 'I can’t stress enough how important this year’s breeding season has become' is worrying. If it is some kind of line in the sand, and i haven't a clue if it is, then wasn't the Red Kite found shot at Blubberhouses last week enough?
      https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/red-kite-shot-critically-injured-next-to-grouse-moor-in-north-yorkshire/
      Why this obsession only with Hen Harriers as in HHAP. What does that phrase actually mean. What happens if there are only one or two Hen Harriers in England?
      I had the same feeling of confusion when communicating with Martin Harper. There is too much mystery. Is there a plan B or not?

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  12. What if the question was banning muirburn rather than banning driven grouse shooting? What would the RSPB's position be then?

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  13. I have always thought that all those who want to see an end to the illegal persecution of our raptors and other wildlife, especially in the uplands as well as the gross desicration of of our upland habitats by burning, should not be side tracked by whether the RSPBs route is the right one or whether Mark Averys ban on deriven grouse shooting is the right one. They both have their role to play in trying to do away with this objectionable industry and both should be supported as much as possible. I would also like to add my congratulations to the RSPB on their successful complaint to the EU about this Englsh Governments refusal to implement the Habitats Directive in our uplands. Make no mistake this is a very great achievement by the RSPB, well done indeed.
    I know sometimes we get impatient when progress is very slow but unfortunately we have a Government with its many vested interests in shooting, which is very disinclined to up hold the law when it comes to killing birds of prey and destruction of upland habitats and which pays little more than lip service to conservation, so it is tough going. But one thing is certain both Mark Avery and the RSPB are doing a fantastic job.

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  14. I'm sure the 38k+ people who have signed Mark's petition will not be terribly impressed by the RSPB council's continued prevarication on the issue of raptor persecution in the uplands. Really, Mr Ormerod who are you trying to kid?! Yes, the RSPB tries to curtail persecution by investigation and prosecution but this is a drop in the ocean, when what is needed is effective publicity and public condemnation. Even the membership is not really fully informed on all the related issues. I find my Nature's Home magazine increasingly anodyne in its content, akin to soothing music in a war zone. Time for action not compromise.

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  15. Having had a recent one-to one chat with Rory Stewart to discuss the subject of targets re the Hen Harrier Action plan (or non-action plan!) it seems clear that it will partially be down to the RSPB to assess the progress. If their support is to continue then obviously improved Hen Harrier numbers will have to follow, so my expectation is that there will be some improvement. I also worry that the improvement may come from the driven grouse moors and the RSPB sites may still be targeted, so political points can be scored. Hopefully the RSPB has stepped up its security! I do agree that we should continue to support the RSPB and pressurise it from within. They should certainly agree to repeat their previous story in their magazine re the 3 sides of the debate,including reference to Mark's petition.

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  16. I certainly think that the vilification of RSPB policy because they are alleged to be afraid to confront either the criminals or their representatives in the shooting industry is entirely wrong. That does not however mean that one cannot criticise some of that policy or RSPB action or occasionally lack of it, none of us are perfect and constructive criticism is part of the learning process.
    As a raptor worker, for many years I know how hard RSPB and many individuals within the organisation have and are working on various aspects of the persecution problem. However there seems to be at least a partial failure to acknowledge, in public at least, how big that problem remains, particularly in the uplands. There are virtually no Peregrines nesting on grouse moors throughout northern England and haven’t been for nearly 20 years, away from larger forestry blocks the same is true of Goshawk, Short-eared Owls have declined significantly in most grouse moor areas although the data to link this to persecution is not good. Then of course there is the “ harrier problem” or rather the problem of a lack of harriers due to the almost total intolerance throughout the year, again on almost all grouse moors. Despite the recently agreed Harrier emergency plan satellite tagged birds continue to disappear without trace with monotonous regularity. In recent weeks we have had at least eight Red Kites killed here in Yorkshire, it gets worse not better. Yet we are still asked to believe in a largely co-operative approach to solving the persecution problem, I’d like to believe that, but 30+ years of experience makes me very cynical of the gentlemanly approach.
    To solve the problem long term we need a complete attitude change within grouse shooting and large parts of the rest of the shooting industry, recent attacks on RSPB by mainstream pro shooting groups and individuals suggests this is a long way off, prompting some to suggest RSPB should be more up front and combative in approach on at least some aspects of the problem. Their are times when the RSPB approach just seems too gentile and polite, there are surely times when it needs to display some bite.
    Many of us have of course signed Mark’s petition despite our representative organisation, NERF, like RSPB favouring the licensing route, one might ask why? Anger, frustration and a wish to see some real movement towards change now rather than in some ill-defined future or, perhaps we believe the whole edifice of driven grouse shooting is dependent on illegality, they certainly behave as if it is.
    Then we have the Harrier recovery plan, which we believe is not fit for purpose, it gives the “grouse lobby” far too much wriggle room without any real targets or any sanctions if the ill-defined targets are not met. This is an industry with a history of prevarication, denial and lack of action on these very issues, the plan essentially changes nothing, especially given governments reluctance to consider licensing or vicarious liability. Brood management is for many a step far too far. I’m sure the industry think if the scheme fails nothing will happen.
    Most licensing schemes work because they are favoured by the majority affected, that would not be the case with grouse or any other shooting, thus it would not work without really robust policing. Do RSPB really think that would happen, who would do it and how would it be funded? Many of us think that it is a necessary but a doomed to failure step on the way to a ban.
    What is clear is that we are all committed to making persecution a thing of the past with sometimes different priorities and approaches, we might be critical but it is I think meant in a spirit of co-operation. Nobody should be resigning from RSPB unless they want the Countryside Areliars or the MA, NGO et al to win, it is after all an issue that is far too important to contemplate failure.
    I’ve not touched on the habitat and environmental issues associated with shooting where RSPB science often leads the way but RSPB is not always in the forefront of the following arguments . RSPB is far too an important player to appear to be taking a back seat.

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  17. Dear Prof. Ormerod,

    "So, having carefully considered your suggestion, I don’t feel the time is right to review our plans."

    Might I ask if that is a unilateral decision? Would it not be more objective and above reproach to table the issue at the forthcoming Council/Committee meeting, and to discuss whether the RSPB position remains wholly appropriate. Ultimately it is the outcome that is important and, whilst my personal view is that the current DEFRA Action Plan is flawed, particularly with regard to brood management, if the Plan is genuinely considered the best way to achieve the aim then so be it. But I'd like to feel greater confidence that it is the RSPB collective that makes the decision, and not solely the Council Chair.

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  18. Mark
    If you were ever to hold a 'comment of the year' competition, i'd vote for Roderick Leslie, especially his final 2 points.
    Rob

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  19. I'd like to follow up my earlier comment about "one club golfers" to point out that I fully support the RSPB across the breadth of its species protection and conservation work. Disagreement on a single issue should not be cause for resignation. I've been a member for 42 years and one disagreement on the strategy to eliminate raptor persecution by the grouse shooter criminal element is not going to change that. All birders should support the RSPB and vilification is not and should not be on the agenda.

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  20. It is sometimes better to stand back from a situation and try to see it from the view of someone neutral, we lost many Raptors to gamekeepers in the past some became extinct. We have reintroduced these species yet they still continue to be persecuted, as has been mentioned 8 Red Kites have been killed in Yorkshire and the North East in the last few months. Nothing has changed, nothing will change, your still a poor man going to a rich man and asking him to behave, he’ll apologise to your face, tell you he’ll sort the problem then have a good laugh at your expense when you leave! What timescale are you looking at to get your licensing of estates introduced as I can't actually see anything on this? Another hundred years! Yes the society does some good work, you get paid well for doing this but on the matter of Raptor persecution you are failing miserably, if you were a football club there would be calls to sack the board

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  21. The RSPB is not a political campaign group, it's a curator of reserves. The expert opinions that they offer can be simply ignored by the barbarians without any consequences. The RSPB does great work but is never going to change the world using scientific evidence. The membership doesn't appear interested in conservation issues either so no pressure from there. If the RSPB were serious about opposing the criminals they would appoint a robust high profile leader prepared to make waves rather than a tame celebrity president. Other than Miranda Krestovnikoff, can anyone name an RSPB personality? No, it's a faceless inward-looking organisation and is no match for the shooting industry.

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      1. Phil, found this in two minute search of the RSPB website!

        President:
        Mrs Miranda Krestovnikoff
        Vice Presidents:
        Dr Elizabeth Andrews MBE DL
        Sir David Attenborough OM CH CVO CBE FRS
        Viscount Blakenham
        Mr Adrian Darby OBE
        Mr Ian Darling FRICS OBE
        Ms Kate Humble
        Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS
        The Earl of Lindsay
        Sir John Lister-Kaye Bt
        Professor Ian Newton OBE FRS FRSE
        Mr Bill Oddie OBE
        Mr Chris Packham
        Mr Julian Pettifer OBE
        Sir Graham Wynne CBE
        Baroness Young of Old Scone

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  22. Being passionately against wildlife crime but OK with responsible shooting/fishing/golf as a pastime and a rural business/source of employment I note the following.

    1. Prof Ormerod's statement "intensive industry that can often badly damage priority habitats and the species that rely on them" covers most agriculture and all monosilviculture. Do we see campaigns against these businesses? No.

    2. He is right to celebrate every conviction for raptor persecution and intentional unlawful killing of any other species and I celebrate these convictions too. If the law is enforced firmly enough these practices will be snuffed out. Grouse shooting and management need not involve the killing of protected species but can still carry on providing an income to rural areas under a sensible and well policed licensing system. I would also suggests that there should be a more even balance of land use for the more prime eastern belt grouse moor areas. Let us have more in the hands of RSPB and see if they can encourage and protect harriers and the like with their own management techniques.

    3. I applaude his more thoughtful and comprehensive suggestions for the long term protection of Hen Harriers. He may well already know that on the Isle of Coll, (8.500 ha approx) where grouse have not been seen in the last ten years, there are seven breeding pairs of Hen Harrier. They are eating small birds mostly and they hunt in that wonderfully relentless low glide which promotes such amazing flush and catch behaviour. However this fact makes it very clear that Hen Harriers do not need red grouse to thrive, rather they need peace and quiet to nest. ie low numbers of farmers, ramblers, birdwatchers, rspb wardens, cattle, sheep, diggers, tractors, elephants etc. That of course is why they like grouse moors to nest on. Lovely heather and in the breeding and feeding season an over abundance of small birds to feed on. Note that one mile away from Coll lies Tiree, an island of almost exactly the same size, famous for it's ground nesters and extensive avian fauna. The Coll harriers are over here a lot and not to get a sun tan. There are no grouse on Tiree either. Science means knowledge, well there's some knowledge for you all to consider.

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