What I said on Farming Today

Yesterday I took part in a discussion with Andrew Gilruth of GWCT for this morning’s BBC Farming Today programme. Our discussion followed nearly four minutes (3:42 I make it) of a positive piece about grouse moor management with the Chair of the Moorland Association and a  gamekeeper. There then followed a four minute discussion.

Of course the discussion was edited but I took the precaution of recording my side of it.  I can hear Andrew’s responses too (he was over a hundred miles away) but I won’t transcribe those here.

This is what I recorded and the bits of the interview used by Farming Today are in red:

‘That’s not a great argument is it. I’m vegetarian four days a week, not all the time, and you’d need an awful lot of grouse shooting to supply the country with free-range meat. It’s not the killing of wild birds that bothers me that much, but this is a sport. It would be more of a sport if the grouse had guns too but this is a sport where basically people pay a lot of money to shoot wild animals – that’s what it is.’

‘There are lots of different types of shooting in the UK. There’s wildfowling, pheasant shooting, partridge shooting. My e-petition is not to do with them. There are two types of grouse shooting, one of which is very intensive where the birds are given every possible advantage over other species on grouse moors and then from the Inglorious 12th on Friday the shooting season opens, and beaters will drive birds towards a line of guns, that’s why it’s called driven grouse shooting, and they’ll try to shoot them. There’s another type of grouse shooting called walked up shooting which is kind of what it sounds like – you go for a walk, maybe with a couple of dogs, and you shoot far fewer birds.  That doesn’t require the very highly intensive management that driven grouse shooting requires. So it’s one particular aspect of one particular bit of shooting which is, I think, the worst example we have in the UK. And that’s why it ought to cease.’ (that’s over a minute of me, half my time, and although this piece was introduced in the broadcast by the interviewer saying ‘He [Mark Avery] told me why he campaigns against driven grouse shooting’ she actually asked me to explain the terminology behind this subject first).

‘There’s an awful lot. I think there are two main bits. One is that the burning and drainage of the moors creates ecological problems for lots of people who have never seen a Red Grouse and are never going to go grouse shooting. That intensive management increases flood risk because water flows off the hills more quickly, it increases water bills because water companies have to treat the water coming off the hills more. It increases greenhouse gas emissions, it reduces aquatic life. So there are lots of side costs to the management which are bad and we all pick up the bill for that. The second area is you can’t really have driven grouse shooting unless you get rid of birds of prey. And birds of prey like Golden Eagles, Peregrines, Hen Harriers, Red Kites, Goshawks are fully protected by law but many of them are bumped off by grouse shooting interests. Not on all grouse moors but in large numbers and so there are large parts of the country where you can’t see a Hen Harrier, you can’t see a Golden Eagle and you hardly ever see a Peregrine Falcon even though the habitat is otherwise perfect – and these are often National Parks. So our National Parks are massive wildlife crime scenes.’ (That’s 34 seconds of me)

‘He’s wrong. You could read my book – there’s a whole book about this that you can sit down and read at your leisure. It’s got the references to all the papers. But you notice that Andrew cannot bring himself to admit that grouse shooting is the cause of wildlife crime which reduces the numbers of birds of prey. There ought to be 300 pairs of Hen Harriers nesting in the hills of England; this year there weren’t 300, there weren’t 100, there weren’t 30 there were 3 pairs – none of them on grouse moors.’

‘No, no – it’s not difficult at all. As Andrew knows full well, there’s a whole load of scientific papers that show where Hen Harriers disappear, what their survival rate and productivity is on grouse moors and on other areas. And we’ve known this for 20 years. In fact the Game Conservancy, in more enlightened times, was one of the organisations that admitted all this. So Andrew on national radio cannot bring himself to admit, that this so-called sport is the source of wildlife crime which wipes out protected birds over large parts of the country. Grouse shooting has lots of other problems but that’s a pretty big problem for a sport.’

‘Well again, although Andrew is going to duck it, there’s a whole load of science by geographers and people who study water movements in the uplands that show that the intensive burning of grouse moors, in outbursts of heavy rain the water flows off the hills far quicker. And that’s aided by the extra drainage ditches and tracks and things that are often put in to grouse moors. You ask the people in Hebden Bridge who, I think have been flooded three times in five years and who are protesting in their town square on Friday and Saturday about the fact that the grouse moors above where they live, they believe, are the reason why businesses and houses have been flooded to the cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. Their worries are not only backed up by their own experience but backed by the science as well.’ (and another 21 seconds).

‘It’s published already Andrew’

‘Andrew can’t accept the wildlife crime argument against his sport because that is quite difficult, he can’t accept that there is increased flood risk, increased water bills and increased greenhouse gas emissions because that’s quite difficult to swallow if you are practising a sport. The economics – if you take into account that increased flood risk, the increased water bills, the reduced wildlife in streams coming off grouse moors, so fewer fish I’d guess, the increased greenhouse gas emissions which we are supposed to be cutting down on. If you take all of that into account, that wipes out any notional benefit of grouse shooting. And let’s just remember, we the taxpayer are pouring tens of millions of pounds into subsidising grouse shooting through payments to landowners. So the economic argument is shot to pieces.’

‘I think it would be difficult. And we’ve got to this position after about 30 years of looking for the compromise, so to come along and say ‘Surely chaps there must be a compromise’ – we’ve been doing that for years. Grouse moor management has intensified and there are fewer Hen Harriers in our hills. So Andrew’s side of the argument haven’t given an inch, they’ve taken a mile. So, it would be a bit rich, I think, to suggest that I ought to compromise because all the faults of grouse shooting are getting worse. The grouse shooting industry is intransigent.’



So, there you go. We had equal time but the editing allotted half of my time to describing the subject – as I was asked to do – so Andrew was given much more time to make his substantive points.  And this followed a long piece which only quoted grouse shooting proponents. So, in eight minutes of coverage there was about one minute of challenge for driven grouse shooting. But thank you BBC for that one minute.

Let’s see how BBC Countryfile edits a similar discussion appearing on TV on Sunday evening. And you can hear the rematch live and unedited on the World at One today.  And there should be a Spectator podcast too.

You may well have been persuaded to sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting by listening to Farming Today. Maybe, reading this fully (albeit one-sided  because I only have rights over my own words) transcription of the information available to Farming Today you will be persuaded to add your name to 82,000 others who have asked for a ban on driven grouse shooting.


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59 Replies to “What I said on Farming Today”

  1. Was pleasantly surprised to hear you on R4 this morning. It did sound a little stilted and having now seen the edits I understand what they did. Still, good to get this growing topic an airing with the wider world. Will isten at 1pm, too, as its the break in the cricket if we get any.

  2. Thank you, Mark, for giving us the full version. When I heard Farming Today this morning it certainly sounded heavily edited, and I thought the way the programme was structured meant that you were shunted into a corner as a minor irritant. They only gave you any space at all because they didn’t dare completely ignore the campaign. But one thing puzzled me – Gilruth said something like that loads of scientists had rubbished the RSPB’s claim that intensive burning is bad for moorland ecology. What’s that about? Where does that come from?

    1. We should follow up the selective editing particularly where they conveniently sideline flooding – I can imagine the Hebden Bridge community being impressed with that?

      We should also perhaps try to examine the AG claim Hugh mentions, then get ready for mis-reporting or out of context excuses?

      Will ‘they’ review their descion and attend a debate at the Birdfair or elsewhere perhaps?

    2. I think there was one study which no one appears to be taking seriously so it seems that Gilruth has played one of his usual con-man tricks which the media never see through. He should his own illusionists show. The EU doesn’t seem to agree with him.
      This might be it (although my terrible memory thought it was Aberdeen Uni) and I can’t find where I saw a discussion about it.
      From Essex Uni

      Opposing it is this 5 year study which Mark writes about in Inglorious
      and Leeds Uni/a>

      Hope these links work.

  3. I heard that programme this morning. I agree that your answers to the presenters questions didn’t quite match what she asked. However, biased editing aside, if you carried on listening to Radio 4 the “Tweet of the Day” was Chris Packham giving a short talk about the Hen Harrier which is accompanied by the bird’s calls, or “tweets”. I surmise from this that the BBC don’t mind at all about him expressing his personal opinion about the fortunes of raptors and other wildlife in the British Isles – and that they have no intention of sacking him.

  4. I thought you did quite well considering the hamfisted (or should that be partisan?) editing. It must be really quite irritating for the Grouse Shooting Industry to have to now have to routinely defend it’s ‘sport’ in the media every time the Inglorious 12th rolls around.

    Plenty of signatures still rolling in on the epetition, it should comfortably reach 83k by elevenses…

  5. Well done Mark! I didn’t hear you on Farming Today this morning but I’ll tune in to the World at One. I used to have some respect for GWCT and the research they carry out, but not any more.

    Shocking,though sadly not surprising, news this morning about an eighth Golden Eagle disappearing in Monadhliath!

  6. Interesting to see that the rate of signing has shot up this morning! Almost 83K by 0930.
    Well done.

  7. Seems like you fell victim to concision as described by Chomsky in this short video
    Slightly off topic but the guys over at Medialens (http://www.medialens.org/) who make it their business to check up on BBC veracity and bias have refused to be interviewed by it unless they get final acceptance of any edit. Maybe a live broadcast will give a better chance of getting the ideas across although BBC reporters such as Kirsty Wark are masters of the interrupt designed to break up answers of those offering an alternative view to that accepted by ruling elites. At least this campaign has got to the stage where it can no longer be completely ignored by our inglorious state broadcaster

  8. That speaks for itself Mark….though, like Wendy, I was surprised and delighted that the BBC put Chris’s HH ‘tweet of the day’ immediately after.
    Last week Farming Today devoted the whole week to re-wilding but the weekday programmes were also very biased, this time against re-wilding with the ‘we don’t want wolves’ brigade firmly to the fore and a totally one-sided programme about white tailed eagles and their lamb killing habits.
    The Saturday edition however was a half hour live, and presumably unedited, debate with George Monbiot on the panel. He spoke eloquently and if you are interested in the concept of re-wilding, you can listen to him in particular. The debate is available for 24 days at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07m4d8n .

    At HHD in Edale, Tim Birch spoke passionately about his vision of a re-wilded Peak District. The first opportunity to re-wild this part of the Peak District NP, would be to persuade the National Trust not to put another shooting tenant on the moor from which it recently evicted the current tenant but to re-wild it. The tenant is being booted off following the ‘armed man and decoy hen harrier’ incident.
    It’s clear that the NT will need a lot of encouragement to take this step, so please read the background and then sign the local ‘Moorland Vision’ petition urging the NT to restore this moor for wildlife: http://nomoorshooting.blogspot.co.uk/ .
    Launched only a few days ago, 230 folk signed up at Edale and 700 have signed on line but the target is 5000….
    Thank you.

  9. If anyone wants to complain about the BBC Bias and painful editing in the program it is http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints
    Select make a complaint on the top right. That will load a very similar page which requires you to select “make a complaint” again then make sure you select the option which says you already read the what happens when I complain page (otherwise it will dump you out of the process). Make sure at the end of the process you select the option where you want a reply. Then it all goes off to the BBC Complaints Dept. in Northern Ireland, and you’ll get a depressing form letter ducking the issue within three weeks.

    1. I have used the BBC complaints process on numerous occasions. It seems specifically designed to be labyrinthine. When you get the first non reply from this process you can go on to a second stage where it is looked at by the BBC Trust before being rejected again.

  10. Yes i noticed this as well. I think Andrew Gilruith said that 12 eminent scientists had rubbished the RSPB claims that burning was detrimental to wildlife. I would appreciate a link to this paper or whatever it was.
    Why never any mention of plants when talking about biodiversity on heather moorland. I am convinced that intensive heather burning has a detrimental effect on the biodiversity of plants

  11. Well, we might actually on for the biggest day of signing yet. With 11 hours still to go, we already have over 1370 new signatures, the hourly rate is the highest I’ve ever noticed (230+ signatures per hour), making it by far the most popular petition – a more than three times higher signing rate then the next, the admirable ‘Give the hedgehog better legal protection in order to reverse its decline’ (last day to sign that one – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121264).

  12. Oh, indulge me; Sheffield Central has just nipped in front of Brighton, Pavilion to take the 9th highest spot. Just 3 signatures to go for a 300 Club slot, and the recent signing rate has just been amazing; 55 signatures in the last 4 and a bit days!

    Wales has joined slipped into the 200 Club too!

  13. Thanks for putting the full version of your words in the public domain. Must have taken a lot of work and quickly too, just as well you enjoy getting up early!

    83871 and 264 in the last, not too shabby… 85k by teatime?!

    1. Make that 83882 – 12 in the time it took to type the above comment. Average Central now at 129.

  14. We just passed yesterday’s entire total. It’s a biggy, but can we beat Sunday 7th August’s total (2598 signatures) today? That would be over 84,963. And, (maybe/maybe not) pushing our luck a wee bit further, 85,000 for the eve of the Inglorious (with 40 days still in hand) has a certain ring to it.

  15. It is appalling how biased the BBC has become over the years, I used to laugh at my American friends for having “news” channels (Like FOX) who only put one side of any argument out, after all we had the BBC who, sometimes to a fault, would give both sides air time properly, now we see partisan reporting of the worst kind. Or worse an organisation that will totally ignore one side if it does not suit their bosses to show it!

  16. 84K! That’s 1635 signatures so far today. I’m going to stick my neck out and hazard a guess that your minute on Radio 4 didn’t do any harm, Mark! Another 1000 today? An average of 105.5 signatures per hour will do it, the current rate is 215. I don’t want to clog up the comments page too much, so i’ll just come back with an end of the day score.

    1. OK, just the one more for now: we just passed 2000 signatures for the day, another 599 will beat this year’s Hen Harrier Sunday, and we have just over 8 hours to do it!

  17. Well if we try to put it all in perspective, from reading Mark’s book to where we are now should give us all plenty of hope and determination to carry on the fight. We are winning and perhaps sooner than many of us had expected. Bring on the 100,000 signature!

  18. I suspect the RSPB’s well timed press release about the missing, presumed dead, golden eagles might have helped things along. It even had a proper, unbiased report in the Times. Hopefully, the general public are beginning to get the picture even without the help of the BBC!

  19. I see that Wembley Stadium holds 90,000 so we’ve very nearly filled it to capacity and will certainly have done before Bird Fair starts…..
    That is an awful lot of people…..
    The next thing for Mark to test us on will be the total on September 20th.
    Where does 2000 a day for the next 40 days take us?

    1. Paul – highest I’ve seen! Might get to 86,000 before bed time…or at least before midnight.

  20. 85,831 so yes almost certainly 86k before midnight but in the interim back to the “Farming Today” discussion. As already commented on, many many deliberately ducked aspects (no surprise) so is it not the interviewer who failed not the DGS advocates?

    Felicity Evans invited comments on the issue by email to

    farming.today@bbc.co.uk and / or @bbcfarmingtoday

    So, I’m sure amongst us we can script a few selective points we’d like an update on, surely they will follow the “notsoglorious” spectacle tomorrow along with the momentum of the petition and if not Farming Today then surely someone in the BBC will pick it up?

  21. I’ve completely lost track. I know today’s score is a record but has anyone any idea what it is. Sure we started somewhere in the 82k’s.
    Only 90 needed for 86k!

  22. 86k @ 22:33 – delighted to be wrong (before midnight)!

    Wonder how many emails Ms Evans has received, standard response if they bother?

  23. The number of signatures now required per day to get to 100,000 has dropped to 344. Obviously, that’s way below what it was even a few days ago and less than a tenth of the number today. It was only four days ago that it dropped below the required average rate of 548. With the momentum we now have, let’s aim to get seriously more than 100,000 by the close.

  24. Regular readers may already be aware that Thursday 11th August was a touch special. Signatures peaked at at least 280 signatures an hour, and the grand total for the day was………………….wait for it………………3891!

    6th – 1924
    7th – 2598
    8th – 1958
    9th – 2040
    10th – 1535
    11th – 3891

    6 day total = 13,946
    6 day average = 2324.4

    We now only need to average 343.6 signatures per day for the last 40 days. At peak rate today we did that in (if my maths doesn’t fail me) about 1hr and 13 minutes.

    The average figure per constituency is now 132.7

  25. 86330, 59 in last hour. Average Central a shade under 133. Nighty night 🙂

  26. Two comments read out on farming today. One saying how can the law be broken and protected birds of prey shot. The other was along the lines of Mr Avery sounds like he just dislikes shooting and has no evidence. At least that was balanced.

  27. After Chris Packham on Radio 4 this morning the rate now is 624 in the last hour!
    Extraordinary. I hope many of these are RSPB members wondering why they haven’t heard about this before.

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