Bad losers and partly to blame


It was bound to happen – the internet trolls are claiming that the recent rush of signatures for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting has been fraudulent in some way. Ho, ho ho!

There certainly has been a rush of signatures, and the speed of growth of the e-petition has taken me by surprise too, but knowing what I do, and that is probably more than anyone else, about what has happened in the last few days, then it’s not such a great surprise.

I’m not going to give away all our actions, but since some of our supporters might be interested in how we got so far so fast with their help and support, I’ll give you some headline information.

We have always known that the Red Grouse, the Hen Harrier and the whole sorry business of driven grouse shooting are not much known to the average person in the average street – but that if we could put the facts about grouse shooting in front of more people then we always thought that more and more of them would flock to our cause to ban driven grouse shooting. And so our devilishly cunning strategy for getting lots of people to sign our e-petition was to tell lots of people what goes on. How devious was that?!

So how did we get that recent surge in signatures?:

  • actually, we’ve been on a roll for quite some time.  Things have certainly picked up but, as I have said many times here, we have momentum. And that’s what we aimed to have running up to…
  • …Hen Harrier Day last weekend (see here and here). It’s clearly not a fluke that Hen Harrier Day is just before the Inglorious 12th and therefore will create publicity for the cause, and this year’s larger number of larger rallies spread the word very well ahead of…
  • …the Inglorious 12th which was bound to be an important date for our e-petition (and was a crucial date in my decision, back in January, of when I would start this third e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting).
  • we also produced our own material such as a variety of videos involving the wonderful Chris Packham (eg this one and this one) and another with the wonderful Bill Oddie in order to warm up more and more people to the message.
  • there was a media storm around the Inglorious 12th including Farming Today, the Today programme, three pieces in the Daily Mirror, a great Guardian article, STV (I think – I know I recorded a piece for them), BBC Radio Cumbria, BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio Northampton and probably many more that I don’t know about.  Terry Pickford was interviewed in the Lancashire Telegraph who also printed the link to the e-petition. These all sent people away with more information and knowing that they could do something with their feelings by signing the e-petition.
  • then there is the paperback edition of Inglorious which has been selling well since it came out in late July (again, the publication date was not just a happy coincidence with the Inglorious 12th) which has the url to the current e-petition on p11 – so that will generate signatures from readers right up until 20 September – although rather small beer in the big scheme of things, I’ll admit.
  • there have been articles appearing in various newsletters and websites to coincide with the Inglorious 12th – here’s an example which will also have helped to boost the Scottish Raptor Study Group petition on regulation of gamebird shooting too.
  • and M&S quietly announced that they were not going to sell grouse meat again this year – that was a story too.
  • But then there are welcome but unplanned and unexpected burst of publicity too – the Scottish-based OneKind emailed their supporters ahead of the Inglorious 12th promoting the e-petition and it looks like that was very helpful. Although the Chief Exec of OneKind used to work with me at the RSPB I had no idea that was happening until I received the email myself.
  • another example of unplanned but very welcome publicity was from Highland Titles who have featured our cause before – I believe that generated lots of support too.  Many thanks to them!
  • but we have to thank our friends in the grouse shooting ‘industry’ too – they have given us every support they could. For example, those missing Golden Eagles on grouse moors was a perfect story for the start of the grouse shooting season and we couldn’t have done it without those years of help that you gave us.  ‘Scotland’s national bird keeps being poisoned and many young birds ‘disappear” is bound to attract publicity – and it did.
  • and all the attacks on Chris Packham, some on myself , and others, and just general nastiness from shooters in the public eye on social media certainly set the tone of the debate and must have turned many people away from thinking that grouse shooting was harmless to wondering quite what sort of people support this hobby of killing birds for fun.
  • then we must thank scores of pro-shooting social media accounts for promoting the recordings of Farming Today and the Today programme so widely. Trumpetting your view that Gilruth or Botham had won the argument was perfect for our cause – it drove more and more people to realise there was an argument to be seen, and all who agreed with us had somewhere to go with their newly found abhorrence of driven grouse shooting – our e-petition.
  • and let me just mention leaflets. It’s no secret that we have been producing leaflets promoting our e-petition (see here and here) and that tens of thousands of them have been handed to friends and relatives, work colleagues and pushed through letter boxes. May I give a big ‘Thank you!’ to those who have done this and also to those who will pick up more leaflets at the Bird Fair next Friday-Sunday (more on this tomorrow on this blog). I know a bit, from knowing where the leaflets have gone, about how well this is going.  There will be many who glanced at a leaflet some time last week and then heard or read something about the Inglorious 12th at the end of the week and thought to themselves ‘I had a leaflet about that. I meant to sign that e-petition – I’ll do it now’.  It’s old-fashioned but effective. And thank you to those who helped fund those leaflets too.
  • and talking of money, we also, and this was no secret either, raised funds here and so did LACS, to promote the e-petition through social media. This has been hugely effective. We have had time to test various approaches and designs and then to use the best of them. When would you have invested your money in advertising? On 2 August or the Inglorious 12 August?  Doesn’t take much working out does it?  How fiendishly devious was that?!

And so our devilishly cunning strategy was to tell the truth, tell it as widely as possible and make the most of the period around the Inglorious 12th. Simples (as they say – I believe)!  Simple in theory but many thanks to all those who helped to bring it off in practice.

We reached 100,000 signatures much quicker than I expected – indeed, it is only very recently that I have dared to think we would get to 100,000 signatures. We would like many more signatures please right up until the close of our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting on 20 September.


But my focus has already shifted towards working with others to come up with the devilishly cunning plan to influence MPs in a debate over the future of driven grouse shooting. I suspect that our strategy will be rather similar, it’s the way we do things: tell the truth, tell it clearly, tell it often.




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21 Replies to “Bad losers and partly to blame”

  1. Hurrah! As you said I am very interested in that and not very surprised but it good to see it.

    A little story to illustrate all this from elsewhere in my social media world this morning - on a local Buxton FB network (not environmental, more local good works and sustainability). Person A writing very excitedly asks everyone to sign the petition to help it get to 100,000, he'd been to Edale and just discovered all this. Person B replies No thanks I need both sides of the argument. Person C says (this is the bit) Wow that's amazing somebody put a leaflet about it and through my door yesterday and i signed. Bit of mutual AC love. Double pronged approach, you see.

    And yes, Person SX then writes Very sensible, Person B. I suggest you read Inglorious by Mark Avery , a clear and easy to read book that explains all about out including why it so particularly important in the High Peak. I also mentioned Moorland Association and suggested she check the sources of 'facts'. Person B says Thank you, I will.

  2. Bad losers and FULLY to blame - they're the ones that carry out the degradation of our natural heritage.

  3. Textbook big man! All the same techniques I was taught at WWF put into practice! Not everyone will appreciate the effort and preparation that goes into this stuff before anything ever happens but I, and others, do. Chapeau!!

  4. Said it before, but it remains true; facts don't care whether you beleive them or not, they just are, and don't care for opinion.

    Keep to the facts, and this battle can not be lost, even if it takes longer than we'd like.

  5. Once again fantastic work Mark. I have always said that the combination of your petition to ban driven grouse shooting and the RSPBs call for licensing it gives more strength in combination to the cause of stopping illegal activities and obtaining a much better deal for our upland wildlife than either of these calls individually. That is why in the next round of having to deal with the politicians many of whom have vested interests in shooting animals for fun, the RSPB and yourself will need to work very closely as a combined team.

    1. Alan - yes we will. I am waiting to hear from the RSPB on this as I emailed them on Thursday. I also posted a comment on Martin Harper's blog yesterday to this effect but that hasn't yet appeared.

  6. Everything I have heard from the shooting fraternity has sounded like a petulant child who has been told no one wants to play with. In the beginning there people could have simply held up their hands, admitted they had faults, do their best to correct them and we could all have moved forward together. Instead they decided that they wanted to play with ALL the toys and hid them so no one else could have them. Now it's gone too far and they have nowhere else to go except to throw ridiculous lies and accusations in a pathetic attempt to steer attention away from their bad behaviour. What they fail to realise is that EVERYONE can plainly see this. I cannot begin to comprehend the level of immaturity in these people.

    1. As I have said in another post. Fools. But maybe I mean scientifically illogical fools. But maybe fools who think they will get their way in the end via their political connections. We'll see.

  7. Disappointed in the Observer today for printing a certain amount of nonsense by Clive Aslet. Though at least there are a couple of letters on the next page supporting the cause.

  8. In inexplicably my comment on the Clive Aslet article in the Guardian/Observer today was removed. Apparently just because I said his claim that it was "one or two rogue keepers" was utter and complete nonsense, and providing evidence for this.

  9. Would be fantastic to have some help on how to approach our MPs. Mine is a young Tory who cares more about his career progression than environmental issues (have written to him several times). Want to arrange a meeting and I need be prepared as well as I can be before I see him. I expect you will advise your blog readers on the next step once things settle. Thank you again and many congratulations.

    1. SG - welcome and thank you! Yes, I will. And I hope that we will be working closely with the RSPB on that. Am waiting to hear back from them.

    2. If possible take an elderly person with you to his surgery and have them dress like a stereotypical conservative older person. MPs, especially ones who want career progression are terrified of the elderly turning against them. They are the demographic that reliably turn out to vote, especially if they look a bit Vernon Dursley or Hyacinth Bucket-ish.

  10. I have a plan that might just work for influencing MPs. First we find an exact doppelganger of the Prime Minister, then we lure her to a remote hunting lodge where we get her drunk... No, wait sorry, that is the plot of The Prisoner of Zenda which was just on tv.

    No, sadly we just have to keep emailing and writing (and writing on paper will probably count for more) to our MPs and the various movers and shakers. See if you can convince a few vicars or ministers to allude to it in their sermons (astonishingly the Kirk and CofE still carry a disproportionate amount of weight) and try and think of some publicity stunts to keep the issue in the public eye. Unfortunately the petition was the easy part.

    While we're at it we still have a week to add signatures to the Scottish petition to license shooting, something that is more achievable and -somewhat deviously- even further reaching than the ban driven grouse petition. Some people who feel the heat on the possibility might be persuaded to "just" license it instead. A stepping stone of course, but they do not need to know that so couch your language appropriately. And if we can get a success in both ban and license then the heat is really held to MSPs and MPs feet on the issue.

    Seriously, really push this now while we have momentum:

  11. Oh. I forgot. "The Countryman" magazine, beloved of retirement homes and doctor's waiting rooms across the land, has been backing shooting as rural heritage. However they are also always desperate for content, if anyone is capable of writing up a decent anti-shooting (or at least pro raptors) article for them then that would really target the aged demographic the politicians really suck up to.

  12. We've just come back from walking in part of the Cheshire Peak District, where there used to be grouse shoots but I don't think they happen these days. Anyway, as we walked through the edge of Macclesfield Forest we heard three other walkers talking about the passion for wildlife of a well know celebrity. We overheard heard one of the walkers mention the name of Chris Packham. They didn't have binoculars or look particularly like amateur naturalists, just friends out for a Sunday morning walk through the local forest. However they were clearly taking about the campaign to get Chris Packham sacked from the BBC - and, by the sounds of it, they were on his side. It looks like the idea that he should lose his job because of him speaking up for wildlife may backfire on the driven grouse shooting lobby. As you say Mark, people who knew nothing about the persecution of raptors, the ecological damage done by management of moorland for dense populations of Red Grouse etc. are becoming aware of the subject for the first time. So I'm saying let's all talk about this subject to as many people as possible and a good starting point may be to say: "Have your heard that some people want to get the amiable and popular Chris Packham sacked from the BBC? You know, that bloke who used to present the Really Wild show when you were a kid?/ Or, the bloke who presents Spring Watch?" Then you can tell them who wants him to be sacked and why.

  13. Brilliant news on reaching, and now surpassing 100,000 signatures.

    I think there are two more reasons for the recent surge:
    1. The statement from RSPB regarding the failure of the brood management programme as a potential solution and the change in policy, even if implied, associated with that. For those members looking to the RSPB for their conservation "guidance" this must have suggested that a ban on grouse shooting was the only option left to save the Hen Harrier and hence point them in the direction of the petition.
    2. Both the UK's more populist birdwatching magazines ("Birdwatching" and "Birdwatch" imaginatively enough!) have highlighted the plight of the Hen Harrier and this debate recently. I don't know what their readerships are but several thousand each I would guess and these features can only stir more interest and anger at what is happening.
    With this traction I can see now the issue moving into the mainstream media. Last week the Daily Telegraph magazine ran a piece on the concerns for some the rise in the Red Kite population is causing. Perhaps the tabloids could give more attention to a serious bird issue rather than the mayhem caused by "aggressive" gulls - but, hey, one step at a time!

    Fantastic campaigning, Mark. Like others have mentioned I'd value guidance on how to effectively raise this with my MP to enable the debate to have real significance rather than allowing MP's to get away with simply ticking the "democratic box"


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