Bird Fair debate on future of grouse shooting


We’re in the run-up to the Bird Fair (btw weather forecast suggests some rain) and one of the stand-out events on Day 1 is the ‘debate’ on the future of grouse shooting chaired by Rob Lambert and featuring Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party (who spoke brilliantly at the Peak District Hen Harrier Day event), Simon Lester (the former head gamekeeper at Langholm) Stuart Housden of the RSPB in Scotland and myself.

This event is 16:45 – 17:30 in the main event marquee (which holds 500 folk) and will include a lot of Q&A from the audience so it’s your chance to ask any questions you like.

I guess many people will know what I think and what the RSPB thinks (almost exactly the same but with a friendly difference of opinion on the correct solution) and so I think this is an opportunity to hear from the leader (outgoing leader, but nonetheless leader) of a political party about why her party supports a ban on driven grouse shooting but also to hear from Simon Lester.

Let’s make sure that Simon gets a friendly and polite, albeit if you like, challenging reception.  I have no idea what he will say but I’m guessing he won’t be majoring on the need to ban driven grouse shooting.

All credit to him for volunteering to attend when the Moorland Association (who represent grouse moor owners) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (who do too – even though they keep banging on about what great scientists and conservationists they are) failed to find a single representative from their memberships or staff for this debate.  And by the way, I hope Philip Merricks isn’t given the chance to ask a question from the floor as he turned down the offer of a Hawk and Owl Trust seat on the panel too (he might have faced questions on brood-meddling I guess).

Have you noticed that the GWCT scientists and Chief Exec are practically never seen speaking on this tricky issue for them? How often have you seen or heard Teresa Dent on the radio or TV on this subject? It’s always Andrew Gilruth, not a scientist but a public relations expert, who is doing his best to bat on an incredibly sticky wicket.  And Robert Benson who is a moorland owner and chair of the Moorland Association is as rare facing questions in the media as are Hen Harriers on grouse moors in England.  Instead we have the poor-sighted Amanda Anderson who has a public relations background but however skilled you are at the dark arts of public relations you can’t do much with the Moorland Association’s case.

And then there is Ian Gregory from YFTB and the willing if not very able Sir Ian Botham leading the charge for a grouse-industry funded outfit called YFTB.

You notice that the leaders of the shooting community do not lead the debate – they recruit public relations experts to do that for them, and in some cases (I would suggest Ian Gregory), a pretty pathetic job they are making of it in terms of winning over any of the general public.

In contrast, the names attached to our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting are mine, Chris Packham, Bill Oddie and the Chief Exec of LACS, Eduardo Goncalves.  All have been interviewed on this subject and some of us have certainly been putting ourselves about in the media as much as possible. We have, as far as I know, not turned down any opportunity to debate this issue or to talk about it to a wider audience. Which side behaves as though it believes in its case and its cause?

And the RSPB, which is friendly to our cause whilst not in any way agreeing whole-heartedly with it, is out there in the media and at public events too. Mike Clarke has spoken at Hen Harrier Days and at the Game Fair to my knowledge, and Martin Harper and Stuart Housden are always quoted in the media and there are many RSPB staff who are happy to talk about these issues in front of a camera or a microphone.  Of course, the Wildlife Trusts (with the noble strong exception of the Derbyshire Trust) have kept very, very quiet about this issue. Who knows which side they are on? What they think? What is their proposed solution? Have a look here.

So come to the debate and come armed with questions for the panel. Be nice to Simon Lester. And remember that the other side were too scared to face you in public.



11 Replies to “Bird Fair debate on future of grouse shooting”

  1. Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust attended Edale event and subsequently posted photos and favourable comment on the Facebook page:
    ‘Hen harriers, red kites and buzzards should be a common sight on Britain’s uplands. But how many of you have even seen a hen harrier? If you would like to see an end to illegal persecution of some of our most beautiful birds of prey, then come along to next years hen harrier day and make your voice heard.’
    Praise also for ‘brilliant’ Tim Birch – encouraging!

  2. Unfortunately, I can only be there on Saturday but would like to support Mark’s request to give Simon Lester a fair and polite reception. Whatever we may privately think of his profession and stance on this issue, he deserves and should be accorded great credit for stepping into the “lion’s den” (particularly when others who should have taken up the challenge failed to do so). Although the success of Mark’s petition and the case against driven grouse shooting rests on good science, the opposition has done itself no favours by indulging in nasty, petulant personal attacks; let’s not fall into the same trap.

    1. Only 500 seats …. I’d better get there early

      Let them engage in their petulant, offensive, arrogant, approach …. [fill in the rest] behaviour as it has, thus far, greatly assisted our cause.

      First they ignore, then they laugh, then they fight and we’re now on the home stretch? Yes, I recognise that it’ll take longer than getting the 100k signatures …. anything worth achieving &c.?

      GWCT scientists? have they any credible ones or are they gagged?

      Incidentally, do we know if Natural England have signed up to the brood meddling? Who will be funding it? Assuming Defra then naively I’d assume that it will be open tender to suitably qualified organisation with all ‘party’ support? If it’s just NE and GWCT then there might be the opportunity to JR Defra?

  3. Hear, hear, John. The man has had the courtesy to accept the invitation, knowing full well, I should imagine, that his views are unlikely to be well received, so definitely some respect due.

  4. My choice of words seems to have been misinterpreted? When I suggest that they help us by their actions and words, as have many others, I do not mean I would be discourteous.

    Or is it that I ask if GWCT have gagged their scientists or that I ask questions about NE / Defra / funding of the proposed meddling?

    That’ll teach me to raise three topics in one ‘comment’?

    As a matter of fact I’m looking forward to hearing Lester’s contribution.

  5. I took it in the spirit it was written, Nimby, I didn’t think any discourteousness was implied towards Mr Lester. The ‘like’ button seems switched off for me again today, so struggling to approve/disapprove anything via that. Courtesy where warranted, however; I’ve no reservations about ridiculing the mendacious , Botham and Gilruth seem like very fair game to me.

  6. Obvious strategy emerging from pro-driven grouse shooting side; try and drive a wedge between Mark, LACS, RSPB etc. Clearly they carefully laid the groundwork in advance by being so nice to the RSPB via YFTB. You’d have thought they had at least one decent general, or at least an old colonel on their side. But no, they’ve got Duncan ‘Hannibal’ Thomas, and Ian ‘Blood and Guts’ Gregory.

    I do trust I’m being consistent with my courteous/discourteous policy?

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