Somewhat typical

Yesterday evening, in response to this blog post, a new commenter, neil p, posted the following comment:

You’ve had relative success with your petition in upland rural constituencies because that is where you and your supporters have carried out biased leaflet drops through front doors. That way you can paint the picture, as you are doing with your maps, that your proposed ban is supported by rural folk in grouse shooting areas, and is not a urban vs. rural issue. Cunning but duplicitous.’

This was Mr p’s first comment here and the first thing to notice is that he comes straight in with abuse – that’s very common for pro-shooters, particularly on Twitter.

The second thing to notice is that Mr p assumes that he knows where leaflets have been delivered during this campaign – he cannot possibly do so because I don’t know where they all went as thousands and thousands were distributed at Rainham Hen Harrier Day and at the Bird Fair to people I never met and who live in places I don’t know. So, despite his complete certainty of view – he must be on dodgy ground – but that hasn’t made him pause from his rude emphatic comment.

I suspect that Mr p might live in the Forsest of Bowland area or perhaps the Yorkshire Dales and has extrapolated from seeing leaflets delivered there to the general case. That would be typical of the shooters’ line of argument – here’s an anecdote, let’s pretend it’s the general case.  By the way, if Mr p lived in Birmingham, Leamington Spa, Brighton, Harrogate, Covent Garden, Bath Spa or Sheffield he would also have seen leaflets being delivered. What would he have made of that?

The third thing to notice is that Mr p hasn’t really thought about it very much – I’m afraid that is a common attribute of those espousing the shooting case too.  Our second e-petition involved no leaflet drops but has an incredibly similar distribution of signatures to this one including the same strong showing in rural areas with plenty of grouse shooting.

To prove that, here is a map of the previous e-petition signatures (November 2015)

map..and here is the map of the latest e-petition…


Wouldn’t you say they are a rather strikingly similar? The first with no leaflets and the second with c50,000 leaflets delivered in both rural and urban areas.

Just to rub this in, because I feel like it, the rural support for our e-petition (actually the second one, not the most recent one, so without leaflets) has been reported in the national press but I don’t blame Mr p for missing this piece in the Guardian, although he should be blamed for shooting from the hip, rudely, and without having even a leg to stand on as far as evidence is concerned.

Mr neil p – you aren’t cunning and I’m not duplicitous. I look forward to your next comment here.

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  1. Random22 says:

    Presumably the mass leaflet drop thing is the new briefed line from the shooters since they cannot frame it as rural vs townie any longer without it being pointed out it is the townies that are on their side.

    I also note they are attacking the Chris Packham petition over woodcock and snipe by claiming the picture he picked for the petition is an American bird not a UK one. There is also a press release they've put out and I could use some help with the deconstructing of it: Where should I begin in countering it?

    • Hugh Webster says:

      There seems to be something funny going on with the numbers... The BASC site claims that Chris is claiming that UK resident birds account for 17% of those shot in the UK. I'm not sure where this figure comes from or if Chris has actually made this claim himself, although he has re-tweeted a cartoon citing this number. Meanwhile BASC claim GWCT research shows that only 2% of those woodcok shot in the UK are resident birds. No reference is given for this claim so I guess we are supposed to take this figure on faith.

      Some quick sums. The RSPB site and BASC agree on about 1.4 million woodcock wintering in the UK. The RSPB site also records 55, 241 resident breeding pairs. I make that 110482 birds (give or take!) which by extension tells me that close to 8% of the birds wintering in the UK are residents.

      So if the BASC and GWCT are right then somehow when they shoot woodcock they are preferentially targeting non-resident birds, as by chance one would expect 8% of shot birds to be UK residents. On the other hand if Chris is right (if indeed he does believe 17% of woodcock shot are UK birds) then somehow residents are being shot twice as often as we might expect. One explanation for that might be if the migrant birds were not present throughout the shooting season. In scotland the woodcock shooting season is from Sep 1st to Jan 31st and elsewhere in the UK it runs from Oct 1st to Jan 31st, so it seems possible to me that winter migrants might not have arrived early on in the season such that a greater proportion of resident birds might be being shot.

      If we had a reference for either claim then we could analyse this further.

      • Mark says:

        Hugh - interesting point. The 17% comes from the e-petition where it says that the figure comes from BTO and GWCT studies.

        There may be spatial differences in where UK-resident and immigrant birds are found too, I guess. That might push the figure in either direction.

        • Hugh Webster says:

          I think I have found the reference. It is on the GWCT website ( and refers to as yet unpublished material. The website states:

          "Packham has his figures confused when he states that “studies of shot birds report that 17% are UK residents”. We estimate that about 17% of the British wintering woodcock population is resident birds. A PhD study, supervised by the GWCT and the University of Oxford, using stable isotope analysis of feathers from 1,129 birds, sampled across six locations in mid-winter, revealed that less than 2% of shot woodcock were residents. This work is currently being written up for a peer-reviewed journal."

          So, notable that GWCT estimates woodcock resident numbers as about double what the RSPB does and it is interesing that when the reported samples were taken that resident birds were so under-represented in the "bag"; I wonder if they will speculate as to the cause of this. It is also interesting that the sampling was done in mid-winter given that the shooting season in UK runs from early autumn (at which point few migrants may have arrived and so perhaps far more than 17% of shot birds are residents), hence this 2% figure hardly appears definitive and I would suggest that if it gets through peer review this paper may draw some more cautious conclusions than the GWCT.

      • Martin WW says:

        Hugh...not sure how the RSPB can count 'breeding pairs', as woodcock are polygynous (males have more than one mate)?

    • Ezra Lucas says:

      This may be a bit too simplistic to be of much use but it might be worth noting that given the steep population decline (which I don't think they are debating) any additional, and nonessential, pressure that humans are applying should be stopped, at least in the short term.

      I appreciate that will go down like a lead balloon but for me that is the core of the issue.

  2. Hilary MacBean says:

    We just have to keep standing up to this kind of abusive comment. The evidence to the Petitions Committee will be very interesting. Keep on Mark and well said.

  3. Tim Dixon says:

    On a slightly frivolous note is it possible to "shoot from the hip without having a leg to stand on"?
    If so we must admire Mr p for this at least.

  4. jbc says:

    I hope you're going to include these maps (and the comparison with the pro DGS petition) in your evidence bundle.

  5. Tim Sarney says:

    The same Neil P ???

  6. Last weekend I took our coalition's petition to the National Trust right into the heart of the Peak District village of Edale. It lies in the shadow of Kinder Scout and nearby Bleaklow moors, from where the NT have served notice to quit on their grouse shooting tenant. Whilst I received opposition, both to my presence and to our campaign, from the local grouse moor owner as well as a sheep farmer and another farmer's wife, it was clear that there were many other local residents in this rural community who care very deeply about the mis-management of their local moors. No-one had leafleted them!

    Local concerns varied: from the impact on the tourist economy by moorlands unexpectedly being closed off and visitors being turned away who had travelled hundreds of miles, to the arrogance and impact that rich shooters have on village life when they descended and took over for the day, to the ecological damage done to parts of the National Trust-owned moors that should be in far better condition than they currently are.

    Thankfully, no-one in Edale has ever experienced the trauma of flooding that people living in both rural and urban communities elsewhere in the UK have suffered, and who (like those in Hebden Bridge) know they live beneath over-managed grouse moors in their water catchment areas which can contribute to their misery. People in rural communities care because they see the impact one man's hobby has on them, their neighbours, those living downstream and on the environment. They don't need leaflets to tell them something has gone badly wrong.

    And to the local Edale residents who kindly brought out tea and biscuits for me during our day of petitioning - a big 'thank you'.

  7. Alan Johnson says:

    I can anticipate the next manoeuvre coming from these folks; the next thing they'll be implying is that any opposition they MAY encounter in their heartlands comes exclusively from "incomers" who are collectively trying to drive them out. This pitch has already been seen over the Findhorn shooting saga which Mr Packham DARED to tweet about recently.

  8. Jim Clarke says:

    So here's the line (as exemplified by the Countryside Alliance);

    CA supporter: 'You town folk know nothing about the countryside, and should mind your own business'

    Townie: 'Actually, CA supporter, you're right. And it isn't it rather stupid of me to spend money on things I don't understand? I have no real idea where all these rural subsidies go so I've a mind not to pay them anymore'.

    Game over.

  9. Anand Prasad says:

    It is so obvious but no one has mentioned it so...
    Even if it Mr. P's claims were true, so what.
    It would be a sensible strategy but it appears that he doesn't much like democracy or education.

    The only three people I know of were delivering leaflets in the country because that is where the crimes are occurring. It would be much easier to canvas in the cities but I have a feeling Mr P. would find something 'Cunning but duplicitous' about that too.

  10. Martyn Strong says:

    I live in Wensleydale inside the National Park in a small village that sits within 1 mile of three different shooting moors. I can state categorically that in my village alone over 10 people have signed the petition and at least three copies of your book, Mark are in circulation. People in this area are not blind, they have seen the landscape change. They witness daily the arrogance of a small minority and watch with disdain as the shooting estate owners (most of whom do not actually live in the Dales) invite their rich friends over to help exploit the countryside. Mark, you have the support of much of the rural community. In fact, I would love for you to come into the heart of so called shooting country and give a talk. I know if you spoke in my village it would be well attended and supported.


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