Thank you all

This post was written at the weekend – before whatever happened yesterday at the debate on the future of grouse shooting happened.

Photo: the incomparable Gordon Yates
Photo: the incomparable Gordon Yates

I never really believed that we would get this debate until we were in the 90,000 signatures in early August 2016.  But we have. And the way that people look at driven grouse shooting will never again be the same – never.  We have done that together and although, at times, I may have looked as though I might be leading this campaign it has always been a joint effort.

But to be fair to myself, it was me, who after a certain amount of careful thought (or dithering) decided to launch a petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Not to tinker with it, not to change it, but to get rid of it altogether.  That was big personal decision because it was not just sticking my head above the parapet but shouting at the opposing forces while doing it!  And that first petition might have fallen completely flat – but it didn’t, thanks to so many of you.

Photo: Guy Shorrock
Photo: Guy Shorrock

The first Hen Harrier Day was certainly a great success with four events in England – and that in the Peak District was one of the best days of my life.  A group of us dined in Buxton the evening before that first event and we are all still mates and working together over two years later – friendships forged in this campaign will be enduring ones.  The ‘Sodden 570’ and the wonderful Chris Packham made it a superb day.  Never have so many gathered together to get so wet for the sake of a bird that they weren’t able to see!  And that petition reached over 22,000 signatures in under a year. Far more than I had imagined – you see – I’m not ambitious enough!

inglorious-pb-loI decided, again after some dithering, to write a book on the subject to spell out the arguments in more detail and with the references so that people could find out more for themselves.  I’ll tell you now that although Bloomsbury were pleased with how A Message from Martha had sold, they were a bit reluctant to publish a book of such a campaigning nature. So many thanks to Jim Martin and Nigel Redman who somehow got it through the system – and they were right in publishing terms as Inglorious has sold more copies than Martha already despite being on a very parochial niche UK subject – although it is also about how to change the world!  I have little doubt that Inglorious has converted many people to our cause, and bolstered the confidence of those who felt warm to the idea right from the start.

 

IMG_4629 - Copy

It was easy to see that another e-petition was a good idea but I wasn’t to know that parliament would change the rules and cut the time in half – 6 months rather than 12. This was when a 6-foot Hen Harrier called Henry came on the scene. Not my idea – in fact I thought that it was a silly idea – but it was a touch of genius in retrospect as it introduced a ridiculous note of humour into a serious subject, and gained even more attention for the cause.  Henry made his first public appearance at the BAWC conference in spring 2015, again in Buxton, and the guys and gals from BAWC have been great chums and great support throughout this march into the unknown.

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The number of Hen Harrier Day events in 2015 swelled – and spread into Scotland – and Henry appeared at the Bird Fair and was even satellite-tagged to show how it’s done!  We even had a cultural event to celebrate the Hen Harrier in Buxton ahead of Hen Harrier Day with authors and artists for heaven’s sake.  Thanks to those, especially Susan Cross who helped arrange that, and to her for being around throughout this whole period (and no doubt into the future too).

Photo: Chris Packham (thanks Chris!)
Photo: Chris Packham (thanks Chris!)

 

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddI was starting to give lots of talks to bird clubs and RSPB groups at this time, and people expected to hear about Hen Harriers and grouse shooting – even if they’d signed me up for a talk on Passenger Pigeons.  This spread the word further, but so did Birdwatch magazine in so many ways – its covers in August 2014 and 2015, through its editorial content and through letting me bang on about it in my monthly column ‘the political birder’.  All at Birdwatch have been great but special thanks go to Dominic Mitchell who has been supportive at all sorts of professional and personal levels.  British Birds, too, has been a great friend – in particular Roger Riddington has let Adrian Pitches chart the course of our campaign and the events relevant to it in the News and Views section of BB.  Birders are a funny lot, but Rare Bird Alert has also been a real rock in spreading the word through social media.

Raptor Persecution UK has been a huge help and support – they are the nerdy ones who know the law and collect the evidence and there support for the e-petition has been just fantastic. Thanks guys (and gal)!

The second e-petition ended in late January 2016 – not that long ago really – with 33,000 signatures (in  6 months) and we created a late surge, and learned a lot, through setting up a Facebook page and raising a couple of grand to spread the word in social media.  Thank you to Alan Cranston who spent that money wisely and ran the Facebook page and to all who contributed a few quid to that enterprise – especially to the individual who was the first to respond to my email amongst friends with the question ‘Would £1000 help?’ – it did. We learned a lot from spending that money.

Third time lucky? Well, maybe, but luck wasn’t going to have too much to do with it! We had learned a lot over the previous two years and the question was whether we had learned enough to triple the signature count the next time around?  This was going to be my last e-petition on the subject whatever happened (in a Steve Redgrave ‘Shoot me if you see me getting into a boat again’ type way).  I approached the RSPB with an offer of working together but they weren’t brave enough to take it and so I was happy to approach the League Against Cruel Sports for help.  LACS had been rather unpredictable and inconsistent allies in the previous two e-petitions but this time around they were committed and a delight to work with.  If you can’t rely on people who are against killing things when you want a bloodsport ended then who can you ask?  But just remember where the ‘mainstream’ conservation organisations were when we were creating the momentum for change in the uplands…

end2

bow1This time we had momentum and we knew what would work.  None of this was rocket science – we used the media as best as we could, produced short films (starring Chris Packham – that wasn’t my idea either but it was another good one), distributed leaflets and used social media to its fullest effect. This time we raised over £5000 to use to do this and we had LACS doing more work on social media and with its supporters too. Chris P was able to commit significant time to the cause and some time around July the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting didn’t look like a hopeless cause it looked like a popular movement that was heading for parliament.

And that’s where we were yesterday. Maybe it was a bit of anti-climax and maybe I spent the evening in the pub with some of you. But just remember that whatever was said yesterday the world is a different place because of you.  The light has been shone on driven grouse shooting in a way that the grouse shooters could not have imagined in May 2014.  Their world has changed for ever – and we have changed it. And we shall change it some more as time goes on because driven grouse shooting is a doomed hobby – the shooters know that and you know that.

This isn’t the end, but it’s a long way from the beginning. Thank you all.

 

 

 

 

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93 Replies to “Thank you all”

  1. I was initially horrified by the debate in parliament but soon realised that I was watching people who knew perfectly well that driven grouse shooting was totally dependent on organised crime (thanks for the true description) who will in the end be seen for their head in the sand attitude, mouthing the same lies and platitudes that we have seen over the whole time you have been leading this effort. Well done to all of the people who have put much time and effort into your petition.

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  2. More!
    Seriously... we are just getting started, keep the pressure on.

    We are not winning over grouse shooting tory MP's but we are winning hearts and minds in their constituencies. This is the success. So many people will be looking at the closed minds of the MP's yesterday and thinking, "they are not telling the truth and they don't represent my views".

    That's where the change is coming...one small step at a time.

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    1. > So many people will be looking at the closed minds of the MP's yesterday and thinking, "they are not telling the truth and they don't represent my views".

      Exactly this. MPs who insult their constituents as emotional and uninformed, discriminate against those who are unable to attend surgeries in person, ignore their constituents' concerns, and ignore the written and oral evidence submitted to Parliament are not doing themselves any favours.

      Interesting how the MPs supporting driven grouse shooting resorted so often to emotional arguments or personal attacks themselves, one might think they had little reasoned or scientific argument to stand on...

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      1. Perhaps this particular group of MPs have good reason to be hyper emotional at the moment. After all, Angela Smith MP tweeted that the debate on banning driven grouse shooting had been the most frustrating she had ever attended. As far as I can tell, the males that took part in the debate were 15 pro-Brexit (6 Remain; 2 Reform Europe). Perhaps the male hysteria we all had the displeasure of witnessing was about something more existential than the prospect of losing a hobby.

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  3. I feel honoured to have been labelled a 'perpetrator' of the petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

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  4. Thanks Mark.

    Now who shall I vote for as Conservation Hero of the Year and which campaign to choose in Birdwatch Birders' Choice Awards 2016!
    http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/default.asp

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  5. You deserve to succeed Mark. Everyone of you who worked so passionaly for our struggling wildlife.

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    1. I would agree in part but we the voting public vote for these politicians and therefore the myopic people of this country are the problem and should take more responsibility for what they get. They are so often led like sheep by the media that bank-roll their puppet government and their seedy policies.
      There, I feel better now 🙂

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      1. Supporting a ban was always a stretch Giles, but it would be nice if a few of these people who purport to lead the country actually acknowledged there is an issue. The failure to do so will only make more restrictive action more likely in the long run. Pyrrhic indeed.

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        1. I've tried to make some constructive comments on here about how to help solve the issue. Alas Mark won't publish them.

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          1. giles - I think you'll find I have; just not multiple times. You are wont to repeat yourself

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          2. With respect Mark so are you! It's hard to write 10,000 blog posts on one subject without doing so. But there are alternatives to a ban indeed not only alternatives but approaches which could run alongside a ban it seems sensible that these should be aired on this excellent forum. I've also noted that you often reply but you have never even given a reason why you don't think the alternative I mentioned would be effective and reasonable.

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      2. What I saw was a bunch of sycophants closing ranks around their lords and lady chums, no doubt desperate to be invited to the relevant parties etc in the future. I did not see any representatives of the people of this country, just hollow democracy. But then you lot are still crying about the loss of rotten boroughs.

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  6. Well it's perfectly clear now that your never going to get any change at Westminster while the Tories are in Government.

    I don't suppose that will come as a surprise to anyone.

    Focus should now switch to Scotland where the SRSG's petition to license shooting estates has been before the petitions committee, and is still extant. If the reception at the petitions committee is anything to go by this just might result in something positive.

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  7. It's easy to be disheartened and deeply disappointed by the quality of the debate yesterday (I know I was), but as others have pointed out, awareness of this issue has exploded in a very short space of time. As long as we don't ease off the pressure, I believe that more and more people will see that DGS is a hobby which can't continue long term.

    Those who practice traditional 'country pastimes' will never just roll over and concede that their hobby is no longer appropriate in 21st century Britain. It'll take a long time to chip away and open more people's eyes. It'll never totally die - even if it's banned, it'll still be practiced - but I'd like to think that in the future, the vast majority of decent people will look at it with disgust.

    I'd like to add that I'm not against tradition and country pastimes (I've lived in the country all my life) - I can totally understand why people like getting together, dressing up in traditional outfits and being outside in the countryside. What I don't understand is why cruelty to animals has to be an integral part of this.

    My hope is that one day, we'll ALL look back at DGS (as well as fox hunting and the like) with the same disgust and shame as we do when we read about bear baiting, dog fighting and hare coursing.

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    1. "I can totally understand why people like getting together, dressing up in traditional outfits and being outside in the countryside". Perhaps we could persuade them to take up morris dancing!
      Sorry for being flippant, feeling a bit disheartened by the quality of the debate.

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  8. Politicians are out of touch as usual.
    Well done, Mark and all who have been involved in such a successful campaign which has only just begun.

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    1. Parliamentarians are indeed part of the problem I fear, they are renowned for obfuscation and filibustering. OK there were some who did their best for us but ooh they did well fielding advocates for retention of the status quo?

      Let's set aside the patronising and offensive platitudes of yesterday and carry on regardless. Follow the money? Clearly there is a case to be made in terms of the public spend around redressing water quality, run off from uplands which potentially impact downstream catchments and particularly the claims made yesterday (I am looking forward to scrutinising the debate transcript) that the restoration is owner funded not public purse. Let them gloat for now ....

      Perhaps the next HH D should be a series of walk across moorland, after all it's all pen Access?

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  9. This debate is a good example of post-factual politics, which is thriving in every country in Europe and overseas. Living in another country 1000 km away, this debate sounded so similar to many other debates over pressing issues in my country's parliament. It's not the facts that matter, but the constant repeating of non-facts. If anyone has good remedy for post-truth politics, please let us all know!

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  10. The events yesterday shone a light on the terrible way our politics works. Some of the criticism of Mark and Chris bordered on abuse and the arrogant manner in which they tried to dismiss the views of people who had "clicked a button" will come back to haunt them. Yes, it is depressing in a way, but listening to them hopefully makes us all the more determined to wipe the smug smiles off their faces. I have nothing but admiration for the people that are fighting for our wildlife.

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  11. Yesterday was an illustration of the old adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know." The grouse moor owners know the right people and yesterday that was more then enough. It weighed far heavier in the scales than scientific evidence, concern for the environment, conservation, species being deliberately wiped out, wildlife crime, higher water bills etc. It will be slow process and we mustn't allow things go back to normal.

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  12. I was prepared for the proposal of a ban to be dismissed, but I did think that they would atleast admit that the current situation isn't acceptable. In retrospect the evidence session was more successful in offering reason and balance than the debate itself - but I don't really understand why they made the pretence of an evidence session in the first place, since they essentially ignored all the evidence set before them and carried on with the same arguments that had already been discredited. Atleast it was something of a first insight for me as to how our political system really works.

    Thank you Mark for all your efforts in this, without your leadership on this I am sure the issue would never have travelled so far. I presume you will address this at some stage but like many others I am keen to carry on pressing this, so what are the options now? I agree with you that the sport is eventually doomed, it's just a matter of time and increasing awareness and pressure.

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  13. The whole thing was an appalling sham. Lie after lie trotted out by Soames, Hart et al. I have to say, I'm extremely disappointed at the near no show of the Labour Party, but after sending my local branch a complete transcription of the email discourse with my tory MP, without reply, I should have expected such a poor turnout. Time for some direct action!

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  14. With only 28% of the population supporting driven grouse shooting, it was disappointing but very revealing to find that, on this showing, over 90% MPs seem to do so too. The disdain and contempt that certain MPs displayed towards the majority who want a ban was, in some ways, more depressing than the way in which almost all of them avoided the elephant in the room that is wildlife crime. The highlight was Kerry McCarthy's spirited intervention. It is very hard not to read some sort of pseudo-Freudian message in the fact that the only opposition came from women MPs.

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  15. I'd have thought putting more pressure on the relevant National Parks would be a logical next move. If they see that many visiting tourists are appalled by what happens on their patch, the rural economy argument will be seriously undermined.

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    1. YES! That's the start - get DGS banned in National Parks as a first step. It is an absolute disgrace that it is permitted in the first place.

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  16. I, too, was shocked at the low standards of knowledge or understanding displayed by some of the MPs – although, to be fair, a neighbour arrived before I heard the minister respond. She may have been better informed? The bulk of the speakers were clearly reading from prepared scripts: who had 'prepared' these for them? It sounded like the Moorland Association - but then I am a crusty old cynic! It also revealed that many Conservative MPs are not seriously interested in the 'natural' environment. They pay lip service to this, but really it is more a matter of money and traditional country sports (so often a euphemism for killing wild animals for fun).
    The limited understanding of the biology of the uplands displayed by many speakers was worrying. Heather moorland that is intensively managed for grouse is neither natural or sustainable. It is often driven towards maximising the number of birds for paying clients to kill.
    It was also interesting how few of them commented upon the critical fact that killing raptors is illegal, and that the industry depends upon such crime for its profitability. Several seem more content to sneer at Mark Avery, Chris Packham, the RSPB and (by implication) over 120,000 constituents who care more about the natural environment than appears to be the case for so many of our political servants. Sorry, I should have written ‘MPs’, although it might help for them to remember the old adage: ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune’.
    Overall, I was left with the depressing thought that the debate was a further example of the lack of trust and/or respect for 'experts', or even people who may know what they are talking about. Never mind the facts - who let's these get in the way of a good prejudice?

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  17. After about fifteen minutes of the debate, I realised that within the UK Government there are a great many potential candidates for Secretary of State for the Environment. A little anecdotal ecological knowledge is worth its weight in lead shot.

    Thank you, Mark, for shining a glittering light on the multi-faceted facetiousness of vested interests and cosy politicians.

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  18. Before I forget.

    Why was Therese Coffey dressed like a Pearly Queen?

    Was it because it was Halloween?

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  19. First time I have watched a parliamentary debate and I was both unimpressed and depressed by the quality. It started badly with the first interjection by Sir Henry Bellingham, who did not even grasp the difference between driven grouse shooting and other forms of the sport. I could have accepted the conclusion of the debate (begrudgingly I admit) had I felt that the issues had actually been examined by MPs who tried to sift through the competing evidence with an objective and critical mind set. As Mark says "This isn’t the end, but it’s a long way from the beginning" and I do believe that change will arrive, eventually. Well done all involved in the petition.

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  20. I hope you will forgive this rather lengthy comment on my initial thoughts about the debate, Mark.

    Chair: set the tone nicely - completely biased
    Conservatives: as expected, the Tories really do have the edge when it comes to condescension. Theresa Coffey not ruling out vicarious liability at some point in the misty future is a crumb I suppose. Or just a permanently unreachable worm dangled in front of the RSPB?
    Labour: if turnout was the sole criteria of judgement then Labour are patently irrelevant to nature conservation in Britain. However I thought the Front Bench statement was rather good.
    Liberal Democrats: irrelevant.
    Green: Caroline Lucas was there briefly. Wasn't she?
    RSPB: the organisation's passive stance is a significant liability. Licensing? Can't quite hear you, did somebody say something? Never mind, must have just been rustling leaves, let us move along.
    So, thoughts on the entire process -
    The Petition raising public consciousness of the issues = 10/10
    The Petition getting the issues on the Parliamentary Record = 10/10
    The Petition gathering Parliamentary opposition to driven grouse shooting (assessed by visible presence at the debate) = almost 3/650
    The efficacy of the debate itself = are you kidding?/10
    So what next? Over to you Scotland initially. For England and Wales, well, I think showing deference to the Parliamentary strategy was worthy. However, as expected, Parliament and the grouse industry aren't listening. Would a direct action approach be more effective? I think we will all be in a better position to judge that towards the end of next year's shooting season.

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    1. Agree fully with your overall assessment. The RSPB's stance really counted against us - shame. Full marks(!) to Kerry McCarthy and Rachael Maskell and 8/10 to Angela Smith and at least Caroline Lucas turned up. I suppose being the sole Green Party MP means she is pretty busy. Who was the guy sitting next to Kerry McCarthy?

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      1. It's quite instructive to read Jeff Knot's summary of the debate over on Martin Harper's blog.
        Suffice it to say that Glossy Ibis was moved to comment that he was not sure whether Jeff and he had actually witnessed the same debate!

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        1. Thanks for that. I haven't been able to get into the rspb website for at least a couple of weeks. At least now i know it is at my end although still can't figure out what is wrong.

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          1. AP - it's an interesting read, but I'd make sure you're sitting down first! I was more than disappointed.
            I could post the text here, or maybe send it to you somehow.

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          2. Alan Two, thanks for the offer. I only just now saw your post.
            I managed to find it as a cache. Jeff Knott has made it more clear on the RPUK post you commented on.

            Still can't get into rspb on 2 laptops. Must be my internet.

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        1. Direct Action? As in breaking the law? Cool! If you guys can break the law so can I! 🙂 🙂

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  21. Well done and thank you to all involved in this petition. We signed all three and came to the first two HH days and we will continue to support you until birds of prey can exist everywhere without being persecuted. We could only watch the first hour of the debate yesterday ( will catch up later) but on the whole, well, what an appalling bunch. Only the two women speakers that we saw gave the impression that they took the subject seriously. Don't let the bastards grind you down, justice will prevail eventually!!!

    Sue & Chris Green

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  22. It's never been brought home to me more vividly that many MPs are in parliament to represent their own vested interests. The room was rampant with blind eyes being turned to criminal behaviour only matched by the nudge nudge wink wink calls for better enforcement of current laws. At least RSPB have withdrawn from the bogus Hen Harrier support group and hadn't that caused them some distress. Well done to the handful of MPs who stood up for the petition but nobody said I to support it at the end. Clearly we failed to enthuse our MPs and mine hasn't replied to either letter I sent.

    We will have to get back to the drawing board to think of better ways to expose the hypocrisy of the tories and make them pay at the ballot box. I hope the autumn watch Golden Eagle Freya isn't the one who has to pay. For those who voted for bombing Syria having a go at Mark was an easy pot shot. Congratulations to Mark for his courage in pursuing the case.

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  23. "The rich and powerful usually get a disproportionate say in our lives, even in a parliamentary democracy that is the UK". Thus wrote Mark Avery in Inglorious at the top of page 66. Well that statement was certainly confirmed in yesterday's debate.

    Like many others I didn't expect a happy outcome from the debate, in fact I wrote beforehand that I expected to be more angry than satisfied, but I was shocked and am still angry by what transpired. It was a complete stitch-up from start to finish, orchestrated, scripted, biased and dishonest. I was very disappointed by the turnout from the opposition. Some of those that were there made good points but they were dismissed as callously as the petition and the petitioners.

    The personal attacks on Mark and Chris were particularly disturbing. I'm really surprised that such comments are permitted.

    My view of politicians is in any case low but after yesterday my feelings towards all but a very few of them fell to a new low. Pompous, arrogant, complete disdain for those who supported the petition. No attempt at all to represent the views of the many rather than the privileged few.

    Many thanks again to Mark for starting the petitions and the for the time and energy invested in getting the 125K signatures and a debate. Also to many others who have promoted and supported the campaign. We may have lost the debate but the topic of driven grouse shooting has been brought to the attention of the public and in some form or other it WILL continue. I look forward to seeing which direction it takes to doing my little bit to help it succeed.

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  24. Mark, you and the team have been amazing throughout this. The Tory boys seemed to have almost identical speeches prepared and the introduction was bordering on comedy, so one sided and nothing like I would have expected an opening debate speech to be like.

    And there is still that massive unanswered question hanging in the air, what was Therese Coffey rummaging round for in that handbag for a good ten minutes? 297 pairs of missing hen harriers maybe!

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  25. The bile that came from a few CA puppet Tories and friends was awful and predictable. It was very disappointing to see that so few MPs cared to represent the views of the 123K and the majority of the public.

    Today I feel better on reflection. The Tories were so disgraceful that i find it difficult to imagine many moderate MP, conservations or members of the public would be keen to be associated with their side. The RSPB option failed to win support too. This leaves the issue very black and white. All our arguments for a ban remain in tact and the waters haven't been left mudded by licensing.

    Nobody expected the Tories to do anything. We rely on the next Government to form. Yes most polticans only care about the things in the daily press but aren't manifestos dictated by polls and I am certain the polls are going in one direction.

    From my memory of the 1997 Labour landslide, the policy to ban fox hunting featured highly and helped to characterise the change that most people wanted to see happen. Public demand forced the Hunting Act through I think we will see the same thing happen. Now is not the time to worry about the sheep in Parliament.

    Friends of the Earth this week produced the study that helped to expose the subsidies the estates are receiving. Lets carry on building support for a total ban and the better future for the uplands.

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  26. A few quick observations/questions:

    1. I, as a public servant have to state any potential conflict of interest and then, if its deemed to have an impact on the issue, basically butt out. Why is this different for MP's who are, essentially public servants?
    2. The fact that one of the Tories expresses a view that is essentially saying nature cannot be allowed to negatively impact the economy sort of shows what we're dealing with
    3. RE the above, the debate clearly shows that any biodiversity in England is doomed under this government
    4. The sheer lack of knowledge shown by many of the pro element is worrying - if they have so little knowledge of other things that government are supposed to deal with we're all doomed, let alone biodiversity.
    5. Did anyone really expect any less condescending attitude from the Tories? I certainly didn't having seen some of the replies to constituents letters.
    6. What exactly are all the Labour MP's so busy doing? Think my MP will be kissing goodbye to my vote next time round.
    7. Disappointing? Yes in a way. Expected? Yes, definitely. Was the whole thing a success? Absolutely. Driven Grouse Shooting is now in the limelight, as is illegal raptor persecution, subsidies paid to landowners, etc etc. Just a case of keeping it there.

    Thanks Mark for leading the line.

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    1. MPs have to enter things into a register of interests but the idea that they should then 'butt out' is clearly undemocratic. MPs are our representatives however well or badly they represent us. If my MP had to 'butt out' then I would lose my representation.

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      1. But their views didn't necessarily strike me as being 'your' views Giles, i.e those of their constituents. In many cases I got the distinct impression that they were their views. That's my point. Sure, some will have been representing their constituents, but given some MPs have written back to constituents stating that they like eating grouse so won't be voting for a ban (or word to that effect) suggests that some at least were protecting their own interests. It shows how imperfect our political system is. The debate should have focussed on facts, most were disregarded in place of opinion.

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        1. That's not how representative democracy works. We elect MPs to make decisions for us. Obviously they make these decisions based on their views which happen also to be generally the views that they expressed while campaigning. I knew my MP was a tory when he was campaigning because he had a big blue ribbon on. If we don't like the decisions that our MP makes on our behalf we can vote them out. I'm not a tory - my MP is. He is still representing me - maybe not always as I like - but I am part of a constituency and more people in my constituency voted for him than any other of the candidates that stood.

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          1. Really, I hadn't realised? Sorry but I find that a tad condescending Giles. My point (and I think you know my point really) is that a debate such as this should consider evidence and not be dependent on which MP's turn up and how much of a vested interest they have in the subject matter. I can and would support an independent grouse Moor owner giving evidence, but not one who would then go on to vote on the matter or be involved in policy decisions. Would you be happy for an MP who has a major role in a health company voting on whether to contract out work from the NHS? essentially all that has happened is the pro group that many of us have had debates with on social media etc has moved into parliament (with similar vitriolic attitudes from what I can see). And as for democracy - when the ruling party has less than 30% of the vote I'm afraid my faith in it disappeared long ago.

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  27. The 'highlight' for me was Steven Double's assertion that driven grouse shooting was not elitist because anyone could be a beater - idiotic or audacious remark? Saw Mark, Findlay (and I think Alan) in the audience at the back and it must have been torture sitting there not being able to intervene with the complete tripe being dished out. However, rubbish is still rubbish no matter how many and how loudly they spew it out. Mark, hope you and team had a nice pint afterwards, yesterday was an act of desperation we just need the truth.

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  28. Predictably awful. The only crumb of comfort is that the Tory shooters lived down to my abysmally low opinion of them. The contrast with the 'evidence session' in the Scottish parliament could not have been more stark. It seems to me that the immediate focus should now be Scotland, the National Trust and the National Parks.

    At a low point in a brutal Lions test in 1974 in South Africa, the great Willie John McBride reportedly turned to his battered pack of forwards and said quietly, 'Gentlemen, we've come much too far to lose heart now.' And the team remained unbeaten.

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  29. Well done Mark and all your associated Hen Harrier friends putting such a lot of effort into the fight.Rightly or wrongly however you look at it I feel sympathy for you all that for so much effort you have all been treated badly by MPs.
    Sadly I think a big part of it is that they can always think to themselves we can do as we like and can always quote the "Neutral stance on shooting of RSPB" so it cannot be wrong.
    I think without RSPB getting serious right from the top it will be a really hard fight.

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    1. It is possible of course that RSPB receive considerable funds from landowners who also have a vested interest in grouse moors.

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      1. Tim - it is possible but it wasn't true a few years ago when I worked for the RSPB. Thank you for your comment.

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  30. The only consolation is that there won't be a protest march on Westminster, featuring wooden signposts rammed into dead horses left in the streets.

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  31. Mark, you have done a tremendous job in raising the profile of wildlife persecution, flood control scandal and what can be achieved when ordinary members of the public act together in pursuit of a common goal.

    To my mind the next stage is to ramp up the pressure with the one thing that MPs for sure will take note of - voting numbers.

    To do that we need the main conservation groups to step up to the plate.

    The RSPB, particularly needs to unleash the so called one million voices for nature.

    The BTO needs to stop funding research into use of "throat spots" for sexing skylarks using our money (nice work, I'm sure, if you can get it) and lend a hand with the weak points in the science in support of real campaigns that have been exploited by opponents.

    Amateur groups need to get real and instead of cosy Sunday field trips and the odd 2/4K tetrad surveys the results of which are documented in a variety of atlases and databases and actively campaign en masse for the things that they will tell you they're concerned about instead of protesting they've done their bit and expecting others to do it for them.

    If that could be pulled off together with a high viz personality putting it all out there on our screens at night, then even the current administration would take note and give us something more than we got yesterday! I'm not just talking Hen Harriers here!

    But on that subject, I tell you what, the Calderdale Flood Action plan trumpeted by Therese Coffey the other day with hardly a mention of uplands defences had better deliver otherwise the locals should organise a march on Downing St!

    Mark, I have been critical of your style and gotten right up you nose but well done for your heroic efforts.
    H

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    1. Although I hate to say it, one of the biggest game-changers would be were Freya to come to a grisly end on a grouse moor!
      Then, perhaps, a 'hi-viz personality' could quite justifiably 'come out'. Up until now, the one I have in mind has been exceptionally professional and I admire them for that.
      I also admire you, Mark, for taking this on. You have a very strong following who are not going to give up.
      This fight is beginning to open out on several fronts now and the pro-DGS lobby know this and also are realising that the noose, (of their own making) is firmly around their necks. We need to ensure that we continue to throttle them until we finish the job.

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      1. The trouble with Freya being a victim, other than the obvious fact she's a beautiful creature, is that, as before in Scotland, "activists" would be blamed for a "staged death".

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  32. This wasn't a debate, it was a hijack! It was evident from the Petition Committee hearing that the primary issue - that of the illegal persecution of birds of prey - was not going to get a fair hearing. It came as no surprise, therefore, to find that yesterday's session was to be more of the same - as became immediately apparent from the despicable tone and terms in which it was introduced, which could hardly be said to have been impartial. I have no doubt that both hearings were stage-managed so as to prevent any sensible discussion of persecution issues. In the circumstances of yesterday's meeting, I applaud the ladies who sat on the opposition side and congratulate them for their valiant efforts, notwithstanding the odds being stacked heavily against them.

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    1. Thing is, to have a debate, you need to have well-briefed members to represent your position. Whilst a handful of MP's turned out and supported us effectively, it's disappointing that more didn't, and that Liberal and SNP members were conspicuous by their absence. Are none of these MP's birdwatchers?

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      1. It seems that most MPs get most motivated by protecting their own interests. I was shocked by the lack of opposition MPs - Labour, you have seriously disappointed me, and I will not forget. It was surreal to see that the room was almost entirely populated by the serried ranks of grouse shooting descendents of the Normans (didn't know Soames was still alive! But oh, he's such a big 'shot'). So this is our great democracy in action. Embarrassing, frankly. Poor Kerry and Angela - couldn't they whip up some support from fellow MPs? They were very brave in the face of that lot - thank you both. And thank you again to Mark - if Labour can ever be bothered to address this great injustice in the hills, we will get there eventually.

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  33. I have said my sincere thanks to Mark on other websites so I will not repeat myself.

    I have a couple of observations at this early stage.

    1. You/we have informed and mobilized a huge number of ordinary people to the serious issues in our uplands. They will not be going away from these issues anytime soon.This has changed the nature of the debate irrevocably.
    2. We cannot go back to a situation where the RSPB represents our views and purports to lead the debate. The management of the RSPB are not up to it nor up for it. They are our Achilles heel as the debate in Parliament showed.
    3. The Achilles heel for the shooting industry is wildlife crime and their inability to stamp out illegal activity.
    4. In addition, their use of lead ammunition and its impact on the food chain (nobody in their right mind wants to eat lead) and the indiscriminate poisoning of thousands of wetland birds.

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  34. In September I spent a night in a rural hotel surrounded by grouse moors on route to Scotland. It seems that spending money in a rural area in a grouse area has become part of the rural economy in support of driven grouse shooting according to one Tory MP. I know that many other birders stay in this hotel as I asked the landlord. I am incensed that as a birder my money in support of rural economies is being used in this way. No doubt others feel the same way. There is no way there can be a breakdown of the amounts of money that walkers, birders, other tourists contribute to the rural economy as I certainly wasn't asked when I spent money in local garage or shop. Listening yesterday you would think that it was only grouse shooters that supported the rural economy.

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    1. Yes, fair point. I remember reading Simon Lester making a claim that birdwatchers who came to watch hen harriers at Langholm didn't spend any money in the area but how on earth could he possibly know that? They didn't pay anything to the Langholm estate perhaps but I am pretty sure that they will have bought fuel from local filling stations and will have spent money on food and accommodation somewhere (they can't all have been day-trippers!) even if no-one was recording that.

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      1. Jonathan - there is a nice cafe at the bottom of the hill when one comes off the moor at Langholm. I've been in there several times after watching Hen Harriers. I seem to remember that I had a nice plate of egg and chips there once.

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  35. How can you get the EFRA Committee to take an interest? With the evidence out there, that would seem to me a logical progression.

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    1. Well they took an interest by participating, along with the petitions committee in the joint enquiry to which Mark and Jeff Knott gave evidence. We now have to wait and see what report they come up with...

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    2. EFRA - this morning on Radio4, the EFRA committee opinion that work needed doing in the uplands to lessen flood events, including incentivising farmers to manage land such that it holds water back, and that flooding should be managed by something other than EA was 'dismissed by Government' so even on a topic which would have a wider importance they are ignored. Our Government don't give a toss about the environment. we have all got to get used to that, doesn't seem to be any other way right now.

      Grumpy of Cambridge despite the sunshine and frost today

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  36. Do they think it's all over? Raising the profile is just the beginning.~Well done Mark and Thank you. So, what's next and how do we help?

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  37. Mark, you are a true inspiration. You want what is best for the beautiful natural world, and you don't see money as a reason to destroy it. We must keep hope. 🙂

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  38. if you can trust yourself when others doubt you; if you can be patient and not lose your temper; if you can handle being lied about but not lie yourself, and being hated but not hating yourself; if you do not look too good or talk too wise:
    If you can dream but not let those dreams cloud your reason; if you can think but still take action; if you can deal with both triumph and disaster; if you can handle it when others twist your truths into lies,

    Rudyard Kipling

    Much respect to the few MP’s who gave their time up to fight our battle, thank you very much, As with everyone else concerned with fighting the Organised crime blighting our uplands I was left deeply disappointed with this debate, I missed the opening 45 minutes but sat uncomfortably watching what preceded thinking it was a competition of who could come out with the most ridiculous comment,
    Did you know Heather Moorland is rarer than Rainforest?
    Well actually I did, heather moorland is manmade and can be produced quite easily within a few years, it has no agricultural significance yet the British Government gives millions of pounds of taxpayers money to multi millionaire owners in agricultural subsidies, Rainforest take hundreds of years to grow, there is no short term fix to replace them, Oh and by the way, football pitches are also rarer than rainforest and are also manmade and can be easily replaced.

    A hundred years ago there were no Hen Harriers in the UK, now there are 700 pairs.

    There were no breeding pairs 100 years ago because they became extinct due to persecution from Gamekeepers along with White tailed Eagle, Osprey, Goshawk, Eagle Owl and nearly the Red Kite which fortunately hung on in central Wales.

    In 1960’s there were only 300 pairs of peregrines now there are more than 1500 pairs?

    In the 1960’s peregrine falcons were almost wiped out due to DDT

    There were many more and I admire all those who attended for not jumping up and shouting out, it must have been so frustrating, the comparison with rainfall and bull Elephants came across as nothing more than Bullshit, please don’t be disheartened, this time we sat on the sidelines, next time we will be sat amongst them

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too:
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting.

    keep the faith

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  39. Brilliant achievement Mark, inspiring others an important part of it.

    For the future, there's a short, medium and long term. Perhaps the medium term demands the most thought. But meanwhile, short term, let's do a forensic examination of what each MP said and publish it. I'll help with that of course.

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    1. Richard - thank you. Yesterday was a good day, but then so was Monday. Today will be a god day too and I am talking about why we should ban driven grouse shooting to the Bangor Bird Group this evening.

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  40. I work for a Tory run rural Council. It is not a nice place to work. They don't care a jot, any of them, for the environment or wildlife. I think us few decent folk are banging our heads against a brick wall and need to keep on doing so otherwise the declining beauty of our landscape and our biodiversity will continue to fade away. Anyone who saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall speaking to Andrea Leadsom about ivory and elephants on his 2nd documentary, can see just what we are up against. I don't think airing it on Halloween was a coincidence. Horrifically false, condescending, and quite frankly, bored.

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  41. Mark, I echo the thanks already expressed. Can I record a supreme irony? My MP is Richard Arkless SNP who I know from others sources had no intention of being at the debate. A telephone conversation with me at about 15:45 appeared to persuade him to not only turn up, but intervene. This he did TWICE. I don't support the SNP and he knows that, and I don't think his interventions were very effective, but he bothered because he cares more about just causes than economics, as he said before leaving.

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