The ‘debate’ – some first thoughts

By Adrian Pingstone (talk · contribs) (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Adrian Pingstone (talk · contribs) (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On Monday afternoon and evening a Westminster Hall debate was held where UK MPs discussed the idea that driven grouse shooting should be banned because 123,077 people had signed an e-petition. The e-petition system was set up by Parliament so that the people could bring matters about which they felt strongly to the attention of parliament and ask for action.  The threshold of 100,000 signatures to secure such a debate was set up by parliament.  It’s a way for the people to influence those with power which stretches back to Magna Carta and beyond.  It’s generally regarded, and I agree, that it is a better way of getting the attention of those in power than rioting and other illegal activities.  But it does depend for its effectiveness on those in power listening and responding.

Here are a few thoughts on Monday’s debate, through all of which I sat, but I will be coming back to some of these subjects in more detail over the next few days.

  • Steve Double MP (he who thinks the Badger is the UK’s largest rodent) behaved appallingly as the MP chosen from the Petitions Committee to introduce the debate.  His role might have been to signal that this was a subject of considerable interest but not to parade his uninformed views which were basically saying ‘The people who signed this e-petition are wrong’.  I would have no problem with him expressing that view as an individual MP, but not in his role as a Petitions Committee member introducing a subject brought to Parliament by a large number of people. Mr Double was disrespectful of the process and of those who signed the e-petition and he ought to be ashamed of himself. I will come back to this.
  • Charles Walker MP, is a very impressive speaker in terms of delivery but traduced my views in his speech. As a holder of a degree in political science he might, perhaps, consider that he is inexpertly qualified to speak quite so dogmatically about science and he was one of several MPs (all Conservative MPs in favour of driven grouse shooting) who referred to me as Mr Avery when in this particular context it might have been more appropriate to recognise my doctorate in science (and a reasonably impressive publication record too). I will come back to this too.
  • The Conservative shooters turned out in very strong numbers including the Chair of the Countryside Alliance, Simon Hart; the chair of the APPG on Shooting (and Conservation ha ha), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown; grouse moor owner and GWCT trustee, Richard Benyon; the former director of public affairs for the British Field Sports Society, Nick Herbert; and last, and obviously not least, the disrespectful Nicholas Soames.
  • There were no Liberal Democrats MPs present in the Hall at any time through the 3-hour debate (unless I missed them – do tell if I did) and none made a contribution to the debate despite Liberal Democrat constituencies (and ex-constituencies of which there are many more) being strong supporters of the e-petition.
  • The SNP were thin on the ground despite Scotland producing a stronger than average support for the e-petition.  Let me thank Richard Arkless for making two useful interventions in the debate (and may I thank several of his constituents for encouraging him to take part in the debate) and Lisa Cameron for one and Margaret Ferrier for attempting three times (rather than the one recognised in the transcript) to intervene in the Minister’s closing remarks.  Having thanked those three, it was a poor show overall from the SNP who had the ability to make a speech in the closing and passed this up.  The Scottish experience, particularly in respect of vicarious liability ought to have been part of this UK debate.  If I had a SNP MP I would feel short-changed.
  • The Labour Party, of which I am a member, was also thin on the ground. Many thanks to those who turned up and most especially to Rachael Maskell and Kerry McCarthy for their excellent efforts. Angela Smith did quite well but lacks the killer instinct in these debates and as the Hen Harrier Champion might have been expected to get stuck in rather more on their behalf.  It was good to see one of the ‘Sodden 570’, Barry Gardiner MP, attend the early part of the debate although he could not speak as he is a Shadow Minister. Thanks too to Stephen Timms for making several interventions, to Holly Lynch for her intervention and to Stephen Twigg for spending some time in the debate. But where were the Labour scourges of the Establishment in this debate, and where were those with large numbers of signatures in their constituencies and where were those with an interest in nature conservation? It was a disappointing turn-out and one which was remarked upon by many Conservative MPs, who were legion, in tones of surprise.  I think the Cosnervative shooters were geared up for a bigger argument, but they were given a very easy time.
  • It was good to see Caroline Lucas arrive in the debate and make a couple of interventions and I know she had other pressing engagements which prevented her longer attendance – but if she had spoken, then in the allocated seven minutes she would have wiped the floor with the shooters on the other side. It’s a pity cloning is not yet possible and nor yet is proportional representation – I wonder which we will get first?
  • the RSPB got quite a lot of criticism (almost as much as Chris Packham and I did) from the Tory ranks, and a little from Labour too, for failing to have a worked-up rather than talked-up licensing system available. but they also got a fair amount of ill-informed and rather random criticism from the Conservative shooters. After being slagged off the RSPB was exhorted to come back into the fold of the Defra Hen Harrier Inaction Plan – the world is a bizarre place.
  • there was a lot of nonsense spoken: mostly by men (although Antoinette Sandbach and Therese Coffey obviously didn’t want to be left out) and mostly by Conservatives.  I will come back to this, for sure.
  • Several MPs were dismissive, or worse, of the views of those who had, through a process that parliament itself had set up, brought this matter to the ancient confines of the Palace of Westminster.  Parliament itself set up this process – it asked the electorate to voice its views through this particular system. And very few subjects, certainly very few as niche in the general scheme of things as driven grouse shooting, get the support necessary for such a debate.  The least that might be expected of MPs in such a debate is that they might recognise that the subject is one of concern. I have no issue with Conservatives who shoot piling out in droves to speak against a ban on grouse shooting, but that they did so with such deplorable bad manners when the 123,077 people had brought them to this debate is bringing parliament’s own process into contempt. But at least the Tories turned up!
  • the minister’s summing up was as complacent as everything else that has come out of Defra in the last couple of years. No change in policy was signalled. No concern about the current state of affairs was mentioned.

Petitions are a much better way of getting the attention of decision-makers than riots, but especially when MPs listen.  We need to keep raising the issues.  We will be heard.


100 Replies to “The ‘debate’ – some first thoughts”

  1. I must say that in many ways I was disappointed, by the lack of numbers of MPs reflecting some at least of our view and the appalling nonsense that the pro grouse shooting tories came out with and their disrespect for the whole system did they not read any of the evidence?There was precious little evidence they did, it should come back to haunt them, not least in the ballot box. what is now quite quite clear to even more of the populace is that if you are at all interested in science and conservation never vote bloody tory.

  2. I was absolutely disgusted by the ‘impartial’ (not) way the debate was introduced by Steve Double. The bad manners & unprofessionalism he demonstrated by being so disrespectful in his role that day, brought the whole petition process into disrepute & as you rightly say, he certainly should be ashamed of himself.
    I was prepared for a rigorous defence by those involved in & supporters of, the shooting industry, but many of those who spoke, I confess, immediately lost my respect by using cheap bar room style snipes at those who had championed or even just signed the petition. Surely, by showing absolutely no respect for those who were genuinely concerned enough to sign the petition in the first place, they deserve none themselves.
    Listening to the whole thing, it sounded more like just a big put down of the petition rather than an actual debate. I’m sure I’m not the only person to sign who was very, very disappointed that this was so very one sided & I certainly came away from it thinking we really do need a lot more Green MPs in there, people like Caroline Lucas, who are actually prepared to stand up & be counted against the ‘Old Boy Network” … in such a Lion’s Den.
    Congratulation Mark for bringing us this far … what’s the next step?

    1. They had to play the man. They had no prospect of scoring if they actually played the ball. More than anything this exposed their weakness.

    2. What do you expect Dick from a guy (Steve Double) who “thinks Badgers are Rodents”!!! this guy has no concept of wildlife or conservation issues, Being disrespectful and bad mannered is all you can expect from someone with a name like Double, who actually lives up to it by disrespecting his wife of 30 years and leading a “Double” life by having an affair with a woman half his age, how can anyone respect or trust an individual like this, he has no shame it seems

  3. Thanks for the summary Mark, perhaps not surprising. I’d like to say a huge thank you for spearheading this campaign, you should be very proud of what you’ve achieved and I’m full of admiration for your energy and commitment. I’m not surprised by the tone of yesterday’s debate. I continue to be disappointed that Labour is no longer an effective opposition and seemingly incapable of organising itself. However, as you said yesterday, times are changing. The first milestone in achieving change is awareness and bringing this debate into the public arena has increased awareness and will get people thinking. The shooters know this and that is why they mobilised a defence in Parliament. I’m no fan of Churchill, but he did have some rousing speeches. To borrow from one of his speeches, I’m convinced that this will be the beginning of the end of driven grouse shooting. Key will be maintaining the awareness.

  4. Many congratulations on getting the debate. Sounds like it was about at the level one might have expected, unfortunately. Well, that it happened is the main point. And when people are writing the history, the evidence session, speaking the truth to power, will be the thing that is remembered I predict, not the ill-informed views of a bunch of prejudiced blood-thirsty MPs!

  5. I am very angry with Stephen Gethins MP, SNP, North East Fife who received plenty of well argued supplementary information from my husband about the issue and from whom we have heard nothing. He seems more interested in tweeting about football matches. If the SNP smugly assume that EU nationals will back a second Independence referendum wholesale, they have another thing coming.

    I had already sat through the debate of the petition on a 2nd Brexit Referendum before the DGS one and could not possibly have imagined that things could have gotten even worse.

    If at all possible, the campaign should now be taken through the courts, for example through crowd funding of justice as advocated by the barrister Jolyon Maugham. He does not get involved with petitions, does not believe in them, and now I know why.

    1. OK, but SNP and Independence aren’t the same thing.
      I have already told my SNP MP he has lost my vote. Apparently i was even lucky to get the bog standard SNP reply from him as he has one of the worst reply records. He did vote to withdraw support of Saudi war on Yemen though. There are some great firebrands in the SNP as Richard Arkless showed. Apparently morals to the tories stretches as far as protecting those poor endangered gamekeepers.
      I was very impressed with Rachael Maskell and Kerry McCarthy was good too.

      Just terrible to watch so many lies going unchallenged.
      For example:
      Richard Drax (South Dorset)
      ‘Driven grouse shooting stopped in Wales in the 1990s, and was replaced by intensive sheep grazing. As a result, the all-important conservation management for red grouse also ended, resulting in red-listed species such as curlew, ring ouzel and black grouse plummeting by between 70% and 90% in just 10 years. The lapwing has been lost completely.’
      He was copying from his neighbour in class and even then got it wrong.

      Simon Hart managed to move the moor (Berwyn was referred to but not named specifically) to mid Wales so that moor really does get about and was clever to point out that Peregrines and Buzzards had increased because of the ‘exclusion of certain chemicals from those areas’ (they didn’t like specifics did they) not the withdrawal of gamekeepers and managed to slip in rock climbing as a reason for any future Peregrine declines. All bases covered. Those CA script writers are quite cunning.

      They really gave the game (no pun) away when they mentioned Peregrine increasing seven fold at Berwyn SPA as though Peregrines were vermin (Sandbach). The irony.
      Why didn’t someone intervene ‘is seven fold increase considered a failure?’.

      It was disappointing that Labour hadn’t read Mark’s second submission to the committee (were he dismantled the Berwyn spin) and that they hadn’t read up on Mark’s debunking of the Not so Talented and the phantom BTO figures.
      It is a very complex subject when we include all the environmental and economic negatives of grouse moors but surely all the CA scriptwriters lines of attack were obvious.
      The whole procedure seems strange. If we had know exactly who was speaking maybe we could have targeted them with more detailed briefing? It seems crazy that Mark (and Jeff Knott) couldn’t have been involved on the day and been able to slip the speakers notes when incorrect data (i have another name for it) was promoted. I presume that isn’t allowed. I saw notes being passed around to other speakers but have no idea what those were.
      It occurred to me that it would be good to see more debates on tv. Question Time is very popular and it isn’t that different from a debate. A real debate would be fantastic. Would universities host it?

  6. Well summarised. I would suggest it’s time to start a petition to improve the petitions process, but we all know how that would end up.

    1. Well, Mark, the case was well made but all the usual suspects (heavily briefed by the Countryside Alliance) spouted lies and half-truths.

      There’s still a long way to go against rich vested interests but this debate has given great publicity to the cause.

      As a fellow Labour Party member, I too, was disappointed by the lack of our MP’s in the room.

  7. It comes as no surprise that the tory shooters turned out in force and that the CA were smugly telling anyone who’d listen on social media what a victory it was. The simple fact is the people who are supposed to represent us in Government are just there to meet their own agendas or that of their sponsors.

    The electorate have spoken many times before and simply been ignored (especially on environmental issues) and this is a prime example. The Badger cull, fracking, the promise to repeal the hunting act – there simply isn’t the support from the people and yet the Government will steam roller through their ideas and allow their friends in the CA and NFU to pretty much dictate policy.

    I applaud you for even getting it to this stage and I believe it to be just the first step on the road to change but that road will be a very long one and somewhere along that road we’ll need a complete change of Government and overhaul of how we put these people in power.

  8. After the nonsense I listened to I fear now for the long term protection of our so called protected raptors that may have the misfortune to fly over or onto any grouse moor in northern England. What has been allowed to happen in the Forest of Bowland will I am sure be replicated on other moorland regions where red grouse are shot. This debate, supported by in particular the bias attitude of the Tory speakers, will in my view only bolster the way gamekeepers control raptors on the moorlands in England they manage, with impunity.

    1. Terry it already has happened on other moorlands Bowland is the last grouse shooting area to loose both its harriers and Peregrines. Here in the Dales our last grouse moor Peregrine success was in 1994 and our last harriers in 2007 and we have a better record than most. Disappointed we may be but these people have shown their true colours and that in the long term has to be to our advantage. Hopefully the nonsense spouted will come back to haunt them. We must all be in this for the long haul.

  9. Mark, you are a conservation hero, and have brought this appalling ‘sport’ into the public eye. This debate is a setback in some ways, but the movement to ban driven grouse shooting is at its strongest it has ever been. I, for one, will not give up the fight.

    1. Tom – thank you but it really was a joint effort. The debate is far from a setback in my view. It was always going to be a bit like this. The shooters did themselves no favours in the long run but it was a pity that we were unable, even with LACS and RSPB, to get more opposition MPs to put the case for change more strongly. But, we will win. Don’t you worry, we will win.

  10. Lots of people are quite rightly expressing concern and dismay at the attitude of the current government towards nature conservation. If nature is to have a fighting chance, there needs to be a powerful nature conservation lobby united around a shared vision, informing and involving millions of supporters in the fight to make a difference.

    I see little evidence of this happening. If one man and his blog – with help from his friends – can get this far, on a pretty obscure issue, what’s the potential if wildlife conservation bodies really got their act and their supporters together?

    1. Exactly, Paul – and I agree with most of the other comments too.

      I was sunk in despair. We are lost (on any issue) if the only lawmakers who turn up to a debate are those who support the status quo and complacently and arrogantly ignore other sides of the question, dismissing those who have worked hard to do all the research and present a good case.

      The point someone made about Andrea Leadsom dismissing Hugh Whittingstall on the matter of old ivory was exactly right. She appears to think that calling an animal ‘iconic’ twice is enough for us.

      In common with several others, I despair of the opposition and the big conservation groups who have not put their full support behind this campaign.

      But we keep the faith and carry on, because much depends on ending this cruel and damaging activity.

      We need another cunning plan.

  11. The Oxford dictionary defines debate as “a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote.”. While there was a lot of repetition on the side of driven grouse shooting, especially about birds like Curlew, Lapwing and the wonderful gamekeepers, there were not a lot of opposing arguments aired. 3 hours is quite a long time, I never expected us to win the arguments in this particular debate but I was hoping for much more balance. I felt cheated, am still very angry, and strongly feel that Steve Double’s introduction speech was inappropriate. I don’t know whether any rules were broken but I didn’t feel that we were granted a debate in spirit, they merely went through the motions and used it as a forum to air their extremely biased views. The fact that we didn’t get a vote is immaterial because we would have lost it overwhelmingly although it would have been interesting to see if any would have supported it. The petition has served as a very useful device to put the spotlight on our cause but it resulted in a debate in name only that was pretty useless.

    As I write this comment 486 items of evidence have been uploaded and I’ve read them all. I wonder how many MPs bothered to read any of them? I sent mine and one other to my MP but as she couldn’t be arsed to attend I doubt she read it. Nevertheless, it is surely a useful body of reference material from a variety of sources and I hope it can be made use of to inform the next phases of our campaign.

    I’m an interested party in this campaign but with no relevant qualifications so I very much value the careful, analytical way that you write Mark and I look forward to seeing how you and the other highly qualified supporters of the campaign dissect the debate and lead us forward!

    PS Maybe you meant as ‘niche’ rather than as ‘nice’ as grouse shooting….

  12. By ill timing a few days before I went to the debate I was at a Parish Council meeting being shouted at contemptuously by people whose total knowledge of the topic in question consisted of their certainty that I must be both stupid and wrong. The debate in Parliament was barely more civil and distinctly nastier precisely because the MPs’ contempt for the petitioners was clothed in ritual politeness.

    The introduction by the representative of the petitions committee was shamefully, astonishingly, biased and it all went downhill from there. Untruths (easily checkable untruths, like the assertion that hen harriers are thriving on grouse moors) went unchallenged. “Mr” Mark Avery was regularly lambasted for his lack of scientific knowledge by people quoting Viscount Ridley as a reliable source.

    Dr Coffey’s final response had clearly been written beforehand – she was visibly reading it a breakneck speed – giving the impression that even if we’d somehow 100% convinced her she’s be completely ineffective at doing anything about it even if she wanted to.

    Caroline Lucas spoke effectively when she intervened, but only about climate change – the way that nearly all politicians of all parties regard climate change as the only environmental issue they need to pay lip service to is very damaging, and I wish she’d picked another aspect to challenge.

    Labour were frankly pathetic, the honourable exceptions being a powerfully spoken and passionate Labour female MP from Yorkshire and Rachael Maskell who did her best against the interruptions of the misogynist old boys network. If any other Labour MPs showed up I didn’t notice, confirming that as a party they are both completely disinterested in the natural environment and utterly ineffective as an opposition. Never mind the Hen Harrier, this was a golden opportunity for political combat but evidently they couldn’t be bothered.

    I only recall one intervention by the SNP, which should have been a much needed reminder that there are things other than the economy that also matter, but was instead phrased as a cheap party political jibe after which the MP left, no doubt proud of himself but leaving me at least with the impression that he was just a prat.

    Profoundly depressing on many levels. The utter contempt that the institution of parliament proudly showed for the people it represents. The confident arrogance of Tory power. The post factual world in which the MPs live, where science is understood only as something you cherry pick when it suits your interests, not something that informs your views. The lack of respect for the Rule of Law; wildlife crime must of course be routinely denounced if only by way of dismissal, but of course it’s never committed by People Like Us.

    The only chink of hope is that Dr Coffey, unlike her predecessor, did not completely dismiss vicarious liability. But I fear for all our futures if this is how parliament revels in its rule over the rest of us.

    Well done for getting this far, Mark. But whatever we do next, must be outside parliament. If the debate showed one thing, it was that Parliament really doesn’t give a **** about what 123,000 of us know or care about.

    1. Dr Coffey did not present herself as someone of ministerial material. Reading. At speed. Stumbling over words. Idiotic jokes. Like Stephen Gethins’, her tweets are revealing.

        1. Maybe just under qualified. And none of the MPs seem to undergo any CPD, unlike the people they represent. Look at the longer serving ones, their rhetoric, body language … I admit it now, I had the volume off from at about the time Simon Hart appeared on the scheme. Just watched his face and the responses of the members of the public sitting behind him. Very funny. Someone contact Graeme Lineham.

        2. I know her slightly in a professional context and I would certainly not describe her as odious. Ineffective perhaps, and certainly not at all interested in the natural environment as I understand it, but she’s not personally unpleasant and not to my knowledge uncaring, wantonly hypocritical, or dishonest.

          Let’s leave the personal insults to the opposition. We’re better than that.

          1. Did i say she was ‘uncaring, wantonly hypocritical, or dishonest’?

            I said she was odious i.e. ‘Arousing or deserving hatred or strong dislike’
            I see you are prepared to accept many other criticisms of the other speakers which were equally or more critical but not Coffey. I didn’t insult her i said i didn’t like her.

            The way she spoke about Greens, Margaret Ferrier, Lib Dems (‘an endangered species, and not one I am trying to save, but it seems that the Green party is adopting similar habits’) and Caroline Lucas was just plain rude. Compare her with the way Rachael Maskell conducted herself.

            To quote further ‘I particularly commend my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham), who described the extensive research he undertook for this debate’ when it was quite obvious that his only ‘research’ was a guided tour by the Countryside Alliance. His evidence was one of the worst as it was purely anecdotal. She is supposed to be intelligent so that was like a slap in the face to all those who have presented hard facts and years of research about the terrible state of the Peak District moors.
            Sorry that was enough for me to find her extremely un-likeable.

            She went on ‘According to a report by Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, which I recognise was criticised by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), shooting as a whole is estimated to be worth about £2 billion a year to the economy, supporting more than 70,000 full-time equivalent jobs’.
            In what way was she recognising Kerry McCarthy’s point, she was totally disregarding it without any reason.

            I found that attitude ran through her speech. Ignore all the science which doesn’t conform with the DEFRA/Grouse Lobby agenda. I do find that dishonest.

            Thank you, i will choose who i dislike if you don’t mind. If it helps i found the whole pack equally and often more odious but she just happens to be, or is supposed to be, the leader of the pack.

  13. I am still reeling at the abhorent rudeness displayed by people who govern our country! Maybe I’m naive and old-fashioned, but I would have expected far better standards than shown in that room. Would they have spoken to a trade delegation from abroad like that? Of course not. So why treat reasonable people, who are supporting a serious subject and with no financial or political gains in mind, to such abuse? As well as Mark and Chris, we have all been personally insulted and I think the Prime Minister should look at the characters and behaviour of these MPs in her Government. If they are prepared to treat us like this then…. ” You can judge a man’s true character by the way they treat their fellow animals”.

  14. Mark – I’m delighted and hugely relieved by the tone of this blog and you responses to comments above. The debate must have been a bruising experience for you (it certainly was for me) and I was concerned that it might have taken its toll on you. But your calm, good-humoured and positive words are back on my computer screen this morning.
    As for me, I’m still spitting tacks…

    1. Well said, Alan. The more he responds to lies and insults in such a dignified and measured way, the more Mark highlights the perniciousness and self-serving nature of the opposition he faced in this ‘debate’.

      It may be somewhat hackneyed but the words of Labi Siffre’s song “So Strong” keep running through my brain at the moment. They seem particularly apt:
      The more you refuse to hear my voice
      The louder I will sing
      You hide behind walls of Jericho
      Your lies will come tumbling
      Deny my place in time
      You squander wealth that’s mine
      My light will shine so brightly
      It will blind you

  15. Agree with Mark’s analysis. I’m still only half through the video/transcript – it’s soul draining, although I remind myself it’s good that it did happen – but my overriding conclusion is that these ‘debates’ seem entirely un-credible: MPs can say whatever they like, (mis)interpret publications however they like, and the format allows little challenge and no verification. Since MPs can’t be expected to be expert on all possible issues, those who can intervene are unlikely to spot flaws or non-sequiteurs, and those who do speak (with varying public speaking quality) seem on the transcript as wholly assertive and in command of the facts. The mere citizen can be left baffled as to what is true, let alone the finer points of a complex discussion.

  16. Wouldn’t it have been more time efficient if the Tory MPs had just chorused ‘Get orf my land’ and then closed the debate after 30 seconds?

    1. Quite – and if I could ever be persuaded to support nationalism it would be over land reform. Shame, shame, shame on the SNP.

  17. I don’t feel it was a setback at all. It was very depressing to watch, but, on reflection, I now feel that the minority, but powerful, Grouse shooting lobby, has just shot itself in the foot. The outcome of that debate (debacle) was never in doubt and I don’t think anyone thought that anything would come of it at such an early stage. It wouldn’t actually be very democratic if changes could be made on the basis of one debate after all. However, the eventual outcome will be won on facts and science. The blatant lies, deliberate twisting of facts and astonishing arrogance displayed are now all on record. Who knew it but there are still Tories who deny global warming! They have strengthened our hand. I wonder if there is anyone out there who has the skills to put a condensed version of the “debate” together. Get that to the 1M members of the RSPB or on youtube for example and the 123,000 figure will seem small fry.

  18. It is interesting to reflect on the contrast between the ritual toadying respect shown by speakers to the chair and the gross disrespect directed towards those who organised and signed the petition. Their contempt for democratic processes will not be easily be forgotten. Like others, I fear that this one-sided debate will embolden those who illegally persecute birds of prey but hope that this will lead them deeper into hubristic arrogance which will ultimately prove their downfall.

  19. You can hold your head up Mark. The opposition can’t. No surprise there. Rudeness is no recommendation in my eyes, of a good government.

  20. Mahatma Gandhi once observed that every movement goes through four stages: First they ignore you; then they abuse you; then they crack down on you and then you win.

    The debate is just the first battle of a longer struggle. The strength of the vitriol aimed at Mark, Chris Packham and the RSPB, the disdain for the views of the 123,000 and wilful misquoting of the body of science relating to grouse moor management at the debate shows the shooting fraternity are rattled. Their behaviour has only served to strengthen my own views that the despicable practices around driven grouse shooting should be banned. We will win I but it will take longer than I want (today) or might have hoped for but we will win.

    1. J.B.S Haldane is reported to have said
      ‘I suppose the process of acceptance will pass through the usual four stages: i) This is worthless nonsense, ii) This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view, iii) This is true, but quite unimportant, iv) I always said so.’

  21. Well said Dr Avery, an accurate and succinct initial appraisal, thank you for your tireless work thus far. I admired your composure and that of others around you during the worst of the ‘debate’, any outburst would have been pointless and counter-productive. It was frustrating enough viewing it at home.

    In my dictionary the word debate doesn’t really fit with what I saw but travesty would be more appropriate, it’s embarrassing that these people supposedly represent the views of the British public when they so blatantly just speak for the interests of themselves and their peers.

    I doubt many people had misconceptions that this battle would be won here, but the fight continues. We owe it to future generations who otherwise might inherit degraded uplands that are over managed to support industrial scale killing of red grouse at the expense of other wildlife.

    1. Especially impressive were the children who attended. Well done, them and their parents.

  22. Mark & Co: Very well done to get this far against the odds.
    Yes, the debate was contemptible — an affront to the democratic process. But those Tory shooters now have an unshootable harrier to contend with: Hansard.
    Keep trawling, tagging, tracking and taking the fight to them.

  23. I would expect a load of rhetoric from the Tories, it’s their style. At the same time as this in parliament was there something else going on in the Commons? PR is the solution ultimately. In Switzerland they have a petition system where if enough signatures are obtained it goes to a referendum. I suggest that is far more democratic than the token gestures to democracy that we have here in the UK. People in this country should face the facts and come to the conclusion that British democracy is a farce. Viva La Revolucion.

    1. I think the main news from that afternoon was the discussion on no inquiry over Orgreave and the failure to uncover Police failings and alleged vicitimisation of striking miners in 1984 (another thing which made me very very grumpy this week)…. many Labour MPs would probably have been discussing that. not sure exactly how the timings overlapped, though.

    2. “In Switzerland they have a petition system where if enough signatures are obtained it goes to a referendum. I suggest that is far more democratic than the token gestures to democracy that we have here in the UK”.

      Be careful what you wish for. Many ugly things – that I suspect you would be opposed to – could find their way onto the statute books if we went down that route: anti-immigrant policies, reversal of same-sex marriage laws, capital punishment, anti-environmental laws…etc. Petitions are not just launched by people who you or I would tend to agree with but by people with all sorts of different political perspectives – go take a look at the government petitions web-site. The rabble rousers at the Daily Mail would love to have the opportunity to push their mean-spirited agenda via endless petitions and referenda.

  24. The first bill to ban fox hunting failed in 1949 – we are only just starting and we are not going away.

  25. We were meant to get a ‘debate’, well Im still waiting!
    Appalling behaviour which wont be forgotten or forgiven. It put me in mind of this….

    “Our laws make law impossible, our liberties destroy all freedom, our property is organised robbery, our morality an impudent hypocrisy. Our wisdom is administered by inexperienced or malexperienced dupes and our honour false in all its points.
    I am an enemy of the existing order FOR GOOD REASONS”

  26. Is there a list of MPs who attended? I need to decide if mine is getting my vote next time around? He ignored 3 separate emails so not looking good.

    1. I checked on my MP Margaret Greenwood, Wirral West – and this is from her Twitter, in reply presumably to a constituent asking if she’d attended:

      “Sadly no due to other duties- a real shame, especially as I had Mark Avery’s ‘Inglorious ‘ in my bag and was ready to quote from it.”

      1. Other duties, evidence?

        Perhaps you might have to reschedule a dentists appointment (or variation) if she wants your vote come 2020?

        If it were genuine then why so public a reply, an email would have gained more respect?

    2. Me too, despite emails and tweets, mine (a labour mp in the heart of shooting central) never replied to me or my husband. She did not make any comments and I don’t know if she was there. I know she was in parliament that day as she spoke at another debate. But shocking apathy. I can see me voting green next time.
      As for the rest, were we surprised? Of course they were going to wheel out the braying hoards who don’t want something like science to get in the way of their outmoded, cruel and damaging pastime.
      Well done to Dr Avery and everyone else for this battle. The war is yet to come.

  27. I am pretty sure the debate was never going to go any other way. As George Carlin once said “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it”. This clip always worth a look
    What it did do was to highlight that the shooters “arguments” are not based on science. That they will play the man and not the ball instead and that they are complacent, arrogant even, about their control of the system. As Mark stated, here was a system set up by Parliament to air grievances that was effectively dismissed by that same parliament.
    Surely now comes the time for some sort of direct action. Maybe a picket or demonstration at some of the national park visitor centres to highlight the wildlife crime being committed within? Maybe more pressure on the National Trust, a supposed conservation charity,to stop shooting tenants on the land we helped them to buy.
    Unless there is a change of government or sufficient MPs are in fear of loosing their seats over the issue parliament just now seems a lost cause. Of course the cause itself is not lost it is only just beginning.

    1. Many thanks for that divine and sublime link.
      George Carlin, the best satirist from across the pond and possibly a pessimistic agnostic’s answer to The Second Coming.

  28. It is possible that you will be feeling a little battered & bruised at the moment Mark, & after the sham of Monday night I wouldn’t blame you.

    Before June 2014 I was a concerned birdwatcher who thought what’s the point of getting involved, my voice wouldn’t make a difference. Then I found your blog via Twitter. I read with interest and added the odd comment hear and there.

    Then came word of Hen Harrier Day, it was sold to me as a day of protest & celebration of this wonderful but heavily persecuted raptor.

    I was curious & went along to show support. As anyone that was there will know it was a bit wet, but that didn’t stop 570 people turning out.

    You inspired me to do more, your obvious passion & determination to help the Hen Harrier was contagious & since that day I’ve done what I could to help. You did that.

    Listening to the insults on Monday made me so angry as nothing that was said related to the man that I have come to know & admire. Of course on reflection it just shows how much you have done to rattle the establishment & you should feel extremely proud of what has been achieved in the last 2 years.

    We will win.

  29. Well done Mark on securing enough signatures to have the debate in parliament.

    The introduction by Steve Double (speak) was poorly constructed and poorly delivered. Surely the point of the introduction is to set out the basis of the petition not comment or criticise it, that is for the debate.

    On the positive side:
    I learned a great deal about flooding. It was caused by exceptionally high rainfall and has a link to the number and weight of elephants per acre but the logic of this rather eluded me. One thing is clear flooding has nothing to do with land use.
    There’s lots of wildlife on grouse moors including grouse, curlew and lapwing.
    Producing large amounts of CO2 in order that someone can have the pleasure of shooting grouse is entirely laudable.
    Wales is a desert with no wildlife at all.
    In order to support a few rural jobs some MPs are prepared support criminality.

    Absolutely appalling. It did not even reach the level of a High School debate.

    Any democracy that ignores and insults the views of 123,077 people who signed the petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting is in trouble.

  30. The debate was about the level I expected. Governments talk only in terms of money and “employment” on any issue so the focus of their supporters was always going to be in that area. Like many, I was taken aback by the level of abuse targeted at Mark, Chris and those of us who signed the Petition. I hope that this was a backlash from a declining, defensive group. Now we need to focus on the broader picture, landowners and those who are involved with the countryside who will listen. Find the weak points, exploit them and watch the opposition subside.

    On a minor point, when will the Labour Party wake up no stop tearing itself apart? Do they not realise that this Government needs to be properly opposed?

  31. What I take away from all this is that:
    1. The present Government is a clear and present danger to environmental sustainability and biodiversity and, condones organised crime;
    2. There is no credible opposition party in parliament. The Labour Party appears to be a waste of space in its current form;
    3. There is no point in wasting time trying to communicate with my own constituency MP;
    4. The written record of the so-called debate will be a veritable treasure chest of ammunition in the ongoing battle for hearts and minds;
    5. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

    I’ll end with a line from “Yellow flicker beat” from Lorde –

    “This is the start of how it all ends”…..

  32. What has changed since 1993 when we took our case to parliament to try and protect Birds of prey on Red Grouse moors with us on one side and the RSPB on the other? The killing has got worse and these Red Grouse moor owners and their keepers now brag about it in public like the Hen Harriers and Eagle Owls that were shot around here. When the tax man is in their pocket along with the police and politicians there is certainly an uphill battle.

  33. All that build up for what?
    Absolutely nothing!
    At least I have a load more knowledge about what is happening on the grouse moors, but knowledge will not prevent a gamekeeper from killing a bird of prey.
    On reading Coffey’s summary it appears that raptors were given short shrift.
    I understood that the idea to ban driven grouse shooting was primarily due to the persecuting of raptors, particularly the Hen Harrier.
    I’m sure that some will see the result of the debate as a ticket to carry on persecuting raptors.
    Until the UK is lead by a more sympathetic-to-nature government (highly unlikely) then I cannot see our natural heritage smiling for the future.
    I am not thick-feathered enough to deal with this anxiety-causing subject.
    The likes of Coffey and her cronies makes me sick.
    I’m tired.
    I’m FIRED!

  34. I stand for everything the ban driven grouse shooting campaign hopes to achieve.
    I respect Mark Avery enormously but what the hell is the reference in the first paragraph to –
    ‘rioting and other illegal activities’
    Who is it that you are making reference to? who is that has rioted and committed illegal activities? To further the cause of getting driven grouse shooting banned. Or who is it that has rioted or committed illegal activities in similar campaigns?
    I appreciate that this is slightly off topic but so is the reference quoted above.
    My suspicion is that it references peaceful direct activists in the same way as the right wing press do, the very same right wing press that will attempt to destroy the ‘ban driven grouse shooting’ campaign. The very same peaceful direct activists that have shared and encouraged tens of thousands of people to sign the petition.
    You are trying to achieve something we all dream of and will all help to achieve, but please don’t use the language of the right wing press, you’ll further their cause more than your own.

    1. Thank you, Pete – I wondered why this point was made too.

      Let’s not be divided, or it will take even longer to be rid of this futile, cruel and damaging activity.

  35. Ignorance, prejudice and self-interest held sway in this travesty of a debate. Thank god for the female MPs who spoke up against DGS, in particular Rachael Maskell, whose intelligence shone through all the Tory complacency and misinformation.
    I felt we did not hear enough of the compelling evidence about raptor persecution in the debate, which is the reason we are all here anyway. How about publishing a postscript or second volume to ‘inglorious’ containing some ‘gems from the written evidence…’
    We must not lose momentum at this stage.
    I’m very disappointed with the lack of support from RSPB.

    1. No fan of the RSPB ( remain a member though) but it is a little unfair to single them out as not supporting the petition. The Wildlife Trusts (800000 members) anybody know their position? WWF-UK ? Rewilding Britain? ( Sorry if I missed anything) There are others no doubt who perhaps Could have thrown their weight behind the petition.
      Anyway, Mr Avery you have my admiration for orchestrating this campaign and the dignity you have shown after that ” thing” on Monday evening, and I would assure you my admiration is not easily earned! You are a better man than me- I would have took to me sick bed! Well done.

  36. Whilst the views of the primarily Conservative pro-shooting MP’s was to be expected, I was surprised there was not a wider range of opinions from other MP’s. This was not a government bill, it was a response to a public petition so there was not an ‘official’ opposition to this. Therefore I would have thought there would have been more MP’s speaking personally about this issue and reflecting public opinion. Its telling that a number took to making this personal which hugely undermined their positions. What is clear is that if progress is to be made a coalition of supportive MP’s needs to be cultivated to champion it as well as keeping pressure up on Defra! Well done Mark and team for getting this far!

  37. Very disappointed with the whole process, everything has always been stacked against you. They were so rude and horrible to you in the evidence giving session and about you in the debate. That is just not on!

  38. Maybe allowing them to hang themselves was the best strategy.
    According to this Guardian report a study shows that we are predisposed to negative stereotypes and they certainly succeeded there. Just give them a platform and they will do the rest.
    A few youtube clips of the debate going viral would do wonders.

    Managed to get a cached version of Jeff Knott’s version of events on Martin Harper’s blog. To quote:
    ‘Overall, it was an interesting debate with a variety of contributions from MPs, varied in subject, opinion and quality. There was lots of agreement that biodiversity conservation is a major imperative. That is clearly good news!’
    Wow. ‘variety of contributions’. They could have made a choir off the same hymn sheet.
    Presumably that is a deliberate strategy to play politicians at their own game and appear nice but as a layman it appears that taking the grouse lobby sales reps at their word seems incredibly naive and even weak. I imagine them laughing as they pop the champagne bottles.
    Still, dropping out of the HH Inaction Plan and Jeff’s oral presentation were great.

    Sorry, i ill try to shut up.

  39. Mr Avery you are unbelievable,were you at the same debate as I watched,I saw you there shaking your head and smiling did you not take on board that you were ill prepared,you lied and manipulated reports,you have seriously damaged the due process of a petition.Stick to facts you may get some where,did you really expect any other outcome and it was your own faults that made it happen. And you still haven’t learned anything, blame everybody except yourself.

    1. Well, Norman. I think you need to re-examine whether this process was conducted in the manner of true public consultation on an important wildlife management issue. Whatever the next step, even MORE than 123,000 voters will be on side, I can assure you!

    2. In the context of the blog post you’re commenting on I can only assume that referring to Dr Mark Avery as “Mr” is deliberately insulting which sums up both your fact-free response and the level of debate offered by Conservative MPs. The only person here who appears not to have learnt anything is yourself so I suggest you educate yourself by reading some of the written evidence referenced here which will highlight the mendacious nature of most of their claims. The evidence that intensified driven grouse shooting walks hand in hand with systemic illegality is simply overwhelming. This was entirely ignored by the bulk of MPs largely it would seem, given their interests, out of self-serving motives.

  40. I wouldn’t advocate a riot, Mark, they do tend to get out of hand. However, to paraphrase dear old von Clausewitz, I do think it’s now time for ‘the continuation of conservation by other means’. And it would appear I’m far from alone in this line of thinking; I’d hazard a guess there are more than enough like minded souls to shake the complacency of the apologists for wildlife crime. So, dear friends, if you should fancy a loud (but, by any other measure, peaceable) day out on a grouse moor next August-December, I have little doubt the grouse industry will spend the intervening period recommending particular venues for us in their usual way.

  41. Like everybody else on this thread, I was not surprised, having been bombarded with propaganda from my MP, James Gray, from the Countryside Alliance et al in response to my contacting him about the subject.

    It is sad but true: the only thing that will make a government pay attention is civil disobedience.

  42. Well done Mark on all you have achieved.

    Just out of interest, does anyone know if there’s any data on how many changes have actually been made as a result of government petitions?

    It seems like all the responses / debates I’ve read about recently have basically amounted to someone in the government being presented with reasonable, well researched arguments for positive change and replying with ‘you’re wrong, we’re doing all sorts of things not remotely backed up by science or evidence but we’re going to keep doing what we want anyway’. How much of this are the electorate prepared to put up with before they realise democracy is crumbling?

  43. I signed the Petition and Im currently fighting a coal Opencast at Druridge Bay in Northumberland where both Pink Foots and Marsh Harriers are in danger of being displaced.
    I was extremely disappointed by thr MP’s who both slated you and Chris as people who don’t have any knowledge of grouse moors but they did – and quite a number did as they commented how much they enjoyed thr sport. Participating in driven grouse shooting however does not give them experience of grouse moors and how they are formed. Whilst the majority kept saying they were concerned about raptors being killed they didn’t really say that anything would be done about it. Also what happened about Mountain Hares they didn’t get a mention. Our Tory government think they know what is best for the countryside and it won’t change while they are in Government. If you are able to help Save Druridge as an Expert Witness Mark please contact us. We need to convince this Tory Government we don’t need more Opencasts and just how it will affect our wildlife being close to Cresswell Pond and Druridge Pools. Thanks. Lynne Tate

  44. I’m not understanding by which written and agreed process a petition with insufficient signatories to trigger a written response can be promoted to the status of a Westminster Hall debate. And as for the treatment of the petitioner, is there a parliamentary ombudsman that can look at the shoddy bias and conflict of interest of at least the Chair?

  45. Mark is there a link please to your second submission to the Petitions committee where you dismantled the Berwyn spin? I’ll look on their webpage and may find it there but if you have a link that would be quicker/easier.

  46. Thanks for the ground-breaking work Mark.
    I have become so incensed that I have emailed therese coffey

    saddened at perfunctory dismissal of epetion ban driven grouse shooting

    I watched in horror my first parliamentary debate – the driven grouse shooting club.

    Do you have to believe what you say as a politician, or is it a matter of having enough people in a room that you don’t want to upset?

    I was one of over one hundred thousand people that wanted a debate on the ban of driven grouse shooting. What we got instead, and what you agreed with in your very shoddy summing up, was a mess of anecdotal science and testosterone by proxy.

    Could you, Therese Coffey, should a bird in the face?

    I am genuinely absolutely horrified at the level of debate I witnessed.



  47. Mark
    I did ask my SNP MP (Patricia Gibson) to attend the debate and support the motion but her reply pointed out that it is a devolved issue so she couldn’t participate in a motion that only concerned England and Wales.
    I don’t know who drafted her reply but it seemed to assume that I am a shooter who thinks that grouse moors are wonderful. Her reply contained such complacent comments as “I fully recognise the positive role that is played by shooting estates in the management of Scotland’s natural environment”; and “I also recognise that well-managed grouse moors can make significant contributions to biodiversity targets”. This was after my email had explained how damaging management of moors for driven grouse shooting really is!
    There was just one hopeful paragraph – ” I appreciate that many of my constituents are concerned by wildlife crime……….and of course all shooting businesses must comply with the law”. So she does at least recognise that working on, or owning, a grouse moor does not absolve one from criminality. She also made the good point that the introduction of the principle of vicarious liability for grouse moor owners would be good for England and Wales, as it is already in Scotland.
    We obviously have a long way to go on this issue.

  48. I too listened to’the debate’ all the way through. My MP Ben How let was all for driven grouse moors giving jobs to so many, so wouldn’t be voicing my grievances. (I did not just put a x in a box to the petition and send to my mp !) As some else mentioned perhaps if National parks+ national Trust,RSPB+English nature were to band together have a TV debate or bring up the topic on Springwatch or Autumn watch (highly unlikely I suppose) perhaps this barbaric +out of date ‘sport’ could be banned. (I rarely see grouse in any of the major supermarkets in my area so can’t be that tasty!)(ps – yes I’m a vegetarian) I am with you all the way Mark, as are all those who signed for the ban.

  49. I watched the ‘debate’ yesterday transfixed – by the biased, arrogant and down right rude nature of what was said. I kept expecting to hear both sides of the argument but of course in the end it was pretty one-sided. They mostly had written, or had written for them, scripts in advance and I had the strong impression that with a few exceptions they had all got together beforehand to decide on the best tactics for dodging the real point of the debate. one of those tactics appeared to be time wasting by waffling on about their personal love of field sports. This certainly wasted time but didn’t lessen the impression they were clear about what they wanted, i.e no ban and for those pesky annoying constituents to leave them alone.
    I couldn’t believe how rude they were to Mark who was sitting in the same room. Perhaps you were expecting this Mark but you have my admiration for sitting through that and keeping outwardly calm.

    I’ve just had a reply to my letter to my MP Richard Benyon. He says there is nothing certain in life except for the fact that to ban driven grouse shooting would be a disaster for biodiversity and that I might like to read his speech on Hansard. The reply was short and I felt showed impatience with the subject and with me. I replied saying I had no need to read his speech as I had watched him give it, that I’d like him to explain how banning DGS would be a disaster for biodiversity and to tell me why he showed no hint of representing my views as one of his constituents.

    Thanks Mark. You are doing an amazing job.

  50. All I can say is remember your MP’s performance and input into this debate the next time they come looking for your vote. We the public put them in office, we can also do our bit to remove them at election time.

  51. Monday, 31 October will live in my memory as the day I realised I’m living in a more or less one-party state. Where on Earth were the MPs who were suppose to be representing ‘our’ concerns ? Shame on them. It was gut churning watching the gloating shoot-supporters, with hardly a mention of the innocent birds who will surely continue to be illegally killed. Despite all the ‘low’ points of the debate (which have so eloquently been referenced elsewhere on this blog) I feel that the DGS industries cover has been well and truly blown. The more people know about this vile activity, the more hope there is for a future where this is assigned to the dark days of dog fighting,cock fighting and hare coursing. Finally, thank you Dr. Mark Avery for raising this issue and for fighting for this most worthy cause. Will continue to follow your blog and do what I can to help bring it to an end. Please keep going !

  52. Not a surprising response from the Tories. A fantastic campaign so far though. Lots of people made aware. Lots of people who were aware now better informed. Lots of people angry and willing to work for change. An inspiring example of how to campaign. Keep up the good work Mark – you are brilliant.

  53. By the way, and also on the infamous night of the debate, did anyone see Inside Out, re pheasants and partridges…? yet more awfulness. The representative from the Countryside Alliance was featured.
    Here’s the link:
    I suppose this provides ‘meaningful’ employment for someone.

  54. Simon T, you suggest “the only thing that will make a government pay attention is civil disobedience”.

    At the risk of repetition, I would seek a serious review of 650+850. OK there is reputedly a boundary review, but turkeys and christmas on the distant horizon?

    Parliament does not IMHO represent the majority of people. Those sitting in the place are so distant from real life there needs to be serious REFORM.

    So many of those ‘debating’ DGS yesterday were ‘dishonourable’ and in so behaving have forfeited the expectation of priviledge they deem as their right?

  55. Time for another book, I’m afraid – debunking the rubbish spouted by Double, Benyon etc. How about “The ‘Ban Driven Grouse Shooting Debate’ – how a bunch of self-serving MP’s put the ‘mock’ in ‘democracy’…” for a working title?

  56. A contemptuous dismissal of the concerns of many, many people by Parliament’s finest perhaps but we should not be too cast down. There are some fantastic precedents of causes that were initially rudely rejected by those in power but where right prevailed in the end. Slavery, apartheid and the exclusion of women from the electorate, for example, were even greater injustices, propped up by even more entrenched vested interests, but in the end pressure and protest by decent people resulted in their overthrow. Likewise, as the light has been shone onto the harm done by driven grouse shooting (and what has been revealed placed on record in Hansard) we can be confident that change will sooner or later happen.

  57. This seems to back up our recent experience :-
    I still think it has done us far more good than the DGS people realise. They have harmed their own argument with their arrogance.

  58. This seems to back up our recent experience :-
    I still think it has done us far more good than the DGS people realise. They have harmed their own argument with their arrogance.

  59. And what is this “little grey hill partridge” which apparently roams the grouse moors along with “wild chickens”?

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