I love this time of year…

The run-up to Hen Harrier Day and the #Inglorious12th is always a great time of year. It’s when the worst elements of the shooting industry, and their hangers on, show how rattled they are, and let a little nastiness out for us all to see. Here’s an example from last year.  Since then they have had to be told to pretend to be nice on social media.

But BASC didn’t get their own memo it seems.

This Tweet from the official BASC account hasn’t gone down that well with some BASC members but its real value is that it shows how rattled the grouse shooting industry is as it gathers together, huddles together for comfort, at the Game Fair this weekend.  Since they last gathered together to tell each other how important they are 123,077 people signed a petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting and the likes of BASC etc could only manage to drum together c25,000 signatures in support of grouse shooting.

I was surprised to see that Robin Page said something correct on his Twitter account and would like to mark that moment here.



With his keen eyesight and dull ability never to see the important elements of any argument, Robin says that I am fat – well, can’t argue with that. Well done Robin!  You are short – but that’s irrelevant too, except you are short of arguments and tall on abuse.

He suggests that I am paid to blog and tweet – don’t know where he gets that from and it isn’t true. Robin can’t understand that some people do things because they believe in them – and despite the abuse from others.

But it’s a fairly frequent response from shooters that I am somehow profiting from campaigning – here’s another example from those nice people in BASC (before they sent themselves the memo that they have forgotten about now).

But Robin demonstrates that no insult, however inaccurate, is too wide of the mark for him to use…

Robin is, of course, right.  My pretence of being a scientist started with ‘O’ Levels in Biology and Physical Science in 1973, ‘A’ and ‘S’ Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics with Maths in 1975, a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge in 1979, a year working with Prof Lord Krebs FRS in 1980, a PhD from Aberdeen University on the Winter activity of Pipistrelle Bats in 1983, a NERC Post-doctoral Research Fellowship from 1984-85, and then a job in the RSPB Research Department starting in 1986 and being Head of Conservation Science for RSPB from 1992-98.  It’s been quite a long impersonation of a scientist resulting in a large number of scientific papers including in journals such as Nature but Robin short-of-any-arguments-except-abuse Page has seen through it.

How many bad apples are there in driven grouse shooting?

And then we come to Mark Osborne (thank you to Raptor Persecution UK for bringing this to my attention) who once told me that he is a very rich and powerful man – well, he’s clearly rattled now. Mark Osborne has probably made more money out of killing grouse for fun (he manages moors and sells shooting days) than most in the shooting community and he has a reputation for delivering the goods (100% track record – failure not an option – see p64 of Inglorious).  I was told recently by someone involved in shooting that the sardonic remark going around the shooting industry is that ‘It won’t be Mark Avery who ends driven grouse shooting, it will be Mark Osborne’ which indicates the low regard with which Mr Osborne is held by some of the people who, to his face, treat him as if he were their best friend.

But have a look at what Osborne says in his newsletter and notice that he feels the need to try to recruit other shooters to the cause of driven grouse shooting.  That’s because the actions of the grouse shooters are bringing the whole of shooting into disrepute – all suffer from the appalling publicity generated by ecological damage, wildlife crime and abusive supporters.  Osborne’s insecurity is based on the fact that driven grouse shooting is the extreme end, the extremely distasteful and damaging end, of shooting.  And that is, naturally, why I have been targetting driven grouse shooting and no other form of shooting in my campaign.

And so I can promise Mr Osborne something that will surprise him, when driven grouse shooting is banned I will never campaign against pheasant and partridge shooting as you claim I will, because I will regard my campaign to have been successful and I will move on.  But until then, you are right to be rattled.  Be afraid, be very afraid, because driven grouse shooting cannot persist in its present form because there is far too much wrong with it.


If you know enough already and want to rattle BASC, Robin Page and Mark Osborne even more, then here are some things you can do:

  • join Findlay Wilde’s thunderclap on social media that will send out a message to millions of people that the Hen Harrier is a beautiful but persecuted bird that needs our help –  spreading awareness of the issue helps a lot.  Thank you to all who have already supported Findlay’s initiative including powerful supporters Chris Packham and Natalie Bennett of the Green Party.
  • come to a Hen Harrier Day rally on 5th or 6th August to show your support for this wonderful bird and your opposition to wildlife crime. Saturday 5 August, events at Rainham Marshes RSPB nature reserve, Sheffield city centre, Loch Leven RSPB nature reserve and Glenarrif Forest Park; Sunday 6 August, events at Arne RSPB nature reserve, the Forest of Bowland, Isle of Rum and Boat of Garten. Come along to show your support with like-minded people, and why not bring a friend along to the introduce them to the subject?
  • lend your copy of my book, Inglorious – conflict in the uplands , to a friend or suggest they get it from their local library – there’s lots about Hen Harriers but their plight forms only a part of the case for banning intensive grouse shooting completely
  • on the Inglorious 12th, the opening of the grouse shooting season, come on a march in London to make driven grouse shooting history.  It’s this industry, which profits from shooting birds for fun, which is threatening the Hen Harrier with extinction as an English breeding bird and causing so much other ecological damage to our environment.


30 Replies to “I love this time of year…”

  1. Brightened up a dull weather morning…I have to share a village with Robin, and your statements will be lost on him and made me smile. Does Robin even read this blog?

      1. my favourite way of irking RP is to wander around the village in my hen harrier day t-shirt.

          1. 2018’s Hen Harrier Day Fens in RP’s village then? 🙂

            On second thoughts, why bother, he’s an irrelevance, albeit a rather amusing one.

  2. I reckon I’m more than an armchair conservationist but nonetheless to answer BASC here’s a short list of my efforts over the past year:

    didn’t shoot, trample, or bludgeon any hen harriers
    didn’t shoot or poison any golden eagles (or red kites for that matter)
    didn’t burn out any early nesting birds, amphibians, reptiles or anything else that lives on moorland
    didn’t trap and kill any red squirrels, ring ouzels, mountain hares, gulls or pine martens
    I could go on, but this give a flavour of my conservation efforts. I look forward to BASC and others emulating me.

    1. Bimbling,

      Wonderful comment. Often it’s not the things you do – it’s the things that you don’t do. Slightly tangential, but I’m reminded of the late Paul Eddington who when a journalist once asked him how he would like his epitaph to be, his reply was, “I would like it to be ‘He did very little harm’.

  3. “Unfortunately, the Hen Harrier is still much hated on most grouse moors, and where large sums are paid to shoot grouse, it appears that legal protection of harriers avails little or nothing.” I quote, not from yourself, Mark, or from Chris Packham, or from any supporter of the BDGS campaign, but from Donald Watson in 1977. What a pity Robin Page can’t get himself an education and understand that many, many people are not impressed by his raptor and people ‘bashing’ activities which reflect his complete ignorance of the serious issues involved. I’ll leave any potential supporters of Mr Page, who might be reading this, to do their homework on who Donald Watson was.

  4. Ah yes those great intellects, Robin Page, Duncan Thomas and Mark Osborne not forgetting the great Ian Botham. Tripe merchants the lot of them with little real argument in favour of their views ( because there really aren’t many) so they resort to insult. I was always told as a child that in any discussion or argument when that happened what they were really saying is that they had lost.
    I read somewhere recently that a nesting pair of harriers will ” cost” a moor a 1000 grouse that will be eaten. I have yet to see any harriers thus fed and so fat they cannot fly or hunt. All these people that think that harriers are grouse specialists and how much they eat have obviously read nothing about the birds. Main prey Meadow Pipit and Field Vole, yes they take some grouse and some wader chicks( I’ve also seen, stoat, young rabbits and adder taken) but the more voles and pipits there are the fewer other things they eat.
    Then these are the same people that say there is no persecution! Oh for the publication of NE satellite tag and radio tag data that disproves that once and for all. Perhaps that is why its not been published. Not only does that protect the guilty but it tarnishes the innocent too!

  5. Osborne’s days are numbered. Soon his business will be effectively an agency selling shooting days, or even just a website, where he can compete on a level playing field with the many others. The promise of exceptional bags of grouse for the paying customer will be a thing of the past and all shoots will be licenced. Barren heather monocultures will be a thing of the past, having been replaced with diverse mosaics of ecosystems.

    Osborne is right about one thing as far as I am concerned and I speak only for myself, it is class war. Not removing the upper classes has held the UK back for generations and the prevalent attitudes demonstrated by the grouse shooting industry are simply symptomatic of this old fashioned class structure. They are downright anti-democratic, ignoring and above the law.

    I personally would simply say “live and let live” but at the end of the day I reckon most grouse shooters, rather than being from diverse backgrounds suggested by Gift of Grouse etc, are all members of neo-liberal thinktanks, who have convinced themselves that any regulation of their activities, stands as an infringement of their right to ride roughshod over the rights of everyone else, simply because it is them who have more money.

    1. It is only class war because that is what “they” want to make it so they can talk about the politics of envy rather than the real issues. On any rational discussion of conservation, shooting, the countryside and even the economics of it all their arguments are as weak as tissue. Hence they resort to insults,deflection and a tissue of lies.

      1. True, they are actually wrong. However personally I don’t mind playing class war cards too. Poor persecuted landowners who own vast swathes of the UK being cruelly and unjustifiably treated by the working classes, who are largely the survivors of centuries of poverty and deprivation. Shame for them we outnumber them 100 to 1.

  6. Three or four years ago, while assisting a small group of “out and proud country folk” ID some wader or other on The Scrape at Minsmere, one of them began to spout the usual cobblers about Sparrowhawks “eating all the songbirds”. Needless to say, I politely put them right, explaining (to the best of my ability) how ecosystems actually function. “Well Robin Page says so” came the reply.
    Also in the hide was a certain well respected environmental journalist, who was quietly tittering to himself at my efforts to open up closed minds. When the group had left, we got talking, and he complemented me on the way I dealt with the issue. “Thanks very much” said I. “It’s never easy when people read rubbish in some two-bit rag from the likes of Robin Page”. His reply summed things up perfectly…

    “The man’s an idiot.” 🙂

  7. The death throes of the defeated are sometimes unpleasant to witness but we can take heart that they will very soon be a thing of the past, not many will mourn their passing. I’m fat too by the way, more of us to love!

  8. Grouse shooting is not a class thing, it’s not a justified tradition, it’s not conservation………to me it’s just greed. It is just making money through a cycle of death. Kill any red grouse predator to protect red grouse….and then shoot the grouse. If you want to shoot, do NOT do it at the expense of destroying a natural eco system and not at the expense of everyone’s right to a natural inheritance. Make sensible choices that have the protection of the natural world put first. 4 pairs of hen harrier breeding in England is not a natural balance.

    1. Findlay of all the names that appeared on the signatures list for the petition on a driven grouse shooting economics study yours was the one I was most chuffed to see. Cheers!

  9. I disagree with many of the opinions Robin Page holds, but the man is no irrelevance where the demonstration of more sustainable farming methods are involved. I will continue to support him,financially, for this reason, and if I meet him again will try to give him a different perspective.
    Maybe the views of an ex- keeper will count for something,
    Mark Osborne, who I knew in the seventies on the Snake Moors, made an interesting comment in,
    I think, his November news page.
    In this he seemed to imply that Grouse shooting in the future may have to change, and some of the less prestigious areas may have to be abandoned, at least that’s how I interpreted it.
    My copy of “The Hen Harrier” cost £ 6.80, in 1978, Sandra.

    1. We all support Mr Page financially through the farming subsidies he claims on his farm land.
      I wonder if the “townies” whose money he accepts know how much he despises them.

  10. A favoured defence tactic used by the pro-grouse shooting lobby is to personally smear the professional qualifications or scientific credentials of those who criticise their so-called sport. In the process they fail to see the irony in their own lack of anything remotely resembling a decent knowledge of natural history and ecology. They love to remind us that they learned their trade by attending “the University of Life.” My own experience of entering the lions’ den recently was, as usual, a real eye-opener. The tactics they use are attempted ridicule, mindless abuse and torment, accusations that raptor-lovers are a bunch of liars, and a complete denial of reality. They do their homework, and ever since they discovered I worked most of my career as a Principal Ecologist in a Scottish Local Authority, I’ve been dismissed as a “jumped-up street sweeper” who can’t possibly have any expert knowledge of Hen Harrier breeding biology. Mildly amusing to some extent, but annoying at the same time and reveals that there is little point in challenging them head to head. They remind me of football hooligans in their approach, but these are the ground troops, and the big guns which challenged “Mr Avery” and colleagues at the Westminster Hall debate were far more sophisticated liars, whose supporters and lackeys hang on their every word and believe it as gospel. You’d think it would be easy to confront such people, but it is in fact a difficult task we have ahead of us. Until the RSPB comes down off the fence, sadly I’m convinced we will never resolve this conflict. Just knowing that the enemy are fools will get us nowhere, so long as they continue to shout loudly enough, have deeper rich mens’ pockets and know their place in society.

  11. “I will never campaign against pheasant and partridge shooting”.

    I’m not sure you should have shut this door, Mark.

    You don’t know what the future holds.

      1. But there is much wrong with the release of millions of alien birds without a full understanding or any real understanding at all of the ecological impacts it has on our environment and native wildlife. I’m not saying we should or shouldn’t ban it but we certainly need to get answers to those questions Mark in order to understand the impacts. We might then need to make decisions from knowledge. Somebody once called driven grouse shooting canned hunting if that is the case pheasant and rel leg shooting is even more so.

        1. I agree Paul, wholeheartedly, but maybe someone else will take the strain on this one – Mark will have done one excellent job when driven grouse shooting is ended, but perhaps will want a rest? Canned hunting in the lowlands is causing unknown ecological damage – but we might guess it affects, for example, vegetation structure and composition, invertebrate and reptile populations, and numbers of other species such as grey partridge – not to mention the routine slaughter of “vermin”. It all needs testing and investigating though – amazing that NE, CEH etc. haven’t done this.

  12. One of your best Mark. Robin Page had one good idea: the Countryside Restoration Trust, but his abusive xenophobic attitudes and illogical muddled thinking don’t help the cause

  13. I agree entirely with the comment in your blog that Mark Osborne has done more than anyone else to lead to the real threat of the demise of driven grouse shooting. I just can’t understand why he wasn’t kicked out of having anything to do with grouse shooting years ago. Him being ‘rich and powerful’, along with the greed of some grouse moor owners, has no doubt has had a bearing on this. When he falls from grace I hope he lands heavily.

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