Moorland Imbalance (6)

I’ve enjoyed the response of the GWCT to my criticisms of their little booklet: The Moorland Balance, Moorland Imbalance (1), Moorland Imbalance (2), Moorland Imbalance (3), Moorland Imbalance (4) and Moorland Imbalance (5).

Their little booklet would be better entitled the Bluffer’s Guide to Moorland Imbalance.  And I’m sure we will hear some of the arguments from it from people who do not know any more about the subject than what they have read in their Bluffer’s Guide – these points can pretty easily be rebutted with real science.

The five areas which GWCT chose to major on have been dealt with here this week and the GWCT’s spin doctor has responded each day – but not by defending the arguments in their little booklet but by sliding around them and occasionally having a go at me.

GWCT are now marginalised in the driven grouse shooting debate because there is precious little science that actually helps their cause – apart from the fact, agreed by all, that some ground-nesting birds benefit to some extent from the moorland management regime associated with driven grouse shooting (a fact established a long time ago by a piece of joint RSPB and GWCT research).

The Bluffer’s Guide is a classic example of spin despite the fact that Andrew Gilruth is so keen to use the word science in his non-responsive responses to criticism.  It provides a wealth of examples of the spin doctors’ tools: straw men, ignoring inconvenient evidence, misquoting inconvenient studies, muddying the waters and picking cherries.

The grouse shooters cannot admit the facts of illegal raptor persecution without losing huge face – we haven’t heard much from Amanda Anderson since her disastrous ‘If we let the hen harrier in…‘ remark have we?  They don’t have much option but the scandal is that Defra go along with this nonsense – at least the grouse shooters’ moll, Therese Coffey, does.  No industry can survive with the scale of crime which underpins driven grouse shooting, and nor can any hobby.  This is their weakest point and all those satellite tagged raptors will press home this aspect – the only escape is to stop persecuting raptors.

But the flooding argument is also strong – and GWCT’s defence of grouse shooting is very weak. Their argument is ‘It’s all very complicated and we need more work but it probably doesn’t happen’ which seems difficult to justify against the science and against a government which is moving towards trees as a natural flood management measure.  Given that the best place to reduce flood risk is high in the catchment then rewilding looks on the cards for many upland areas under new agricultural regimes.  And stopping a few bad floods easily recoups the few tens of millions of pounds that the grouse hobbyists claim their sport is worth  (although they don’t seem so confident about that any more either).

The Bluffers’ Guide to Moorland Imbalance is one of those gifts that keeps giving.There are lots of other weak arguments inside its covers.

I think I’ll return to it every now and again as time goes on as I’ve only scratched its rather thin surface so far.

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12 Replies to “Moorland Imbalance (6)”

    1. Dave - indeed this blog has been a welcome boost for the sales of this publication - and the available science.

      Science in peer reviewed journals - is just science.
      1) Science does not then subdivide into 'real' and 'unreal'
      2) 'New' science does not trump 'old' science, just because it is new
      3) Where the evidence is conflicting - it is normal to conclude more work is required

      Flooding illustrates why we should be careful about acting on speculation and opinion:
      a) Catastrophic flooding in our uplands happened long before driven grouse shooting was invented
      b) The Natural England Upland Evidence Review (2013) could not find evidence of the flooding link
      c) The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011) pointed out that since rewetted peat is 98% water it will not solve downstream flooding.

      I hope this helps. Best. Andrew

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      1. Andrew - that doesn't help at all. What is your considered view of http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014WR016782/full whose findings your little booklet misrepresented? It shows that heather burning increases flood risk doesn't it?

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  1. Absolutely Dave

    Mark and RPUK do a fabulous job raising the profile of #wildlifecrime through factual reporting underpinned by robust science and long may it continue.

    What I find intriguing is the gullibility of the shooters in so far as they believe the spin bowled at them. Surely there must be some amongst them (and we hear of potential candidates through comments on Mark's blog) who realise that if they don't clean up their act then the whole sector will suffer the consequences of the actions of a 'few rotten apples'?

    That leaves us to consider the notion of their friends in high places perhaps? Whilst they may be able to assist in certain arenas they have singularly failed to silence the critical mass of social media? So, let's keep up that pressure and then lest it be seen as in cahoots then perhaps the 'mainstream' media might take up a more principled and democratic stance?

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    1. Jeremiah 5:21 ‘Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not’ ...or words to that effect! Until they can be persuaded/educated to see and understand the truth, they will no doubt continue to follow the herd and their mates. Despite the proof that drinking and using phone while driving contribute to accidents, there's still many, many people who do, and as for speeding...?! Sadly, despite being a supposedly intelligent species, we prefer to do what suits US! Often, only when someone is named and shamed in full public view, will they 'mend their ways'.

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  2. "The Bluffers’ Guide to Moorland Imbalance"! Yes a very apt title for your recent talk at Chesterfield
    https://www.facebook.com/peakdistrictmoorlandgroup/posts/677651502432701

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    1. James I saw that post from the PDMG a while back - the post itself and the comments after it came over as a bit desperate, personal attacks and just contradicting what Mark said rather than providing counter evidence. The drainage/re wetting issue in relation to their own moors came up. If the grouse shooting estates are that keen on restoring degraded peat bogs funny how Walshaw Moor got its knuckles rapped for all the gripes it put in (have the other estates come forward to criticise it or say it's an anachronism?) and why didn't they fight against all the drainage put in decades ago? I have a feeling it wasn't only done at the behest of sheep farming, is it possible that the grouse shooting fraternity were big pushers behind the scenes, after all public funding for farming sounds a lot better than public funding for sport shooting. If there's a bit more re wetting and restoration going on on moors now is that because of political pressure, public relations and funding for it rather than any genuine change of heart? I think you've done a good job drawing attention to that post, it's just not convincing, loads of wishful thinking to my mind on the part of PDMG and I'd recommend anybody to look through the comments too and come to their own conclusion as to their followers' behaviour at the talk. Years ago when a group of game keepers staged an impromptu demonstration on the Glenfeshie estate to protest at its sensible deer culling policy Cameron McNeish memorably referred to them as a 'rural rent a mob', just saying.

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  3. Well done on a great series of posts debunking this book. It is rather convenient that GWCt have put all their arguments in one neat package making it easier to ridicule. I will not be buying a copy.

    It does still show how much work is still to be done because it is not scientific argument that will persuade grouse moor owners, shooters and their enablers in Westminster it will be public outcry and shaming.

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    1. Gerard - indeed it will. And we are making progress, slowly but very surely. Thanks for your support.

      We have no chance of persuading the grouse shooters - they know what they are doing and they just don't care about the harm that their hobby causes. And they don't seem to care about the high levels of criminal activity.

      But for those coming new to the subject, as some do every day, seeing that the, on the face of it plausible, defence of grouse shooting is challenged by reasonable and knowledgeable people shows that there is an issue here. And when people see an issue they investigate further, and when they investigate further our numbers will grow and the end of driven grouse shooting comes ever closer.

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      1. To me this is the worst thing in IMHO. That is the complete refusal of those involved with shooting to accept the evidence as to exactly how widespread the illegal persecution of raptors is. It rather destroys the old adage about enlightened shoots, when so few shooters are willing to acknowledge the evidence of the scale of the problem. They all hugely minimize, deflect, cherry pick, evade acknowledging the evidence, and engage in the same utterly disingenuous arguments about it just being few bad apples. In no way does the very strong circumstantial evidence support the absurd claims that it is just a few bad apples.

        What I strongly dislike about this sort of disingenuous and dishonest argument is that it is deliberately designed to hoodwink the uninformed public. The shooters know very well that no informed birder, conservationist, ecologist etc, is ever going to believe their pathetic false arguments. So who are their arguments aimed at? It's rather obvious that this false argument is actually aimed uninformed public who haven't seen or understood the evidence. It's cynical in the extreme. It's bluster to fool the public into mistakenly think there is some sort of genuine debate about why so few Hen Harriers manage to successfully breed on grouse moors.

        Any informed person is just staggered by these flimsy arguments. You think, does this person, people or organization really think that I'm stupid enough to be persuaded by these nonsense arguments? But of course their arguments are not meant to persuade any informed person, these arguments are deliberately designed to mislead the uninformed public into thinking that it's just a few bad apples persecuting raptors, and it's not the widespread problem it really is.

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        1. Being one of those coming new to the subject I find it strange that other field sports don't start to turn their back on DGS. There are some field sports that can genuinely claim the conservation tag - in my opinion fishing is one, how many urban waters are kept clear due to course angling. I know they have their own stain in controlling comorants, and the clearing of reeds for pegs may be to excessive etc...... but they keep these valuable urban waters from being left to decay and filled ultimately filled in. For the real field shorts enthusiast the thrill should be the hunt not necessarily the kill. As a fly fisherman myself the real thrill is the hunt, trying to outwit the fish into presenting the fly in a way it accepts it. DGS is akin to throwing dynamite into the water and picking up the dead fish.

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  4. To be honest, Mark, DEFRA's and NE's stance on DGS, illegal persecution of predators and the degradation of the upland peat moorlands is entirely in line with their stance on the badger cull and bTB: despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, they support action based on anecdote, prejudice and misinformation to the detriment of our wildlife.

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