Today’s Farming Today is worth a listen (8 minutes in). There is a conversation between the Moorland Association’s Amanda ‘If we let the Hen Harrier in, we will soon have nothing else‘ Anderson and the much more rational and consistent RSPB spokesperson, Cathleen Thomas.
Amanda sticks to the nonsense about it being ‘the grouse shooters what done it’ whereas it is clearly a bunch of other people and a very large number of voles what done it.
I agree with Andy Clements, Director of the BTO, who on his Twitter account suggested that a way to avoid the ‘social media hyperbole’ on the subject was to listen to raptor-enthusiast Amanda and the very sensible RSPB spokeperson. It was interesting to see Andy put his head above the parapet on this one, and I guess that his suggestion was his own personal view (not that of the BTO – or was it?), but his Twitter account doesn’t mention that he is a Board member of Natural England and the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee that recommended brood meddling to the full Board. I mention this just for context.
If you do listen, then it might also be worth going back to the beginning of Farming Today and the trial of payments by results. Does this have any relevance to the Hen Harrier situation? Why aren’t Defra and NE offering payments to those very few landowners who have successful Hen Harriers nesting on their land? Those payments could swell the coffers of United Utilities (they could spend it on reducing leakage and your water bills) and the National Trust, and in some years those of the RSPB too.
Or maybe we should turn the idea on its head, and in areas which were specifically designated for Hen Harriers among other species, maybe payments should be reduced until the area reaches the threshold number of Hen Harriers for which it was designated?
Or both? The Duke of Westminster could have his subsidies cut and some of the money saved could be passed over the fence to his neighbour, United Utilities, who seem to do so much better with this bird. Perhaps there could actually be an annual passing of a wad of notes from His Grace to the former water company with a gracious ‘Well done. I wish my gamekeepers could find a way to have some Hen Harriers on my land. I do envy you.’. Maybe? Or maybe not?