100,000 signatures in 20 days

The significance of the 100,000 signatures for a ban on driven grouse shooting in a UK e-petition are various. And they come not so much because of the number of supporters but even more so in the speed of that support. 100,000 signatures inside 20 full days is impressive by any standards. It is impressive by the measure of the scale of opposition against a badger cull, for example. But in 20 days? Stunning – if I say so myself. thank you to all who have signed and helped to get those signatures.

It would be nice to gain more signatures, and I’ll be trying to do so over the next few days but the speed is the thing. This has not been a hard slog, it’s been a flood of support.

That flood will be noted in Holyrood where the much-awaited Werritty report may already look like yesterday’s news when it is published some time soon. The Wild Justice e-petition, despite the fact that it will be answered by Defra, is a UK e-petition with very strong support in Scotland. There are many, many more signatures for a ban of driven grouse shooting in Scotland than have ever been amassed there for licensing or the status quo. A good licensing scheme would be some sort of a step forward, and is SNP policy but is demonstrably not the most popular option. Licensing is a way of maintaining a slightly improved unsustainable land use – it’s like licensing slave owners when the aim is to get rid of slavery. It’s not what many want and it’s a bit feeble as an approach. And it will be even more feeble once the powerful vested interests of grouse shooting landowners have their input. Roseanna Cunningham must take notice of the UK strength of feeling, and the strength of feeling indicated in Scotland alone in this UK e-petition.

Defra won’t budge an inch but the Conservative Party ought to look at those marginal seats where the strength of feeling on driven grouse shooting is high and ponder the consequences. What price the hopeless and unpopular Craig Whittaker holding Calder Valley with his slim majority of 609 votes if Defra remain implacably and notoriously resistant to any change in policy over the wildlife criminals who burn our moors, kill our wildlife and flood our homes? Calder Valley is ripe for the plucking but there are other seats in line too.

The Lib Dems ought to turn out in their legions to speak in a debate on the future of grouse shooting. They have remained silent on this issue so far but many of the constituencies they need to win, or keep, are strong on banning driven grouse shooting. It would be foolish to continue to ignore this issue completely, Lib Dems.

Labour has announced that it wants a review on grouse shooting. Good. Is that it? That line won’t gain many votes in the next general election which is not far away.

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is wonderful. Let’s all join them. When will Sheffield, Yorkshire, Durham, Lancashire, Cumbria and others get more active on the ills of driven grouse shooting? Where is the northern powerhouse of Wildlife Trusts on this issue? Not looking very powerful from here…

And last, but by no means least, where on Earth is the RSPB on this issue? I appreciated the fulsome congratulations of Martin Harper, but the RSPB looks as though it is off the pace and out of touch with its membership on this issue, and has done for years now. The fact is that the RSPB position is a staff and Council position which has no mandate from the membership. And if you think I’m wrong, why not ask the RSPB membership and find out?

I don’t think that 100,000 signatures will make a jot of difference to this government, but the significance of that number, and the speed with which it has been achieved, is significant. Will we, I wonder, get a government response to this e-petition before parliament is suspended, or before a general election? Take note decison-makers – the people are speaking. Wilful blindness is no longer an option.

Please sign this e-petition by Chris Packham calling for a ban of driven grouse shooting.

We will soon learn when Boris Johnson is cutting short the life of all e-petitions but until then the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting is still open and welcomes more support (though we won’t be frantically chasing further support having made it across the 100,000 signature line so quickly).

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18 Replies to “100,000 signatures in 20 days”

  1. Very good blog Mark. Your perspicacity is excellent . Public knowledge and revulsion as to what goes on with and is associated with driven grouse shooting, is rapidly gaining ground thanks largely to Chris, Ruth and your efforts.
    As you say the Tories are not likely to take much notice of the 100,000 signatures in twenty days because many of them or their supporters operate this wretched, horrible so called “sport”. However, as you say the other political parties would do very well to take note of this surge of revulsion against driven grouse shooting and ACT upon it.

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  2. Radio 4 Farming today this week on Saturday - worth listening back to if you didnt hear it. In-depth (?) interview with RSPB Uplands policy spokesman PatThompson and Andrew Gilruth, the whole 30 min devoted to shooting, mostly about grouse but pheasants appeared too.

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  3. Mark

    What this petition also demonstrates is the consistency of support for at least a change, if not an outright ban, on Driven Grouse Shooting. This is the latest of several petitions on this subject (I have lost count!) and all have exceeded the 10K threshold and this is the second (?) that has exceeded the 100K threshold. This, and the speed, on what is a niche issue (no less an important one) is impressive. So the message that politicians should, and really must, take, is that the public are fed up, increasingly fed up, of the widespread and persistent wildlife crime that the evidence suggests is a routine and regular activity in our National Parks and countryside in general.

    As to the consequences of this particular petition; I suspect that events at Westminster will (already have) overtaken. I would expect that there will be no response to either the 10K threshold, or a debate scheduled following the 100K threshold's passing. This said of course, Brexit, may (and ironically) be the petition's friend. It is entirely conceivable, that Boris will lose a Vote of No Confidence; which will either result in him seeking a General Election, or the Opposition asked to form a Government. The former could result in any one of several outcomes, but a Labour-led coalition is not an unreasonable (in terms of likelihood) outcome. So, there is a possibility that within two months, we could have a Labour-led/ influenced Government, which is far more likely to lead to changes in Driven Grouse Moor management than this petition. Nevertheless, this petition certainly carries weight.

    Eyes (and ears!) will be tuned in to events at Westminster this week, particularly the 3rd September, and grouse will not get a mention, unless a stiff drink is asked for. But the petition is a clear communication, if, and when MPs are able/ minded to heed it, that a sector of the public want change.

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    1. Your have more to worry about than grouse shooing if god for bid labour run the country.
      More likely Nigel Farage will do a deal with the Conservatives.

      So you got your 100k+ signatures but do you really think the turkeys (parliament) will vote for Christmas, nothing will change to much money and jobs in it.

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  4. Many many congratulations on reaching this milestone. Thank you, all three of you for this petition, for the HH days, for the voice WJ is giving to nature and your sheer bloody guts.
    How much money are we all paying to NGOs who are as wilfully blind on this subject as our political parties? Some have said in the past that NGOs cannot support a ban due to their charitable status. If that is the case, then what makes Derbyshire WT different? If one can do it, it just means that others simply don’t want to. All of them have been set up to PROTECT wild animals, to protect nature and to fight for nature. They are all failing miserably.
    Do they seriously look at this petition and the last one three years ago and think that it doesn’t include their own members? That we are all activists or extremists?
    This needs to be a wake up call for them all.
    The other thing that they will all know with a certainty is that because they haven’t supported this, because they never mention it in their magazines and newsletters or at their AGMs, the majority of their members are still blissfully unaware of this issue. Their fear must be that, in the end they will find out.
    Their are lots of calls to write to politicians on this issue but not so many to write to our NGOs. We should. Politicians will do nothing unless this goes mainstream but NGOs will be uncomfortable if they start hearing from many members who think they are failing.
    They need to feel the heat.
    As for the RSPB, their stance is becoming untenable. They are letting down their members, they are letting down their volunteers and they are letting down their own superb investigations team.
    Licensing will not see an end to persecution. Licensing will not see our moors used to the benefit of all, will not see a more equitable use of a national resource and will not see an increase in tourism that so many areas so badly need.
    Licensing SUPPORTS landowners and driven Grouse moors. And the RSPB HO knows this. Knows it for a certainty.
    Will it be mentioned at next month’s AGM? Fact is, we are not even allowed to mention it.
    How many RSPB members have signed this petition? They need to listen. Licensing is NOT a compromise, it meets nobody halfway. Licensing is a blind. Wilful blindness.

    I would like to see this petition keep being promoted.
    ‘Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate’. The word that looms large here is ‘considers’. We may feel that three years since the last debate is long enough, but if the government can get out of having another one then they surely will and this will be their get out clause.
    The more signatures, the more pressure. But also, others are watching. Signing is not just about asking government to debate this matter again, its about showing all those NGOs that we subscribe to the strength of our feelings.
    Please keep pushing and promoting. 123078 would be a good figure.
    250,000 would be better.
    The petition page also states that ‘all petitions last for 6 months’. It doesn’t say in some circumstances, it doesn’t say ‘possibly’, it says will. If this petition is halted, I for one will be asking the committee why. I hope you do too.

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    1. 'Licensing is not a compromise' I agree but would argue it is actually stronger than banning driven grouse shooting. Both sides are actually arguing for the same things (flood protection, peat improvement, raptor and other species protection etc) but are approaching it in different ways. We should be working together not sniping at each other.

      I don't like Mark's analogy with slavery but to continue it would you want to ban it outright or ban the bigger estates allowing it to continue at a smaller level unrestricted!

      Why do I think licensing is more powerful:

      Banning 'driven' shooting means we have to legally define driven. Having done that it leaves landowners the right to carry on shooting unencumbered by other restrictions. It doesn't stop them keeping grouse numbers high, draining peat, burning, trapping 'so called pests'. They can develop walked up shooting to be more intensive provided they don't drive birds.

      Licensing in this country was developed for 2 reasons: to make money for the treasury (e.g car tax) or to control our right to do things (driving cars, using guns etc). The second of these requires the action itself to be unlawful, so it is illegal to drive a car unless you can pass a test and so on.

      Licensing the whole of grouse shooting (and I would argue the whole of game shooting) means that it would have be unlawful to shoot grouse or over a grouse moor. Defining the licence would initially be difficult but it could allow such shooting in certain areas, thus protecting special areas. It could allow shooting only if you proved that certain acts were not taking place.

      You would still need to prove unlawful activity in both scenarios but licences could be withdrawn stopping the shooting whereas in the other case you could only deal with the unlawful driven activity leaving the rest to carry on.

      A much stronger deterrent by using licences. It won't satisfy those who don't wish to see any animals killed but that is another discussion.

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      1. Bob - thanks. Interesting points.

        Clearly the RSPB doesn't think these two things are the same in practice, and nor do I, since they have never made that case in public and have repeatedly said that licensing is 'the answer'.

        Your argument about how licensing could work falls into the trap, I believe, of imagining that you/the RSPB could get the perfect (or even very good) licensing system whereas reality is that any such licensing scheme would be watered down through vested interests.

        And in any case, the best way for the RSPB and others to get licensing would be to campaign for a ban - thus leaving licensing as the compromise position for governments to choose.

        The analogy would actually be banning slavery but allowing people to work for some rather tough employers, I think, and that would indeed be progress. Enough progress for me to go away happy.

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      2. ‘It could allow shooting only if you proved that certain acts were not taking place.’ Is this not the crux of the issue?
        The science tells us that crimes are being committed on grouse moors. What we are unable to do, because of the vast and remote terrain needed to be covered, is to catch those criminals.
        On the rare occasions they are caught, they are let off.
        How are you going to prove any more after licensing than now?
        One word that is often missing in this argument is incentive.
        You are right that some landowners could chose to develop walked up further, and of course, their are some that would continue to persecute wildlife just out of spite or because they can. Banning won’t prevent that and can’t. What it can do is to reduce the incentive.
        What are we trying to achieve here? I would suggest that the majority would like landowners to take a different approach to land management. A more holistic approach that benefits the many. And it may even be the case that some don’t change because they are afraid of change.
        A ban could encourage a few to think differently, and that would be a wonderful result. Licensing is business as usual with a few tweaks. Let’s give them the incentive to change.

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        1. Paul,. The proof would be on the landowner, in the absence of which the licence could be declined.

          Licensing isn't busines as usual. A licence could be developed to include things like no driven shooting, only a certain number of shoots a year, no trapping, maximum birds allowed to be shot per year, maximum population per area etc. Shooters wouldn't like it but if they couldn't comply they wouldn't get the licence.

          Different issue with pheasants. As an alien species I would support, as other countries have done, in banning captive breeding. Allow wild bred pheasants to be shot under licence only and the population would soon be under control.

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          1. ‘A licence could be developed to include things like no driven shooting.’ Isn’t that what we are asking for, no driven shooting? And only asking for that.
            There are really too many ‘could’s’ in this argument. In an ideal world of course licensing could be made to work, but as Mark intimated, we don’t live in that world. And the landowners certainly don’t.
            We can’t prove anything against the landowners now, at least nothing that will stick, I honestly don’t see how a licence will help that.
            I remain to be convinced on this and I really am open to listening, but wanting something to work and getting it to work are very different things.
            You know that our governments and judiciary, for whatever reasons, are not interested in this at all. The money will not be found to police licensing as you would like it, and the will to do so is certainly not there.
            As for sniping, I have been a member of the RSPB for more years than I care to remember, and a life member for at least the last 23 years. This is the only time I can ever recall disagreeing with them on anything. When you feel something is wrong, you should say so, maybe even hoping that someone can convince you otherwise. So far, having listened to the arguments from both sides for many years, I remain to be convinced that licensing will work.
            Apparently I’m not alone.

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          2. “Licensing isn't busines as usual”

            This is the equivalent of quoting the law, which is already in place, then saying “Raptors won’t be shot”. If estates are currently breaking the law on a regular basis (which we know they are, hence the the missing satellite tags and absence of breeding), why would they suddenly obey a licensing system? That’s even assuming the licensing system would have conditions that are even close to being robust.

            Licensing would very much be business as usual, which is why people have petitioned for a ban. Yes, you would have to actively define what driven grouse shooting constitutes, but that process would be far less lengthy and far less nebulous than implementing a licensing system that would be broken at every opportunity, as you can’t have monitoring every day of the week. It goes without saying that some estates would try and bend the rules, or even break the law, but a ban sends the clearest message possible and would also de incentivise intensive land use.

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      3. Bob, I strongly agree that we should not become schismatic over the question, therein lies danger. I campaign to ban driven grouse shooting but I'm OK with others campaigning for other things. Ultimately that is a discussion, as you observe, about means not ends (with a ban still a 'means' not an 'end'). And if we get the ends right, then grouse shooting will fail anyway as a consequence of economic, social, and wider environmental considerations. That is what we should all be working towards, tackling all of the pressure points which will give an outcome rather than getting over-excited about means.
        Licensing could be part of that but I agree with Mark's response. The problem, surely, is that really effective licensing would kill driven shooting - and so its adherents would successfully fight that to the death. Given that, shouldn't the RSPB say a little more about what they want for our uplands (I believe they had a policy document ready on that which was never published) and how licensing would, in detail, help achieve that?

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  5. I support this but know people that dont because they think its just the vegetarian lobby that dont like shooting the grouse. The main issue here in my opinion is the constant winter burning that reduces diversity and lack of trees. Most people I speak to think its natural there are no trees on the hills.

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  6. As well as the significance of the number and the speed with which it was achieved, I would say that the other hugely impressive outcome is the distribution map of signatures.
    As with previous petitions, the map shows beyond any doubt that the wish to see an end to driven grouse shooting is strongest in rural areas, including those close to grouse moors. All the usual drivel from the shooters about 'townies', all the nonsense about shooting being the bedrock of rural communities is blown out of the water by the map and your list of the top-signing constituencies.
    Don't let anyone get away with saying or writing anything different!

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  7. All sounds a bit bleak to me Mark.

    Also this is extreme to say the least "the wildlife criminals who burn our moors, kill our wildlife and flood our homes". Making it out like all grouse moor Owners, Managers and those who benefit from DGS are like this is the only reason you get 100k people to sign this petition. And its exactly the same reason why, as you rightly say, it wont make much difference...because you just produce emotionally charged spin, not 100% truth...those persons with knowledge and in power can see through this spin.

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    1. It is bleak S, I've worked on the Bowland Moors for RSPB for 6 seasons ( March - August),on moors in the Yorkshire Dales NP (for the YDNPA) for four seasons, was a grouse beater for ten years, bird watched on the moors of the Nidderdale AONB from the age of 16 ( I'm now 68. Visited the North York Moors regularly and the moors of the Peak district less regularly. Talked to numerous keepers, owners, tenant farmers, walkers, other naturalists and neighbours of grouse moors in that time. In that time I have come to realise that DGS, certainly in any commercial form is unsustainable.
      All moors bar a very few persecute raptors and mammalian predators they should not. To my knowledge the exceptions are two moors in the Dales and the UU estate in Bowland. Many burn very frequently, all burn more than twenty. This is bad for vegetational diversity and hence all higher forms of life are restricted. Many are still heavily gripped to keep dry, heather does not like permanent wet. blanket bogs are thus dried or drying our still . Few have really tackled this there are probably hundreds if not thousands of miles of drains/grips. This is not spin. Look at a map of occupied Peregrine eyries that produce young, throughout the Pennine chain and NYMs there are none on grouse moors yet many sites are/were in such places. Look at a map of disappeared Hen Harriers its not a bad apple few killing them. Licensing might work but it would need to be very robust, heavily "policed" with real penalties for transgression, no ifs buts or maybes. The only survival option is no persecution, no intensive management , no or minimal burning of Blanket bog, realistic grip/drain blocking and accepting lower bags even if that means walked up only. Otherwise bad practice and criminality mean the end for DGS.
      Mark speaks the truth, simplified, for understanding yes, but the nonetheless the truth. Which of course makes liars of MA, GWCT, BASC. NGO, SGA, CA and SLE.

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      1. Paul, excellent summing up. It should also be remembered that our farmers were asked to stop burning stubble many years ago. Why should burning heather be treated differently, particularly in these times of climate change.

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    2. That you choose to ignore the mountain of evidence documenting the environmental destruction associated with driven grouse shooting only speaks to your own ignorance, not the lack of diligence being applied by the authors and the people who signed the petition.

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