The release of the GWCT fact-checking website is interesting. I wonder whether this marks a significant change in direction of GWCT or just a spasm. We’ll see as time passes. But I would give it a cautiously warm welcome at this stage and hope that it might represent a wish of GWCT to retrace their steps and recapture some higher, more moral, ground.
I’ll come back to speculating on what might be going on here at the foot of this post, but first let’s have a look at this new and sparsely populated resource.
Hen Harriers killed on grouse moors
This is GWCT speaking the truth – and it is welcome. I could quibble with the wording on the right a little, but I won’t. The phrase ‘illegal killing is thought to be the main factor preventing their recovery in England’ is very welcome. And the fact that it comes from GWCT is also very welcome. And very useful. I have never seen, for example, a DEFRA minister say anything as clear as that. It is simply what the science says but that hasn’t led to similar admissions from the Moorland Association, BASC, Countryside Alliance, Natural England to any great extent or DEFRA. And so, let us be fair, this is GWCT speaking out more clearly, on the science, than any other pro-shooting organisation. So, it is to be welcomed.
Particularly because GWCT were not so candid when that paper originally came out last year, and this original statement of obfuscation is still present on their website today.
There is quite a contrast between what GWCT in the shape of Andrew Gilruth said, and still say, on their own website and what is said on the GWCT Fact-checking website. I wonder how GWCT aim to clean that up?
This again is useful and broadly correct. It is useful because I have seen these facts questioned (wrongly, I agree) in, at the moment confidential, legal papers.
But again it contrasts with at least the tone of what the GWCT Chair, Sir James Paice, said about this very matter on the GWCT’s blog in June this year (see my blog at the time), and still does on the GWCT’s own blog, where you could easily have got the impression that GWCT was criticising the RSPB’s grasp of the facts. The tone and content of the Fact-checking website are much to be preferred.
In this case the Fact-checking website simply sends you to the GWCT website. And we know that in this case, what the GWCT now says about lead ammunition is much improved, far less spun and more accurate than what they used to say not that long ago (see comparison published on this blog almost exactly a year ago). So, in this case, after some pressure from quite a few people, GWCT became a lot more honest about this subject. Good job, otherwise we’d all be sending them their own words for fact-checking!
So, what’s going on here? I’m not sure but I would not want to dismiss it out of hand, I would cautiously welcome it and let’s see how things go. I will look carefully at which subjects GWCT choose to look at and check because that may or may not reflect some bias. After all, if one only chooses to correct the errors that it is convenient for you to correct, and never those that are inconvenient that wouldn’t be very straight. But this website has got off to quite a good start and it’s certainly the case that I, and perhaps you, will take what the GWCT says about, say, Mountain Hares, more seriously if they accept inconvenient truths more readily.
And I detect a more reasonable tone from Andrew Gilruth on Twitter over the last few weeks too. Again, it might be me being too generous and it will be interesting to see whether it lasts through the usually torrid time as we approach and pass the Inglorious 12th.
Maybe the GWCT has regrouped, realised that only it represents science in the range of shooting organisations we have in the UK, and realises that its recent reliance on spin has undermined its scientific reputation (as I have often pointed out on this blog). The trouble is making money out of science, and maybe GWCT has found a solution to that.
Or it may be that GWCT has seen the writing on the wall for various aspects of shooting, in particular driven grouse shooting. If burning of blanket bog and maybe of all peatlands is to be ended by DEFRA, and lead is going to be banned sooner rather than later, and a more restrictive regulatory regime or higher penalties or eventually even a complete ban on driven grouse shooting are on a nearer horizon than previously, then it would be wise, at some point, to adjust one’s position to the new normal and let the dinosaurs of the Countryside Alliance and the rude oiks in BASC look unreasonable as GWCT looks more reasonable in comparison.
It may all be different by tomorrow, but it looks interesting today.
And what has happened to the Moorland Association? More on that later today.