This week of the year has become a busy one in my life in recent years. The run up to Hen Harrier Day, the day itself, the Inglorious 12th and the aftermath of that day create a fair amount of activity.
So, how have things gone?
Not much grouse shooting this year?
There are lots of reports of low numbers of Red Grouse on the moors this year – there has been a bit of a run of poor years. This year’s hot dry spring certainly won’t have helped and the warnings of c15 years ago that Red Grouse shooting would suffer because of climate change are now coming to be very real indeed. We can expect more heather beetle attack and lower Red Grouse survival under current and future climate conditions. It’s not the fault of the eco-zealots but it is coming to get the grouse moor managers. And the fact hat many grouse shooting supporters aren’t convinced by climate change arguments won’t make it any less real for them. Adrian Thornton-Berry was quoted as decribing this as the worst year in the last 30 years. Well, expect more of the same and worse to come in future years.
This year’s unpublished and possibly spurious study
In 2016 there was the ‘study’ trumpeted by Ian Botham and the not so talented Viscount Ridley (see here) which has never seen the light of day (except many of us have read it and it’s not ‘a study’ at all). Then in 2017 and indeed in 2018 we heard mention of a study, this is a different study, by Durham and Newcastle Universities on grouse moor bird communities. This again was trumpeted by Beefy, but again has, despite my asking, never seen the light of day (see here). And this year we have poor Mr Goodwill MP, who was a DEFRA minister for four months last year (did you notice?) putting his name to this piece for the Conservative Home website. Note this is another unpublished, unreferenced study and so, at the moment, I’m putting it in the ‘did the study say anything like that, is it any good and does it really exist?’ box. It sounds quite like this study (see here) at my local university and I have emailed several of the people involved with that study, which I was told would mainly be of Pheasant shoots, to ask whether it is their work and whether their work has been correctly quoted. No replies yet. Amazing isn’t it, the grouse shooting industry always has an unpublished ‘study’ to hand that no-one else has seen…
Hen Harrier numbers?
I just note in passing that there has been no announcement, by anyone as far as I can see, on how many Hen Harriers nested in England this year, how many were on grouse moors and how well they did. Nothing from the Moorland Association (except their jumping the gun joke release back on 19 June), nothing from the RSPB, nothing from the Forestry Commission and nothing from Natural England. Unless I’ve missed them? Does this mean that there are a bunch of nests still with young? It is very late for that, but it isn’t impossible. Does it mean that nobody knows? That seems unlikely. Does it mean that nobody cares ? I care! What does it mean? I hope out statutory conservation agency, Natural England, is going to update us all on the season’s results, and I hope that they get someone who writes English clearly to do it this year (see here for a year they didn’t).
Nastiness from the shooting industry
BASC really is getting to be very unpleasant. Its public behaviour is yobbish in my view. See what you see about this ad feminam attack on Megan McCubbin on the BASC website – but I warn you it’s just a nasty attack on a young woman. There is no attempt to argue the merits of driven grouse shooting, nor any attempt actually to catalogue what this presenter has done wrong – except to be Chris Packham’s step-daughter. Garry Doolan of BASC talks about truth, fairness and impartiality at the end of his piece – one wonders whether he would recognise them if he saw them?
BASC seems to be splashing the cash all over the place these days, but to what effect? I liked this response to the BASC adverts by Hugh Webster here. Well done, Hugh!
In other media
There has been a bit less coverage of the issues this year – I’m told that there is a global pandemic happening too this year. But everywhere you look, the tone has changed. Journalists are reporting the problems and issues with driven grouse shooting as well as its ‘traditional’ nature. That’s probably why BASC went down the paid advert route – it’s the only way to get a few column inches without the other side being presented. That’s fine – it isn’t working so good luck with wasting your members’ cash on it! Here is one example from Scotland, the Herald, that I liked partly because it looks like the author understands the issues well – but then, he has read Inglorious.
Moorland Association and GWCT very quiet
Our favourite spin doctors of Amanda Anderson and Andrew Gilruth have been very quiet this week. I do hope they are OK? But I wonder whether they are past their sell by dates on this subject. No-one will really take them seriously any more as I’ve been saying on this blog for quite a while,
I wonder whether the Moorland Association has lost major sources of funding to BASC and maybe to C4PMC and is going to limp along as best it can and I do hope that GWCT have had a strategic rethink and are heading off on the long climb to regain some moral high ground – and I hope they are. But both have been largely absent from the noise this week.
The political scene
One of the reasons that grouse shooting interests are running for cover is that they are losing – badly. The pro-licensing announcement by Labour this week is important and it adds to the position of the SNP in favouring licensing. The recent statement by Roseanna Cunningham, though a bit repetitive of what she has said before, and we all wish she’d get on with it, is actually fine. Provided we see licensing announced for Scotland by Christmas, and I would rate it as an odds-on bet, then that’s fine by me. We’ve been patient for several years, a few more months make no difference. Change is coming and I would expect Labour MPs to be sending out very positive responses to e-action participants next week if the party has any sense at all. Even a senior LibDem has, it seems, fully woken up – well done Tim Farron. Part of the retreat from debate by the shooting industry is that there is no-one much with whom to debate – The Tories are in favour and everyone else is getting the message that there is a problem here that needs solving. And just a word of advice to BASC, being nasty to people isn’t likely to do your cause any good – so, please, carry on!
E-action passes 42,000
And the joint Wild Justice, RSPB, Hen Harrier Action e-action has just passed 42,000 e-actions. That’s inside a full week. Please keep promoting and sharing this e-action so that we can follow up with as many politicians as possible. Have a look at the site and see whether you can support it – click here to decide.
Thank you everyone for such a good week!