Quite interesting – but not very meaningful

This article by the Countryside Alliance is quite interesting but not very convincing.


The CA says that it believes that the most pressing issue for shooting is to self-regulate.  I think that we can take that to mean that they are scared of anyone else regulating them – and so they should be because shooting has a poor record of sticking to regulations.  Whether it be complying with the lead-ammunition regulations for wetlands, remembering not to kill protected birds of prey or sticking to the codes of good practice on heather burning, shooting has a poor record.  Shooters are their own worst enemies and yet shooting has not sorted out the bad apples over many years and there is no reason to think that they can or will now.

The fact is that no pro-shooting organisation has any meaningful control over shoots or gamekeepers. The role of BASC, GWCT, Moorland Association and Countryside Alliance is to say some moderate things for the consumption of gullible politicians and the media whilst on the ground nothing changes – and sometimes it gets worse.  The failure of the shooter-supported, conservationist-rejected, Hen Harrier Inaction Plan demonstrates that nobody takes the slightest bit of notice on the ground of any words said to politicians in Westminster or Holyrood by pro-shooting organisations.

Shooting has many decades track record of failure to reform. There is no reason to believe that it is ready to do so now.  But it’s good to see that it is rattled that change will be forced upon shooting.

The CA is also worried that supply of gamebirds might outstrip demand for the birds. We’re already there it seems – this isn’t a fear for the future, it’s a reaction to the present. And that’s largely because the profit made from shooting is much more to do with each bird shot than each bird eaten.  So big bags are the name of the game in Pheasant shoots, some partridge shoots and Red Grouse shoots.  Of course there is over supply – ridiculously high numbers of birds are being shot and the people shooting them have no stake in what happens to the carcases.

There would be one relatively easy way for the shooting industry to reduce their problems and that would be to move away from lead ammunition voluntarily because eventually they will be forced to do so.  Much of what is said about the quality of game meat as a food is true, but the fact that it is voluntarily and uncaringly loaded with lead, a poison, by the suppliers of the meat is a crushing indictment of the whole industry.  This is bound to hit market penetration – and we should continue to make sure that the public are told about lead in game meat.  Shooters have backed themselves into this corner and it’s entirely their own fault.


To encourage more soul-searching by shooting, and to get politicians to bring in a variety of measures, please sign Gaving Gamble’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. We need that ban – but if politicians hear ‘ban’ and act in other ways it will be a start.


Wild food (25) – Red Deer by Ian Carter

It’s taking a bit of liberty including this image under the wild food banner, but the Red Deer certainly qualifies as a species that can be eaten. Indeed, some would argue that along with other wild deer it is one of the most sustainable forms of meat available here in Britain, albeit one that is not readily available in the supermarkets. But that’s for another day.

I came across this sight (and smell) on New Year’s Day this year a few miles from the house. At first I took it at face value – the poignant image of a large Red Deer stag that had seen its last rut and was gradually decaying into a woodland stream, swollen by recent rains. Then I looked more closely and realised that all was not as it seemed. It was two stags, not one. If you look closely there are four antlers and two of them (one from each stag) are locked firmly together.

More slowly than I’m keen to admit, it dawned on me what must have happened. These were rutting stags that had been fighting and were simply unable to free themselves once the antlers had become interlocked. Whether one died quickly during the fight leaving the other animal unable to break free – or whether both simply became exhausted as they struggled and failed to detach themselves, it’s impossible to say. Either way, ending up in a fast-flowing stream can’t have helped. It was a sombre reminder that wild animals have a pretty hard time of it out there, even without unwanted human interventions. It was also a reminder that most of this hardship goes unseen. These animals had died in full view, out in the open, only because of a most unusual set of circumstances.




1. I went for a walk: gosh it was cold! I went somewhere where a drake Smew had recently been seen, and the weather seemed perfect for a snow-white duck from the far north, but I didn’t see one. I did see a pair of Goosander and lots of other ducks but I actually think I was in slightly the wrong place.  That’s my excuse anyway as someone saw a drake Smew there later in the day!  The weather was biting cold and I stood in admiration as a party of tits passed by in the wood. There were Great Tits and Blue Tits but also a gang of Long-tailed Tits and a single Goldcrest.  I was wrapped up but my hands felt cold on my binoculars. A Goldcrest is tiny and a Long-tailed Tit is almost as tiny but with a long tail. They didn’t look cold but I did wonder whether they felt cold – or do all those feathers work so well that a Goldcrest really doesn’t notice the cold in terms of coldness?

2. I filled up the bird feeders and felt slightly guilty about not doing so before I’d gone out for my walk.

3. I listened to the coverage of the reshuffle on the radio and dozed off. Apart from the inaccurate 20 second announcement of Chris Grayling’s new role (which was very revealing) there was nothing to keep one awake. What a lack of talent the Conservative government has – from the PM right through the cabinet. At least the relatively talented Michael Gove remains carrying the can at Defra.

4. I went to a local restaurant for dinner with my Mum. She remarked about seeing unemployed men in the local library in South Wales in the Depression when she was a girl. Our local library is scheduled for closure under this Conservative government and this Conservative County Council.  Thee is something rotten in the state of England when libraries are closing in the world’s 5th-biggest economy.  Is this prudence or madness?



Update – we are 10,905 ahead

Here is an update on three e-petitions about grouse shooting:

Gavin Gamble’s e-petition in favour of banning driven grouse shooting – c25,200 signatures

Jane Griggs’s e-petition supporting grouse shooting – c14,300 signatures

Ed Hutchings’s e-petition in favour of licensing grouse shooting – c1,900 signatures

The last week has seen the ‘Gamble-ban’ e-petition pass 25,000 signatures, approach the highest total achieved by an e-petition in favour of grouse shooting (25,322 signatures) and pull a mere 15 signatures further ahead than the ‘Griggs-protect’ e-petition. Hardly earth-shattering progress, but progress in the right direction nonetheless.  The ‘Hutchings-license’ e-petition added the fewest number of signatures despite all the support it is getting from the RSPB (which is very low key so far).

Here are the leading constituencies supporting a ban of driven grouse shooting so far – those with more than 100 signatures.  The list hasn’t grown in number but High Peak had a big jump into first place.

  1. High Peak, Ruth George MP, 145 signatures
  2. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Drew Hendry MP, 126 signatures
  3. Sheffield Hallam, Jared O’Mara, 122 signatures
  4. Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron MP, 119 signatures
  5. Calder Valley, Craig Whittaker, 117 signatures
  6. Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Ian Blackford MP, 110 signatures
  7. Isle of Wight, Bob Seeley MP, 109 signatures
  8. Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith MP, 109 signatures
  9. North Norfolk, Norman Lamb MP, 107 signatures
  10. Suffolk Coastal, Therese Coffey MP, 107 signatures
  11. Stroud, David Drew MP, 105 signatures
  12. Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake MP, 104 signatures
  13. Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield MP, 103 signatures

The number of constituencies with more than 50 signatures has increased from 139 last week to 147 (all Conservative):

  • Tatton, Esther McVey MP, 52 signatures
  • South Leicestershire, Alberto Costa MP, 50 signatures
  • Amber Valley, Nigel Mills MP, 52 signatures
  • North East Derbyshire, Lee Rowlet Mp, 52 signatures
  • Bexhill and Battle, Huw Merriman MP, 50 signatures
  • Guildford, Ann Milton MP, 50 signatures
  • Wantage, Ed Vaizey MP, 50 signatures
  • Lichfield, Michael Fabricant MP, 50 signatures

The strongest constituencies supporting the Griggs petition in favour of grouse shooting remain these same top-10:

  1. Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands MP, 397 signatures
  2. The Cotswolds, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, 289 signatures
  3. Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake MP, 255
  4. Battersea, Marsha de Cordova, 245 signatures
  5. Kensington, Emma Dent Coad MP, 244 signatures
  6. Cities of London and Westminster, Mark Field MP, 241 signatures
  7. Richmond (Yorks), Rishi Sunak MP, 240 signatures
  8. Northwest Hampshire, Kit Malhouse MP, 186 signatures
  9. Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith MP, 185 signatures
  10. South West Wiltshire, Andrew Murrison MP, 174 signatures

There are still c40 constituencies which haven’t leant a single signature to this e-petition – just another example of how concentrated is the support in a few rich areas of the country at the moment.

The Griggs e-petition has been waiting for three weeks for a government response, but to be fair, that does include th Christmas period.

I’ve had no response from ‘N’ yet – I’ll give him a nudge.



By GoShow via Wikimedia Commons

There may be a reshuffle today. Theresa May has a poor hand and it seems to be rather rich in jokers. What will she do?

Let’s hope that Michael Gove stays in place so that he has to take things forward in this unfrozen moment.

Many of the changes will be in the junior minister ranks – Prime Ministers have to keep things moving to keep the troops on their toes and so that the hope of advancement is always a possibility even for the dullest of back-benchers. Most of the changes in junior ministerial postings will become apparent tomorrow and won’t make much news but I’ll do a round-up of changes to Defra if there are any.

There must be a strong chance that George Eustice will be moved which might be a shame. He knows his stuff, is a long-standing Defra minister (since May 2015) and would be an asset to any Secretary of State facing the challenge of Brexit and constructing a new farming policy.


Will Therese Coffey be put out of her misery and moved to a job more suited to her skills? She has been a poor minister (since July 2016) and we have reached the position where any change might be better than the dead hand that stifles biodiversity policy at the moment.

We’ll see. What happens today and tomorrow may be more significant to the future of our countryside that the words that Michael Gove used in addressing both Oxford farming conferences last week.