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This is a letter I have sent to friends who I thought might be interested in the ‘Conflict in the Uplands‘.
Please feel free to copy and paste and send to as many UK citizens as possible before 20th September.
Without going into details: The UK petition to ban driven grouse moors can be signed here (UK citizens or residents only). It needs you to click on the e-mail you will then receive to confirm your ‘vote.’
Going into details:
As I write the petition is approaching 75% of the 6 month time limit
but only 70% of the necessary signatures to get a government debate, so
it needs a boost. If this is passed around it could easily reach the
100,000 target. If everyone who signs can get one more person to sign it
It can be signed for the obvious reason, to support a ban on driven
grouse shooting, but also as a way to get a parliamentary debate on this
issue because to be realistic it isn’t going to happen any time soon. A
debate would raise the possibility of a compromise such as licensing of
grouse moors or all game shooting. The problem with licensing is that
it would be as hard to police as the law is now, which is clearly not
working but it would be a start.
There is another non-government petition asking for licensing in
Scotland. Everyone can sign no matter where you live. Sign both if you
care about birds of prey. https://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/PE01615 What is the problem?
The illegal killing of birds of prey on driven grouse moors is
preventing the spread of re-introduced raptors (Red Kites and
White-tailed Eagles) and is creating black holes where species such as
Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles and Peregrines are virtually absent. This is
restricting the overall population of Golden Eagles and decreasing the
numbers of Hen Harriers to the point of near extinction in England. The
only reason they haven’t been made extinct in England is because of the
attempt at re-colonisation every year by Scottish birds. Peregrines are
only doing well away from grouse moors. It has been illegal, since 1954, to kill birds of prey but today it is still happening on a huge scale and if anything, is getting worse. Decades of talks and committees involving groups of conflicting parties have achieved nothing (this summary was written in 2010 – a flash of deja vu).
The fact is that birds of prey, particularly Hen Harriers which have
large broods, will without persecution multiply and take the ‘surplus’
Red Grouse which the intensively managed grouse moor owners want for
their shooting clients. Birds of prey and intensive grouse moors i.e.
driven grouse moors can not co-exist. Non-intense i.e. walked up grouse
shooting, especially with the aid of diversionary feeding, could but the
grouse lobby are opposed to diversionary feeding. Their solution is to
move Hen Harrier nests off the moors onto the lowlands. They don’t want
any Hen Harriers on ‘their’ moors at all and the threat is implicit ‘let
us move Hen Harriers off the moors or we will continue killing them’.
This blackmail is working and is included in the hidden agenda of the
government’s recently Hen Harrier Action Plan. That and introducing
European Hen Harriers to the English lowlands even though we have a
perfectly viable, although falling (due to persecution) population in
Scotland which is constantly trying unsuccessfully to spread to England.
How the Hen Harrier Action Plan is going to protect what remains of
Peregrines, Goshawks, Red Kites, Golden Eagles and White-tailed Eagles
in the uplands is ignored completely. There is a multitude of evidence of the persecution on grouse moors. You only have to compare the Red Kite re-introduction scheme in the Chilterns with the one near the Black Isle.
One is thriving and the other has not increased in numbers even though
the breeding productivity of the Black Isle birds is high when they
manage to breed.
The Black Isle is near driven grouse moors the Chilterns isn’t. It is
the same in north-east England which is close to grouse shooting country
and the population near Leeds/ Harrogate has had 10 Red Kites killed just this spring.
The grouse moors in the Pennines and the North Yorkshire moors will not
allow expansion. Presumably the same is happening with the introduced
birds from Central Scotland, judging by these poisoning incidents here, here, here, here and here and those re-introduced in Dumfries and Galloway, judging by these poisoning incidents here, here and here.
Another proof is the Langholm experiment the most bizarre legally
arranged experiment conducted. The object of the experiment was for
gamekeepers on Langholm to stop killing raptors.
I still think I am Beelzebub’s grandson (or to be more contemporary,
The Man Who Fell To Earth) when I even think about it but that is what
happened and Hen Harrier numbers exploded. Why ban driven grouse shooting, we have laws don’t we?
The criminals are almost impossible to catch as the killing and
poisoning occurs in remote places and when the culprits are caught it is
almost impossible to prosecute as the level of proof is extreme, e.g. video evidence can be deemed inadmissible.
In Scotland the incident has to have been seen by two witnesses and
even then a prosecution is not certain. If you have heard about the
shooting of two Hen Harriers at Sandringham
when a certain Mr. Windsor Jnr. was out shooting , you will see what I
mean. It wasn’t even as though being a Windsor was any different to your
average gamekeeper, it is almost impossible to get a prosecution.
Behind every gamekeeper is a rich and powerful landowner. [Incidentally
that Guardian article mentions Mr. Windsor’s shooting partner Van
Cutsem. To peak down the rabbit hole search for that name and Glanusk estate in the search engine on Raptor Persecution UK or Mark Avery’s blog].
Even after a successful prosecution the penalties can be little more than a pat on the wrist (or may only result in warning),
gamekeepers are unlikely to lose their jobs, whilst the real villains,
the managers and landowners get off scot free (no pun).
Scotland is finding ways of hitting the negligent landowners in the
purse by cutting the tax-payer funded subsidies and by new laws to
prosecute the landowners where gamekeepers have been persecuted
(Vicarious Liability) but even in Scotland the killing continues and for
example Hen Harriers are in decline.
It can’t be all bad can it? There are three arguments which the shooting lobby fall back on to justify driven grouse shooting. 1. Money and employment in the rural economy. 2. Grouse moors are good for other birds and even use the word biodiversity. 3. Grouse moors are a special habitat. These might be valid points but, I would argue, need closer scrutiny.
1. The facts brandied around about the money involved and the
employment generated are from the grouse lobby themselves and as far as I
know there has been no independent research. I have never seen any
research done to compare driven grouse shooting moors with other moors
which have walked up grouse shooting which is far less intense or with
moors which mix walked up shooting with genuine wildlife tourism or the
tourism from moors managed purely for wildlife. The grouse lobby likes
to think in binary, either-or without examining all the other possible
forms of income from eco-tourism. The National Trust who own lots of
moorland could set up an experimental moorland to demonstrate other
I would like to see how much of the profit goes into the local
community or even Scotland. One vicarious liability case could not be
prosecuted because the owners were hidden in off-shore businesses. That wouldn’t be for tax purposes would it?
I would also like to know if those so called profits included all the
costs to the tax-payer in the form of subsidies and lack of licensing of
guns and shooting etc. I would also like to see the hidden costs to the
public in the form of increase in carbon emissions from muirburn,
increase in flooding, purification of water and the loss of
re-introduced raptors and habitats. More important to me is not the
monetary loss but the loss to ourselves, to which I can’t find a proper
word. Spiritual comes as close as I can think of.
I am also not sure if the employment of gamekeepers, a certain
percentage of whom are criminals, is high on my list of human rights
There has been good evidence that grouse moors are beneficial for
certain wader species (Golden Plover and Lapwings) but it is by no means
all waders. Again the grouse lobby is thinking or rather trying to get
the public to think in binary. Their statistics compare keepered grouse
moorland with non-keepered moorland. They have not taken into account
moorland specially managed for wildlife, including waders, which would
be the case on some moorland if shooting was banned. There is nothing to
stop a non-grouse moor hiring a keeper. They haven’t taken into account
the possibility of new legislation to protect waders. They have not
taken into account the fact that Golden Plovers are actually a game bird
and are shot. They have not considered all the other ways that waders
can be protected. These birds are not exclusive to grouse moorland.
Lapwings are mowed down during silage cutting in the valleys below the
Forest of Bowland so excuse me, grouse lobby, if I don’t get too upset
if a fox takes some on the moorland above.
Personally I would prefer to see Stoats, Foxes, Mountain Hares, Ravens,
Hooded Crows and birds of prey flying freely on the uplands even if the
population of waders and even Hen Harriers does have to find a new more
natural balance rather than a sterile heather monoculture.
When the grouse lobby talk about biodiversity for some reason that does
not include any predators and that is surely not going to include Lynx. 3.
Grouse moors are not a special habitat. They are special for grouse,
yes but this is not a natural habitat by any means. We spent 10 days
walking from nut to hut on Hardangervidda,
Norway, which was so beautiful it made me realise how brain-washed we
are about our so called wilderness, I was ashamed of Scotland. True we
did only see one brace of Willow Grouse but this was real nature not
grouse farming…. and Norwegians are really very pro hunting.
The beauty of the moors is also used as a pro-shooting argument but
since visiting similar habitats in Norway I realized there is very
little beautiful or biodiverse about a driven grouse moor. If you look
at photos of the patchwork of muirburn
you will see what I mean. I have seen some beautiful spots of what
appear to be un-burnt heather monoculture. I presume they still exist
but I admit I don’t fully understand why some areas are like war zones
and some have real charm. One of the places that used to be beautiful is
on the north side of The Forest of Bowland but now I see there is a new
tarmac road from Roeburndale right across to the west of the Forest of
Bowland with car parks in the middle of the moor for shooters visiting
the grouse butts. Then of course there are the grouse butts themselves,
the new idea of hare-proof fences and ditches. No sorry definite beauty-fail on that one.
Another aspect which needs investigating is a comparison with other
countries. The UK is one of the most lax (if not the most) country as
regards licensing of hunting. No other country has our level of moorland
game-keepering (if they have any at all) or monocultural moor
management and our penalties are paltry and here compared with the Spanish deterrent.
All in all, the only thing unique about the UK moorlands is in their
level of crime, lack of biodiversity, lack of effective law enforcement
and complete mismanagement. Nothing to by proud of.
Hen Harrier Day Peaceful Protest Sunday 7 August, 2016, Dunsop Bridge in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire.
Only 7 days to go, we need all the
support we can muster next Sunday 7 August on the green at Dunsop Bridge
in the heart of the Forest of Bowland. They have now killed all the
nesting Hen Harriers and Peregrines in the Forest of Bowland, now the
government’s wildlife advisor Natural England are helping to get rid of
Buzzards as well. Make your voice heard or they will win.
This year’s Hen Harrier Day, organised for a third consecutive year by the North West Raptor Group, will begin at 10.30 in the morning on the village green at Dunsop Bridge, near Clitheroe in the Forest of Bowland on SUNDAY 7 August. Due to popular demand this years event will culminate in the
early afternoon (from 1pm) with a visit to nearby grouse butts where we
will all enjoy a picnic in a wonderful scenic moorland venue. Please
bring along your own packed lunch and something non alcoholic to drink
for yourself or your group. Unfortunately there will be no views of wild Hen Harriers or Peregrines on this occasion, as both species have been persecuted in Bowland this year to extinction. 2016
is the first year since the second world war that both species have
been absent from the Forest of Bowland in the same year. A British National Scandal which the media should take on board. This season, an RSPB spokesperson has admitted not one occupied Hen
Harrier territory has been located in the Forest of Bowland so far this
season. In addition for the first time in living memory,
this year has witnessed all peregrines in the Forest of Bowland
disappearing; between 18-20 missing. This is why our
Forest of Bowland protest is so important this year; if we do not take a
stand condemning the illegal persecution of our Hen Harriers, it now
seems inevitable the species will become extinct in England sooner
rather than later. Please come and support us at Dunsop Bridge and help
to send a strong and clear message to all grouse shooting estates that
the public will no longer tolerate the illegal killing of this and other
iconic raptors on moorland in the heart of England where they should be
safe but clearly are not.
The symbol of a hen harrier has
endured a long and tragic association with the the Forest of Bowland. Of
the 7 breeding attempts made last year by hen harriers in Bowland, only
a single pair were productive fledging a single chick.
This season we are inviting people from all over the country to come
and join us at Dunsop Bridge, near Cltheroe, Lancashire, providing
invaluable support to this important annual event. Dunsop Bridge is
regarded as the village located at the heart of Hen Harrier moorland
where much of today’s persecution of this and other protected raptors is
still taking place with impunity. Please be amongst the first people to
register your intention to join members of the North West Raptor Group
this year by emailing your support to the following address: Bowland-HenHarrier-Demo@sky.co
The Forest of Bowland, Lancashire. Classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Just in case there is anyone not aware of
what happened to Hen Harriers in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland last
season this is a sad reminder of the reality. Of the 7 Hen Harrier
breeding attempts recorded on the United Utilities Plc estate in 2015,
only a single nesting pair were successful rearing one fledgling. 4 male
Hen Harriers mysteriously disappeared after they had left their
territories to forage for food to feed their mates they had left behind
to incubate clutches of eggs contained within each nest left behind. As a
consequence of the loss of the 4 male Harriers, 4 nests were deserted
containing at least twenty eggs which had been allowed to chill. So this
new killing strategy did not just eliminate 4 male Hen Harriers in
Bowland, it resulted in the loss of up to a further potential twenty Hen
Harriers from the eggs that were found abandoned in nests. One
additional Hen Harrier nest established on moorland on the RSPB
Geltsdale Nature Reserve in the northern Pennines was also abandoned
last season after a fifth male Harrier also disappeared after failing to
return with food to feed his mate. The female also disappeared after
leaving her eggs to forage for food to feed herself.
Raptor Politics will be publishing
additional details in a second Hen Harrier notification nearer the time
to this event, please book mark the 7 August in
your diary. Please can everyone retweet and pass on our invitation to
anyone you think may wish to support this important event.
Jessica holding a captive bred
Eagle Owl at last year’s event. Jessica brought the owl to identify with
the ongoing persecution of eagle owls in the Forest of Bowland
The real price of grouse: episode 2
In the run up to the Inglorious 12th (the opening of the grouse-shooting season on 12 August), you’ll be able to watch a series of videos hosted by Chris Packham about the #NotSoGlorious damaging management practices associated with the driven grouse shooting industry. Episode one (an introduction to driven grouse shooting) can be watched here. Here’s episode 2:
Over 63,000 people have joined Chris and signed the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting. You can too. We need 100,000 signatures to trigger a Westminster debate. Please join us and sign HERE
Let’s just stick with Hen Harriers for a while – I’ll come back to wider environmental issues next week.
And as far as Hen Harriers and driven grouse shooting go – you can’t have both, you have to choose.
Ever since the results of the first Langholm study (see Chapter 3 of Inglorious and here)
it has been clear that it would be very difficult to have protected
birds of prey and driven grouse shooting. Driven grouse shooting depends
on unnaturally very high densities of Red Grouse and to get those
massive densities you have to declare war on any predators that might
eat Red Grouse adults, their eggs or their chicks. A whole range of
predators will eat Red Grouse and many of them can be killed legally
which is why gamekeepers spend so much of their time setting snares and
traps to kill Red Foxes, Stoats, Carrion (or Hooded) Crows etc. But
many birds of prey will eat Red Grouse too – and they are protected by
law. The Langholm study showed that when Peregrine Falcons and Hen
Harriers were protected at Langholm Moor then their numbers increased
(showing that their numbers had been kept low by some means in the
preceding years) then they would eat enough Red Grouse to make driven
grouse shooting unprofitable.
Ever since then we have all been looking for some sort of compromise,
because we British love a compromise, but we haven’t found one. So,
you have to choose – do you want driven grouse shooting (in which case
you have to cull raptors) or do you want wildlife law upheld (in which
case it’s bye-bye intensive grouse shooting)?
Driven grouse shooting is just a hobby – that’s all it is. So it’s
not a difficult choice for me – I want the law upheld and birds of prey
to be protected. I don’t want shot or poisoned Red Kites to be found in the Yorkshire Dales every few weeks, I don’t want Peregrines to be persecuted so intensively that the impacts are clear enough for scientists to write papers documenting it,
and I do want Hen Harriers to return to our National Parks. I don’t
care if the hobby of driven grouse shooting has to disappear – it’s
underpinned by wildlife crime so it has no place in our uplands.
We have made no progress at all through talking to the grouse
industry for decades – things are worse now, and in the first year of
the hopeless Defra’s hapless Hen Harrier Inaction Plan,
than at almost any time for 50 years. The choice is not between ‘Nasty
intensive grouse shooting and no Hen Harriers’ and ‘Nice intensive
grouse shooting and lots of Hen Harriers’ because Langholm showed that
intensive grouse shooting and lots of Hen Harriers are incompatible.
You have to choose.
And the clearest possible evidence that we certainly aren’t going to get both, is that there are practically no Hen Harriers nesting on driven grouse moors
across the UK. A mere handful or few hands full in the best of years.
The grouse shooting industry has operated a ‘no-compromise’ policy for
years, and the Defra Hen Harrier Inaction Plan has not changed that at
all this year – thus we have only a tiny handful of Hen Harriers attempting to nest in England in 2016.
Let’s just compare England and Wales. In Wales there are lots of
hills and the scientists tell us that there is enough habitat for c250
pairs of Hen Harrier. England has lots of hills too, and the scientists
tell us that there is enough habitat for c330 pairs of Hen Harrier.
Welsh hills have very little grouse shooting – practically none. But in
England there is lots of grouse shooting – about 140 grouse moors. In
the last Hen Harrier survey there were 57 pairs of Hen Harrier in Wales
and the population was increasing. In England in recent years there have
been 2-12 pairs of Hen Harriers and the population is bumping along the
bottom. Both countries have lower Hen Harrier populations than they
should because the level of persecution overall drags the whole
population down, but Wales, where grouse shooting is practically absent,
has an increasing Hen Harrier population whereas England, with many
many grouse moors has a tiny Hen Harrier population and it’s not
increasing at all.
The grouse industry isn’t going to go quietly, and they know their
industry is doomed in the long run. They are just milking our uplands
for as much money as possible until the end comes. And the only way to
bring that end about quickly is to ask parliament to ban driven grouse shooting. The more people sign this e-petition the greater the pressure will be – and in the end that pressure will force change.
It’s not all about Hen Harriers – read Ingloriousto
see that – but one selfish industry is responsible for wiping out
hundreds of pairs of a protected bird – deliberately, systematically and
illegally and that is a disgrace. The fact that much of this wildlife
crime occurs in our National Parks is an utter disgrace.
So, please come along to the Yorkshire Dales National Park on Saturday to express your disgust at the fact that the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a massive crime scene, and please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.