Four easy ways to help hen harriers

HH by Gordon LangsburyHen harriers are in trouble, and have been for some time (to read all our earlier blog posts about them, click here).

They’re not just in a bit of trouble; they are in seriously dire straits, and most of it has been caused by them being illegally killed (shot, trapped, poisoned, stamped on) whenever they venture on to a moorland that is being managed for driven grouse shooting.

A lot of people we talk to about raptor persecution in general all say the same thing – they feel frustrated and let down by the inability of the ‘authorities’ (e.g. government, police, judicial process) to put a stop to it.

Well things are changing. Recently, there has been a groundswell of imaginative initiatives that are designed to allow ordinary people like us to have our say and get our voices heard. Individually, we may not have much impact, but collectively, we can be very powerful.

Here are four things we, as individuals, can all do very easily, to help hen harriers. Some of them you can do right now without even having to leave your chair!

1. Participate in Hen Harrier Day on August 10th 2014.

There will be a number of peaceful protest demonstrations across the north of England (an area where driven grouse shooting is a dominant ‘sport’) taking place on Sunday 10th August 2014. The idea is to congregate with like-minded people to celebrate the hen harrier and to get some much-needed national and international media attention at a time when most media outlets will be focusing on the opening of the grouse-shooting season (12th August).

One of these protests will be held in the Derbyshire Peak District, with Chris Packham in attendance (see details about this event on Mark Avery’s blog here).

Other protests are planned for Yorkshire, Cumbria, Northumberland and Lancashire although we are still awaiitng full details – to be announced soon on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) website here.

If you can’t make it in person to one of these events, BAWC will be providing information about how you can join in ‘remotely’ by posting pictures on-line.

2. Vote for the RSPB’s SKYDANCER Project in the National Lottery Awards.

The Skydancer Project is a four-year educational initiative aimed at raising awareness and promoting the conservation of hen harriers in the north of England. They have been doing some fantastic work, delivering talks, hosting workshops, running fieldtrips etc. They have recently been nominated for a National Lottery Award (one of seven projects in the running for Best Education Project, selected from over 750 applicants). Winning will mean national media attention on prime time tv. It takes a couple of seconds to vote for them on-line – deadline 23rd July. Click here to vote.

3. Sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting in England.

Mark Avery launched this e-petition almost one month ago (and here is his summary of why it is necessary). Already it has attracted 5,789 votes. Driven grouse-shooting is the number one reason why hen harriers are being killed. It really is a no brainer – please sign here!

Turn Your Back on Grouse4. Support the Ethical Consumer’s ‘Turn Your Back on Grouse’ campaign.

The Ethical Consumer has recently published a well-researched report about the damaging consequences of intensively driven grouse shooting (see here). They have started a campaign calling for a boycott on all businesses connected to the grouse-shooting industry. It’s called ‘Turn Your Back on Grouse’. You can find more info here.

We’re particularly interested in this campaign. We touched on it, briefly, last year when we blogged about Marks & Spencer selling grouse that had originated from Yorkshire and the Scottish Borders – when we asked M&S to name the estates of origin, they were surprisingly coy – see here, here, here and here.

We called in Trading Standards to investigate whether M&S’s claims that “we are working with only the most sustainable and well-managed estates, and do not work with any suppliers that interfere with hen harriers” was actually true, but we haven’t heard anything further. Unfortunately our time is limited and we haven’t pursued it, so it’s very welcome news to see the Ethical Consumer pick up on this issue.

It’s particularly timely, as the Countryside Alliance put out the following statement in April this year:

“Following a meeting with Marks and Spencer and Yorkshire Game, discussions are to take place between the Game to Eat team and the M&S PR Department to devise a suitable media plan to promote grouse in August 2014. The Game-to-Eat campaign sent out over 80,000 game recipe leaflets over the course of the season. The team is now working with development Chef Lee Maycock to create and photograph new recipes for 2014. Lee Maycock has continued to deliver game preparation courses at catering colleges around the country and has had an excellent reception from catering lecturers keen to increase game’s profile. The team attended an end-of-season game dinner at Notting Hill’s The Shed restaurant in early February. The team hosted Shooting Times, Country Life, Sporting Shooter, Fieldsports and Shooting Gazette journalists at this event. Game-to-Eat and the Countryside Alliance Awards are working together to promote the work of butchers selling game”.

Hopefully many of you will get involved with supporting the ‘Turn Your Back on Grouse’ campaign and help give this issue further media and political attention.

Hen harrier photo by Gordon Langsbury.

20 thoughts on “Four easy ways to help hen harriers”

  1. How is it possible that Mark Avery’s petition has fewer than 6,000 signatures? Where are the signatures of the one million members of the RSPB? It’s such a sad fact that so few people are genuinely interested in this subject. We’re not going to get anywhere with hen harrier protection as long as the police and the government see that it is such a minority interest.

    1. I agree the Rspb have to put their full backing to this petition,but then again there is the royal charter to consider which stops the Rspb from speaking out against the shooting community,that’s why they should drop the royal tag from their name

      1. as I see it and please correct me if I’ve got this wrong, the RSPB has to remain impartial as an organisation against Shooting. however it can direct its members to a website set up by their ex chief executive officer and ask them to take a good look at some of the information contained on that website and make up their own minds on wether to support the banning of driven Grouse shooting or whatever is on that website or not

      2. Kevin, an interesting thought. It is indeed a paradox that the Duke of Cambridge heads ‘TUSK’ and ‘United for Wildlife,’ and yet the royal family are so engaged with hunting and shooting stuff. Whether the RSPB could ever drop ‘royal’ from their name, so that they could speak out much more on issues such as the Hen Harrier, though, would seem to me to be a sisyphean task. Surely RSPB members must be clued up on the dire straits that this beautiful raptor is in ?

    2. I find it interesting that all you hear from several contributers to this blog is how much wildlife tourism I worth to the country. “Stop all commercial shooting people will pay far more to come and see wildlife” , “Mull gets 5 million per annum in wildlife tourism” blah blah blah. The fact that Mark Avery can only get 6000 signatures shows the numbers of people passionate about such things is being greatly exaggerated again and again! Perhaps the British public isn’t as against sporting estates and driven grouse moors as you would like to think! #noonecares

      1. Look at the process he has embarked on and compare the returns against other petitions….he is doing rather well….

    1. The problem is do the one million plus RSPB members even know about the petition, has the RSPB taken the trouble to inform them about it and tell them why it’s so important to sign it ???

      1. Unsure of all this weird foreign language . . . Anyway, Nirofo, absolutely, is there not some way we could alert the 1 million plus RSPB members ? By putting it on their forum, or something ???

      2. Nirofo, I have registered for the RSPB forums and posted a ‘Ban driven grouse shooting to protect the Hen Harrier’ title, along with Mark Avery’s eGov petition link. Hope it works !

  2. Hello. I am writing about hen harriers (in a fictional context, but I need to get my facts straight). One expert told me that they can’t be poisoned because they don’t eat carrion. But this article says they are being killed by being “shot, trapped, poisoned and stamped on.” Can someone explain. Do people kill hen harriers by putting out poisoned meat? Or are they poisoned in other ways?

    [Ed: Hi, thanks for your comment. There are a few instances where hen harriers (and marsh harriers further south) have been shown to be poisoned (see RSPB annual persecution reports for details), although the more common methods of killing are shooting (adults), trapping (adults) and stamping on (chicks)].

  3. Here is the usual explanatory letter from you know who:

    Dear Mr Tyler,

    Thank you for your letter of 26 June 2014 to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Mr Paul Wheelhouse. I have been asked to respond.

    The Minister is very much aware of the strength of public opinion on this high profile issue and shares your sense of outrage at those who continue to flout the law and act for their own selfish means.

    I have explained the Scottish Government’s position on this topic before (references 2014/0001487 and 2014/0015267) and I will not attempt to simply reiterate the same words which you have already read. We believe that the work that is currently ongoing has the potential to bring about a significant reduction in this sort of crime. However we must allow the work to be completed and fully implemented.

    The Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group will make its recommendations to the Minister towards the end of 2014 and the Consultation on further powers for the Scottish SPCA closes for the Minister’s consideration on 1 September. Additionally, the restriction of the General Licence by Scottish Natural Heritage is a further, very practical, deterrent for those contemplating illegal actions as well as a tighter level of control in areas where it is
    suspected that wildlife crime is taking place. The disposal scheme to rid illegally held poisons from Scotland will give those who retain their supplies little to no defence in Court if they are found in possession.

    Police and prosecutors understand the importance of securing convictions in order to send a strong deterrent message. Indeed the first vicarious liability case is in the very early stages of court proceedings and the outcome of that will be awaited by many involved in this arena with a great deal of interest.

    As you probably know, the Minister has also said that should all of these measures fail to bring about real change, he is prepared to consider further regulation. As a preliminary step we have undertaken to examine how regulation of the game shooting sector is carried out in other countries.

    I hope that this letter goes some way to addressing your concerns.

    Yours faithfully,

    Karen Hunter
    Wildlife Crime Policy Officer

    Doesn’t seem as if any real change will happen until land value taxation is brought in, does it ?

    1. I wonder what the Minister’s (and Scottish Government’s) criteria for “real change” are?

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