GWCT, the Moorland Association, and their absurd hen harrier pantomime

HH by Gordon LangsburyThere’s a very good blog published today on the British Ornithological Union’s website (here). It’s written by Dr Arjun Amar, a leading raptor ecologist who has published widely on the hen harrier following his PhD and post-doc studies on this species.

Arjun’s blog summarises what he calls the ‘terminal decline’ of the hen harrier and discusses the various approaches that are currently being discussed to prevent the inevitable. The three main approaches are:

1. A ban on driven grouse shooting.

2. A grouse moor licensing scheme whereby sporting rights can be removed if illegal persecution continues.

3. A brood management scheme – which basically means removing young harriers from grouse moors, rearing them in captivity and releasing them elsewhere.

In Arjun’s considered opinion, “any one of these three approaches could work well to provide a conservation success (i.e. more harriers) at least in the short term“.

He’s right, of course, in a strictly scientific sense, although he doesn’t address either the ethical, practical or enforcement issues that accompany each approach. But then why should he? He’s a scientist and he’s arguing from a scientific perspective, which is appropriate in the context of the BOU website.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gilruth of the GWCT has jumped on Arjun’s blog and has written an article proclaiming, ‘Leading raptor scientist believes hen harrier brood management could provide success‘ (see here).

Yes, strictly speaking, that’s what Arjun did say. But he also said that the other two approaches could also work well. But then we’d hardly expect GWCT to headline an article with, ‘Leading raptor scientist believes a ban on driven grouse shooting could provide success‘!

Why did GWCT choose to highlight the brood management option and not the banning of driven grouse shooting or a grouse moor licensing scheme? Well, according to Andrew Gilruth, “it would appear to make sense to implement the only approach that is ready right now – brood management“. The thing is, the brood management approach is not ‘ready right now’. In fact it’s far from being ready – read this for a good explanation.

It’s all about the careful cherry-picking of words, of which the GWCT (and others in the game-shooting industry) do so well. If you’ve read the GWCT’s recent articles on hen harriers and taken them at face value (i.e. not bothered to read around the subject), you’d be forgiven for believing that the GWCT loves hen harriers and wants to help them recover. But you have to read the small print to understand that this ‘recovery’ is conditional on the hen harriers being restricted to areas away from driven grouse moors.

It wasn’t so long ago that the GWCT (or Game Conservancy Trust as they were then called) were calling for a cull of hen harriers on grouse moors (e.g. see here), as was the Moorland Association (see here) who are also currently trying to convince us that they love hen harriers. This is the same Moorland Association who claimed there was ‘no evidence’ of gamekeepers persecuting hen harriers and that moorland owners are ‘within their rights and the law to deter hen harriers from settling on their moor to breed’ (see here). This is also the same Moorland Association (along with the National Gamekeepers Organisation) who failed to encourage their members to sign a pledge to accept the laws protecting hen harriers (see here).

Some people may be taken in by the GWCT and Moorland Association’s current absurd hen harrier pantomime, but many of us are not.

E-petition to ban driven grouse shooting: SIGN HERE.

To find out how you can get involved with Hen Harrier Day activities, click here.

Hen Harrier photo by Gordon Langsbury.

13 thoughts on “GWCT, the Moorland Association, and their absurd hen harrier pantomime”

  1. It would be pretty easy, in England , to produce a success for hen harriers..a couple of breeding pairs would do it..but a “conservation success”??..The young from those broods would no doubt fly straight onto a grouse moor and get killed…”at least in the short term” the important wording here. Just Ban Driven Grouse Shooting [as Ive been saying on this blog for the last three years at least]…job done. We would then get a conservation success for harriers…in the long term.

    1. 100% agree Dave, ban the outdated practice of driven grouse shoots. Any political party that included this in their manifesto would certainly get my vote.

  2. youre harping on about banning driven grouse, if it wasn’t driven then it would be walked up with pointer dogs and setters, whats the difference, ? and another thing harriers really need grouse,and grouse really need keepers, so no keepers = no grouse, foxes and crows will see to that, and whilst theyre at it the foxes will eat any harrier chicks they come across, a fox will easily scent a nest full of chicks, its not so long since, that Wales used to be a tremendous area for grouse moors, now theres no grouse there and no shooting, yet still theres no harriers, im a keen rspb supporter and know about the Geltsdale reserve, where harriers were allegedly persecuted before they acquired that reserve, now theve got it ,theres no keepering no shooting and still no breeding harriers .

    1. A BIG difference between driven and walked-up shooting – it’s all about the management intensity. Driven grouse shooting relies on large bags; walked-up grouse shooting doesn’t.

      “Harriers really need grouse, and grouse really need keepers = no grouse”. Really? So how do you account for very healthy hen harrier and grouse populations in other countries where driven grouse shooting is absent?

      Hen Harrier pops improving in Wales, ever since they stopped grouse shooting. Try reading the literature.

      No breeding HH on Geltsdale….hardly surprising…..there aren’t any breeding HH anywhere in England this year apart from three locations that have had to have 24-hour security.

      1. I live in the Lake District,where in some areas there seems to be thousands acres of suitable ground for harriers, such as Whinlatter, Skiddaw, and Carrock Fell, all have good heather, and no game keepers, but theres very few grouse and no breeding harriers that we know of. A fox did take a brood of big harrier chicks a few years ago, up near Blencathra, was told by a reliable fellow .
        I went to France last year and saw song thrush in a photo displayed on the ground along with Grey partridge and pheasant, so its a wonder theres any Harriers there.
        I know driven, means big bags compared to walked up, and commands a lot of money to pay for keepers etc.
        The harriers have had time to get going at Geltsdale, its a big enough place. I will try and read up on literature, in Wales. To be honest wirth you its a pity 12 bores were ever invented, but having said that, theres an awful lot of very good woods that are here because of shooting, and a lot of heather that hasn’t been gramoxoned and turned into grass because of grouse shooting .

    2. Your comments sound like the typical words from the shooters and their lackeys’. There is so much illegal killing of birds of prey by the shooting estate personnel that few birds are available to re-establish themselves.
      All the Harriers survived natural predation for millennia but then came the “gentry” to play their games.
      Get real, the country management by the criminals in our upper society are responsible for the destruction of Hen Harriers and much more.
      As a young lad walking the moors 50 years ago, I saw their wastefulness, cruelty and primitive ways. I have had no respect for their greed and uncaring attitudes since and they are still at it.
      Let us work towards ridding our countryside of these archaic and cruel practices that are used to entertain the rich.
      A simple solution is captive breed the grouse and pheasants. Humanely kill them on the day of the shoot. Give the shooters blanks to fire, (the noise will keep them amused). Catapult the corpses over the shooter. This produces a win win situation. 100% kill, no wounded birds to be found or not. No lead scattered over the countryside. No hazardous shooting of each other, (this is the only negative bit, more of these shooters need killing off) No lead in the corpses, so the meat can be eaten safely. The birds of prey can be left to their own life. How about it then?

      1. shooters are not all rich, theres a lot of them from all walks of life.
        I remember my Grandfather showing me as we drove along the road near Shap fell 40 years ago, and telling me, there used to be grouse on here, and it was all heather, when we saw it then in the 70s, it was all sheep and bracken, its the same now,but with less sheep, more bracken and no heather.
        I think keepers are just farming grouse as farmers farm sheep. The situation will only change when theres a change of attitude towards harriers and when they are welcomed and celebrated by the owners .

  3. Trying to come to some sort of agreement over the conservation of Raptors of any description with the type of people who own, run or shoot on the Red Grouse moors is just like banging your head against a brick wall. These people don’t think they are doing anything wrong or illegal in persecuting birds of prey and destroying the environment, just so long as they can produce maximum numbers of grouse for the guns to shoot, they honestly believe they have the right.

    If they are not prepared put a stop to this wanton destruction of our wildlife and countryside by themselves then we must force these people to see that what they are doing is not only illegal but morally wrong. The only way to make sure they know this and to make them obey the law is to licence the shoots under strict conservation rules, with severe penalties such as a total blanket ban on all driven grouse shooting on the moorlands of Britain.

    1. I agree Nirofo, but unfortunately the politicians both at Westminster and Edinburgh, have no intention, or are unable to make these people obey the law of the land. To all intense and purposes they are above the law.

  4. A lesson to be learned for the shooting fraternity. Fox hunting blindly carried on digging out, breeding foxes and stopping earths pretending this was fox control and it would never be banned. They could probably have cleaned up their act and worked to more sporting rules and prevented a ban.

    Which way is shooting going to go.

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