There’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.