Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands (book review)

Inglorious - CopyInglorious – Conflict in the Uplands by Mark Avery. Bloomsbury Press, London. 304pp.

Publishing date: 30 July 2015

RRP: £14.99

ISBN (hardback) 9 78-1-4729-1741-6; ISBN (ebook) 9 78-1-4729-1742-3

This book won’t make it on to my bookshelf for quite some time. The reason? It’ll either be being held in my hands as I (re)-read it or it’ll be on my desk within easy reach for when I want to be reminded that the time for negotiation and 2nd, 3rd, 4th,…..18th, 19th, 20th, etc. chances is over and the time for change is now.

I won’t ruin Mark’s story by giving a detailed analysis of the book’s content but the main thrust is that Mark thinks driven grouse shooting should be banned and his arguments for this position are laid out with compelling clarity.

Inglorious begins with a raging, damning condemnation of driven grouse shooting in an impassioned foreword written by Chris Packham. Then there’s a short preface from Mark with a synopsis of the book and his reasons for writing it. Chapter 1 opens with the basics of hen harrier biology and ecology and their persecution on driven grouse moors; Chapter 2 provides an overview of driven grouse shooting, including its history, how it works and who’s involved; a detailed analysis of the first Joint Raptor Study at Langholm (also known as ‘Langholm 1) which took place in the mid-1990s and was focused on the conflict between hen harriers and grouse shooting is discussed in Chapter 3; an explanation of the political events and scientific studies that took place between 1997-2013 and brought greater attention to upland management practices is provided in Chapter 4; Chapter 5 presents Mark’s perspective on events that took place in 2014 when the public finally woke up to what was happening and began the fight back for hen harriers; Chapter 6 tells the fictional story of a former gamekeeper, now gainfully and happily employed in 2046 as a land manager for the National Trust, reflecting on his previous career and how it all came crashing down; Chapter 7 outlines all the things an ordinary member of the public can do to help hasten the inevitable demise of driven grouse shooting.

It’s obvious that a lot of thought went in to the structure of Inglorious, effectively building the story from the plight of one relatively little known bird (the hen harrier) to the exposure of the corruption, criminality and political influence that underpins the driven grouse shooting industry. Inglorious is audacious, courageous and defiant. If you’re not outraged after reading this book then you’ve either not been paying attention or you’re someone who has a vested interest in this racket.

If, like me, you thought you were pretty well-versed in the subject of driven grouse shooting and its associated environmental atrocities, Inglorious will surprise you. Yes, all the by-now- familiar scientific evidence is in there (and is well explained for a non-technical audience) but interwoven is a fascinating insight to the political backdrop of nature conservation, especially during the period 1997-2013. Understanding what was happening behind closed (and sometimes open) parliamentary doors during this 17 year period and how it impacted on the (mis)fortunes of the hen harrier and on the management of our uplands is crucial to understanding how Mark reached the decision to call for a ban on driven grouse shooting. Of course, some of this insight is subjective as it stems from Mark’s personal experience from his time working as the RSPB’s Conservation Director but that makes it all the more persuasive. His isn’t the view of someone uninformed and with a shallow understanding, hitching a ride on the back of an increasing public awareness of ‘wildlife crime’; this is the view of someone with authoritative credibility earned through his intimate involvement over many years in UK nature conservation policies.

The publication of Inglorious couldn’t have been better timed. First, it comes soon after the suspicious ‘disappearance’ of five breeding male hen harriers in the space of a few weeks in May this year. When that news broke, any tiny flicker of optimism that the grouse-shooting industry wanted to stop their disgraceful persecution of this species was extinguished. Secondly, it comes just a few days before this year’s Hen Harrier Day (9th August 2015) when hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, throughout the UK will be making a public stand against the illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors, whether that be by participating in a ‘Thunderclap’ on social media, posting a selfie on the Hen Harrier Day website, or by attending one of several rallies set to take place across the country. This book will unite that community and inspire many new campaigners to the join the fight.

Inglorious bears all the hallmarks of Mark’s writing: engaging, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, articulate, well-reasoned, fair and good humoured. Although it is a depressing and poignant read in parts, it is also optimistic, and that’s important. The message is clear – driven grouse shooting has to end and the pathway to bringing that about has been brightly illuminated by this book.

To pre-order this book, please see here.

To listen to a recent podcast of Mark discussing Inglorious, click here

To read another review of Inglorious, click here


31 thoughts on “Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands (book review)”

  1. ….’this year’s Hen Harrier Day (9th August 2015) when hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, throughout the UK will be making a public stand against the illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors….Not very many signed his (Mark Avery’s) petition to stop it though….WHY?

      1. Because the rspb knows that with out sporting estates and grouse shooting that the Scottish highlands would not have anywhere near the diversity of bird life that it has now,

        1. Utter piffle! If you are going to make such comments, you must be prepared to back the up with some evidence.

          So, here’s a wee challenge for you – provide the evidence that sporting estates and grouse moors have a greater diversity of bird life, compared to other habitats.

          This will be a real laugh!

        2. Blundering, bullshitting Bob, boldly broadcasting bigoted, biased beliefs – bullheaded bawbaggery!

          So, I take it you can’t provide any evidence to back your claim, Bob?

    1. Well, to be fair, 22,400 signed it, which put it in the top half a per cent of all such e-petitions on the No10 website. So it did better than 99.5% of all other e-petitions. It certainly caused a stir. Advocacy is a long game – a marathon not a sprint. did you sign it?

  2. Hi guys! Thank you so much for such a kind review. I’m glad you like it so much. If this blog and its readers don’t enjoy this book then it would be a bit of a disappointment to its author.

    I have a feeling it may not get such a favourable review in The Shooting Times. Telegraph and Times – but we’ll see. Many thanks again.

  3. Last time I checked 22’500 people wasn’t hundreds of thousands or millions of people! That will include the paltry 4000 odd that attended the RSPB Birdfair! Exaggerating much!

    1. In comparison to a 1.1 million plus membership for the RSPB yes 4,000 attendees may seem paltry (I assume you are referring to the Scottish Birdfair not Rutland), but then again 1.1 million plus membership! Think you’ll find a lot more of them will be signing the next epetition re driven grouse shooting not least due to the ‘qualities’ apparent in those trying to say grouse moors are actually a jolly good thing. With friends like Sir Rent A Gob grouse moors hardly need enemies.

    2. Your industrial bird killing is on its way out, I just hope that 2040’s is long after we are rid of the issue.

      It is not even a sport, when birds are thrown at the shooters. No hunting skill or stealth just a sick massacre.

  4. Good work by all those keeping up the pressure on the “grouseman”. He knows his days are numbered, but he keeps wriggling! Off to buy the book now-well done Mark.

  5. I have pre-ordered this book.

    For years now I have felt isolated and increasingly filled with rage that the ‘sporting’ fraternity appears to be a law unto itself, able to act with impunity with, seemingly in my experience, some members of the law enforcement and environmental agencies ‘in their pockets’.

    However, what has sickened me most on a personal level has been the apathy of other so-called birders and ornithologists as to what has been – still is – going on and their disinclination to get involved in fighting back. When I got ‘involved’ I was told by one of them to ‘back-off’ and, when I wouldn’t, excluded from any more fieldwork.

    Perhaps now, if they can bring themselves to read this blog and the book, they might see things in a different light.

    Keep up the great work. I have only recently discovered this blog and I am so glad to find that there are many others out there who, like me, care passionately about our raptors.

    Good to see too that Dave Dick regularly corresponds here and I extend my warmest greetings to him|!

    I will be spreading the word to those who will listen!

    1. Thanks heclasu [whoever you are?]…may I take this opportunity to ask readers to also look at my book “Wildlife Crime”..easily found on the internet..after youve read Mark’s book!…you will see what a long fight this has been, so far…but I get the feeling the ball is real rolling now..lets make raptor persecution as high profile as fox hunting..and as despised.

  6. I know it goes against the grouse moor bashing narrative on here but I’m sure you will agree the story of three healthy eagle chick being raised successfully in the eastern highlands is a huge success story! Nesting on a grouse moor, born on a grouse moor, surrounded by grouse moors, fed courtesy of grouse moors! The only reason this highly unusual large brood is possible is due to the abundance of food available thanks to grouse moor management. Yes there has been some dark, unacceptable management practices carried out in the past but times and grouse moors are not the barren monoculture many bloggers seem to portray.

    1. I have seen video footage of one of the ‘renowned’ stalkers/gamekeepers saying proudly that he had three pairs of golden eagles on his estate and that they were noble birds. Lovely. Unfortunately he then went on to say that goshawks and pine martens killed for the sake of it – inconsistent attitude at best, at worst idiocy and a dangerous one for our wildlife. Why are so many satellite tagged eagles going missing over grouse shooting estates, why are there so many empty territories, why is at least one estate owner, Sigrid Rausing, saying that she doesn’t have any eagles on her estate because ‘some’ of the surrounding ones are kiiling them? Who chainsawed the tree holding the nest of the first east coast sea eagle in well over a hundred years (it was on an estate incidentally)? And this when a gamekeeper says they are noble birds! God help everything else. This will be harsh Grouseman, but I’m being honest and I think you deserve this, reading your drivel is as joyless and frustrating as listening to a holocaust denier.

    2. Great to hear about another set of triplets in Golden Eagles Grouseman. When it comes to the success of breeding GE’s, Invermarrk Estate in Angus should surely be up there. This 55,000 acre, highly biodiverse sporting estate supports two breeding pairs of GE. If my memory serves me right, in the past five years triplets have fledged successfully twice.

      “It’s exceptionally rare to have triplets with golden eagles. It’s probably only about the fifth or sixth time this millennium,” said Stuart Benn of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

      I would suggest that any reader of this blog who has never witnessed superb mountain scenery, raptors and moorland specialist birds galore, wildflowers, insects, reptiles, etc make a special visit and enjoy!

    3. Of course, it is good news, but the mark of true success will be if these young birds are permitted to reach maturity, breed themselves, and for their offspring to do the same.

      The Golden Eagle is in a perilous state, mainly as a result of the intolerances of shooting estate owners and employees, and of course the wider shooting industry (bar a few exceptions), so the chances of the above scenario being played out, are incredibly remote.

    4. Grouseman – you use the usual technique of those with a poor case; you use an anecdote to counter a much bigger analysis. the golden eagle conservation framework, published by statutory agencies, does quite a bit of what you might call ‘grouse moor bashing’ when it points out that eagles are missing from many parts of Scotland where they ought to live, and that the cause of that lack of eagles is illegal persecution. So a brood of three eagles is a small conservation success story – but I am happy to say it is good news.

  7. Yes Grouseman great news and very valid points. I sincerely thank the staff of this estate for their sympathetic attitude and the same goes to the staff of many other estates with a similar outlook. And I know some keepers who are not just tolerant but really enthusiastic about raptors. Three young eagles fledging from one nest is fantastic, absolutely fantastic. Well done to all concerned. However lets put that in to context. The 3 eagles will be the first to fledge from that estate in living memory! Perhaps that may be due to their northern neighbours with lets say a rather different attitude to raptors & the law!! Unfortunately there are still numerous estates which employ criminals and hence the reason why this blog receives so many negative comments about grouse moors.

  8. To RPS, don’t know if your aware of 3 alleged birds of prey found deliberately shot near Nethy Bridge. Article about this is in our local Strathspey and Badenoch Herald. The carcasses were found last Thursday and Police are awaiting results of examinations to identify the species and how they died.

    Keep up the good work

    Kenny McGowan.

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