RSPB walks away from Hen Harrier Action Plan

hh LAURIE CAMPBELLThe RSPB has decided to ‘withdraw its support for DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan’. See Conservation Director Martin Harper’s blog here for the full explanation.

This is very welcome news – well done RSPB!

Some will say the RSPB should never have supported it in the first place (and we’d be in that camp). The Hen Harrier Action Plan was never a plan to help hen harriers, even though it was dressed up as such. What it actually was/is, is a plan to help remove hen harriers from driven grouse moors so that there are more red grouse available to be shot by wealthy gunmen (see here).

Others will say that the RSPB has played a clever game by initially supporting the Action Plan, knowing full well that the grouse-shooting industry would never be able to deliver on its promises to stop the illegal killing of hen harriers. By giving the industry the time and space to fail, and then by walking away from it, the RSPB is able to make a strong political statement and still come out of this looking like the reasonable and rational organisation we all know it to be.

By supporting this ridiculous Action Plan, the RSPB came in for quite a lot of criticism from ‘our side’. Many of us were frustrated that, at best, the RSPB was sitting on the fence and at worst, legitimising the ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting and all its associated environmental damage. The dark side used the RSPB’s involvement with the HH Action Plan as a PR stick with which to beat detractors of the Action Plan: those of us who support a ban on driven grouse shooting were painted as ‘extremists’, a bunch of unreasonable radicals unwilling to engage in partnership working to find a solution. There’s an element of truth in that, because, unlike the RSPB, our patience with the grouse shooting industry expired a long time ago. We already know that this industry is either incapable of, or unwilling to, abide by the law and so negotiation with them is futile. But we wouldn’t describe that as being unreasonable or extreme; rather it’s more of an obvious next step in the face of blatant ongoing criminality (and subsequent denial) from the grouse shooting industry. It’s good to see the RSPB catching up.

Although, the RSPB hasn’t caught up entirely. Now it has withdrawn its support for the HH Action Plan, it looks like the RSPB has at least swung its legs back over to our side of the fence. But it still hasn’t jumped from that fence. With its steadfast refusal to support a ban on driven grouse shooting, the RSPB is still perched atop that fence and is looking down at the ground trying to judge whether the distance to jump is too far. The RSPB thinks licensing is the way forward, rather than an outright ban. There are merits in that approach, of course, but to be successful, licensing will require effective enforcement AND a willingness from the grouse shooting industry to abide by the licensing rules. We’ve seen no evidence to suggest that either of these two elements will work.

But for now, let’s applaud the RSPB’s withdrawal from the HH Action Plan, let’s enjoy the increasing isolation with which the grouse shooting industry is bringing upon itself, and let’s push on with our aim of getting 100,000 signatures on THIS E-PETITION to trigger a Westminster debate on the future of driven grouse shooting.

29 thoughts on “RSPB walks away from Hen Harrier Action Plan”

  1. I do wonder how much of a financial contribution the factors of the shooting industry make to the RSPB. I was very dismayed to see in the latest RSPB magazine that it featured a Mr Joe Dimbleby of shooting times saying how wonderful it is that food put out for gamebirds is sometimes eaten by a mix of songbirds. So that makes it all ok then!

    1. There lies another point about kneejerk acceptance of the ‘conservation benefits’ of shooting Reg, how much does the feed used to raise and support gamebirds contribute to the intensive farming that shooting is supposed to be a benign alternative too? The grain and soymeal doesn’t just fall of the back fo the lorry it had to be grown somewhere, if soymeal then probably from South America and thereby it has contributed to the loss of rainforest !?! I read of one estate that put out two hundred tonnes of grain over a seaon to feed partridge for the guns, that’s shocking. Of course a lot of the resulting meat doesn’t get eaten it ends up in a foxes belly, flattened at the side of a road, in a stinkpit or a wheelie bin. I emailed Martin Harper and said that if the RSPB makes any statement about shooting being good for conservation that has to attach the proviso that a full ecological footprinting analysis has yet to be done re its full impacts. There has been a belated recognition that releasing tens of millions of gamebirds into the countryside represents a lot of biomass and potential ecological effects we need to look at, but the effects of raising it in the first place are NEVER mentioned.

  2. I’m one of those that thought the involvement of the RSPB in the “Action” plan was necessary, if only to prove that the Grouse industry where incapable of change. I suspect the RSPB new from the outset that the plan was doomed to failure but no one can now say that they didn’t try (although they will!). From Martin Harper’s comments in his blog it looks as though there is some more bad news in the pipeline. Licencing can only have a limited affect though so I’m still firmly of the belief that stopping driven grouse shooting altogether is the only real answer.

  3. So good news for once! I wonder where this leaves the hulk of the Owl truss….? My guess that is going to be sinking a wee bit faster… time to start bailing?

  4. Hopefully the start of a realisation that we need all the wildlife NGOs to step up to the plate as we are in for a long, hard fight.

  5. The Game Shooting Lobby has broken every promise it ever made. Why? Simply because they have been ablse to subvert due legal process on many occasions by having sympathisers ignore their professional responsibilities when pursuing these cases and the ability of wealthy grouse moor owners to pay exorbitant fees to top lawyers to find loopholes in individual cases. If the spirit is not present in any agreement then nothing positive will become of it and experience has shown time and time again that spirit was indeed absent. Well done RSPB, but why not go one step more and support the Petition to ban driven grouse shooting. The amount of signatures now stand above the 60,000 mark and with the public support of the RSPB it would certainly top the 100,000 mark that demands the whole issue be debated in Parliament. Nothing would be more certain that the oxygen of publicity would go a very long way to seeing our vulnerable birds of prey EFFECTIVELY protected and, at the same time, help repair the damage done to our nations uplands by the intensification of grouse moor management.

    1. Keep signing Mark Avery’s petition, but 100,000 signatures (or 1 million) do not guarantee any debate in parliament. All it means is that the petition is considered by a small cross-party committee of MPs for POSSIBLE debate, not necessarily in the Commons, probably just Westminster Hall, which has no law-making status. We need an MP to table a Private Members’ Bill to ban driven grouse shooting, then an almighty PR effort, far beyond comfy places like this blog, to get the general public to back the Bill in sufficient numbers, bearing in mind which party holds power at present. A long haul indeed.
      NB petitions to the Scottish Parliament are treated differently, and more seriously.

      1. Thank you for correcting me Prunella. I apologise if I unintentionally misled anyone. Your presentation of what lies ahead might appear daunting to some but if that’s how it works, then that’s how it works. On we go.

        1. Cynicism aside regarding the Labour Party’s chances of winning the next election, our best hope I would suggest is to get them to instate a ban on grouse shooting in its next manifesto. The only other party at all likely to do so would be the Green Party, but I’m sure even they wouldn’t claim to be a Government in waiting. Meanwhile RPUK should keep up, in fact intensify the good work, and the rest of us should take on personal commitments to keep the faith and continue to expose widespread criminality against raptors. I welcome the slight shift in tactics being adopted by RSPB, but so long as they continue to support the continuation of game and grouse shooting, as made clear in Martin Harper’s blog (“drive up the environmental standards of shooting”), the day will never come when we make real progress. In fact I seriously doubt if a licensing scheme will make much difference to the status quo. The only way to even start driving up the standards of shooting would be to call a halt to the killing of live quarry. It’s cruel and violent, and severely upsets ecological sustainability; why can’t the RSPB see that it’s simply wrong?

  6. Initially, I supported a licensing approach, but on reflection, the problem would be how and who would implement enforcement, doubtless, it would also be nobbled.

  7. Shooter’s Lament

    We grouse shooters have some gall,
    You cannot trust us, not at all.
    Our chaps in Defra raised the hope,
    That brood meddling would soft soap,
    The likes of Rory and Ms Truss.
    Whilst we got on with little fuss,
    With the business we like the best,
    Ridding moors of every damn pest:
    Hen Harriers vanish and hares destroyed,
    Peregrines and kites vanish in a void,
    Raptorial birds never should be seen,
    In areas where grouse rule supreme.
    Just pretend to care and pull the wool,
    Over the eyes of those we wish to fool
    But we never ever should’ve cast doubt,
    On what everybody now is sure about!
    Harrier decoys, pole traps in a line,
    (Culprit caught yet not even a fine),
    Buzzards poisoned runs true to form,
    More traps found now on Cairngorm,
    Hubristic provocation damn’d us to perdition,
    Now more will sign Avery’s wretched petition!

  8. I spoke to, International Centre for Birds of Prey, Jemima Parry-Jones about the Hen Harrier project. She was very confident about the raising and wild release of the harriers but was disgusted and untrusting of the shooting mob to let them live once they returned to the wild.
    So, like us, who know the intentions of the killing moor owners and the lies they tell about conservation, the real conservation professionals know what will happen.
    So many gamekeepers still have the Victorian attitude to predators and blatantly ignore the law covering the protection of raptors. Even using illegal (in Scotland) poisons (only banned in England and Wales) and traps.
    Whilst at the centre I saw a letter posted in the cafe, penned by some shooting industry person, expressing concern over the increasing numbers of little owl that will threaten game bird production.
    I fail to see how a little owl could manage to take a game bird when I am sure they would struggle to cope with a lively earth worm.
    The attitude of gamekeepers to any bird with hooked beak and sharp talons is utterly ridiculous. The whole game bird industry is so archaic it must be stopped.
    About 1970 I saw a tiny corpse in a gun shop, the owner’s prize for his day of shooting was a snipe! He was so pleased and I so disgusted.

      1. Be great if a photo or two was taken of that and posted, then there are stories from binmen of wheelie bins full of dead pheasants – disgusting waste, but pretty much consistent with the whole stupidity of the thing.

      2. Doug, it is well known that, for it’s size, the little owl is a fierce predator capable of taking some quarry that is bigger than it, lively earthworms included I would think. They would be perfectly capable of killing pheasant and partridge poults… However, threatening game bird production is a far more ludicrous statement, possibly taking the odd few small poults, which may happen, is highly unlikely to make the tiniest dent in numbers of game birds reared, indeed significantly less likely than those killed by rats, or which die through poor management practices.

    1. According to the BWP Little Owl will take young game birds but the number is “insignificant”. With a few exceptions (e.g. NE England), the species is declining rather than increasing over much of its UK range (e.g. 47% decline in Gwent & 81% in Pembs). So much for the mystical depth of knowledge supposedly possessed by all gamekeepers.

  9. So instead we end up with still no Harriers down South.
    Im not sure how that works for the birds, but it should help for fund raising.
    The worst that could happen would be that a significant number of tracked birds are released.
    If all stop transmitting on keepered beats, what better ammunition for licensing and shutting them down.
    If they go missing in areas other than shooting estates, then we at least would have a better understanding of a biggest issue.
    It doesn’t necessarily seem right to carry on with this scheme, but its certainly far better than any other suggestion.

  10. I just had a read over the basque press release….. one paragraph in particular made my jaw hit the floor…

    “Although the Defra action plan has only been in place since January, for the previous twelve years BASC advocated co-operation as the key to resolving conflicts, building confidence and ensuring the future of hen harriers. We will continue to work to see this achieved. It is sad that the RSPB no longer want to be part of such a process.”

    ARE they just completely stupid?…. every year for the past twelve years basque and the rest of the shooting community have said “thats it, our house is in order, the killing will stop!” While every year the killing has carried on without relent. (Of course at the same time they have defended criminals, argued for slacker controls and defended lead shot etc…. often vilifying the RSPB in the process). They are a SHAM that deserves to be exposed.

    By the way…. a basque is a tacky item of ladies underware designed to make things look better than they really are…. and BASC are just pants.

    1. Really quite clever actually – making it look as if the RSPB are the bad guys by walking out whereas they (BASC) are genuine in their efforts to continue to ensure a future for hen harriers. WE know otherwise but the average Joe might not know any different and could be swayed by their argument. The whole lot of them, BASC, SGA,et al are pants circusmaxim! No, they’re worse than that….they’re soiled pants!

      It is time to take to the streets! There is still time to print off loads of flyers to hand to the average Joe in shopping centres etc. asking for their support in signing the petition. 100,000 signatures would be a doddle if people motivated themselves! Sadly, I am a bit remote but would happily chip in towards the printing costs.

      Come on! Get motivated! Win the hearts of the public!

      1. The PR from BASC and GWCT started as soon as they added ‘Conservation’ and ‘Wildlife’ to their names.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s