Mark Osborne on hen harriers, Mark Avery and Chris Packham

Some of you will be very familiar with the name of sporting agent Mark Osborne. He is feted within the grouse-shooting industry for his ability to turn a ‘poorly performing’ grouse moor in to “something beyond the moor owner’s wildest dreams” (e.g. see here).

Some of you may be more familiar with the names of some of the grouse-shooting estates where Mr Osborne was a shooting tenant (e.g. Leadhills [Hopetoun] Estate in South Lanarkshire), or whose management has been under the control of one of Mr Osborne’s sporting agencies, JM Osborne & Co and William Powell Sporting Ltd, (e.g. Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens, Raeshaw Estate in the Scottish Borders, Snilesworth Estate in the North York Moors National Park, Park Hall & Hope Woodland in the Peak District National Park [the one where the National Trust pulled the shooting tenant’s lease after an armed man was filmed next to a decoy hen harrier]).

We always enjoy hearing raptor-loving Mark Osborne’s thoughts, especially about hen harriers. Here’s an excerpt from his July newsletter:

The big news in the Grouse world was the Parliamentary debate before Christmas following from Dr Mark Avery’s petition. This has woken many of us up and we now realise that we have got to get our act together if we are to see off the likes of Avery and Chris Packham who seem hell bent on curtailing or indeed banning driven Grouse shooting. I have absolutely no doubt that if they were at all successful in this, they would then turn their attentions to pheasant and partridge shooting. Guns who think otherwise are deluding themselves. We must all get behind this fight even if only a few of us are lucky enough to shoot Grouse. This leads onto the subject on Hen Harriers and it is good news indeed to see major efforts made in the Uplands to increase the number of breeding Hen Harriers on driven Grouse Moors. The Moorland Association who are leading this (alongside Natural England) are to be congratulated on this initiative and I am sure that over the next few years, there will be an increase in numbers, but I doubt that this will do much to satisfy the likes and Avery and Packham whose vitriolic hatred of Grouse Moors and Grouse shooting would seem to have much more to do with class, envy and little the real concern for the Hen Harriers themselves‘.

How perceptive is he, eh? How stupid of us to think that the award-winning careers of Mark Avery & Chris Packham, spanning approx 40 years, have been all about ‘class envy’ and absolutely nothing to do with wildlife conservation.

That argument is about as convincing as the grouse-shooting industry’s commitment to seeing more hen harriers breeding successfully on driven grouse moors. In the two seasons since the launch of DEFRA’s Hen Harrier InAction Plan, how many hen harriers have fledged from driven grouse moors in England? (Clue: we won’t be congratulating the grouse shooting industry any time soon).

Mark Osborne can toast the Moorland Association and the other Action Plan stakeholders as much as he likes; for most of us, the reality looks a lot different (thanks to Gerard Hobley for the image):

24 thoughts on “Mark Osborne on hen harriers, Mark Avery and Chris Packham”

  1. “…to do with class,(sic) envy…” Yeah, right, always yearned to be an inbred, brainless sociopathic slayer of living creatures, for no other reason that they are there to be shot.

    1. But comments like this provide ammunition to Osborne and co in their false claims that opposition to grouse shooting is based solely on class envy. The problem with grouse shooting is not that it is practiced by ‘inbred’ aristos but that it is extremely environmentally damaging. Henley Regatta and the Glyndebourne opera season are events that are largely participated in by the well-heeled but there is no campaign to ban them because they are not, as far as I know, associated with specific, pernicious ecological impacts. In my view it is far better to focus on the arguments about how grouse shooting harms the environment than on the wealth, status or supposed degree of genetic inbreeding of its participants which simply provides the likes of Osborne with the opportunity to deflect criticism of his industry with the ‘not really about the hen harriers’ line.

  2. His mode of expression just reflects what I already think about members of the shooting community – this is the attitude that our wildlife has to contend with on a daily basis. What a sickening excuse for a human being…

  3. I find this the most interesting line in the article;

    I have absolutely no doubt that if they were at all successful in this, they would then turn their attentions to pheasant and partridge shooting.

    I see this as a plea for support from other sectors within UK shooting. I’ve recently heard several shooters speaking out against the damage that driven grouse shooting is doing to ‘their’ sport, given that it makes up such a small proportion of the shooting undertaken in the UK it is interesting that it has the ability to drag down so many others due to the continual illegal activities undertaken by those tasked with ensuring that there are large numbers of red grouse to kill come August the 12th each year.

    Let us not forget where people have pointed their finger over the damage done to grouse shootings reputation in the past

    1. 30 years ago hunters who used packs of hounds tried to enlist the support of anglers by saying that if they were nobbled then it would be them next. There were even angling writers who said the same and that if you couldn’t support fox hunting you should at least keep your trap shut and not criticize it. It was ludicrous then, how much more so is that viewpoint now in retrospect? We may well have an axe to grind with pheasant and partridge shooting too, but lumping themselves in with driven grouse shooting won’t help them – it will just compound criticisms against unsustainable, unecological shooting. A welcome sign of desperation that Mark Osborne is resorting to this tactic, trying to use other field sports to bolster DGS – it doesn’t work.

      1. The problem with gamekeepers and grouse-shooters is that they have no natural predators, which is why they love to lecture us about the need for man to do his duty and replace the ‘apex’ predators which he has rendered extinct in the UK. They just love that word ‘apex’ (because it fits their perceived status in society?), and many a pseudo-biologist uses it repeatedly on their blog sites, as if it implies a wisdom beyond our reach. They apply their principle from the top down, of course, which means that once you reduce the population of an existing ‘apex’ predator, the domino effect kicks in and you eliminate them species by species until all we have is a biologically unfit population of things they can shoot a lot. Biodiversity means nothing to them, so long as there is an abundance of easy targets for someone with a rifle or a shotgun, and a trusty ‘working dog’ to do the fetching. And like-minded fellows, preferably of their own class, to reminisce with after a day’s shoot over a glass of port.

  4. If it wasn’t for driven grouse shooting, we would see many more red kites, buzzards etc. south of Inverness. Instead of the desolate, muirburn eyesores that we see now.

  5. The lead ingestion and paranoia are really getting to him.

    But he is so right, as far as I am concerned that any form of caged, driven shooting should be banned.

    For so many shooters the bird is just a target, gun fodder, rarely considered to be food.

    40 million pheasants raised and shot for fun????


    1. High time that pheasants were ringed then those causing road traffic accidents / vehicle damage can be dealt with through shooting estate insurance and not innocent road users? Please don’t offer up the wild bird scenario ….

  6. Looking at this man’s accounts on GOV.UK, This man probably earns more than the prime minister, the majority of the grouse moor owners ( many multi millionaires ) receive more in “Agricultural” subsidies than the prime minister earns.

    If you wonder why these people fight so hard to keep the status quo you need to wake up, why do the rest of the shooting fraternity put up with these bastards, because one day they dream of going on a grouse shoot, it is the pheasant shooters dream. give your opponents some respect, it is not these people that are the idiots, it is the thousands of braying sheep that hang on to their every word that is the problem, just think back to the parliamentary debate considering Mark Avery’s petition to ban driven Grouse shooting and the ridiculous responses given

  7. This looks like a case of conflicting interests – he (MO) is, of course, arguing the business case. He is paid, or benefits financially, as a result of increasing the numbers of grouse on any particular tenancy. The more successful he is in any tenancy, in terms of increased grouse numbers, the more the natural ecosystem suffers. Yes, he can fight his corner, but he can’t be allowed to pontificate in the interests and well-being of wildlife in general. While it is in the interests of the grouse shooting industry to gain support from other sectors of the shooting community they daren’t raise the profile to a level where the public become more active in the debate. That, in turn, would make it much more difficult for the shooting lobby to influence the politicians. If they had any sense they would concede that licensing is the compromise they have to make, to ensure that driven grouse shooting, albeit with lower returns, can be allowed to continue.

  8. “it is good news indeed to see major efforts made in the Uplands to increase the number of breeding Hen Harriers on driven Grouse Moors”. He forgot to add “as long as those efforts don’t actually lead to an increase in the number of hen harriers on driven Grouse Moors”

    Without such a qualifier his comment is beyond disingenuous. The parts of the Action Plan that are enthusiastically pursued by the grouse shooting lobby are the parts that would enable them to move Hen Harriers off the moors i.e. brood meddling. The continued denial of persecution, the lack of cooperation and the omerta when incidents occur and the widespread glee whenever a gamekeeper who has been caught red-handed gets off on a technicality all point to the fact that the commitment to increase the number of Hen Harriers on driven grouse moors is hollow indeed.

  9. Taxpayers are not subsidising grouse moors, it is agriculture that is being subsidised. If grouse shooting was banned the moors would recieve exactly the same amount of subsidy. It could actually be argued that if moor owners could not shoot and were looking for something else to do with their land, under the current system they could put higher sheep densities on the hills significantly increasing the subsidies they recieve.

    Let’s see whether Brexit can bring in a system more attune to earning the subsidies through active management.

      1. You should take some comfort that agriculture and Forestry are both regulated. It is not possible to change on a whim and grant systems are conditioned. They wouldn’t get grants to support grazing levels that would damage the habitat.
        It’s a damming indictment that grouse shooting is completely unregulated.

      2. £57 per acre they receive in agricultural subsidies for running a few sheep over the moors to mop up ticks, they get paid per acre it matters not how many sheep they have, these subsidies should be going to our smaller farmers, you know the people who do the real work, dairy pig and chicken farmers have been struggling for years while these rich bastard’s claim all the tax payers money

  10. Les Wallace made a good point when he spoke of the hunting community some 20 years ago warning anglers of the threat to their sport. I used to love fishing but about 16 years ago I had a stroke which gave me an opportunity to reflect on whether if fish could scream when they were in pain, would I want to cause them suffering……..I concluded not, I stopped fishing on moral grounds as have several of my friends, unless it is our intention to eat them. After all we should surely use our powers of reasoning to protect other creatures not inflict pain and suffering on them.

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