Further to a recent article published in The National where Hen Harrier Species Champion Mairi Gougeon MSP calls for ‘closer cooperation’ between conservationists and the game shooting industry ‘to protect hen harriers’ (see here), this deserves more comment.
We’ve given this some thought over the Xmas break and frankly, it’s a bloody affront to imply that conservationists are somehow partly responsible for the continuing decline of the hen harrier population.
Here’s what the driven grouse shooting industry does for hen harriers:
Illegally shoots them; illegally traps and bludgeons them to death; illegally poisons them; illegally burns out nest sites; illegally stamps on eggs & chicks; illegally uses dogs to kill chicks & then blames it on fox predation; sets illegal spring traps; sets illegal pole traps; waits at known roost sites & uses thermal imaging to detect & then shoot roosting birds; deploys gas guns at the onset of the breeding season to disturb; ignites banger ropes at the onset of the breeding season to disturb; deploys inflatable scarecrows with sirens at the onset of the breeding season to disturb; consistently denies the extent of illegal persecution; accuses conservationists of exaggerating the persecution data; blames disappearances on imaginary windfarms, faulty sat tags & disturbance by fieldworkers; uses fake partnerships to portray an image of conservation action; pays a PR company to put false and malicious propaganda in right-wing newspapers; claims not to know who the criminals are; gives ‘no comment’ interviews & creates a wall of silence in police investigations; accuses conservationists of planting evidence.
Here’s what conservationists do for hen harriers:
Nest monitoring; roost monitoring; nest protection schemes; ringing; satellite-tagging; surveying; data collection; data analysis; report writing; scientific paper writing; public engagement e.g. RSPB Skydancer, Hen Harrier Day; report suspected wildlife crimes; campaign for stronger law enforcement; campaign for industry regulation; raise public awareness of illegal persecution.
Conservationists are NOT the problem here. Conservationists are not the ones systematically and illegally killing this species whenever it turns up or attempts to breed on intensively managed driven grouse moors and nor are conservationists the ones engaged in a perpetual cover-up of what is essentially serious organised crime.
What did Mairi Gougeon mean then, by calling for ‘closer cooperation’? The only part of her quote that gave any indication of what she meant was this:
“At the same time we cannot tar all estates with the same brush. We must acknowledge the positive steps some estates and gamekeepers are taking to promote the species“.
That’s easily resolved. We don’t tar all estates with the same brush and we do acknowledge the positive steps some estates and gamekeepers are taking to encourage and safeguard nesting hen harriers, but as far as we’re aware, not one of those estates is actively managed for intensive driven grouse shooting. You show us one that is and we’ll sing its praises from the rooftops. So far, we only have the word of the driven grouse shooting industry that these estates exist, but we don’t and won’t believe them until we’re shown the evidence.
So what other avenues does that leave open for ‘closer cooperation’? None. Are we going to stop campaigning? No. Are we going to stop pushing Govt for some sort of state-regulatory control of driven grouse moors? No. Are we going to stop highlighting hen harrier persecution crimes? No. Are we going to stop satellite tagging? No. Are we going to stop pushing for better law enforcement? No. Are we going to stop asking for public accountability when prosecutors drop clear-cut criminal proceedings without explanation? No. Are we going to stop calling out the grouse shooting industry’s ludicrous propagandist claims? No. Are we going to stop reporting suspected wildlife crimes to the police? No. Are we going to stop lobbying MPs and MSPs to take more action on raptor persecution? No. Are we going to stop talking about illegal hen harrier persecution? No. Are we going to stand by and watch the hen harrier population plunge further in to decline? No.
Are we going to ‘cooperate’ with hen harrier-killing criminals?
Not a chance.