‘Closer cooperation to protect hen harriers’ – what does that mean, exactly?

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.

26 thoughts on “‘Closer cooperation to protect hen harriers’ – what does that mean, exactly?”

  1. It is called hitting it into the long grass by talking bollox.
    It’s what these people are employed to do.
    Mental health czars, UN celebrity ambassadors, species champions!
    Non entities.
    New speak.

  2. It is very odd. Where else are the opponents of illegal activity described a ‘entrenched’? Not specifically meaning Mairi Gougeon here but it is the same meme, the same false equivalence given to criminals as those trying to oppose them. The false ‘balance’ which sells stories in the media and to which many politicians are happy to buy into.
    I was thinking about this a lot yesterday as i compile my 100+ reasons to ban driven grouse shooting.
    I was thinking about the actual logistics of the legal persecution scheme ‘brood management. If the grousers are to believed they are going to stop killing Hen Harriers (that is the HOT immovable condition) the supposed basis of the scheme. If this really happened the numbers of Hen Harriers would increase extremely quickly like a pyramid scheme, slow at first and then a rapid population explosion. The fact that the chicks are removed shouldn’t make a any difference, in fact there could be a higher survival rate in captivity. Within a short time (10 years?) there should be a hundred plus pairs in England. What happens to these Hen Harriers when they reach 300 pairs or more are they going to be killed? If so how can we be introducing in the lowlands and killing them in the upland. If the modelled predicted figures are not reached the HOT should condemn the whole scheme and call for an immediate ban of driven grouse shooting. Are they likely to do that?
    Thought experiments like these seem absurd although they should make common sense. The reason they seem absurd is because no one, the grousers, HOT, NE, DEFRA, politicians, no one believes for one minute that they will actually stop the killing. This is the basic fact that creeps into every aspect of the raptor killing problem but gets covered up with the false narrative that those responsible for the killing are going to fix it in some way other than just stopping the actual killing.
    It is Alice and Wonderland stuff.

    1. In a nutshell, we are supposed to pretend that crime isn’t being committed by criminals.

      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

  3. As we enter another year and another breeding season for harriers, it’s impossible not to sense an increasing impatience and frustration among conservationists at the continuing lack of any real progress. Most of us who are sympathetic towards Hen Harriers and other persecuted raptors are justifiably angered by the diversionary stalling tactics of the shooting lobby, and their underhand tactics to remove legal protection for harriers in particular. They are already well down the road to a strategy for controlling harriers ‘by the back door’ for ever more by severely restricting breeding densities under the Joint Action Plan proposals. These proposals are anathema to fundamental principles of ecology and nature conservation, which the opposition will actually perceive to be progress in fighting ‘the menace’ presented by Hen Harriers on grouse moors. We have been manoeuvred into a position where we argue about details rather than tackle the issue holistically by adopting a fundamental stance that persecuting harriers for any reason is simply illegal, under legislation which was democratically decided decades ago. Of course any law can be challenged, but the position of the grouse shooting fraternity is to take the law arrogantly into their own hands and flout it brazenly. I feel I have to raise an old chestnut and seriously question why the RSPB does not take a firmer stance against an activity which is antiquated and unacceptable in any civilised society. In this day and age, and under increasing pressure from the hunting and shooting lobby, is it really worth hanging onto the clause within the Royal Charter which prevents any opposition to ‘legitimate’ blood sports? Is it not time to undertake a review and remove this inhibitory factor from the RSPB’s constitution? It makes me both sad and angry to see the society floundering when it comes to telling it like it is, although I would accept that considering how hamstrung their operations are due to this factor, their more experienced staff on the front line do make an outstanding contribution despite the constitutional restrictions. It’s time to step up the campaign in 2018, and thank you sincerely RPUK for your determined reassurance to keep up the good work. We know who are the true champions of the Hen Harrier.

  4. Sounds a bit like Gougeon has been wined, dined and sold some DGS spin. Told how to look at the problem.

    [Ed: that’s pretty offensive, Gerard. From what we’ve seen of Mairi she’s nobody’s fool. Taken in by the spin? Perhaps, as it can appear quite plausible to the uninitiated. But ‘told how to look at the problem’ and readily accepting that role? Unlikely. She’s doing her best in what is a very difficult situation for her. She doesn’t deserve such slurs but rather needs to be encouraged to ask more pertinent questions].

    1. Ed, when I say “told how to look at a problem,” I mean, that is exactly what spin is. My opinion is that it is effectively saying to someone “here, use my magnifying glass,” where it reveals only part of the whole picture, or filters out much. Filtering light from a picture is actually a pretty good analogy, because you could have a load of detail in red and a load in yellow, for example. The detail you see will be entirely dependent on the filters you look through.

  5. Brilliant! Well put, RPUK!
    God, that list of what the nasty brigade do to hen harriers made me seeth with anger! It still astounds me that we are living in the 21st century and these f###ers get away with doing all of that to these amazing, beautiful birds – and their cousins!
    Could you give us some pointers as to what we could be doing in 2018 to push this issue further?

  6. Someones had their Wheatabix – brilliant piece particularly like the part re. “what the grouse industry does “, upliftingly pro active and up beat ( I nearly said aggressive ) This is a bloody long and tedious struggle ,the thing is it does not have to be , with real political will this could have been concluded decades ago.
    I used to think I would see an end to the killing but I am knocking on a bit and now i am not so sure .Perhaps my Grandchildren will . The real regret is what could have been , I have lived my whole life in rural Perthshire and often think of what I missed , the landscapes I gazed on that were empty of wildlife when they did not have to be .
    A quote from Donald Watson comes to mind and concerns my old stomping ground, he is reflecting on a trip to the Auvergne .
    “There were five kinds of Raptor in the air at the same time, a Sparrowhawk chasing a Goldfinch , several Kestrel and Buzzards , and my first Red kite and two Hen Harriers. Not far away we saw Goshawks and Hobbies too. The scene might have been in Highland Perthshire before game preservation had began”.
    Can I ask every right thinking person not to give up ,we are up against a rich and powerful elite, but the War HAS to go on , the truth is with us and eventually we will win through. And thank you RPUK.

  7. This is a commonly mistaken perspective usually used by Police.
    ” police can’t take sides and must remain impartial and take middle ground”

    On the face of it this sounds entirely reasonable but forgets the fundemental issue is about persons who committing very serious crimes often on an organised and industrial scale in pursuit of profit.

    By the same rationale, police should be looking to cooperate with
    Drink drivers
    Domestic abusers
    House breakers
    Sex offenders

    I don’t think so.

    Why should wildlife crime be any different. It’s a lot easier to understand if you replace hen harrier for rhino!

    1. Good point. If this was child protection rather than raptor protection; all that inadmissible video evidence (such as at the Cabrach), would suddenly become admissible!

  8. ” ………. Even though large tracts of England and many old and famous Scottish, Irish and Welsh estates have fallen or may fall into the grip of the DGS Brigade and all the odious apparatus of elitist rule, we shall not flag or fail.
    We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in the homelands, we shall fight on the mountains and moorlands, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our environment and its wildlife, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the heathlands, we shall fight on the shooting grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starved of raptors and other predators, then our friends beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the principles of conservation, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of our environment and its wildlife. ”

    Funny how history repeats itself – (with apologies to WinstonC)
    Mel G.

  9. I spent yesterday afternoon at a local Harrier roost ( not on a grouse moor) and watched at some distance it must be said, an adult male. the grey ghost of our uplands, in our uplands, there are lots and lots of wonderful adjectives in this language of ours to describe such a bird that I watched with Gordon and Roy. Yet off in the distance were the classic muirburn hills of Blubberhouses, Askwith, the East Nidderdale moors and on the far horizon the North York Moors. That magnificent bird is one of very few in the uplands of North Yorkshire but he should be one of many. Enter discussions with the bastards who want him gone, absolutely not, why they are proven liars and obfuscators. It is time their sport was controlled within the law like everything else, failing that it should be gone, be history, a paragraph or two in books on wildlife crime, that stunning bird deserves nothing less.

  10. Keep up the good work. Someone has to ‘tell it as it is’. Like Paul, I have recently watched a male hen harrier at roost time, a silver bird with ink dipped wing tips drifting over a tawny reed bed. Magic!

  11. In England all estates are tarred with the same brush – as long as there are no hen harriers everyone involved is inevitably complicit and there do not seem to be many voices trying to seperate themselves out from the crowd – including England’s second biggest land manager, which claims to be a conservation organisation, the National Trust.

    1. Exactly right Roderick…the long war re raptor persecution will only be won, when we have clear statements and even clearer action from the allegedly “clean” estates against their criminal neighbours. “If you’re not part of the solution youre part of the problem”…

  12. absolutely wonderful to have you RPUK, and excellent but stomach turning summary of the crimes being carried out across our land. what a tragedy you/we have to fight so hard to save our wonderful wildlife from brutal massacre in a so called ‘progressive country’.
    Iain you did all you could to awaken Ms Gougeon to the dichotomy of the stance of our major charity for protection of birds, being neutral about birds being shot for fun. For those who were not at the Save the Hen Harriers event at Loch Leven, I can say Iain put all he could into challenging this stance, and I know left others in the audience at question time wondering why he was not on the speakers list himself- an idea for next time hopefully
    Once again thanks RPUK for all you do- wildlife means so much to so many

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