Teenage conservationists have pro-shooting MPs running scared

In November 2017, a small group of conservationists was invited to visit 10 Downing Street for a conversation about their environmental concerns with Sir John Randall, Theresa May’s recently appointed special advisor on the environment.

There’s nothing unusual about that. Conservationists routinely meet with advisors, MPs and Ministers to discuss such issues. But this was no ordinary group. It comprised a bunch of committed and environmentally aware teenagers, as follows:

Findlay Wilde, aged 15, schoolboy.

Jordan Havell, aged 16, schoolboy.

Josie Hewitt, aged 19, first year ecology student at University of East Anglia.

Georgia Locock, aged 18, first year ecology and economics student at University of York.

Incredibly, and hilariously, the discussion at this meeting, and subsequent correspondence between Sir John Randall and schoolboy Fin Wilde, has resulted in a number of pro-hunting/shooting MPs accusing Ministers of ‘plotting war on fieldsports’!

This was the headline for an article in yesterday’s edition of The Telegraph, heralded as an ‘exclusive’, no less:

The furore seems to have stemmed from somebody reading Fin Wilde’s most excellent blog (here) where he wrote about the meeting at Number 10 and shared some of his later non-confidential correspondence with Sir John.

If you actually read Fin’s blog, and the comments made by Sir John, you’ll see nothing there to suggest a ‘war’ on fieldsports, just a series of concerns held by most reasonable-thinking members of society and a desire for the game shooting industry to clean up its act.

Sir John shared many of Fin’s concerns, including the continued illegal killing of birds of prey on driven grouse moors, other environmentally damaging practices associated with intensively managed driven grouse moors, the need to increase sentences for wildlife crime, the removal of firearms certificates for those convicted of wildlife crime, the problems associated with the industrialisation of some pheasant shoots, the continued use of lead ammunition, educating children about climate change, the impact of Brexit on environmental legislation, and the continued single use of plastics.

You’d think that MPs would welcome such thoughtful contributions from a group of teenagers who care enough about the environment to stand up and exercise their democratic right to voice their concerns, wouldn’t you? These are engaged and motivated youngsters who are a credit to society.

But no! A number of (unnamed) MPs are apparently up in arms, feeling threatened and apparently feeling ‘privately appalled’ by it all!

What are they actually saying here? That they don’t think firearms certificates should be removed from convicted criminals? That the illegal killing of raptors on grouse moors doesn’t need to stop? That the use of lead ammunition doesn’t pose a serious health and environmental threat?

We were particularly taken aback that the Telegraph article noted that Georgia Locock ‘has marched in protest against grouse shooting‘. So what? Why mention it? Are they trying to portray Georgia as some sort of militant extremist whose views should be taken with a pinch of salt? They couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s a shame the Telegraph article didn’t mention the pro-shooting MPs who were recently photographed smiling at a parliamentary reception held for the Moorland Association with a number of gamekeepers in attendance, one of whom has a criminal conviction for, er, wildlife crime on a driven grouse moor.

Well done Fin, Jordan, Josie & Georgia – keep going, you’re doing a terrific job.

UPDATE 4 January 2018: In response, Fin Wilde has written a brilliant open letter to the Telegraph’s Chief Political Correspondent, Christopher Hope. Read it here.

29 thoughts on “Teenage conservationists have pro-shooting MPs running scared”

    1. Such a wonderful blog , our young concerned about out future . I have told Findlay a few times how great he is with his blogs etc and lovely to hear about the others , wonderful

  1. Thank you for directing me to the Telegraph which I usually avoid like the plague.
    It just confirmed my earlier belief that its full of disinformation, trash and right-wing drivel.
    Excellent and encouraging article by Fin Wilde.

  2. I daresay that a number of shooting-enthusiast MPs were privately appalled and also many grouse shooting enthusiasts outside of Parliament too. Let them be appalled. As long as shooting continues to be associated with illegality and environmentally unsustainable behaviour conservationist will continue lobbying government for it to be reined in and more and more reasonable and rational people will come to see that the conservationists are right.

  3. Know I’ve mentioned this before, but when I saw how articulate, reasonable, intelligent Findlay and the others are (including Dara McNulty who wasn’t in this particular party) it reminds me what the equivalents are on the opposing side – two apprentice keepers in Scotland convicted of animal cruelty in the same year – one in Glasgow for kicking a hedgehog to death, another in Broxburn for participating in badger baiting. A dam shame so many young people are being indoctrinated into field sports along with all its propaganda that they’ll regurgitate in later life rather than a fully grounded education into natural history, conservation and ecology. How many people genuinely being allowed to form their own well informed and balanced opinion about DGS etc would actually stick up for it?

  4. If these MPs are really up in arms and appalled it shows how far removed from reality they are, Well done to Fin, Josie, Jordan and Georgia, it seems that if nothing else you have got under the skin of some Tory old farts who support blood sports and they are horrified that change may be on the way. As to that change bring it on!!! and it also confirmed why I avoid the pro Tory right wing press like the plague!

  5. Ah, ‘the enemy is everywhere’ myth of the paranoid.

    The logical fallacy of the year awards for Overgeneralization nominations:
    1. ‘Plotting ‘war’ on Field Sports’ (as in above). [A special commendation for cramming both exaggeration and overgeneralization into 5 words]
    2. ‘but the activists still inspire unease, even dread, because they have accomplished the once unimaginable: In the early 2000s, they got fox hunting with dogs banned in England, Scotland and Wales.
    As the environmentalists like to boast, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more paying members than all the U.K. political parties combined. Now the anti-hunting crowd is targeting the annual grouse shoots’
    From Mark Avery’s link to Washington Post

    At least the bottom one makes the driven grouse brigade look like prats.

  6. It’s a pity The Telegraph didn’t report this as an interesting example of the success of Government education policy viz. the requirement for schools to teach British Values. The Government’s own website defines these as follows:

    “Publishing the guidance today, Lord Nash said:

    A key part of our plan for education is to ensure children become valuable and fully rounded members of society who treat others with respect and tolerance, regardless of background.

    We want every school to promote the basic British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs.

    This ensures young people understand the importance of respect and leave school fully prepared for life in modern Britain.”

    Seems Findlay et al. tick all three boxes. A pity the Tory press can’t celebrate it.

    1. Not only do the youth team tick all of the boxes but it is grossly humiliating for those Tory M.P.’S because they seem to tick non of the boxes. So we all know who should be running the country!

  7. I have total admiration for these young conservationists. It gives me great comfort to know that this dedicated band of clear-thinking and articulate youngsters will be working towards saving this planet long after I have gone. They stand out like a beacon and are attracting more and more people to the cause of putting an end to bloodsports (I hate to use that term for what it conjures up). What is more, I know that they are strong enough not to be cowed by the selfish interests of those in high places. Thank you, Sir John, for listening to them, and please know that they speak for us ‘oldies’ as well as their own generation.

  8. I hope that these youngsters are the Mark Avery’s and David Attenborough’s of the future – and they already know that conservation is about the fight against ignorance. Very reassuring, when its easy to be flattened by all the killing, stupidity , lies and greed that continues in our countryside.

  9. When I was investigating an issue with Aberdeen council, I came across correspondence demonstrating the city was telling environment students how to direct their studies. In that case it was a biased, politically motivated position students were told to support through their studies/papers that deer should be shot, end of. Students were being guided to support conclusions that supported the established order, not to investigate and come up with new ways of seeing things.

    To read in your article: “But this was no ordinary group. It comprised a bunch of committed and environmentally aware teenagers, as follows:

    Findlay Wilde, aged 15, schoolboy.

    Jordan Havell, aged 16, schoolboy.

    Josie Hewitt, aged 19, first year ecology student at University of East Anglia.

    Georgia Locock, aged 18, first year ecology and economics student at University of York”
    – makes my day. Good luck to them and those like them who are after education and intelligent ways to protect the environment and wildlife as opposed to those who want a degree to step into the establishment to perpetuate the way things are currently done with such spectacularly bad results.

  10. I take heart from these fine young people -intelligent ,eloquent forward thinking ,compare them to these old Tory farts and the right wing rags that spout the usual elitist bile and lies.
    I shudder to think of the abuse they might have to endure from these aggressive arrogant bigots.
    I can only thank them and reassure them that all right thinking people support them and it is the decaying rump of a disgusting outdated hobby that disagree with their views.
    The four of you have restored my faith in the human race. Thank you.

  11. What is even more perverse in the logic of these spokesperson and journalists is that they even conflate themselves with criminals. That at least is brilliant.
    The journalist writes
    ‘[John Randall] told Mr Wilde that he wanted to see “how we might increase sentences for wildlife crime as well as removal of firearm licences for wildlife crime and other crimes” ‘
    and then
    ‘One Conservative MP said it was “quite extraordinary” that ministers were “promoting removal of licences beyond the already wide powers the police have to remove licences”.’
    Really quite extraordinary.

  12. I never read theTelegraph – too afraid of what I might catch! – but when newspapers start running stories this ridiculous I think we can take it as a sign that they are seriously rattled, and that can only be a good thing. Well done to the new generation of naturalists; keep it up and I feel sure you will effect real change not only in law but , more importantly, in attitude as well. It will happen in your lifetime, although sadly perhaps not mine.

  13. I see that The Telegraph lifted Georgia Locock’s photograph from her Twitter posts.
    If they didn’t ask for permission, is it legal?

    This says not
    ‘As copyright is retained by the creator of the image or video, journalists should therefore seek permission from the originator and should credit the person and pay if requested’

    Not only is it a copyright issue it is a privacy issue. We can’t even get access to info on where raptor crimes take place to protect the estate’s identity. or even where game meet comes from.

  14. Congratulations to the four ‘musketeers’.

    At the risk of being a tad skeptical might this be the Torygraph attempting to motivate a counter case perhaps? There’s a picture doing the rounds with a fox’s brush hanging from the back of a youngsters coat – please minister, don’t take away my tradition etc.

    Can we really trust politicians, especially in the run up to the next election & amidst Brexit?

    Regardless, absolutely great to see these youngsters holding the establishment to account, keep it up and let’s keep the profile in the media?

  15. All credit to them – and what a contrast with the total arrogance demonstrated by the establishment powers during the grouse shooting debate at parliament; unfortunately for those old crusties, despite their power over the bulk of the traditional press, a new generation is growing up with access to diverse sources of information, many of whom are enlightened and fully aware of what is really going on in our countryside. The tide is turning and the writing is on the wall.

    [Ed: Thanks lothianrecorder – we’ve deleted the last part of your comment. As a matter of principle we don’t publicise that site]

  16. That they feel so threatened by increasing the consequences of lawbreaking and tightening of those laws themselves rather undermines their repeated claims that illegal persecution etc is neither widespread nor serious. They may be fooling themselves but I doubt that they’re fooling anyone without their pro-drive grouse shooting bubble.

  17. 2 days running out walking . Yet another pheasant shoot going on. beyond sick of all the guns and the killing. day before yesterday I saw the Hunt all driving towards their Meet . YOU JUST cannot know how beyond sick and tired i am of all of this killing and ripping apart of foxes. not just that the Hunt terrier men get up earlier and block badgers setts so that the foxes cannot go to ground. where to move to? please somewhere where there are not these stupid cruel crazy killers out there to destroy what litt e we have of our wildlife. AND DO NOT FORGET THAT ALL THE SHOOTS HAVE SURROUNDED THE AREA WHERE POULTS ARE WITH SNARES.

  18. Spot on couldn’t agree more, as these issues continue to be highlighted and publicised on social media, the establishment will be forced to take proper steps to ensure criminality results in proper punishment

  19. Four superb young people! Just hope they are never discouraged by the ignorance and bullying tactics of the shooters.

  20. I’ve been trying to find contact details for Sir John Randall. I think as many of us as possible should be congratulating him on his decision to consult these outstanding young people. He also needs to know that we support his concerns. Has anyone got an email address? I’m not in Facebook Twitter etc.

  21. Very inspiring to read Findlay’s blog and an insight into how ‘news’ is distorted. If I was still teaching English and media studies I would certainly use this. Let’s keep sharing this to help protect our environment from ‘fake’ news.

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