£50K ‘study’ reveals the bleedin’ obvious: grouse shooters & conservationists disagree on hen harrier brood meddling

Remember back in November 2016 when a series of FoI requests revealed that Natural England was prepared to waste £50K of tax payers money on a social science ‘study’ to assess attitudes towards the Hen Harrier Action Plan? See here for info.

The proposed ‘study’ was put forward by Prof Steve Redpath (Aberdeen Uni / Hawk & Owl Trust trustee / a so-called ‘independent academic’ (ha!) on the hen harrier brood meddling working group) and Dr Freya St John, an academic who at the time worked at Kent University but has since moved to Bangor University. Here is a copy of the proposal, which was also released as part of the FoI requests and here is the proposed budget:

One year later, in December 2017, we blogged about the research questionnaire that had been sent out to various organisations in the grouse shooting industry and conservation community (see here) as part of this £50k ‘study’.

Well the research results have just been published and guess what? Trust in Natural England is “limited” and individuals from the grouse shooting community disagree with individuals from the conservation community about hen harrier brood meddling. Gosh, who knew, eh?

The paper has just been published in a new journal called People and Nature, one of several journals of the British Ecological Society:

St John, F., Steadman, J., Austen, G. and Redpath, S.M. (2018). Value diversity and conservation conflict: Lessons from the management of red grouse and hen harriers in England. People and Nature (published online, 17 December 2018).

Here’s the abstract:

This is an open access paper (which means anyone can read it in full without having to subscribe to the journal) but unfortunately the link to the online paper isn’t working so we haven’t been able to read it, only the abstract. We’ve emailed the lead author to ask for a copy but received an out of office response – away until 21 January 2019.

[UPDATE 4pm: Thanks to one of our blog readers who has found a copy of the full paper online – here]

However, there was a press release about this new ‘study’, presumably to highlight the main findings in less formal language than the abstract, which reads as follows:

Hen harriers and red grouse: finding common ground in a persistent conflict

A conflict between those working to conserve numbers of hen harriers and those maintaining commercial shooting of red grouse in the English uplands has existed for decades with little sign of progress.

Drawing on work conducted in psychology, a new study published today in the journal People and Nature investigated the underlying values that hunters and conservationists hold that make it so hard to find shared solutions.

Ecological studies over the last 30 years have shown that hen harriers and other birds of prey are capable of reducing the number of grouse to such an extent that driven grouse shooting can become economically unviable. Consequently, hen harriers, although protected under UK legislation since 1952, are killed illegally on grouse moors.

Researchers from Bangor University and the University of Aberdeen surveyed a range of organisations that represent the interests of field sports (i.e. hunting, shooting, fishing) or nature conservation in England to assess their values and attitudes towards hen harriers, grouse shooting and potential management interventions.

Dr. Freya St John from Bangor University said: “We found that people who are involved in field sports and those engaged in bird conservation hold more or less opposing views about human relationships with nature, challenging our ability to find shared solutions.

Although there is general agreement about the evidence of the ecological relationships between hen harriers and grouse, there is much less agreement about the best approach to manage them.”

They found that those from shooting organisations, in contrast to people associated with conservation groups, held a view of human mastery of nature and prioritised human wellbeing over the rights of wildlife. This group expressed support for various management approaches, including brood management where eggs or young birds are removed from nests, reared in captivity and released back into the wild at fledging.

In contrast, individuals associated with conservation groups did not support brood management. However, like those associated with field sports, they did express support for continued monitoring of the hen harrier population, protection of their winter roosts, enhanced intelligence and enforcement, and diversionary feeding of harriers to reduce predation on grouse.

The results indicated that diversionary feeding was most favoured and received greatest consensus amongst the groups surveyed. To date, this is the only management technique that has been trialled and found to be effective at reducing the number of red grouse chicks eaten by hen harriers. Despite this, feeding has not been widely taken up on grouse moors.

Professor Steve Redpath of the University of Aberdeen, who will be presenting the study’s findings at the British Ecological Society’s annual conference, commented: “Our work highlights that this is a conflict between people with very different views about the management of the countryside and its wildlife.”

There is currently no formal dialogue process in place to support the management of this stakeholder conflict. Conservation organisations withdrew from previous discussions, partly because hen harriers continue to be killed illegally and have almost disappeared as a breeding species in England.

It seems unlikely that conservation organisations would be willing to return to the negotiating table unless the illegal killing of hen harriers stops“, Redpath added. “To minimise the impact of harriers on grouse, brood management was put forward, but as we see in this study, it is very controversial. Particularly whilst illegal killing of harriers persists, such a hands-on intervention is unpalatable to some.”

Steve Redpath will present the study’s findings on Wednesday 19 December 2018 at the British Ecological Society annual meeting, which will bring together 1,200 ecologists from more than 40 countries to discuss the latest research.


What a monumental waste of our money. Natural England could have saved £50k by simply looking at the speed with which Mark Avery crowdfunded £25k to support his legal challenge against Natural England’s absurd brood meddling trial – over 900 people donated this amount within just 4.5 days! Or by looking at the ruthless efficiency with which grouse moor managers are killing young satellite-tagged hen harriers every single bloody year. The attitudes are clear enough. Instead of chucking £50k of our money at this nonsense ‘study’, Natural England could have /should have used these public funds more wisely and put them towards an effective enforcement policy to bring to justice those criminals who continue to illegally kill hen harriers.

Knowing that there’s a difference of opinion on hen harriers between the grouse shooting and conservationists is totally irrelevant to the conservation of the hen harrier; it’s illegal persecution on driven grouse moors that threatens this species’ conservation status, nothing else. We don’t need dialogue, conflict management, relationship building, shared solutions, brood meddling or anything else, just effective enforcement of the law. It’s pretty simple, or it would be if we had a government without vested interests that was prepared to do what the vast majority of its electorate expect it to do and operate a zero tolerance policy on organised crime.

[Cartoon by Gerard Hobley]

60 thoughts on “£50K ‘study’ reveals the bleedin’ obvious: grouse shooters & conservationists disagree on hen harrier brood meddling”

  1. I am interested to see how the agency supposedly in place to protect our nature (clue is in the name) is going to respond. is it going to do the right thing and ditch this ridiculous plan and bring in some meaningful action or continue to pander to criminals within the shooting industry.

  2. I’ve tried to read the paper without prejudice. My prejudices, as the paper probably suggests, are pretty fixed in relation to brood meddling. The one surprise I noted was in relation to “Between‐group differences in levels of support for harrier management” was the statement “With the exception of diversionary feeding which was generally backed by all”. If that were the case I would have expected that diversionary feeding would have been employed on several private estates, but I don’t believe that it has been widely practised.
    Perhaps the replies of some respondents were not truly representative of their actions. I suppose if the questions included the likes of “do you think we should kill raptors?” or “should moors allow Hen Harriers in?” few in the shooting group would have replied giving their true feelings, yet we know raptors are killed and Hen Harriers are not let in. I don’t think I was able to reply to the survey, but there have been no deviation from my responses to my group.
    As this survey concentrated on the ‘conflict’ over grouse, I would remind people that the conflict is not only over grouse. Many examples can be quoted about ‘conflict’ over rearing of pheasants.
    It is a pity that the survey does not seem to have looked at the variation in responses to the hunting and shooting interests about their perception of the illegal activity associated with their sport.
    I’d like to hope that one day those in this group might organise to decry (and really mean it) the illegal activities which all seem to recognise. Does the Moorland Association, Scottish Land and Estates etc. not have room for an internal group who would be prepared to voice a strong opinion on illegality? We know there are ‘good’ estates. I would suggest that they get together to provide another view, more fit for the 21st Century.

    1. Alex you’re spot on – it’s way past time the estates that are breaking away from traditional hunting, fishing, shooting got together otherwise their interests and the example they set are going to be continually ignored if not openly attacked. Not long after both RPUK and Mark Avery held up Glen Tanar as a wonderful example of an estate that still had shooting, but was diversifying economically and was doing its best for raptor conservation one of the Moorland forums posted a little essay trying to decry it. Ludicrously it claimed that one size doesn’t fit all, which was ironic given that this was a supposed criticism of Glen Tanar as a model for estates coming from ones that were pursuing grouse moor intensification at the cost of everything else. The essay was reposted by the Angus Glens Moorland Group, then by the SGA. Glen Tanar was never going to be forgiven for being liked by Mark Avery and this site! There should be enough progressive estates now to at least form their own sub group within the SLE – Glen Tanar obviously, Glenfeshie, Alladale, Coignafearn and Bamff run by the wonderful Ramsay family? There must be others. I just wonder if the traditional estates would be more angered or frightened by this development, it would certainly be a serious threat to them, successful and growing alternatives when they say there can’t be.

        1. Be interesting to see if they would. I know that Mar Lodge has had big problems trying to get its plans for woodland restoration realised. Surrounding estates kicked up a fuss about Mar’s projected deer culling, frightened their deer would move into the ‘vacuum’ created. So the NTS had to use deer fencing instead, which is ludicrous. Politically, could be tricky or beneficial for the NTS to join a formal group of progressive landowners, but at the end of the day what have they to lose? The extent to which the ‘sporting’ estates have suppressed real conservation in this country is a scandal.

  3. ‘Conflicts between people over burglars/rapists/[add criminals of your choice] are damaging, widespread and notoriously difficult to resolve where people hold different values and worldviews’.
    Right, makes perfect sense. A false equivalence between criminals and conservationists and a nature loving and law abiding public.
    Seriously though damaging to who? Isn’t that bias just right there.
    I don’t know anything about Redpath, he has authored some pretty important papers but surely there would have been a conflict of interest on this particular paper since he is working on at least one of the projects which are subject of this ‘conflict’. Sorry if i am repeating what others have said, i am still fuming at the first sentence of the Abstract. I might need self-medicating to continue.

    1. ‘Conflicts between people over burglars/rapists/[add criminals of your choice] are damaging, widespread and notoriously difficult to resolve where people hold different values and worldviews’.
      This sentence says it all for me. It is based on the premise that it isn’t the illegal killing that is a problem it is the so called ‘conflict’ between the illegal raptor killers and their bosses verses the public/conservationists. This is the basis of the whole brood persecution and the lowland introduction schemes. It is based on moving the emphasis away from the criminals onto us. We become the problem to be conflict managed.
      That is why Chris Packham says it is a sop to the criminals.
      I look forward to when people with Asperger’s like Chris and Greta Thunberg are in decision making positions. This really is a black and white issue and this paper is just muddying the waters or rather studying a murky pond. It gives criminals respectability.

  4. Steve Redpath has made a big thing of his expertise in conflict resolution but were he a serious expert he would havevrecognised that there can be no resolution when one side is not prepared to give an inch, as is the case with the grouse industry.

    1. Roderick, I, along with others, have no intention of giving an inch, either, and am happy to admit it. There is a conflict, but mediation is not what is needed, any more than brood meddling. If only we had a Natural England that realised why it was set up…..
      All NE actions recently make it clear in whose camp the senior personnel are located.
      We can but keep plugging away.

    2. “An expert in conflict resolution”…has he resolved any conflicts?
      I agree the whole premiss is wrong, the conflict is between driven grouse management, the law and the unmitigated environmental impacts.

      1. His book on the subject of conflicts in conservation is generally good and very readable – apart from the pieces on raptor persecution in the UK, which is woolly. I am not sure that is the fault of anything other than the lack of common ground between the criminals and their apologists and representatives and conservationists. Things will remain as intractable as they are whilst our wildlife is failed by the agency that is supposed to ensure their future and whilst our police and judiciary continue to fail to act appropriately and fail to take this crime seriously. It is not just persecution of raptors but it seems the only wildlife crime they will actively prosecute is hare coursing and that is, by and large, a “working class” pursuit like dog- and cock-fighting. Clearly our landed gentry and their serfs are above the law.

  5. There is a lot to digest and quite a lot of what the press release says is hard to disagree with but the one thing that got my goat was this idea that now i am personally someone who is being conflict managed. The whole paper is about management and points out that there is a link between conservationists and a distaste for nature management. So guess what my response is to being managed myself? ‘Four letter word] off’.
    I want the law to be obeyed, upheld and enforced. Manage that Redpath and co.

  6. The results indicated that diversionary feeding was most favoured and received greatest consensus amongst the groups surveyed. To date, this is the only management technique that has been trialled and found to be effective at reducing the number of red grouse chicks eaten by hen harriers. Despite this, feeding has not been widely taken up on grouse moors——-Dead Hen Harriers don’t eat !!

  7. A study of the bleeding obvious indeed.
    And a total waste of money.
    Interesting however that everyone involved in the debate accepts that the widespread illegal persecution of Hen Harriers continues unabated on grouse moors.
    Oh !…. I nearly forgot – only the grouse [ raptor ] shooting industry continues to pedal the fallacy that ” only a few bad apples…….blah blah ….. yawn …… laugh ……”
    The fact that ludicrous densities of red grouse cannot be achieved on heather moors without ruthless extermination of all predators is accepted by all parties.
    What is never acceptable is the making money from grouse shooting which is ONLY made possible by illegal raptor extermination.
    What really frightens the industry is the natural range expansion of many large raptors which continues to take place in and around the uplands, following many decades of hard work by the multitude of largely volunteer raptor workers allied to certain bodies such as the Forestry Commission.
    The prospect of trying to keep high densities of grouse as eagles,peregrines,kites,buzzards,harriers,goshawks all take their rightful share of the grouse is why they have intensified their raptor persecution in recent times.

    Unless the law is enforced, the current range expansion will continue to falter and ,as seen with hen harriers,can easily cause steady decline in some species.

    A simple overlaying of maps detailing raptor densities / successful breeding,persecution hotspots and grouse moors [ + some other game shoots ] is all that is needed to show the bleeding obvious facts as we all know !

    It is also always worth constantly repeating the fact that grouse moors are sink areas for large raptors, where they simply drain the productivity of healthy populations as young raptors disperse.

    The same situation exists in Spain where Bonelli’s eagle is not only persecuted but also constantly electrocuted on poor power supply infrastructure.
    Spain + Portugal and France, is however making great strides in improving that situation.

    The UK is rapidly becoming known as the ” dirty man of Europe ” where raptor persecution re game shooting is concerned !
    Our future exit from their legislative framework is a worry given the lack of political will in UK currently to enforce the law.

    Keep up the pressure !

    1. I suppose Natural England, being good custodians of public money, asked what the Kent ‘overheads’ were for, nearly half of the budget. What did we taxpayers get for that?

    2. All of that. Plus the now inevitable effect of climate change. The economics are going to get worse for them, and further attempts at intensification will be conter-productive. So they are on a long term decline, our job is to increase the slope. By all the means available.

  8. I will probably read the paper, after all I did fill in their questionnaire. However there is no conflict between shooters of Red Grouse and conservationists over the management of Red Grouse and Hen Harriers, at least not in the legal sense, there is a conflict between a large but unknown portion of the grouse management community ( cabal!) and the law. In other walks of life we call these people criminals, quite often with very unpleasant adjectives attached, in this instance they are still criminals. Actually on that basis there will be a measured conflict between the law abiding ( most UK citizens) and criminals, however I’ve never come across conflict resolution between say burglars/ house breakers and home owners or car owners and car thieves so WTF should we try it ( again or is that dear god not again!) between conservationists and wildlife criminals, been there got the T shirt and it was an utter waste of time! I can now put faces to the apologists for the criminals is all it did!
    The worries about projects such as this are two fold at least.
    1. The very idea that we should compromise on how the law is or should be applied is an anathema to all right thinking folk.
    2. The idea that this is a conflict of equal value partners/ adversaries dilutes the very idea that one of the adversaries are criminals breaking the law, that is the KEY issue here CRIMINALITY. Even by suggesting that it is a conflict of equal value ideas aides that criminality and the criminals involved.
    As I said been there got the T shirt, so what do we need? Enforcement and yet more enforcement, if that fails and it clearly currently is we need law changes to make the criminals more likely to be caught and adequately punished or to make the crime irrelevant ( banning driven shooting would do that) .
    But we all already knew that why the hell didn’t NE?

  9. I think it clear that anything like a natural population of Red Grouse, say between 10 and 30 birds per sq km, would render driven grouse shooting uneconomic. The Economist in an article siad that less than 200 bird per sq km and the guns wpould not think it worth going out. To get anywhere near that level the eradication of competing species must be undertaken, not just predators, such as fox, ravens, birds of prey, but even those animals which compete with grouse for food, such as mountain hares. 18% of Scotland’s land is dedicated to the shooting of driven birds, but it shows one of the lowest financial returns per sq km of any activity. Let’s hope that the Scottish Parliament Grouse Moor Management group are prepared to come down on the side of sound science and at least licence drivem grouse shooting and set an example for the rest of the UK.

    1. I am not sure the words ‘natural population’ are appropriate. I would think that in a wild environment even 1 per sq km would be too high an estimate. On Mull i would think the figure is much less even in northwest Mull which seems to be the best place for Red Grouse there. In Norway Willow Grouse are at very low densities but that is my anecdotal evidence only.

  10. ‘people associated with conservation groups, held a view of human mastery of nature and prioritised human wellbeing over the rights of wildlife.’ and vice versa.
    This sentence really makes me doubt the validity of the rigour of the questionnaire.
    I am someone who does fit the exact opposite of that description and i know for sure that i am not the norm, i am at the extreme end of that spectrum. Almost all conservationists that i come into contact with seem to have a roughly 50/50 balance in that equation with a slight favouring towards humans because of the employment factor.
    I also very much doubt that the shooters give a damn about human wellbeing other than themselves and their clique. I think it would be safe to compare them with fox hunters who regularly show total disregard for human welfare.
    It is pretty obvious that questions were not asked about whether shooters minded feeding lead to their children and food banks, whether they minded the impact of global warming on the whole of humanity, whether they minded polluting the water table with silt, putting medicated grit into the food chain, causing flooding downstream, in some cases leading to massive damage to houses and homes. The westminster ‘debate’ which represented these people gave a clear answer to these questions. They don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves so sorry if i don’t consider this paper anything more useful than virtual toilet paper.

  11. If the boot was on the other foot and conservationists were the criminals breaking the law do you think all that money would have been spent on a report, meeting after meeting attended debates in parliament, petition after petition etc etc etc, no the law would come down hard on us and ban the root of the problem conservation.
    But no that’s not going to happen to the wealthy grouse shooters because there is always someone to lean on to get their own way, where is the democracy

  12. When you want to kick an issue into the long grass & have access to suitable funds, this fatuous study is a sensible way to proceed. Months of ”we’re waiting for thereport”, months of arguing about it no progress made. Perfect! (for some)

  13. I’m sure this is a very reputable piece of work etc etc.

    But their identification of one of four groups “‘non-raptor’ (focussing on the protection of nonraptors)” ? Who knows of such groups? Why are all their responses very close to that of the shooters? Unfortunately the researchers do not tell us. Try to get to the supporting information that tells us who these admirable nonraptor enthusiasts are and you find the information is not available for a year. But go back to the RPUK blog of a year ago and, guess what, it’s Songbird Survival, and probably only Songbird Survival. They seem to have been better at filling in their questionnaires than some others. Not bad for astroturfers.

    It sort of does not matter. The research outcome, obvious as it is, is as useless as it is. Nothing changes that. But all that piffle, all those bar charts, does it not perhaps influence the reader? Where is the academic respectability in reporting “nonraptors” as a valid opinion source? This whole enterprise was, if not actually corrupt, ill-founded from the outset.

  14. I’ve now read it. Where to begin? One of the conclusions it would be very difficult to get the relevant conservation organisations back to the table for conflict resolution discussions and compromise. WHAT UTTER BOLLOCKS THERE CAN BE NO COMPROMISE WITH CRIMINALS ! Do these academics not understand this is not a gentleman’s agreement here to compromise equally valid but differing views. One side are criminals/ supporting criminality or benefitting from criminality the other side believe, quite rightly, the law should be upheld. If the shooting lobby want to legal kill or limit hen harrier populations then campaign to change the law, we of course will still oppose them in that too!

  15. From the discussion….

    ” it currently seems unlikely that key conservation organisations would be willing to come to the table and will instead continue to pursue an adversarial focus on licensing or banning grouse shooting.”

    or translated…..

    As the current legal and regulatory regime continues to be flaunted, conservationist are seeking increased regulation and tougher enforcement of this regulation.

    The inherent bias in the study rests on the use of the word “adversarial”. The law changed back in 1958- the run up to that change was the time for adversarial engagement. Gamekeepers and estate owners never got over the defeat. Since then the laws have been systematically ignored, this is where the “conflict” lies and this has been ignored by the paper (and DEFRA). So its the 60 year old law that the estate owners are still in conflict with, not concerned law-abiding citizens.

  16. I was initially a bit surprised by the vitriolic response to this study in many of the comments. Yesterday, I attended the talk given by Prof Redpath at the BES annual conference and felt there were a few interesting points to be taken away from the study. However, having just skimmed the actual paper, these points are far less clearly presented than they were in that talk. So, my tuppence-worth:

    A brief summary: although this study may be ‘stating the obvious’ to us, it’s worth considering what it might teach somebody who is unfamiliar with the issues but taking an interest (say, a policy-maker or a judge presiding over a relevant court case). I think that in that sense, the results reflect rather less favourably on ‘their side’ than on ‘our side’.

    Thoughts in full:
    1. Contrary to many of the comments, Prof Redpath is not in denial about the core issues at stake:
    1a. It was made abundantly clear in the talk that Prof Redpath acknowledges that the source of all the problems is (i) grouse shooting cannot co-exist viably with raptors, and (ii) as a consequence, raptors currently do not exist because of illegal persecution.
    1b. Prof Redpath did acknowledge in his talk that improving enforcement of the law is crucial as (among other things) this would improve the trust that us conservationists have in the other parties involved.

    2. I don’t think the cost of the study should be the thing that concerns us most here. £50k is a life-changing amount of money to many of us, myself included, but in the context of scientific funding is a pittance. Even I raised my eyebrows a little at the cost of the ‘overheads’, but it’s standard for universities to ask for a large chunk of any grant to go directly into their coffers – after all, they provide computing and lab equipment, heating, electricity, support staff, etc. to facilitate the progress of the research, the value of which shouldn’t be underestimated (speaking as an academic researcher myself!).

    3. Most importantly: the value to us of the results presented. In particular, consider what these results – which, yes, are mostly blindingly obvious to those of us who follow these issues closely – might teach somebody who is relevant but doesn’t know much about the grouse shooting debate (e.g. somebody in government, or in law enforcement). If necessary, imagine you’re reading the paper as somebody who is interested, but is new to the issue and has no prior knowledge or understanding of the people involved.
    3a. Regarding the issue of ‘non-raptor conservationists’, which I interpreted to mean e.g. those behind the reprehensible raven cull ‘study’ but which a commenter above has suggested may be Songbird Survival, a really key point was brought out very clearly in Redpath’s talk but is a little bit hidden in the second part of Table 1.

    Examine the percentage of each of the four different groups (field sports, ‘non-raptor conservation’, raptor conservation and general conservation; incidentally and *very* interestingly, in his talk, Prof Redpath grouped ‘non-raptor conservation’ together with fieldsports interests rather than with the other conservation types) that fall into different categories of “world view” (utilitarian: ‘wildlife is there for humans to control, and the needs of humans come first’; pluralist A: ‘wildlife is there for humans to control, and the needs of humans and wildlife should be balanced’; pluralist B: ‘wildlife should not be controlled, and the needs of humans come first’; mutualist: ‘wildlife should not be controlled, and the needs of humans and wildlife should be balanced’). Clearly, shooters fall into the two categories that require humans to control wildlife (utilitarian/pluralist A), whereas general conservationists (who may be externally perceived to have broader interests that ‘just’ hen harriers and therefore be a little more nuanced in their views than those closer to the issue) almost all are mutualists. Unsurprisingly, the views of raptor conservationists align almost perfectly with those of general conservationists. But (also unsurprisingly to us, but maybe surprisingly to those outside the issue e.g. in government) the views of ‘non-raptor conservationists’ align almost perfectly with those of shooters.

    In other words, this is very clear evidence that these groups which publicly claim to be the ‘real conservationists’ in all of this – arguing for protection of curlews and golden plovers above all else – in fact have a world view that aligns very closely with the grouse-shooters, and not at all with other conservation groups. That, to me, represents a very serious blow to their credibility in the eyes of the public, if used in the right way by ‘our side’. Why does this group claim to be interested in conservation when their world view doesn’t support that claim? What have they got to hide?

    3b. Attitudes of each side towards each other. Examine Fig. 2; specifically the last two options. What is clear is that (i) shooters generally love gamekeepers and hate raptor conservationists, and (ii) conservationists generally quite like raptor conservationists and neither like nor hate gamekeepers. That’s clear evidence that ‘our side’ have a more nuanced view and are probably more likely to be open to compromise on issues. Why do ‘their side’ have such a negative attitude towards raptor conservationists? What have they got to hide?

    3c. Attitudes towards elements of the ‘Joint’ Action Plan (Fig. 3). Why do ‘their side’ have such weakly positive responses to simple actions like protecting nests & roosts or improving intelligence & enforcement? Could it be that they feel they ‘ought’ to be seen to support them, but actually are concerned about their impacts? What have they got to hide?

    1. The cynical side of me suspects that Prof Redpath might have given a rather different talk to an audience of ecologists than he would to an audience of shooters and gamekeepers.
      The key point for me is that framing the problem in terms of conflict resolution between two opposing but equally valid viewpoints is both disingenuous and dishonest, but this paper has gone along with it. In this way, it has provided a degree of validation for groups who routinely break the law. Similarly, by creating a category of ‘non-raptor conservationists’ it has elevated some highly dubious groups to apparently equal status with conventional ecological and conservation thinking.
      My opinion of some of those involved in this ‘research’ has been sinking for some years now; this has only accelerated that process.

    2. This paper is just an extension of NE and the brood persecution scheme. If you don’t agree with the scheme this is going to go down too well even if it does make conservationist look better than the shooting lobby. It isn’t a beauty contest. It is the whole premise of treating raptor persecution as a conflict resolution issue which is repugnant. It implies that the law is somehow wrong otherwise we would frame other crimes in a similar way, we don’t. At the very least it give equivalence to those who think the law is wrong and break it freely. I find it an offence to justice. So why is raptor crime treated as a conflict resolution issue and not other crimes and why is the law about raptor crime somehow second rate? To me it is obvious. It is because they have got away with it for 64 years and up until now with very little public awareness or criticism. That seems odd. Is getting away with crime an indication of something. If anything it should be the opposite, surely systemic institutional crime should be taken more seriously not less. The other reason it is treated less seriously is because who is doing it. Since when did laws apply to one sector of society and not another. Yet this paper and the schemes it is involved with, use it as their basic premise. Again this is not an excuse to any one with a degree of fair-mindedness.

    3. The elephant in the room in this survey; the brood persecution scheme and the so called ‘plan’ which they are both part of is this, ‘if just for the sake of argument brood persecution helped Hen Harriers recover how would it help other persecuted raptors?’ It is such a basic and obvious question but i have never heard any answer from Merricks and the Hawk and Owl Trust (of which Redpath is now a Trustee) or any other of its proponents. Surely this lack of an answer to this fundamental and extremely simple question discredits the whole scheme. This is not a new statement and i have made it many times before but because it remains unanswered it bares repeating, especially as you say, for those who are new to the investigation of raptor persecution crime.
      This £50,000 could have been spent satellite tagging many Hen Harriers or Red Kites and the data would give us more information about where raptor crime in general is being committed. It won’t stop crime either but it will make it more and more difficult for politicians to ignore and when we finally get an honest government they will have unequivocal data to act on. This survey does absolutely nothing to solve the raptor persecution ‘problem’ it does quite the opposite, it deflects. Something that i am sure NE/DEFRA are happy about.

      1. I’d go further – I think this study is calculated to do much worse than deflect from the real problem and/or waste money that could have been better spent elsewhere.
        For me, it’s a carefully crafted step along the path of ‘normalising’ and legitimising the position and actions of both the lawbreaking raptor killers and their ‘non-raptor conservationist’ apologists.
        I agree with Alex Milne on this – we should not give an inch. Laws against murder and rape have been in place for many years, but these crimes continue to occur. That does not mean that the laws should be weakened. I’m very happy to have my attitude towards murderers and rapists characterised as ‘adversarial’, and it would be purest folly to compromise on this.

        1. I don’t know what is more worrying. That it could be a deliberate plan or if a biologist of Redpath’s standing really believes this is some kind of solution or even a step towards a solution.
          I am pretty sure he falls into the latter as some kind of desperate last resort. I presume he is entirely sick of the persecution (his sometime co-author Amar certainly seems to be). But this isn’t a last resort of any kind. The paper itself states that no other trials or methods have even been tried apart from small scale diversionary feeding. So why he would jump on the one method which would cause the most antagonism from wildlife friendly professional and public is beyond me. Is he the one being adversarial? I can’t help it, that the language Merricks uses makes me think that he and perhaps Redpath (his Prof’) are going to solve the problem single-handedly, some kind of hero-complex. Forgive my adventure into amateur psychology but in this mad time anything seems likely and even probable. To draw parallels between developing poor countries which have real wildlife conflicts and a country like ours with such different ‘cultures’ and histories seem to me unhinged. Even more so when they talk about Northern Ireland.

    4. Again. The conflict is not between conservationists and game keepers, it is between criminals and civil society. Conservationists are simply interested advocates for the settled will of wider society (since 1958!) who wish to see that will respected. There are no reasonable or legitimate arguments against this democratically (national and international) position.

      This paper just distorts the landscape to invent a situation where the arguments of 1958 are given fresh oxygen and revived. The debate is over Redpath, there is only one legal and socially acceptable outcome. Move on and leave this so called conflict to the criminologists.

      1. Can help but reflect on your missing comma.

        You meant (I think) ‘The debate is over, Redpath, …’

        But you could have meant ‘the debate is over Redpath…’

        Both are true. The first is a given. The second, I think we ought to be a bit bolder on. The man, in my view, is deeply compromised. He has a perfectly good general offer on conflict in conservation issues, but the big stand-out conflict, in which he has personally invested much, is one to which his pet theories do not apply, Many people, in different ways, have said that in these comments, and the reasons are cogent and persuasive, except to Redpath. And you could say that is because he has too much skin in the game. If he has to recant, where is his academic reputation, where is his credibility with NE and where is his next penny coming from?

    5. It was I who made the comment about the non-raptor group -your 3(a). I think the problem is greater than you put it but you are the academic and I am not, so I would be really interested in your view. Here are a series of facts, propositions:

      (a) the sample size was 536. That’s low. (It also means that the research paid £93 per internet respondent: I’d much rather have had the £93 for my response, or else a tax rebate)

      (b) the data from this sample of 536 was gained by way of a simple Survey Monkey type poll of internet people with an interest in the subject. (My tender would have been an order of magnitude lower). As a result, there is no control, as might be found even in an opinion poll conducted by, say YouGov for who is saying what. The researchers had absolutely no control of, or understanding of, any biases in their sample. I could say, and they could not contradict me) that I responded ten times with ten personae. I did not, I am a law abiding citizen. But then the other side…

      (c) so then we come to the specific problem in the sample – the semi-structured questionnaire included only one group I can recognise as non-raptor conservationists, Songbird Survival.

      (d) I realize that the phrase ‘everyone knows’ is academically suspect, but everyone knows that Songbird Survival is a front organisation, to put it no higher. Crucially, the researchers must know this too. If they don’t they are not competent to be doing the research – but I am quite sure they do.

      (e) so then we say, OK, they offered it as a choice on the questionnaire and loads of people (well, 145 but cheapskate internet surveyors can’t be choosers, not for £50,000) tick the Songbird Survival box;

      (f) which is still sort of OK (apart from all the sampling problems set out above) but then – I suppose this what we paid for – the researchers apply their added value, carefully analysing in a multivariate sort of way, the data (all 536) they have got. And they find four categories! The power of data! They create a new and interesting category of human being – the non-raptor person. No matter that more conventional research would look at the data in an entirely different way – seeking differentiators in views/attitudes that could enable the identification of categories giving genuine insight to ‘bundles’ of attitudes. No, here in this brave new world we have a powerful new concept – people WHO THINK EXACTLY THE SAME AS SHOOTERS. (Sorry about the capitals, but one of my friends, admittedly Australian, but one of the best writers I know) uses capitals to great effect so I am trying to adopt her punchy use here.

      (g) so then we have a whole paper which presents, and charts, inter alia, the views of this novel group. Even a relatively educated audience (let’s suppose that includes the NE audience) may fall too easily into accepting that there are four categories of person, broadly two leaning strongly one way and two the other;

      (h) sadly, the supporting data, which might tell us about how respondents were allocated to categories, is hidden for the next 11 months. I wonder if the researchers made it available to NE. Though one might as well wonder whether there is anyone in NE who will bother to read it or understand it if they do. But we can’t see it, to help understand who these interesting non-raptor people really are.

      (i) But even with out that there is a big, obvious problem. The non-raptor group is a non-group, and the researchers knew that from the start (or were just pig ignorant.) Then, against best practice, they highlight it as an analytically interesting stakeholder group when it is not – it SIMPLY REPLICATES THE VIEWS OF SHOOTERS. Sorry those capitals keep on asserting themselves. But proper researchers just don’t do that.

      (j) Ergo, the researchers, having consumed £50,000 of our money are knowingly… well what. I am aware of the libel laws. What I think I can say is that the research findings would look (and there I need italics not caps) very different if the spurious group, which I believe the researchers cannot but know to be spurious, were to be excised from the results.

      (k) of course the fundamental conclusion of the research, that Redpath has failed utterly to make the case for a ‘conflict management’ solution to the illegal killing of hen harriers, is inescapable. With all my heart, I hope that the funders of this more-than-flawed research draw the same conclusion.

      1. Alan – some interesting points and I’ll respond individually to them.
        (a) 536 is a bit low, but (more than) enough to robustly carry out the statistical tests in question. Indeed, I have a paper which will shortly be published that carries out far more complex statistics on sample sizes of 417 and 148 respectively. So this shouldn’t be a major concern. I’m not going to tackle the £93 per response thing in detail; except to say that there is much more to carrying out a study like this than solely the gathering of responses, and that with ~30m taxpayers, your tax rebate would not be £93 but ~0.1p!
        (b) If I’ve read the methods correctly, the control was that a unique link was sent out by each organisation (from 8 total) to their membership. Therefore, the researchers could identify e.g. that a respondent is truly a member of GCWT by cross-referencing their answer to the membership question with their use of the GCWT’s unique link – and hopefully they filtered out any ‘liars’ from their dataset. I agree that it’s unclear whether somebody could have answered multiple times, but I don’t think that matters statistically unless they answered with a randomly-selected different set of answers each time: none of these questions take the form of a vote, so providing the same answers multiple times would just reinforce the statistical links between your views on different questions.
        (c-e, i) I agree that I cannot see any other group which I would identify as “non-raptor conservation”, but then I find it remarkable that 25% of all respondents were members of Songbird Survival. Perhaps we are missing something about how the different organisations were classified? There was, of course, an option for respondents to answer with any other affiliations, which might have lead them to identify as members of e.g. “Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders” (pah!) instead. My view as a conservationist would be that members of these groups are not conservationists – but science must be objective, and if the groups self-identify as conservationists then they should be treated as such in the study. I suspect that this is why they’ve been split off into ‘non-raptor conservationists’ – so that they do not muddy the direct comparison between shooters and actual, real conservationists, which I suppose was the main point of the study.
        (f-g) A slight divergence in our interpretations here: they haven’t “found” the non-raptor person, because they pre-defined non-raptor people as part of their methods. What they did find is that people claiming to be non-raptor people are very clearly shooters in disguise.
        (h) It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the data become available much sooner. 11 months is a really weird embargo length, so I suspect it was initially deposited upon the paper’s acceptance a month ago (at the top of the PDF version, page 1 – accepted 19th November), with an embargo so that the data wasn’t published before the paper. The authors will most likely log back into Figshare in the next few weeks and lift the embargo. This is a fairly common practice, because many journals now require you to archive your data online upon acceptance of the manuscript, but it is considered by many to be undesirable to make it publicly available before the paper is released (in case you are ‘scooped’ by an unscrupulous, and exceptionally quick-writing, rival). I agree that seeing the data might help clear some questions up.
        (i) As above, imagine if they had structured their analysis differently, as simply shooters vs conservationists. Songbird Survival, SCCW etc. get lumped in with RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, NERF, and suddenly the paper’s conclusion becomes “conservationists have a much broader spread of views than shooters, but they actually broadly agree on (or at least their views significantly overlap in) all areas”. Imagine the uproar if that was the conclusion of this study! Which leads to my view that…
        (j) This other group is, if not analytically interesting, at least necessary for the study in its current structure. Certainly not spurious as it represents a group who claim to be conservationists, but together with whom I would certainly not wish my views to be lumped.
        (k) This is such an important point, which coincidentally I’ve tried to make (though much less clearly!) in my earlier reply as well: that the study demonstrates that conflict resolution/compromise are not going to be acceptable here, unless the illegal killing of raptors was first to cease. So on this point we are agreed!

        1. ‘politics is the art of the possible, and that it’s always preferable to act on the basis of consensus and partnership, and that’s driven me all of my life and hopefully it drives the Hawk & Owl Trust’
          Philip Merricks talking about HH Action Plan

          ‘Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis’
          Greta Thunberg talking about climate change

          Imagine what Greta would say if she had had the law on her side for 64 years and still nothing had been done? What kind of statement does it make to children in the UK and how does it effect their trust in politicians and political will? As she says, although on a different subject, we are stealing (in this case raptors) from our children.

        2. Callum, thanks for your response. I don’t seem to be good at clicking the right ‘reply’ buttons here so I hope this reply sits below yours.

          I may have cause a bit of confusion by posting a mix of serious and rhetorical comments, as well as trying to be funny. One of my many weaknesses. However, trying to remedy the damage, my points, or the serious aspects of them, were meant to be considered cumulatively rather than in isolation. Much hinges, I accept, on how you view Songbird Survival. But, if you view it as (a) a spoof organisation and (b) well enough known as such that no serious researcher could be unaware of that, then my points should be read in that light.

          I should stress again that I am not a researcher but (before I retired) had a day job in which( advised by highly qualified experts) I was been responsible for commissioning research cumulatively worth millions (in a different area). I would never have commissioned this particular research. I would not have accepted the sample size, the sampling method or the costs. Nor the conceptual framework, though I accept that is a different matter. Actually I think you are a bit glib about the funding. In my experience, administrators find research funding very hard to come by, it is very competitive. £50,000 is a heap of money, including in the NE context, and there must be a lot of people there who are thinking… if only they had access to such largesse.

          That said, I am content to acceed to your view that the sample size, given the sampling method, is adequate. My administrative instinct is to disagree, but there we are. However, my argument is really to do with what follows.

          Because what follows is a little bit dependent on that Songbird survival got 145 responses whereas RSPB etc got 102. I’m not suggesting that it directly affects the statistical analysis but doesn’t it strike you as, well, a bit weird?

          So then, moving on, I question another point you make ‘they pre-defined non-raptor people as part of their methods’ ie that the analytical categories were determined in advance. I suggested (paraphrasing) that proper multivariant analysis uses the data to determine the groupings. You say that the groupings were determined in advance. But from the paper, the key is in the first sentences of section 2.2. To me, they say that starting from 8 categories of their initial invention, they then pulled the lot together and subsequently identified, driven by the data, four key groups. And to me, their justification for that is bollocks. (Woops, sorry, slipped again.)

          Then you say: ‘What they did find is that people claiming to be non-raptor people are very clearly shooters in disguise.’ I agree, of course. But where is this in the paper! All I can find is ‘Post hoc tests revealed no significant differences between attitudes held by Field Sport and Non‐raptor–affiliated
          individuals. Whether in academic or ordinary language that is not the same thing.

          So I stick to the strong version of my critique. These people knew what they were doing and seek to deceive their audience. In my view.

          Much of the criticism of this research here and elsewhere is that the conceptual underpinning – of ‘conflict’ to which a ‘negotiation’ can lead to resolution – is falsely naive and wrong. I agree with that.

          RPUK’s criticism – and remember that this is from a senior academic in the area – is that the research was ill designed and spent a heap of money (via an ill-designed, free-to-user SurveyMonkey survey) to find something that was well-known to all the players anyway. I agree with that too.

          I have tried to add, in my own way, that the research itself is fundamentally flawed, biased. Many others have suggested that too, but I have tried to put some flesh on it. Quite rightly you have pushed back, and you may want to push back again. I am very much not of a natural disposition to charge academics with bias. However I have seen enough the pressures; getting funding, differentiating the offer, bad commissioning and all the rest that can lead academics down a garden path that, in the end, is their own creation. I think that is what is happening here. The problem is that it is public policy – and hence the hen harrier – which suffers.

          1. I may be totally wrong here but as i remember, this was an in invitation only survey. If it wasn’t ignore the following.
            If it was i don’t see how inviting a known astro-turf group, which is no more than a front for the grouse lobby, can be defended. If it was a way of exposing that astro-turfing that would make perfect sense but it clearly isn’t and to believe otherwise seems to me naive. In fact the grouser spin doctors will somehow use this, or certainly would if there was anything they could twist to fit their narrative.
            I don’t remember taking part in this survey which makes me confident, in spite of my terrible memory, that the public weren’t invited to comment. I outlined why below in another comment, this is elitist and highly undemocratic, but why weren’t followers of this blog invited to take part in the survey. Many readers of RPUK will have been invited in their capacity as members of those invited groups but certainly not all. If you are going to consciously invite an astroturf group then surely you have to also invite a grassroots group! If the reason for excluding RPUK commentors was that it was ‘stakeholders only’ in what way are Songbird Survival more qualified than us. SongbirdSurvival are no more ‘stakeholders’ than us concerned, and educated (on this issue), members of the public. It seems more like a way of skewing the data.
            I am tempted to send this to Prof John Robertson of ThoughtControlScotland for his comments but he is obviously extremely busy and i think it would take too much of his time to get up to speed on this issue.

            1. I don’t believe it was invite-only, because as I recall it was entirely possible for the survey link to be shared and re-used. I’m pretty sure I remember taking it.

          2. I don’t think our views are so very far apart. I’m not saying I would have commissioned the research either, had it been my choice. But it was commissioned, and since there’s no point crying over spilt milk, we are as well to take the useful messages forward from it rather than grousing about the cost and the flaws!

            I don’t think I was glib about the costs: in fact, NERC (the major funder of env. sci. research in the UK) had a minimum spend of £65k in place for their grants until only this year (when the minimum has interestingly been removed entirely), compared to a max. ‘Standard Grant’ of £800k. Above that and you move into a ‘Large Grant’. Therefore this study would have been deemed too cheap to be worth funding by the most important potential funding source.

            I agree that Songbird Survival are a spoof organisation but I’m not sure if they’re as well known as you suggest. Would most RSPB members have heard of them? My parents haven’t (n=2!). I do find it weird that they seem to have provided so many responses, yes. I’m now wondering whether GWCT might have been classed as non-raptor (I.e. ‘conservation of gamebirds’) rather than fieldsports, which would also be weird.
            I’m not sure where your reading of the methods comes from. “Data from the 8 organisations were combined” – I.e. RSPB, GWCT etc. – “Respondents were grouped into 4 categories according to primary objectives of their organisation”. Nothing about that suggests to me it was data-driven as you imply.

            1. Indeed we are not, however a couple of responses.

              On research, there’s a basic difference between NERC and NE – the former has as a main purpose disbursing research grants, NE has a research budget to support its activities. That budget is just over £2 million pa, and I bet there is strong competition for it. To me, that makes a decision to award £50,000 without competitive tender to an insider pretty damned corrupt and worth a public airing.

              What I think the ‘researchers did’ was to ask the eight ‘organisations’ to distribute questionnaires. That meant that Songbird Survival could have sat in his office and filled in as many as he liked near identically. Though the questionnnaires were organisation coded, the ‘researchers’ will have had no other means of checking on the extent to which they were completed by genuine people. Like yours, my recollection is that it was not fully invite only, though presumably that was at the discretion of the organisations that were sent a copy to distribute.

              My quibble with the methodology is that they did not do what they (a) ‘should’ have done and (b) at least to an extent imply they did do. It’s all at the start of 2.2. What they say is essentially this: that they got data from 8 organisations and aggregated it. Then they disaggregated it again, but only by reference to categories determined by the nature of the 8 organisations. Does that not strike you as odd?

              My point about Songbird Survival is not that the general public know their nature but that the researchers must have, from the outset. It’s a Catch 22 for them really, if they did not, how could they be qualified to do this research?

              1. Further digging reveals that it was invite only. It was never, to my knowledge, made public.
                As i understand, from that link and other comments, it was sent to various groups (presumably all those on the list on the link above) and they were asked to select people to send it to. There is the box ‘other’ but for who that was intended i don’t know if the whole things was secret!

                RPUK took the decision not to broadcast the website but you can be absolutely sure that the other organizations did!
                It wasn’t available to ordinary public unless you knew someone who had the URL.

    6. Clearly my reading of this was very different to everyone else’s – maybe I’m being too optimistic, or maybe I’m just very tired! I suppose my reading boils down to the following steps:
      i. DEFRA/NE/HOT etc. came up with their “Joint” Action Plan, and maybe some of them really believed it was a good idea, representing a compromise where shooty people could keep being shooty and hen harriers could start to recover. (And for the record, I agree 100% that the best ‘compromise’ would be the one where shooty people just stop shooting birds of prey, or even better just stop shooting anything living!).
      ii. We all disagreed! And showed our disagreement by raising a remarkable amount of money extremely quickly to challenge them in court. This will have come as a surprise to the people who believed it was a good idea. They will have wondered why we objected to it so strongly.
      iii. This study then represents an attempt to codify that objection with robust statistical analysis. In a best-case scenario (and maybe I’m being too optimistic again here), it will clarify things in the minds of a few at DEFRA, NE etc. and hopefully lead them to avoid taking these ‘compromise’ steps in future, knowing that steps like more robust enforcement are likely to be better received and less controversial.

      So, I’m not saying it’s a completely groundbreaking study or anything like that. I still think that, in the context of scientific funding, £50k is very very little, so I don’t think it necessarily *needed* to be groundbreaking. And I still think it shows a few interesting things.

      Finally, with regard to Prof Redpath’s objectivity, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that you have to declare any ‘conflicts of interest’ at the point of submission of a manuscript to a journal, and those conflicts are taken into consideration by the editor when assessing the manuscript, especially with regard to any potential bias in the methods or conclusions. I think Prof Redpath’s position within HOT would indeed be viewed as a conflict of interest, so one would assume he declared it and it was considered by the editor that the manuscript was not biased.

        1. In fact your timeline is back to front. The so called Action Plan was built as a conflict resolution plan.
          It raises another issue. If those who thought this was going to resolve the issue thought it would be palatable to conservationists and the concerned public they have no understanding of the feelings involved and because of this complete lack of empathy with their guinea-pigs (us), they automatically disqualify themselves as conflict resolution ‘experts’.
          I am quite happy to believe that the high heid yins in NE/DEFRA did this deliberately as AlanTwo suggests, to kick it into the long grass and postpone the issue for decades but my take is that Redpath intends well but has no understanding of the human dimension to this. He also appears not to be able to see the wood for the trees. It really is as simple as everyone on this thread says and as i wish Greta Thunberg could speak for us. We want raptor crime to be treated like any other crime and not as a psychology experiment.
          Sorry for all these posts but this makes me extremely angry.

  17. There is a whole aspect of the false equivalency of this so called conflict and it’s so called resolution which is being ignored by this paper.
    That is the maths.
    The assumption which is prevalent in the media today, see TYT

    that every story can be cast as a balance between one view and it opposing view. This really is madness and it only seems to get played out when there are vested interest involved, global warming, grouse shooting etc. We don’t have flat earthers on tv only climate deniers. Raptor persecution isn’t about opinion. It is about facts.
    The reason it is perceived by some as an us against them minority issue is that the grouse lobby has a well oiled spin machine working round the clock and has been spinning the media for years. They also like to keep things secret as much as possible. RPUK is a massive thorn in their side. It is why they didn’t allow a proper debate in westminster, it was a way of stifling dissent. When a real debate happened in Scotland the scales started tipping and the grousers started shitting themselves. People are getting educated.
    This way of framing this as an opposing minority issue misses out a whole component, public awareness. What would the informed public think about all this and more importantly do they have a say!!. The answer is clear from the petitions which have been submitted. The more people know about this issue leads to only one outcome, the less they support grouse shooting. I love the comment made by the judge in the Mark Avery/RSPB v NE case ‘if this is a high priority species, heaven help us’ [my paraphrase]. Boom one more educated citizen.
    The whole conflict resolution argument is based on the lie that this is an opposing minorities issue and that it will stay that way frozen in time. It clearly isn’t. It is an issue that involves the general public. If raptor persecution got the publicity that say plastic did, it is obvious how the public would respond. It is one of those cases where it is abundantly obvious that the more informed the public are the more they want driven grouse shooting banned or at the very least licensed. Would the authors of this paper like to take on a real experiment. Take out a petition to see if the public would support legalised brood persecution to benefit one small group of people? [Have we heard the human right minority tears from Gilruth yet, i think we have but if not just wait].
    Someone else suggested that Redpath has backed a losing horse and has misjudged what we now know, but was always blindingly obvious, about public opinion and how it is only going to get worse for the grouse lobby as the issue receives more and more attention. Will he now publicly change his position as some kind of neutral referee and advise the Hawk and Owl Trust in that light?

    1. I could have agreed that Redpath intends well but has a poor understanding of the human dimension in this if he had not been a board member of the Heather Trust, is currently a member of Scotland’s Moorland Forum and had he not recently (2016) become a trustee of the Hawk and Owl Trust. It would have been good if this last item had been made clear in the paper (I certainly could not find it mentioned).
      Additionally, if you read Thirgood & Redpath (2008), it is clear that these authors attach almost zero moral weight to the illegality of killing protected raptors in their analysis.
      They also make the statements:
      ‘Indeed, it can be argued that NGOs benefit from the publicity that the illegal killing of raptors generates.’
      ‘Scientists benefit because the conflict leads to funding for further research.’
      This is the sort of innuendo routinely trotted out by climate change deniers, and historically by other denial groups (think asbestos, lead, tobacco).

      1. Am i right in thinking that there was only one survey of this kind?
        RPUK seems to imply one year ago that there were two different studies.
        ‘a similar study proposed by researchers at the Universities of Aberdeen and Kent (to gauge the opinions of grouse moor owners) was estimated to cost in the region of £50,000 (see here).’
        the ‘see here’ link is to a post in Nov 2016

        1. Hi Prasad,

          We think there was only one. The confusion arose because the research proposal was submitted for research to be undertaken by staff at Aberdeen & Kent Universities, but the research was undertaken at Aberdeen and Bangor. The lead author was at Kent Uni when the proposal was submitted but then later moved to Bangor.

          1. Thanks. I would encourage anyone not bored by this thread (particularly me) to read the RPUK blog from 2017 which shows the kind of questions being asked. I had forgotten the details.
            I wrote to Prof John Robertson. I’m not expecting a reply but you never know. He is a retired expert in the study of propaganda. I think without the background i tried to give him that blogpost alone would have been enough. So i belatedly sent him that too.

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