Those Awkward Hen Harriers © Mark Avery

August 14, 201627 Comments

Photo: Gordon Yates
Photo: Gordon Yates
OK let’s get back to Hen Harriers.  Aren’t they lovely?
Those who have been defending or promoting driven grouse shooting find Hen Harriers difficult to talk about.  It will be interesting to see how much utter tripe some MPs may come up with in the debate we expect to see over the future of driven grouse shooting.  As an MP, you can get away with saying almost anything in parliament but you can’t get away with saying it secretly or erasing the account of your saying it. Any MP who misrepresents the facts about Hen Harriers in a debate on the future of driven grouse shooting should expect to be swamped by letters from her or his constituents afterwards.
In all modesty, you will find Chapter 1 of Inglorious a good guide to the biology and status of the Hen Harrier in the UK and Chapter 3 deals with the crucially important Langholm study (Inglorious was the second book in the BB Book of the Year list after all – with Prof Ian Newton FRS on the panel of judges).
You won’t have heard, because of editing, Andrew Gilruth being challenged to admit the scale of illegal killing of Hen Harriers on Farming Today. Andrew finds this subject difficult.  You can hear how difficult a subject he finds it by listening to the unedited and free (though slightly fiddly to get to) podcast (it’s the 3rd item this week) which accompanies the Spectator article by Matt Ridley.  I will wait with interest to see how the editing of Countryfile this evening deals with this subject because Andrew was, again, challenged by me to admit that the main problem for Hen Harriers is wildlife crime.  Andrew finds the subject difficult.
I was on BBC Radio Cumbria on Friday morning and heard Moorland Association chair, Robert Benson, avoid the subject for quite a while until the presenter asked him outright about Hen Harriers (as I had raised the subject in my slot).  My recollection (I did make a note of it but I seem to have lost the scrap of paper) was that he said that he ‘hoped and prayed’ that there would be more Hen Harriers in England next year. Well Robert, that isn’t necessarily a winning strategy and I doubt very much that it is a view shared by all your members.  The Moorland Association has massive problems of credibility here – Hen Harriers are being killed on grouse moors and the motive for that killing is to protect unnaturally high densities of Red Grouse whose purpose in life, seen by Moorland Association members, is to be shot for fun.  Hen Harriers are killed illegally on grouse moors so that Red Grouse can be killed for fun. It’s an impossible state of affairs to defend which is why all try their best to steer clear of it – which is what Andrew Gilruth has tried to do and what Robert Benson tried to do too.
Another approach is to get the facts very badly wrong.  Well, I say it is an approach but it might be an honest mistake of course. Matt Ridley got the facts wrong in his Spectator article and we see it happening again and again in the media. Any MP who takes briefing from the grouse shooting industry will have to be aware that their words, for which they will be responsible, will be in Hansard for ever. They have a responsibility to be truthful and on our side of the argument we will be doing our best to make sure that MPs are perfectly briefed on this subject but also that any mistruths are publicly exposed afterwards.
There is another approach, which is so rare that it demands recognition even though it may make the person concerned blush – and that is to tell the truth.
Amanda Anderson was quoted in the Sunday Times last week saying:

‘If we let the hen harrier in, we will soon have nothing else. That is why we need this brood management plan’ – Amanda Anderson, Director, Moorland Association

If we let the Hen Harrier in…   Yes, ‘if’…
The fact of the matter is that driven grouse shooting is underpinned by wildlife crime against raptors that are fully protected by law and have been for decades. There are some who regard themselves as untouchable (a phrase well-coined I believe by our big brother blog, Raptor Persecution UK) when it comes to the law. Wildlife crime is wildlife crime and the uplands of England, including our National Parks such as the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District and North York Moors are massive wildlife crime scenes.
Here’s a great Hen Harrier plan – ban driven grouse shooting.
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