Blog Post: Guest Blog: Hen harriers and grouse shooting – Inquiry and debate

  RSPB Head of Nature Policy, Jeff Knott, shares his thoughts on yesterday's parliamentary hearing of oral evidence ahead of the upcoming Westminster debate on the future of driven grouse shooting. On Tuesday, I gave evidence on the impacts of driven grouse shooting to a joint session of the Petitions and EFRA Committees. That’s quite a dry sentence, but I can tell you the reality is anything but! Basically what it means is that I sat in front of a panel of about a dozen MPs, who could ask any questions they liked. Now I had some idea what sort of subjects they would cover, but it’s certainly a nerve wracking experience, especially for a first timer like me. With that said, I actually really enjoyed yesterday’s session. I was giving evidence alongside Mark Avery, who created the petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting (which over 123,000 people signed), and we were followed by Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association and Liam Stokes from the Countryside Alliance. I used the time to set out why the RSPB believes change is needed to ensure that intensive grouse moor management is not damaging our environment and to allow the recovery of persecuted birds of prey, notably the hen harrier; and why we believe a licensing regime is the best way to deliver that. I didn’t manage to say everything I wanted to. It would have been nice to spend more time talking about hen harriers as the species most affected by illegal persecution and emphasising the association between that illegal killing and the complete absence of hen harrier breeding attempts on England’s grouse moors this year. I’d have liked to be able to talk about the great work our LIFE project is doing to satellite tag these birds to help better understand their movements, but I suppose even with the session running close to twice its originally allotted time, it was inevitable we wouldn’t get a chance to explore everything fully. If you want to watch the session back, video of the whole thing is still online here . Hopefully no-one noticed my hand shaking as I poured that first glass of water! The main purpose of this session was to inform a debate (triggered by Mark’s petition), which will be held in Westminster on 31 st October. This will be another great opportunity to explore the issues around intensive grouse shooting, so it’s really important we get as many MPs as possible to attend. Please click on this link to ask your MP to attend the debate and speak up for our hen harriers. I’ve not heard back from my MP yet, but hopefully we can get lots of positive voices heard, so that the debate can be another step towards delivering a more sustainable future for our uplands and the wildlife and communities that live in these special places.