Reading a local blog the other day I was intrigued by the blogger's obvious excitement when urging readers to sign a new E-Petition that had been started by the ex-Conservation Director of the RSPB, Mark Avery, this is the BIG One the blogger stated.
I had a read of the petition, found at http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com (trawl down to the 28th May) and it is an E-Petition started by Mark Avery in a somewhat tongue in cheek effort to get driven grouse shooting in England banned in order to help protect Hen Harriers from persecution. I say tongue in cheek because he hasn't got a hope in hell's chance of getting the wealthy owners, including Royalty, of the great grouse moors to accept such a thing and pretty much admits that in his petition. However it will obviously appeal to all those hunting antis out there that will sign anything at the drop of a hat if the words ban and shooting are in the title.
Now I have been involved in various forms of conservation for over many, many years and in recent years have been part of a team that counts the numbers of harriers going into evening roost at numerous sites in Kent during the six winter months. At the site that I watch at, Hen Harriers have had a traditional roost for countless years but in the last few years have dwindled down to the fact that this last winter, for the first time, no Hen Harriers were recorded on any of the six roost counts that I carried out. So I know, from actual first hand experience, how badly the Hen Harrier is doing and would be happy to petition for most things that would help the birds but Mr. Avery's petition makes no mention of what he sees as the after effects of such a ban becoming law. Obviously, many of those that have rushed to sign the petition simply presume that such a ban would mean everything suddenly becoming honky-dory overnight and that the harriers will start to breed in much greater numbers because there will then be no nasty shooting types protecting their grouse by shooting and poisoning them - well that sounds great and I'd like to believe it as much as the next person, but come on, it ain't as simple as that.
Would all the people that get profit, wages and pleasure from what is a multi-million pound industry, simply accept such a ban with no spite, would potentially, even more persecution of harriers take place because people would see them as the cause of such a ban, would the spite of estates who until the ban had always left harriers alone, not be brought into the conflict. And let's face it, shooting and poisoning are the more blatant and identifiable ways of killing harriers, a more subtle way is to identify a nest and "accidentally" stand on the eggs as you walk by. There is also then, the huge and costly amount of moorland management that goes into making a moor ideal not only for grouse but for Golden Plover, Curlew, Merlin, Meadow Pipits, etc. etc. Ban grouse shooting and all of that management and it's necessary pest controls will likely stop, might the moors become overgrown, or what would be in place to stop huge moors being grazed to the ground by sheep by the owner as a means of both revenge and making profit.
People who rush to sign petitions need to first put aside their bias for a moment and look at the bigger picture and determine if in the long run, such bans will actually help to protect a particular species. Assuming that the moors will still look as good after a ban, or that the RSPB will simply rush out and buy them is a dream too far.
On a slightly different subject, I found as usual, Robin Page's article in the Telegraph this weekend, interesting, especially where he quoted what Martin Harper (Mark Avery's successor as head of Conservation at the RSPB) had to say when addressing the National Gamekeepers Organisation recently. He told them that the RSPB controlled mink and foxes - apparently 30 mink bit the dust on RSPB reserves last year and 273 foxes were shot on 26 reserves.
Now, as someone who has actually got his hands dirty on nature reserves, I like Robin Page, have known for some years that the RSPB control predators and not just mink and foxes and not always by shooting. But why are the RSPB so reluctant to report these facts in their magazine, they always give glowing reports and photographs of such reserves and what they have achieved, why not tell the whole story of how they have achieved such success. In that way we might end up with RSPB members better educated in the true ways of countryside and reserve management and far less of those that believe that such things don't and shouldn't happen.