Now I don't know about you, but I've seen precious little in the media in recent times which, essentially, keeps the appalling situation relating to Hen Harrier persecution "alive". I personally believe this is absolutely necessary. Given, for example, the flawed views of the Moorland Association claiming there are plenty of harriers around in England, without acknowledging their presence in winter from more northerly origins, makes it necessary to continually devote time to correcting such views before they gain wider acceptance.
But there is something of even greater concern! I've received several reports, admittedly based on rumour, that at least two of the four young which fledged last year from the only nest in England, have been found dead, with one report suggesting they had been shot. I've every reason to accept there is at least some truth in these reports given the sources involved, which automatically causes various questions to arise. One imagines that sat tagged birds were involved and, of course, the only body involved with such "research" is the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. The policy so far has been to refuse outright to reveal any findings from this study despite questions being raised, even in Parliament. Given this is public money, and that the expenditure has occurred over several years as part of the Government's Hen Harrier Recovery Plan, there appears to be a clear case for disclosure. Similarly, given the Plan has failed so spectacularly, there would also seem to be a case for the justification of such activities continuing to be funded from the public purse to be examined. With this in mind I have sent off various E-mails to my own Member of Parliament and to others to explore the matter and will set out the responses in due course.
But why should DEFRA be so keen to retain information that clearly is in the public interest and of particular assistance to a body like the RSPB and the Police? Well, of course, a DEFRA report some little time ago did confirm that there was a correlation between upland grouse moors and the loss of contact from various tagged birds, but followed up by stating later that such could not be construed as being the location at which the unfortunate individuals had met their demise. That, I suppose, was the public element associated with their position, as one imagines that, on each and every occasion, the reports of such losses were reported to the appropriate Police Authority. The fact of the matter is that, very often, such areas comprise upland shooting estates against which one might assume the disclosure of such information would cause embarrassment, particularly given the apparent empathy existing within DEFRA towards such enterprises.
So, a wall of silence with the reasons for its construction and maintenance being robustly upheld!!
However, what of the conservation organizations? Whilst I always assume there is plenty going on in the background, I believe more should be made apparent to the public in order to keep such issues alive. Clearly our opinions diverge on this one if , for example, one looks at the latest edition of the RSPB's Birds magazine. I can find no mention of harriers, the continuing persecution problem with the species or any declared lines of action, even if these are a reiteration of what has been put in place in previous seasons. I concede that, over the years, the RSPB has spent an immense amount of money on this individual problem , but I suspect its membership, (now declared to be 1,087,712. ) would be happy at seeing such continuing expenditure. Why not ask the question in a future edition? I fervently believe that, at the end of the day, it will be public opinion which will tip the balance and that those within the shooting community who continue to uphold illegal raptor persecution, as an expression of how THEY will ensure THEIR ends are best served, will have the most to lose. In the meantime, the lack of condemnation over yet more harriers possibly being killed is lamentable, is certainly a subject which would benefit from a public airing, even if it involved a correction to the facts!! It is certainly more important than ever at this point in time to continue to put up a fight on the issue to avoid, if nothing else, the situation gently slipping into the mists of acceptance. If that means putting up a wall of resistance, as opposed to wondering, from behind a wall of silence, what can be said that is new, then repeat the mantras of the past if nothing else.