A few days ago I expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of progress exhibited within the RSPB's stance vis a vis the Hen Harrier debate ( see the Blog entitled " RSPB..... a Legion of Nero's " ) and elected to make further comments later.
Now you might believe I'm anti-RSPB ! You'd actually be very wrong ! I support the Society, worked for it for twenty years and believe in it as our premier bird conservation organization. However, on this occasion I sincerely believe they need to bone up and adopt a much more independent, easily defined stance that is communicated out, not just to their membership, but more widely, and which expressively outlines precisely what they are engaged in to gain improvement to our now extinct (? ) English breeding population. I've set out below two or three subjects which I know the Society supports, but about which I can find precious little evidence currently as far as ACTION is concerned. Brutally put, the Society expects its members to continue to provide financial support, sets out its concerns on critical subjects like the absent English harrier breeding population , but then goes anal in terms of outlining in any meaningful detail what it's doing about it ! I don't believe that's good enough. It may have put its own eggs in the DEFRA basket as far as the Hen Harrier Action Plan is concerned ( a dismal failure if 2016 is taken as an indicative benchmark ), but there are surely other initiatives it could be pursuing in parallel?
Introduced into Scottish Law, with at least one successful prosecution since its inception, this was something the RSPB pursued ( advocation of its adoption into English Law, raised in the House of Commons and comments made about its potential positive influence ). The Society then trod water awaiting the results of the Law Commission Review of wildlife legislation in the hope, one imagines, that the offence of vicarious liability would be openly recommended and eventually go into law. It wasn't. Some revisions were advocated but were little more than a reiteration of previous circumstances in the opinion of many people and the whole situation sort of came to a stop.
In the meantime, following a successful prosecution in Scotland , it was seen that the owner involved also had State financial subsidies frozen due to the implications of the proven offence upon the agreement under which he received such support. Surely this is a major goal to aim for in terms of people who wish to tread their own path and risk the outcome. Financially speaking the outcome could be very serious indeed as well as the stigma of having been prosecuted.
So where are we now in England as far as this offence is concerned and is the Society pursuing it any further? There may be good reasons why it shouldn't, but after past actions and a fanfare of support for something hailed as a real potential breakthrough, the situation appears to have been placed on the back burner at best. Why ? Don't we at least deserve to be educated on the matter in order to understand why nothing appears to be happening ? Have I missed something?
LICENCING OF GROUSE MOORS.
When it comes to the current debate about grouse shooting this is the preferred solution of the Society. I have strong feelings of support for this approach, but that debate is for another time and I certainly wouldn't criticise the Society for its decision. However, there are aspects of its approach I just don't understand.
When I registered the E-petition calling for this line of action I advised the RSPB of what I intended, but I never really received back any detailed explanation of their position. They certainly offered no support via the membership, although many did provide signatures and, eventually, in excess of 10,000 people pledged support. I learnt informally that little confidence was placed in the process overall and that may well be the position upon which their decision was based. I've no problem with that, but in their advocating licencing as a solution what have they really done in the meantime to secure any tangible recognition of it as an alternative ? The occasional supportive mention , contact with obvious stakeholders, but little else one can unearth. I thought belief in a solution was the precursor to ACTION of some kind?
EU SUPPORT FOR HARRIER PROTECTION.
Some time ago the Society received significant monies from the EU to pursue harrier protection and combat persecution in an attempt to improve the descending fortunes ( at that time ) of the Hen Harrier population.That situation is now even worse. In my book such financial support should be used , quite specifically, for new approaches and initiatives and not for offsetting, for example, what one might best describe as routine involvements, ie the undoubted costly elongated discussions , meetings , transport expenses and so on linked to the DEFRA Hen Harrier Action Plan. I'm in no way suggesting that was an intention, or practice, of the Society, but it would be helpful to learn in what broad areas the Society saw such resources being deployed. I wouldn't expect them to disclose their plans for additional investigative work, for obvious reasons, and would equally hope that increased expenditure wasn't going the way of contract staff in Hen Harrier costumes cavorting around local fayres in North east England , but , at the same time, there needs to be some recognition that Society membership desperately needs to learn of what "its society " is doing to address a problem the RSPB itself so readily paints a dismal picture about. Given the apparent absence of breeding activity this season the potential expenditure on tracking devices is claerly a non starter. So what constitutes Plan B ?
At the moment things come over as being no better than " business as usual ", but without any definition being offered. The RSPB Blog this week, which conveniently closed with a message that an update would be provided in Autumn I found quite offensive in a way and it certainly didn't assist the declining credibility of the Society. Details which have emerged today, about which I'll Blog later, of the National Trust's action to curtail early a shooting lease associated with an area where questionable activities had been witnessed are to be applauded National Trust shooting lease. Click on this link and read full details. Laudable action from a large organization who have clearly overcome bureaucratic considerations and taken positive action. RSPB, take note !!