This is the first of what I imagine might be a number of related Blogs I shall issue linked to the actual televised proceedings of the hearing and debate associated with the E-petition to ban driven grouse shooting and the lessons to be learned. Eventually, I'm told, anyone who signed the petition will be sent a video of the proceedings. At that point I shall be able to see the very latter part of the debate, which unfortunately I missed, and give a more rounded reaction to the whole episode. If feasible I shall ensure the video is part of that final contribution !
Well, I suppose it was everything that we might have expected. Even the MP introducing the proceedings, himself a member of the Petitions Committee, took an intervention that all but accused him of bias in his introductory remarks. However, in the hope that during the final stages things did alter from what appeared and threatened to be a repetitious round of " but we're the good guys" contributions, I'll restrict myself to some immediate reactions and observations.
I do genuinely wonder what planet some of the shooting fraternity inhabit as they appear to have a completely distorted view of what is happening in the uplands. Let's take investment ! It's generally accepted that many upland moors are in a poor state and yet we're encouraged to believe that millions, yes millions, of private investment is being poured into their upkeep, by their owners. I don't actually believe such for a minute , but does it not occur to these defenders of the upland owners that these management practices , whatever the cost, must be questionable as a less than perfect result is in evidence. And , in the face of such a need for management, who was responsible previously for what are largely a privately held landholding?
Within the proceedings I was reminded of conversations I'd had with upland owners and staff in years past when it was always apparent that they simply couldn't persuade themselves to refer to "Hen Harriers". Short of successfully avoiding the subject altogether, mention might be made of "pressures or difficulties" or "the species" , but never was there a willingness to actually discuss the main subject that we differed on, namely raptor persecution. Despite references yesterday to the decimated Hen Harrier population raised by the Opposition there was little or no discernible evidence of this being a problem. Yes, the odd reference to biodiversity, but generally in the context of how good the uplands are for breeding waders , all brought about, of course, due to the wonderful management of the moors and the reduction of mammalian predators and Corvids by the gamekeepers. Despite the polite, but resolute, condemnation of the petition by Nicholas Soames and Richard Benyon ,who both painted a similar picture of this rural idyll such that a collective rendition of "Jerusalem" from their benches wouldn't have gone amiss, there was a tendency thereafter for rural employment issues and flood management to take centre stage. Interlaced within the whole was the obvious belief that grouse shooting was a jolly good thing and a refutation that there could conceivably be anything happening that contributed , in any way possible , to anything wrong. The regulations were right, the management was right, the rural economy was strong and dependent and it was absolutely inconceivable that anyone would wish to change things.
I'm afraid it was at that point that I had to withdraw, but not before the somewhat personalised tirade from Charles Walker against Mark Avery and Chris Packham and also some colourful descriptive quantification of rainfall volumes based on bull elephants. It crossed my mind, at that point, that I wonder what some of the residents of the Calder valley who had lost so much were thinking. As with the somewhat weighted remarks from the MP introducing the proceedings I also mused on the message overall this was giving to people who had signed this and other petitions in the past, not necessarily to do with conservation matters, but on human issues too. Should we take the process seriously or is it simply designed to "draw teeth" and allow people to raise heartfelt concerns? I hope not as anything which then encourages cynicism results in action at some point and, remember, all signatories are voters too !! However, suffice to say at best, I wasn't completely impressed or convinced by the process, at least based on its first part, but perhaps I'm in for a pleasurable shock within the final part of the debate ! Sadly, I somehow doubt it .
ADDENDUM. I'm informed that , at later stages, there was some mention of Hen Harriers so I'm rather looking forward to hearing what was said. Watch this space.