Over the last couple of days I've pondered time and again about the E-petition ( Licencing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers ) see here, which I registered in February, 2013 and what could have been different. I decided, rightly or wrongly, that , based on my own thoughts and desires, the wording and implications more than adequately expressed what I wanted to achieve. I'd discussed the subject with a wide range of friends and colleagues and come to a view of what was required as far as my own opinion was concerned. And I truly believed such regulation had, potentially, a part to play in reducing bird of prey persecution. I'd never any illusions that the signature total would achieve the heady heights of 100,000 or above and lead to a consideration ( Note! ) of the subject being debated in Parliament. In any case, given the later arrogant dismissal by the Government of the support the petition associated with the Badger cull received, which achieved in excess of 240,000 signatures, one begins to question the sincerity associated with the system anyway!!!. That the above petition then achieved a total of 10,426 was a moment dedicated to the loyal support provided by the people who signed it and them ensuring a Government response was required. To them all, simply , Thank you!!
So, what was the logic associated with the petition? I've set this out below as, given the tawdry response by the Government, it seems almost necessary to provide an "idiots guide" to the thinking which led to its registration.
I have to say, quite simply , that I've been involved in combating raptor persecution for many, many years, both professionally with the RSPB , and latterly in an independent capacity. So no surprises as far as the origin of the principles involved. I find it reprehensible as an activity, unnecessary, and self serving in so many respects,and not usually very far from commercial benefit either. Given I condemn such activities, am I against shooting as a result? Read this carefully, as it's not a statement from a position on a fence, but a realistic reaction to an activity accepted within our framework of law and as a result of a democratic process.!! As long as shooting is carried out within the confines of the law governing such activities, its responsibilities and the law associated with the areas over which it is practised, then I will accept it. At least at present, although I'm beginning to be less tolerant as years go by!! I don't understand the need and openly condemn the actions of the erring faction who openly abuse such a democratic privilege under the law. So, as I said to various people in Bowland in past times, if you cross the line I shall smile at you across the Court!! And the same goes for eggers, photographers, illegal nest examiners and the like. When it comes to raptor protection things have to be black and white, no fudging at the edges!
The petition referred to upland grouse shoots, not shooting in general, although there might be ideas to be gleaned in that direction!! Given the endless number of incidents of raptor persecution reported on, and my own personal experience, it seemed to me that progress could only be made by some form of regulation. Why? Because there has been endless discussions , prevarication, academic considerations, campaigns, publicity, tears and frustration, all of which have led to ....what ? Diddly squat!! And if you believe what DEFRA might still wish to convince you about , such discussions continue. With what hope of success? C'mon, be realistic and stop wasting time and money on empty ideas against which there is no commitment other than from the conservationists lost in a maelstrom of hope and anxiety. This was an initial attempt to insert an idea that might then be worked up into something more serious.
It wasn't an attempt to stop shooting, far from it. It was an attempt to isolate those who insisted on following anachronistic methods of management resulting in birds of prey being killed in pursuit of commercial gain. So, licence all practitioners first of all. Any of these which were then prosecuted for any type of raptor persecution under the existing laws of the land had such a licence removed for a period of time as part of the
"prosecution penalty". Simple, straightforward and something which could be directed at the gamekeepers involved too. Those who acted responsibly had obviously nothing to worry about, indeed the length of tenure or duration of their licence might , in the fullness of time have been proudly proclaimed as some sort of kite mark ( even)!! Reading the Government response and the endorsement of the economic contribution shooting offers, one might be led to assume they were willing to overlook the transitions against the law in favour of the economic returns being generated!!
But this is not a critique of the response, that can come later. This is an open explanation of the thinking behind the petition and a "platform" against which the whole exercise will be taken further. Clearly we are dealing with a government who needs to be taken, kicking and screaming, into any process that will potentially govern or limit its elite minority of supporters as far as this subject area is concerned. Well, .prepare for the battle as it's not going to end here. If the mutterings associated with Maria Miller's departure, and her potential to lose votes, is concerned, such is the front that will eventually bring this subject to the fore. Public opinion is mounting against shooting in general and it would be sensible to at least be seen to be sincerely tackling the subject of raptor persecution, as opposed to ignoring it, otherwise the outcome might most certainly not be as you would wish!!