It's some little time since I put out an entry on this Blog. There are good reasons for this as it happens , but the explanations can wait as the topic below demands urgent action from us all.
Recently the Directors of Wild Justice registered an E-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. I'm presuming at this point that readers are conversant with the background details and arguments surrounding such a plea. As I look at the petition site this afternoon the number of signatures stands at 69,153, a truly remarkable response given the little time which has elapsed since it went public. To gain a debate by elected members of Parliament the number of signatures must reach 100, 000 and preferably be in excess of that figure. As many will probably know there has already been one debate associated with the petition dealing with the same subject matter and based on a previous petition registered by Mark Avery. The ensuing proceedings can only be described as a travesty, if not resulting in a wholly predictable outcome.
Endless details on persecution incidents and their association with grouse moors have been published and there is no justification in repeating those here. What appears to be central to the whole issue is the lack of any intention on the shooting industry's part to cease such persecution despite it being in flagrant disregard of the law. Now, there are those who say it only a proportion of "bad apples" within the industry who are responsible and giving everyone a bad name. Whilst the main plank of the conservation case has been associated with the targeted activities against Hen Harriers the geographical spread of different species affected and birds shot, trapped or poisoned etc suggests we are dealing with somewhat more than a portion of a "crop", but that the prejudiced feelings against raptors is endemic within the industry. But even if that isn't the case the fact that, other than a few published blandishments on the subject by representative organizations, the actions by the industry against its own miscreants is difficult to determine if, indeed, any pressure has been brought to bear at all ?
In my view "enough is very much enough". I was personally convinced that licensing would address the problem and set out my own E-petition some time ago against which the Government response was little more than a joke. Whilst the RSPB chose not to support that petition , nor that initiated by Mark Avery to ban driven grouse shooting, it has latterly suggested that licensing should be adopted, although its efforts to gain support for this measure appear a little less than robust. Since then I have changed my position in the face of no indication for change at all being forthcoming from the shooting industry and persecution incidents, if anything, increasing.
Set against this background, and any historical positioning, it occurs to me that we now have a unique opportunity to try and really get this issue in the public domain.
But first of all, a technical point. Should a General Election be announced the six month period wherein signatures can be submitted on a petition will close and the whole matter fall by the wayside. As seems likely, a General Election will be announced at some point this autumn therefore the opportunity to build up the signature total of the petition might be truncated. This surely moves towards an obvious conclusion that every effort , and by whatever legitimate means, must be employed to not only achieve a high level of signatures and demonstrate the public's abhorrence at the levels of persecution occurring . but to obtain as full a debate as possible on the matter in advance of an election and to move the issue into the very territory of subjects under scrutiny at the time of that election.
Whilst I personally doubt that driven grouse shooting will be brought to a peremptory end in 2019, the further exposure of the current persecution levels is not something the Tories would want to be asked of each of their prospective candidates when appearing on the doorstep. Neither would they want the spectre of regulation being discussed widely, particularly given the recent interest taken by both other political parties and a wide selection of the media around 12th August last ! So now is the time to demonstrate the depth and breadth of feeling on the matter within the British public. The extent to which the shooting industry feels it can set itself outside of the law must be challenged and on as wide a basis as possible. Not only must there be a reverse in fortunes of the Hen Harrier, pictured above, but, as appeared recently, the disgusting sight of a young Golden Eagle flying around with a trap attached to its foot must surely signal an end being brought to such barbaric behaviour by those responsible.
So, enter the RSPB ! It has often been said that the membership level of the RSPB ( oft quoted in excess of a million ) is the envy of some of the political parties. I'm not conversant with the current levels of membership of each of the parties,but I do feel that an opportunity exists for the RSPB to assist in bringing about what could be the greatest exposure of the persecution of raptor problem hitherto. An unequivocal, IMMEDIATE request for its membership to support the above petition , thereby politicising its membership to take part ( at their own volition ) in a bit of old style campaigning, could elevate the issues and allow discussion on the merits of banning , licencing, vicarious liability and so on. The good ladies of Didsbury, Manchester who rose up against the use of bird plumes in the millinery trade would be proud......and look what that led to.
Such action would need to be immediate and not prove to be the subject of endless examination, meetings on the top corridor or a discussion at the forthcoming AGM and so forth. The RSPB appears to have been somewhat cautious in recent times when it comes to overt action and campaigning and what used to be its "one stop shop" position when it came to matters relating to birds has tarnished somewhat. I appreciate that such a request comes at the very beginning of the tenure of its new Chief Executive and apologise accordingly, but time is of the essence and it would signal too that the Society itself has had enough given the resources and effort it has placed against the problem over the years.
Just consider what the response might be , and at this time of disjointed political unity too. Exceeding 100, 000 would certainly seem a reality, but surely 150, 000, even 200,000 is not beyond reach. I doubt there is few, if any, RSPB members who aren't appalled by the continuing presence of persecution of our raptors going on in the background and who wouldn't want the issue to be prevented in whatever way possible. Now is an opportunity to get the issue way up on the agenda.
In this sense the RSPB might be seen as pivotal in terms of improving the success of the current initiative. However, I have to say that, in the absence of overt support, one can only ponder on what, precisely, the RSPB does currently see itself as influencing and what role and positioning it commands. Without being facetious , I have to say " remember the laws which were drummed into us all at school, actions and opposing reactions ". The shooting industry is not going to suffer willingly any Damascene conversion and only action by the conservation organizations can bring about change. In my opinion, now is that time !!!
And a final question! Have you signed the petition ? If not, use the link and sign without delay.