Three rallies were held on Sunday to highlight the lack of any significant number of Hen Harriers in England. These events were run in tandem with Mark Avery’s online petition calling for a ban on driven Grouse shooting.
The weather was awful for any sort of outdoor event with fairly constant rain in all three locations; The Trough of Bowland in Lancashire, near Haltwhistle in Northumberland and at Howden in Derbyshire.
There are undoubtedly too few Hen Harriers on or near Grouse Moors in England and it is excellent news that Defra is trying to find a resolution so that we can have more Harriers as well as productive Grouse Moors. Unfortunately that does not seem to be at all what Dr. Avery and his kindred spirits want.
It is ironic that perhaps the strongest criticism of Avery and Co comes from many in the Environmental world. Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times, their Environmental Editor, Charles Clover was particularly scathing saying ‘Right now the main obstacle to the recovery and reintroduction throughout England of one of the most entrancing and endangered birds of prey is the RSPB’.
There is undoubtedly a problem and progress needs to be made to significantly increase Hen Harrier numbers in England (by contrast they are overall doing well in Scotland). Vitriolic attacks nor demos will achieve much, sitting round a table and properly participating in the Defra process will. Sadly that doesn’t make for anything like as much publicity.
In England, DEFRA have developed a Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan which sets out a six point plan to break the stalemate. All other stakeholders such as Moorland Association, NGO, BASC, CA and GWCT have helped to build it and sign up – the only problem is that RSPB now want to fundamentally change some of the agreed terms. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have now set up a Petition calling for DEFRA to publish the Plan without delay and we would encourage as many people as possible to sign it.
Already it has 6,387 (as of 12th August 2014) signatures, nearly half way to the total on the rival Petition to ban grouse shooting which has been running since early June. We’d be grateful if you could please circulate it to as many people as you can?