Controversial Conservation

Last week we attended the second Controversial Conservation debate hosted by the World Land Trust, on the topic of Killing Other People’s Birds. We heard presentations on various topics from the anthropology of hunters to the slaughter of birds in Malta, but the subject which generated the most passion was the issue of grouse moors and the status of the Hen Harrier in England – an issue still fresh in everyone’s minds following the first Hen Harrier Day in August.

Controversial Conservation debate at the Royal Society, London
Panelists preparing for the debate at the Royal Society. Photo: LPP.

Two of the key figures behind the Hen Harrier Day event at Derwent Dam, Chris Packham and Mark Avery, were among the panel of speakers, and they obviously had a few supporters (ourselves among them) in the audience. Also present were representatives of the shooting fraternity, including writers from the Shooting Times. The Hen Harrier advocates drew accusations of ‘red mist’ and class bias early on in the proceedings, although as the evening progressed it became clear that emotions were running high in both camps.

Controversial Conservation debate at the Royal Society, London
Chris Packham addresses the audience. Photo: LPP.

It was suggested by Andrew Gilruth of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust that we all want the same thing, i.e. more Hen Harriers. If this is indeed the case we need to see more pressure put on grouse moor owners to develop a greater tolerance of raptors. Both Chris and Mark claimed to be willing to entertain ‘creative’ solutions like the proposed brood management plan, but not without first seeing evidence that the illegal persecution of raptors is being taken seriously, which would be reflected by an increase of Hen Harrier numbers to a more sustainable level.

We will shortly be posting a summary of the 2014 breeding season for the Peregrine sites we monitor in London. As impressive as Peregrine Falcon numbers are in the capital, there are still large areas of grouse moors in England where the breeding success of Peregrines is artificially low because of persecution (watch a short video of Terry Pickford from the North West Raptor Group speaking about the status of Peregrines on grouse moors in 2014). In our view this situation is totally unacceptable, a view we’d hope few would find controversial.

The World Land Trust have made available audio recordings from the debate here.

If you haven’t already done so you may sign Mark Avery’s petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

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