RSPB Head of Nature Policy, Jeff Knott, shares his thoughts on yesterday's parliamentary hearing of oral evidence ahead of the upcoming Westminster debate on the future of driven grouse shooting.
On Tuesday, I gave evidence on the impacts of driven grouse shooting to a joint session of the Petitions and EFRA Committees. That’s quite a dry sentence, but I can tell you the reality is anything but! Basically what it means is that I sat in front of a panel of about a dozen MPs, who could ask any questions they liked. Now I had some idea what sort of subjects they would cover, but it’s certainly a nerve wracking experience, especially for a first timer like me.
With that said, I actually really enjoyed yesterday’s session. I was giving evidence alongside Mark Avery, who created the petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting (which over 123,000 people signed), and we were followed by Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association and Liam Stokes from the Countryside Alliance.
I used the time to set out why the RSPB believes change is needed to ensure that intensive grouse moor management is not damaging our environment and to allow the recovery of persecuted birds of prey, notably the hen harrier; and why we believe a licensing regime is the best way to deliver that.
I didn’t manage to say everything I wanted to. It would have been nice to spend more time talking about hen harriers as the species most affected by illegal persecution and emphasising the association between that illegal killing and the complete absence of hen harrier breeding attempts on England’s grouse moors this year. I’d have liked to be able to talk about the great work our LIFE project is doing to satellite tag these birds to help better understand their movements, but I suppose even with the session running close to twice its originally allotted time, it was inevitable we wouldn’t get a chance to explore everything fully.
If you want to watch the session back, video of the whole thing is still online here. Hopefully no-one noticed my hand shaking as I poured that first glass of water!
The main purpose of this session was to inform a debate (triggered by Mark’s petition), which will be held in Westminster on 31st October. This will be another great opportunity to explore the issues around intensive grouse shooting, so it’s really important we get as many MPs as possible to attend.
Please click on this link to ask your MP to attend the debate and speak up for our hen harriers. I’ve not heard back from my MP yet, but hopefully we can get lots of positive voices heard, so that the debate can be another step towards delivering a more sustainable future for our uplands and the wildlife and communities that live in these special places.
I'm delighted to announce the launch of our hen harrier satellite tracking maps on the Hen Harrier LIFE Project website: www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife.
Already the stories are fascinating – just look at where Donald has gone...
Please make sure to log on with Internet Explorer as we're having a few technical issues with other browsers which will hopefully be resolved soon. These maps will be updated every two weeks from now on, with the next update due on Friday 28th October. Be sure to stay tuned....!
If you're lucky enough to see any hen harriers in the field, please submit your sightings to the relevant Hen Harrier Hotline below. As you will see from the maps, hen harriers travel very widely, so the more eyes and ears we have out there, the better able we'll be to protect these amazing birds. Details on the time, date, location and activity of the bird will all help direct and inform our on-the-ground conservation work.
email@example.com / 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rates)
firstname.lastname@example.org / 07767 671973 (calls charged at standard mobile rates)
As a result of over 123,000 people signing a petition by Mark Avery, calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting, the future of this industry and the way our uplands are managed will be debated in parliament in just two weeks, on the 31st October. This is an incredibly important and rare opportunity to push for significant change in the way our uplands are manged. For our part, we will be renewing our calls for reform, specifically through licensing of grouse shooting and vicarious liability for estates where wildlife crimes are committed.
You can read Martin Harper's thoughts on the debate here.
My colleague, Jeff Knott, will be presenting oral evidence in front of MPs here tomorrow, to inform the debate, and you can have your say too. Find out more about how you can get involved and write to your MP here.
Now is your chance to truly influence the future of our hen harriers and the uplands. Don't miss it.
Hen harrier in flight. (Image: John Whitting)