WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THIS?
In February, our friends at Rare Bird Alert tweeted this, rather prophetic quote from our Charlie Moores:
“The rhetoric around Hen Harriers…is often inflammatory, but that’s hardly surprising. People like me, who love birds, hate seeing crimes committed against them. Conservationists are often described as being “at war” with shooting interests, but speaking for BAWC, that’s simply not the case. We are at war with wildlife crime and the people who commit it. There’s a difference. And that’s why we’re so disappointed with Defra’s [Hen Harrier Action] plan.”
And BAWC’s disappointment continues.
The other day I was talking with someone at RSPB HQ about how the plans for Hen Harrier Day 2016 were progressing. I managed to (not so) skilfully change the subject to our disappointment with Martin Harper’s blog that had been published earlier that day. It’s entitled “An Update on England’s Hen Harriers in 2016”. The person I was on the phone with was genuinely interested to know why we were disappointed. And that got me thinking.
Why, exactly, was I disappointed?
I first tried to pin it down to specifics. I re-read the blog, highlighting relevant passages; making notes. The fact no numbers were quoted was frustrating. The phrase “only a tiny handful of nesting attempts” was too woolly. Being “pleased” that the Moorland Association had issued a statement condemning the use of Pole Traps on one of their member’s land, when that statement can best be described as going through the motions, was not the reaction I expected. Or indeed my own reaction when I first read said statement.
Then it hit me. It wasn’t just specific passages in the blog I was disappointed with. It was the blog as a whole. I was disappointed that the blog didn’t reflect how I FELT.
I’m disappointed in the same way that I feel when a friend doesn’t agree with one of my stronger held beliefs. And believe me, we do look upon the RSPB as a friend of BAWC. Not only has the organisation helped us in our formative years, but individuals such as Mike Clarke, Jeff Knott, Blanaid Denman, Bob Elliot, Ian Thompson and Guy Shorrock have all been true friends.
And true friends can disagree.
When Mike Clarke said the following at the Game Fair last year, we applauded him:
“Failure to uphold longstanding legislation that benefits the wider public interest is a matter of legitimate public concern. It is also a matter of legitimacy, if any industry fails to recognise its wider social responsibilities it risks losing its right to operate. And the risk is even greater if an industry stays in denial of evidence, and falls back to communications and spin.”
It felt like the RSPB’s stance was changing. Not massively, as it does have legal restrictions placed on it and its activities, but changing nevertheless.
Organisations, and individuals, do change. The RSPB started out as the Society for the Protection of Birds. Over the years it has transformed into @Natures_Voice, taking on a wider wildlife conservation remit. We have changed too. We began as a small group of like-minded birders who wanted to do something about wildlife crime – hence the name Birders Against Wildlife Crime. We now encompass many people – even Mark Avery’s beloved midwives out on a stroll in the countryside – all supporting BAWC, ALL Against Wildlife Crime.
Look at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. Their Chair issued a strong statement recently, in response to the Mossdale Pole Trap incident, condemning raptor persecution. A welcome change in the tone of how they react to wildlife crime on their land.
Look at the National Trust. Following their investigation into the Decoy Hen Harrier incident, they have terminated the lease for the land this occurred on. A welcome change in the action they take to deal with wildlife crime on their land.
Now look at Martin’s blog again. Having already heard rumours about the disastrous start to the Hen Harrier breeding season we were hoping for something that built on the strong tone of Mike’s speech at the Game Fair. Another step change. That’s why we were disappointed. Still strong supporters of the RSPB, still members (and have been for decades) but, nevertheless, disappointed.
This is a very good time to confirm where BAWC stands:
• We believe every individual can make a difference. That is why we are committed to our 3Rs. As many people as possible need to know how to Recognise, Record and Report Wildlife Crime. You should get a copy of the leaflet HERE.
• We believe that together we can make a difference. That is why we support Mark Avery’s petition to ban Driven Grouse Shooting. You should sign the petition HERE.
• We believe that legal protest can make a difference. That is why we support Henry Hen Harrier’s “Hands Off” campaign and the Picnics on the Moors. You should turn up HERE.
So, where do you stand?
Let us know by commenting below. Let everyone know, by tweeting, blogging, using whichever social media stream you prefer. And most importantly let all the countryside and wildlife organisations you belong to know, by telling them what you want them to do with your subscriptions – Fight Wildlife Crime.