13
Aug
14

“Gamekeepers are one of nature’s best friends”, claims Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley The Times 11 Aug 2014The following article was published in The Times on the eve of the Inglorious Twelfth:

Gamekeepers are one of nature’s best friends

By Matt Ridley

Tomorrow sees the start of the red grouse shooting season, a sport under attack as never before, with a petition to ban it, and campaigns to get supermarkets to stop selling grouse meat.

As someone who lives in the rural north and knows the issue at first hand, I am in no doubt that the opponents of grouse shooting have it backwards. On both economic and ecological grounds, the shooting of grouse is the best conservation practice for the heathery hills of Britain. If it were to cease, most conservationists agree that not only would curlews, lapwings and golden plover become much scarcer, even locally extinct, but much heather moorland would be lost to forest, bracken, overgrazing or wind farms.

Be in no doubt: management for grouse is conservation. The owners spend money to maintain the heather moors that constitute an ecosystem found almost nowhere other than Britain. They prevent overgrazing, re-establish heather, remove plantations of non-native sitka spruce, eradicate bracken, manage drainage, periodically burn long heather, kill foxes and crows, refuse to build subsidised wind farms, and thus maintain the great open spaces of the Pennines and parts of Scotland where people are free to walk. In the past decade alone, moorland owners have regenerated 57,000 acres of heather.

More than £50 million is spent on conservation by grouse moor owners every year. That’s roughly twice as much as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds devotes to its entire conservation efforts. There is no way the taxpayer would or should stump up that kind of cash to look after heather moors. But somebody has to: there is no such thing as a natural ecosystem in this country and conservation requires human intervention.

Grouse moor owners recoup some of their costs by leasing shooting to wealthy clients, who often fly in from abroad, fill the local hotels and create crucial local employment. In the economy of many Pennine dales, grouse shooting is irreplaceable, adding more than £15 million a year nationally and supporting 1,500 full-time jobs. It redistributes money from hedge-fund managers in the south and overseas to some of the poorest parts of rural Britain. Much as you might wish them to, rich folk won’t spend lots of money in the Pennines to watch rare birds; but they will to shoot grouse.

Astoundingly, golden plover, curlews and lapwings, the three most iconic wading birds of the uplands, live at five times the density and have more than three times the breeding success on moors with gamekeepers compared with moors without gamekeepers. That this is because of gamekeeping was confirmed in a series of experiments by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust near Otterburn in which matching areas of moor were either keepered or not, then swapped around after four years.

These birds would be at risk of dying out if it were not for gamekeepers, as would black grouse, ring ouzels and merlins. Nesting on or near the ground, such birds are vulnerable to foxes and crows that take their young. With unnaturally high numbers of foxes and crows in Britain – because of human roadkill and garbage – the only way the birds can thrive is if somebody controls the numbers of crows and foxes. The RSPB knows this and kills both species on some of its reserves.

As a result, grouse moors in spring are alive with the calls of birds, whereas the moors that are not managed for grouse are ornithological deserts. In Wales, for example, lots of conservation bodies try to manage the hills for birds, but curlew and golden plover are very scarce, black grouse non-existent – in sharp contrast to the grouse-rich Pennines. One grouse moor owner I spoke to last week said he was happy to challenge the RSPB to an ornithological audit by a neutral body of its upland reserves versus his grouse moor.

The RSPB argues that the hen harrier, a hawk that preys on grouse and breeds on moors, is under threat of extinction, because gamekeepers persecute it. Yesterday saw a damp day of protest on its behalf. In fact the British hen harrier population is stable at about 630 pairs and is much higher than it was 100 years ago when these birds were confined mainly to islands like the Orkneys.

Most of them are in Scotland. The only three successful pairs in England this year were on or next to managed grouse moors. They are not breeding on the RSPB’s English reserves because they are too vulnerable to fox predation, so they need gamekeepers as much as curlews do. On a Pennine grouse moor there is ample food – grouse and other birds. On a Welsh bird reserve there’s just the odd meadow pipit to eat. Because hen harriers breed in colonies, as a 1990s experiment at Langholm in Scotland found, they can quickly build up (to 20 pairs in that case) and destroy the economy and jobs on the grouse moor. The harriers themselves would then collapse in numbers for lack of food. By the end of the experiment, hen harriers at Langholm were back to two pairs.

You can see why gamekeepers dislike the idea of being done out of a job by a bird that cannot thrive without their protection; little wonder that some must occasionally be tempted to deter or even kill harriers. A sensible compromise is on the table, and moor owners are ready to sign up to it: they would allow low densities of harriers on grouse moors, removing the excess chicks to repopulate Wales or Cornwall and providing “diversionary feeding”. Everybody gains. All that’s needed is the RSPB’s agreement, but it is being obdurate and demanding unworkable preconditions.

The red grouse, the bird at the heart of all this, is an amazing creature. It’s wholly dependent on grazing heather, it cannot survive in captivity, it lures people to invest heavily in conservation in the north, which supports the economy and benefits other wildlife, and it’s found nowhere else in the world – unlike the hen harrier, which is common across two continents. The grouse population can be heavily cropped, just like sheep, to provide fine, free-range meat.

The campaign against grouse shooting makes no ecological or economic sense. Surely it is not a cynical attempt to raid urban wallets with an emotive anti-rich campaign like the RSPCA’s campaign against foxhunting. Surely not.

END

For a man of Mr Ridley’s scientific credentials, this opinion piece is shocking. It seems he’s just as good at doing his background research as he was at chairing the Northern Rock bank. The article is so full of holes it resembles a hen harrier gunned down on a driven grouse moor. It would take too long to pick through it all, so here are some highlights, in addition to those identified yesterday by Mark Avery.

Let’s start with his header: “Gamekeepers are one of nature’s best friends“. Does that include the following 26 gamekeepers, all convicted in the last 3.5 years of wildlife crime?

Feb 2011: Gamekeeper Connor Patterson convicted of causing animal fights between dogs, foxes and badgers.

May 2011: Gamekeeper Ivan Mark Crane convicted of using an illegal trap.

May 2011: Gamekeeper Ivan Peter Crane convicted of using an illegal trap.

May 2011: Gamekeeper Dean Barr convicted of being in possession of a banned poison.

May 2011: Gamekeeper James Rolfe convicted of being in possession of a dead red kite.

June 2011: Gamekeeper Glenn Brown convicted of using an illegal trap.

October 2011: Gamekeeper Craig Barrie convicted of illegal possession & control of a wild bird

Dec 2011: Gamekeeper Christopher John Carter convicted of causing a fight between two dogs and a fox.

Dec 2011: Gamekeeper Luke James Byrne convicted of causing three animal fights and possession of three dead wild birds (heron, cormorant, buzzard).

Jan 2012: Gamekeeper David Whitefield convicted of poisoning 4 buzzards.

Jan 2012: Gamekeeper Cyril McLachlan convicted of possessing a banned poison.

April 2012: Gamekeeper Robert Christie convicted of illegal use of a trap.

June 2012: Gamekeeper Jonathan Smith Graham convicted of illegal use of a trap.

Sept 2012: Gamekeeper Tom McKellar convicted of possessing a banned poison.

Nov 2012: Gamekeeper Bill Scobie convicted of possessing and using a banned poison.

Jan 2013: Gamekeeper Robert Hebblewhite convicted of poisoning buzzards.

Feb 2013: Gamekeeper Shaun Allanson convicted of illegal use of a trap.

Feb 2013: Gamekeeper (un-named) cautioned for illegal use of a trap.

May 2013: Gamekeeper Brian Petrie convicted for trapping offences.

June 2013: Gamekeeper Peter Bell convicted for poisoning a buzzard.

July 2013: Gamekeeper Colin Burne convicted for trapping then battering to death 2 buzzards.

Sept 2013: Gamekeeper Andrew Knights convicted for storing banned poisons.

Dec 2013: Gamekeeper Wayne Priday convicted for setting an illegal trap.

Feb 2014 Gamekeeper Ryan Waite convicted for setting an illegal trap.

May 2014 Gamekeeper Derek Sanderson convicted for storing five banned poisons.

July 2014 Gamekeeper Mark Stevens convicted for setting illegal traps.

And how about his statement that “grouse moor owners refuse to build subsidised wind farms” – does that include the following wind farms which are all either operational, under construction or proposed, all situated on grouse moors?

Calliacher Wind Farm, Perthshire

Crossburns Wind Farm, Perthshire

Fallago Rig Wind Farm, Borders

Moy Wind Farm, Inverness-shire

Dunmaglass Wind Farm, Inverness-shire

Farr Wind Farm (+ Kyllachy/Farr Extension), Inverness-shire

Farr is especially interesting as since the wind farm became operational, the estate appears to have greatly increased the intensity of its grouse moor management (gritting stations, moorland grips, predator destruction) – perhaps with the help of the lucrative funds generated by those turbines?

But finally, perhaps the statement that most reveals his failure to keep up to date is this: “In fact the British hen harrier population is stable at about 630 pairs and is much higher than it was 100 years ago when these birds were confined mainly to islands like the Orkneys“.

Hmm. Why is he using a 100-year-old benchmark to measure the population’s current status? If we all used 1914 as a reference point then we’d probably understand why 21st Century gamekeepers often claim that raptor populations have enjoyed exponential growth. Since 1914, of course they have, because by 1914, thanks to the efforts of gamekeepers conducting what was then legal persecution, most raptor species had either been completely (white-tailed eagle, osprey, red kite, goshawk) or almost completely (peregrine, golden eagle, hen harrier, buzzard) eradicated from these isles!

How about we use a more recent (and therefore relevant) reference point, let’s say 2004, to assess whether the British hen harrier population is “stable“. According to research published by Hayhow et al (2013), a national survey in 2010 revealed that the UK hen harrier population had suffered a significant decline of 18% since the previous national survey, which was conducted in 2004 (see here). 

We’re missing an estimated potential population of 1600 pairs of hen harriers in Scotland and England combined, according to the government’s Hen Harrier Conservation Framework. That’s over 3,000 individual birds. I suppose you could argue that because the harrier population is being constantly suppressed at an artificially low level (by illegal persecution), that amounts to some sort of ‘stability’, although not the sort of stability that has any meaningful conservation value and certainly not an indication of lawful grouse moor management!

If, like us and 14,000 others, you’ve had enough of the frankly piss-poor ‘explanations’ from apologists in the grouse-shooting industry of why there are so few hen harriers on driven grouse moors, here’s your chance to do something about it. Sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting!

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39 Responses to ““Gamekeepers are one of nature’s best friends”, claims Matt Ridley”


  1. 1 steve moyes
    August 13, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    The man is a clown. Does he also allege that Hitler was a friend to the Jews? That would be just as accurate.

  2. 2 nirofo
    August 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    The problem with an article such as this one by Matt Ridley is that most people would tend to believe it even though it’s a total load of crap, and as you say, it’s so full of holes and self indulgent misconceptions it beggars belief that a daily rag such as “The Times” would ever consider printing it! But then “The Times” was never one to print actual facts when good old fashioned mistruths and denials will do the job adequately.

  3. 3 Circus maxima
    August 13, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    The only saving grace is that its under Opinion not Science.

  4. 4 Balbuzard Pecheur
    August 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Yeah right andthe Tories are not the Nasty Party.

  5. August 13, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    OMG, where does one begin with such an ill based article such as this ? I worry though that the really sad thing is that a lot of Times readers will accept the utter drivel that is being peddled out . Matt Ridley is a very intelligent person, with a track record of sound scientific publications to his name, but it seems, in defence of this divertimento of the wealthy, that he’s prepared to abandon that position and quote or suggest scenarios that are just incorrect , biassed and prejudiced in the extreme. When is this fraternity going to come out of self denial and accept that they are operating an industry that is based on illegality? That raptors are being killed in the interests of commercial gain, a fact that hardly squares with the supposed contribution shooting and keepers make to the rural economy !

    I’m not indulging in self promotion here ( and if RPS wish to score this bit out then I understand) but I’ve written several times about this subject on my own Blog recently ( see http://www.birdingodyssey.blogspot.com/ ). I really cannot understand what motivates people to go out and be Pleasure Killers, which is one of the articles I’ve put out. Birds, artificially reared ( in the case of Pheasants ) or “supported” by intensive management if we’re talking of grouse, are then released and provide cannon fodder for a skewed interpretation of sport or a lot of wannabees. I genuinely do not understand it!! And there, in the wings ( forgive the pun ) are the Estates who are making a huge income with some of the support coming from the taxpayer, except the basis upon which our contribution and aspirations rest is the preservation of key species relying on the uplands ( raptors and waders ) or the responsible management of a key habitat, which again many would contest they fail on, miserably!!

    Words fail me I’m afraid! But our optimism must remain high about what we perceive as wrong and the prejudice we must fight against to gain change.

    • 6 Mike
      August 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Like John most of us “really cant understand what motivates people to go out and be Pleasure Killers” but if you read the article in Fieldsports magazine by Lord James Percy he outlines how,

      “Every grouse moor from Derbyshire to Sutherland has its own particular and special magic, but there is something about the Angus Glens which stirs something even deeper within. Perhaps it has to do with the romance of Victorian days, when entire generations of sportsmen, their wives, children, servants, dogs and all travelled north in search of grouse and salmon. Weeks and weeks of sport and lodge life, the grime and smog of London forgotten in a haze of fresh air and claret – a perfect holiday.”

      So that’s the appeal and tradition to which grouse shooting adheres or aspires. Now most would consider that Victorian stance outdated and unjustifiable in the present era – just like stuffing little boys up chimneys or down t’pit, but I guess we’d have let them carry on with it – if only they’d be fair on raptors and wildlife in general.

      Guess they’re going to have to come round to a different way of thinking, sooner rather than later.

  6. 7 Fiona Cameron
    August 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    None so blind as those who will not see!

  7. 8 Dave
    August 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I had the pleasure of visiting Findhorn Valley recently and drove along the Farr road (followed very closely by a Range Rover!) I couldn’t believe what this wilderness had become. Apart from the managed heather, parts of it looked like a scene from The Holocaust. Apart from a few grouse the only other sign of wildlife was a loan deer. No Ravens, no Golden Eagles and definitely no Hen Harriers in this once prime habitat. Even if I was spending money ‘not’ to look for rare birds shooting grouse here would be like fishing in a goldfish bowl. The owners should be ashamed of this blot on the landscape.

    • 9 keen birder.
      August 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Think on if they cannot shoot grouse, then an alternative will be found for the moorland, probably most of it would have been planted with Sitka spruce, or ploughed up and turned into grass for sheep and cattle, ive seen this happen already .

      • 10 Dave Dick
        August 16, 2014 at 5:34 pm

        You’re perfectly right to bring that up keen birder..its the Big Issue here..what do we suggest as an alternative?..Me, I suggest serious land reform to discourage the buying and selling of our Uplands to unsuitable “owners”. ..but we need to get our thinking caps on over how we bridge the gap between the destroyed bare Uplands we have now..and ecologically and economically beneficial hills of the future [hint..the right trees in the right places with enough diversity and open space to benefit the full range of species]…

        The repair bill will be huge….thanks to those guardians of the countryside who have created these ecological deserts as killing grounds.

        But lets do it..give the politicians and other decision makers something to work with, as well as making sure the criminal killers are brought to book.

  8. 12 Ossroad
    August 13, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    As soon as somebody airily states that “most conservationists agree that not only would curlews, lapwings and golden plover become much scarcer, even locally extinct”, without any corroboration or attributable evidence, then you can be pretty sure that they’re just making it up.

    That said, it’s the landowners I’d be going after, not the employees.

  9. 13 Chris Roberts
    August 13, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Gamekeepers to me equal rural crime, as not one of them speaks out against another, with regard to illegal poisoning etc. I can only assume that they are all ‘in it together’.

    “One of natures best friends” what a load of crap – most definatly one of natures worst enemy’s. The moorland association were on the BBC news yesterday claiming that raptor persecution was now a very isolated occurrence on grouse moors, the spokesman was either a liar or so out of touch he shouldn’t be in the job.

    Ban driven grouse shooting, it is the only logical conclusion.

  10. August 13, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    No one is going to ever compromise with fibbers & felons. Ban it & jail them.

  11. August 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Matt Ridley is Owen Paterson’s brother-in-law, incidentally.

    Isn’t this suggestion that they “allow low numbers” of Hen Harriers a tacit admission that, at the moment, they aren’t at the moment?

  12. August 13, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Mr Ridley is ecologically brain dead. Wildlife flourished from time immemorial, including olden plover, curlew & lapwing. without criminal gamekeepers. Fantasists , fibbers and felons. JED’s got the right (only) solution.

  13. August 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I was born on a farm, lived at two before joining the townies. I HATED EVERY THING THAT THE LAND OWNERS,FARM HANDS, SHEPHERDS,AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST THE VILE GAMEKEEPERS. ALL EVIL CRUEL MONEY LOVING CRETENS.

    • 20 keen birder.
      August 15, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Well what about the money loving Bankers, its a sad state of affairs, but so long as theres 60 million humans to feed in this country then farmers will have to feed them .

  14. 21 Dave Dick
    August 14, 2014 at 12:10 am

    A correction on a point of fact in your otherwise excellent rebuttal….by 1914 , many county Bird Protection Orders, under the 1880 – 1896 Wild Birds Protection Acts, gave protection [on paper!] to long lists of raptors. These lists included some species already extinct in the counties mentioned!…A series of such Acts continued until the all inclusive 1954 Act….So even 100 years ago these people were illegally killing raptors. The entire basis of driven grouse shooting is steeped in criminal activity…and they have been ignoring the laws of the land all that time…no wonder they arent giving up now..

  15. 22 Marco McGinty
    August 14, 2014 at 12:30 am

    On reading this, I was astounded by the complete failure to acknowledge factual evidence. Almost every sentence is flawed, or contains misinformation or complete lies, but thankfully RPS (and others) has already picked some holes in his article, and I have added a few myself.

    I find it astonishing that he chose the Otterburn report for this supposed excellence in land management. In another post on this site, I argued that the Waders On The Fringe document, the synopsis of the Otterburn report, showed that gamekeeping in these areas made little or no difference to wader populations.

    But back to hole-picking;

    ” If it were to cease, most conservationists agree that not only would curlews, lapwings and golden plover become much scarcer, even locally extinct, but much heather moorland would be lost to forest, bracken, overgrazing or wind farms.”
    Not necessarily. As mentioned, we could go back to the Waders On The Fringe document and pick massive, feckin’ holes in it. Without having to go through it all again, here’s the link to the previous RPS blog
    https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/lordy-lordy-new-chairman-elected-at-scottish-land-estates/ if anyone wants to read it. Yes, some moorland would be lost, but this is a process called regeneration, and it’s an entirely natural phenomenon. However, if there is a wholesale switch to walked-up shooting, then there would still be areas of heather moorland. No-one is saying that it would all disappear, apart from the shooting industry. And as the whole wind-farm theory has already been debunked by our kind hosts, I won’t make much comment, but there was another application not so long ago, for a large wind-farm at Allt Duine, near Kincraig. This was right in the middle of a grouse moor. So yet more shooting industry lies.

    “Be in no doubt: management for grouse is conservation.”
    No, it’s not. It’s single-species farming. Nothing more. Stop lying. If we are to take that nonsensical approach, then mowing a lawn, or trimming a garden hedge must be considered as serious conservations measures.

    “…and thus maintain the great open spaces of the Pennines and parts of Scotland where people are free to walk.”
    Are people free to walk anywhere in the Pennines? I thought access laws were stricter in England, and walkers do not have complete freedom. Could someone advise on this issue?

    “…there is no such thing as a natural ecosystem in this country and conservation requires human intervention.”
    Really? How has he managed to arrive at that conclusion? A tree can be classed as an ecosystem, as can puddles or pools, all of which can occur without man’s influence. And what of the sea, especially the deeper, unexplored areas? What about rock pools? Surely these can all be classed as natural ecosystems? I could go on, but I won’t.

    “Much as you might wish them to, rich folk won’t spend lots of money in the Pennines to watch rare birds; but they will to shoot grouse.”
    Now, we’re forever being told that shooting is not a preserve of the wealthy, but this statement would suggest otherwise. However, one thousand customers paying £5 per head to watch rare birds would be far more beneficial to an economy than one customer paying £5,000, just to satisfy his/her lust for killing. The extra benefits to local economies from these one thousand visitors will far outweigh the miniscule benefits from one individual.

    “Astoundingly, golden plover, curlews and lapwings, the three most iconic wading birds of the uplands, live at five times the density and have more than three times the breeding success on moors with gamekeepers compared with moors without gamekeepers. That this is because of gamekeeping was confirmed in a series of experiments by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust near Otterburn in which matching areas of moor were either keepered or not, then swapped around after four years.”
    Utter piffle! Any increase in wader populations is a by-product of the extremist land management regime, which sees the total extermination of all predatory creatures. This is very poor conservation. Furthermore, we have a conflicting message from the SGA. This is from Alex Hogg, the SGA chairman, when talking of wader species on land managed for grouse ““However, keepers are deeply concerned that numbers are declining in these key areas, too, and the SGA is to dedicate 2014 to highlighting the need for tougher action.” See here
    http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/gamekeepers-call-for-action-to-save-scots-waders-1-3167520
    So, they’re doing fantastically well on grouse moors, yet declining at the same time, despite all the predator control? Someone’s lying!!! And again, we have mention of the flawed Otterburn Report. One would think that this is the only report he’s ever read!

    “These birds would be at risk of dying out if it were not for gamekeepers, as would black grouse, ring ouzels and merlins.”
    WTF! How did all of these species manage to thrive and co-exist for millennia, long before the arrival of gamekeepers? Lies, lies and more lies – with a generous sprinkling of lies!

    “With unnaturally high numbers of foxes and crows in Britain – because of human roadkill and garbage…”
    FFS! Which authority has stated that foxes and crows are at unnatural high numbers? If the shooting and farming industries, are responsible for killing thousands of these each year, and there is a belief that numbers are still unnaturally high, that would suggest that there is a critical imbalance in the environment. Could that problem be the lack of top predators, such as buzzards, goshawks and eagles?

    “In Wales, for example, lots of conservation bodies try to manage the hills for birds, but curlew and golden plover are very scarce, black grouse non-existent…”
    Is that a factual statement? Is he saying that there are no Black Grouse in Wales, or that they only exist on grouse moors? I detect a lie of magnificent proportions!

    “They are not breeding on the RSPB’s English reserves because they are too vulnerable to fox predation, so they need gamekeepers as much as curlews do. On a Pennine grouse moor there is ample food – grouse and other birds. On a Welsh bird reserve there’s just the odd meadow pipit to eat.”
    Hmm, this sounds like another humungous falsehood. As previously mentioned, all managed to exist before gamekeepers, and if Hen Harriers need gamekeepers, and there is ample food on these moors, then why do so few harriers successfully nest on driven grouse moors? It definitely appears to be a huge lie. And as for the comment that “On a Welsh bird reserve there’s just the odd meadow pipit to eat”, well, that is just a farcical statement. Some studies have shown that the Hen Harrier breeding season is timed to coincide with the fledging times of Meadow Pipits. I think it’s time for Mr Ridley to read something other than the Otterburn Report, perhaps CCW Contract Science No.879 – Hen harrier population studies in Wales.

    ” they [Hen Harriers] can quickly build up (to 20 pairs in that case) and destroy the economy and jobs on the grouse moor. The harriers themselves would then collapse in numbers for lack of food. By the end of the experiment, hen harriers at Langholm were back to two pairs.”
    Yes, that’s what some people refer to as a predator-prey relationship. If any particular prey species becomes abundant, then predators will take advantage. If the prey species suffers a decline, then predator numbers will adapt to these changes, and will decline in tandem. It’s all perfectly natural, and is a prime example as to why Buzzards and Sparrowhawks are not “out of control” as the shooting industry and its affiliated organisations suggest.

    “…little wonder that some [gamekeepers] must occasionally be tempted to deter or even kill harriers.”
    Considering no Hen Harriers successfully nested in England last year, and there are vast swathes of suitable upland areas where the species does not nest, this is a clear indication of widespread, year-round, systematic persecution.

    “The red grouse, the bird at the heart of all this, is an amazing creature. It’s wholly dependent on grazing heather, it cannot survive in captivity, it lures people to invest heavily in conservation in the north, which supports the economy and benefits other wildlife, and it’s found nowhere else in the world – unlike the hen harrier, which is common across two continents.”
    Again, the man is lying. A quick internet search has revealed that a Neil Wainwright breeds and releases Red Grouse. It could be argued that it would be difficult to rear large numbers (but I’m sure if someone was determined enough, it could be done), but nonetheless we have clear evidence from many hunting sources suggesting this same individual as a captive breeder of Red Grouse. There also appears to be a major error in his belief that the species is found nowhere else in the world. He is quick enough to point out that the Hen Harrier is common across two continents, but if only he had read his literature (is it the Otterburn Report syndrome again?), he would have realised that Lagopus lagopus can be found across three continental land masses, and in much higher numbers than the Hen Harrier! That is incredibly deceitful. Does that mean that the Wren is only found on St Kilda?

    They’ll be telling us next that David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK, is actually a Scottish Socialist!

    • August 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Quote: “Are people free to walk anywhere in the Pennines?”

      Pretty much, on open moorland at least. There is a blanket right to roam, even in lowland country (in theory, at least) in Scotland but that doesn’t apply in England, where most access in enclosed areas is restricted to rights of way. However access to most areas of the Pennine uplands, those areas designated as “open country”, is now a right under the Access Land legislation brought in by Labour as part of the CRoW (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2001). The Country Landowners’ Association (now the Country Land and Business Association) lobbied for a voluntary code, and the Conservative then-opposition also opposed a statutory right of access, but they were defeated. Landowners can insist on conditions (e.g.no dogs) and I believe can close off access for a few days a year for shoots. It’s somewhat ironic that shooting interests, having vigorously opposed open access legislation, now use it as an argument in favour of those interests.

  16. 25 Een Historicus
    August 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

    The problem with the raptorshooting gamekeepers has a history: Moorland in the UK is unnatural, just like here in the Netherlands (remember the exchange of Scottish people for sheep?). The original woods were already on large scale chopped down in late medieval times. In the next centuries sheep grazed on the heather. But heather disappears without sheep and sheppards, it becomes forest again (!). For henharriers a forest is not good habitat. In the Netherlands we use -ironically- Scottish Highland cattle to manage the heather in stead of gamekeepers.
    It´s a bitter truth that one can make money of grouseshooting, but the whole dawn economy is based on this wicked idea of misusing nature (Thanks to Keynes and others). Meanwhile the henharriers by Mönchengladbach, Germany, are literally digged up by the machines of the browncoal-miningindustry… So we have basically the same problem at this side of Europe: Money makes everything legal… And for us ordinary people and nature another paradise is lost…

  17. August 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Death and destruction, legal or otherwise, is all we see when we are in areas where game keepers operate. Keepers are only friends of the trap, poison and gun and we have never seen any evidence to say otherwise.

  18. 27 Paul Dunham
    August 14, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I think the wildlife would rather be left alone without their so called protection and management.. They evolved perfectly well without their interference… It’s typical of these liars and butchers to justify killing and poisoning half the wildlife on these grouse-moors as wildlife protection… Their principle enjoyment is the killing of wildlife….

  19. 28 Keith Morton
    August 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Thank you for your splendid deconstruction of this superficially plausible article by a persistent apologist for the narrow interests of a very wealthy minority.

    There now follows some obsessive pedantry.

    Pre WW1 BoP persecution was not necessarily legal. From the 1880s onwards a series of bird protection Acts was passed that had no direct effect but did allow local councils to publish orders, usually annually, providing various levels of protection for wild birds. I have seen only a very few of these but those that I have seen did contain protection for a wide suite of raptors. Some of the earlier Acts exempted landowners from the local by-laws (well, there’s a surprise) but later ones didn’t. So a great deal of the BoP killing during the ‘golden age’ of game keeping was quite likely illegal. Problem is that it is nearly impossible to research this because records of the local govt legislation are either non existent or are buried in local authority files that may not be archived in any accessible way. All of which is distinctly academic because – guess what – nobody responsible for enforcement actually gave a shit what the toffs and their lackeys got up to. Unlike today. Er, OK, just like today.

  20. August 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    The central point, and the big problem, is that Mr. Ridley had his load of bull printed in the Times, and that many people will go on believing that grouse moors are beneficial to wildlife. They need to dig down, research and understand the actual facts for themselves, before believing what’s written in papers, and I can think of nowhere better to do this than RPS. Spreading awareness and gaining supporters is what it’ll take in the end to win the war.

  21. 31 John Taylor
    August 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Matt Ridley seems proud of the fact that “owners……kill foxes and crows”. I wouldn’t mind betting that the favoured method for this killing is poisoned bait, and if another creature (say a Hen Harrier) picks this up, well the jobs a good un. It’s interesting that Mr Ridley is arguing that it is the landowners who are responsible for this. Incidentally I have seen a poisoned fox, it’s a disgusting sight and a thoroughly unpleasant end for any creature.

  22. 32 Tony Warburton MBE
    August 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Here, here Jonathon. Absolutely right. Once again my congratulations to RPS for bringing this ‘Idiots Chronicle’ to our attention, and to everybody for their erudite replies. However, I don’t seem to be able to find Mr Ridley’s response! Perhaps he is re-reading the Otterburn Report before he defends himself. And by the way, is he related to Nicholas Ridley?

  23. 33 Mike
    August 14, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    The Matt Ridley opinion article was clearly aimed at making a strong show with a series of bullet points – my guess that he was fed the points with which to write the article by the grouse moor interests. The article was put out on 10th August in an attempt to trump the Hen Harrier Day coverage by the ‘Powers’ and with the full cooperation of the Sunday Times.

    Matt Ridley is profiled ( by some ?) as being intelligent but he is clearly not exercising much intelligence by churning out this garbage of lies and distortion. Bang goes any credibility the guy might have had. He was obviously merely targeted as the puppet to write the stuff.

    Add to this the earlier sacking of Simon Barnes from the Times – he was writing too much truthful copy on raptor persecution, and you can see ;-

    a) that the grouse moor interests are rattled and on the back foot.

    b) that they will apply leverage and pull strings where they have influence in order to counter the rising awareness of the reality of driven grouse shooting, and

    c) that if this is the best that they can do, this late in the day, then these lies and distortion will surely sink as truth and science must prevail.

  24. 34 Merlin
    August 15, 2014 at 12:57 am

    So according to Matt Ridley “Gamekeepers are one of nature’s best friends” a simple list of species that benefit on a grouse moor from keepers is as follows, please add to it if you think I’ve missed something out.

    Species that benefit, Curlew, Golden Plover and Vole

    Species that don’t benefit and in some cases have recently been illegally persecuted, Golden Eagle, White Tailed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Hen Harrier, Short Eared Owl, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Raven, Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow, Rook, Magpie, Fox, Weasel, Stoat, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Mountain Hare oh and of course Red Grouse, the majority don’t reach their first birthday

    I’ve omitted Skylarks and Pipits because they do just as good in many areas away from keepered moors moors

    To me the opposite seems true, you can pay people to write what you want but the truth will out and the tide is definitely turning, Alaistair Balmain used his editorial notes again in this weeks shooting times to criticise Hen Harrier day and Chris Packham saying this was undermining the good work between the shooting fraternity and conservationists, no Alaistair its people like you who are undermining this good work by turning a blind eye to the criminal activities and environmental hooliganism going on in the uplands by trying to preach it is not happening, this is a quote taken from James Marchingtons website written by someone who shoots conveying the thoughts of the majority of law abiding sportsmen

    “Law abiding shooters beware, from the humble wildfowler to the rough shooter, these bastards will get your sport banned.”

    enough said, take note

    • 35 Circus maxima
      August 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Again….narrow minded bird spotters forget that plants and invertebrates also suffer from muirburn…probably more than the birds!!!! Biodiversity is more than grouse…its more than birds!

    • 36 nirofo
      August 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Quote:
      “this was undermining the good work between the shooting fraternity and conservationists”.

      Please enlighten me, which good work are you referring to, I’m not aware of any effort by conservationists to work with the shooting fraternity has had any meaningful results whatever. As a matter of fact you could say entirely the opposite is true, the shooting fraternity have used every weaselly underhand way they can think of to force conservationist groups to compromise wholly in their favour, this eventually led to most of the groups pulling out totally saying it’s a waste of time trying to come to any sort of agreement with these people !!!

    • 37 Chris Roberts
      August 15, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Merlin, you left out wild cats and pine martins, also targeted by gamekeepers.

      • 38 Marco McGinty
        August 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm

        And to add to Merlin and Chris’s list, we have Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Osprey, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Jackdaw, Jay, Red Deer, Otter, Badger and Hedgehog, all of which are (or have been) targeted on the moors and on moorland fringes, along with other species inadvertently killed in traps, such as Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Dipper or Ring Ouzel. As Circus maxima has rightly intimated, there are numerous plant and invertebrate species affected by burning, as well as reptiles, amphibians and smaller mammals.

        It’s a hefty species list, and far exceeds any supposed list of beneficial species.

  25. 39 Tony Phillips
    August 17, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Anyone mention gulls? and that vicious predator the mole? Hen Harrier Day really should have been All Creatures Great and Small Day.


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