This photograph of Mark Avery occupying a grouse butt in the North York Moors was supposed to illustrate a post entitled ‘Henry’s Tour: Day 25’, which was going to be all about voting for the environment in today’s general election. Circumstances have dictated a change of plan.
In the aftermath of yesterday’s appalling news that three adult male hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ from three active nests in the Forest of Bowland, emotions have been running high.
Many of us were engulfed by a thick red mist and we reacted angrily on social media last night – and quite right too. No apologies from us on that score. It felt personal and that’s exactly how it needs to feel if we’re to maintain this fight because it’s going to be a long-running and bloody battle.
This morning the red mist has subsided but has been replaced with a deep burning anger that won’t be shrugged off, nor appeased by superficial expressions of sadness from those within the grouse-shooting industry.
In the midst of last night’s fury it was tempting (and indeed some of us were tempted) to suggest some radical, unlawful action. That’s hardly surprising given the almost entirely absent political will and enforcement measures that could stop this travesty. But calmer heads must prevail; unlawful activity is what we’re protesting against so we have to stick within the law ourselves.
That doesn’t mean that our resolve has been tempered. Far from it. If anything, yesterday’s news has only served to inflame that resolve. It just means we have to be smarter, more creative and even more visible than before. Make no mistake, this is a war and we’re not going to run for cover now.
There were a lot of phone calls made last night and there will be many more meetings of minds as we work out our next moves. For now, there are several ways you can channel your anger:
1. Occupy the butts.
Go to a grouse moor, find a grouse butt, take a photograph of yourself occupying the butt. In the very near future there will be a webpage where these images can be posted. Finding one of these butts is easy – you don’t have to walk for miles across the moors – a lot of them are right there by the roadside. Grouse butts are normally marked on OS maps at 1:25000 scale. Try www.streetmap.co.uk and zoom in on your favourite moor.
It’s not illegal to stand in a grouse butt and take a photograph, as long as you are not damaging it nor interfering with ‘lawful activity’ (i.e. disrupting a driven grouse shoot). Some people have suggested doing this on the Inglorious 12th – that’s not a good idea. We’d encourage you to visit a grouse butt at any time between now and Hen Harrier Day (Sun 9th August) – just 3 months away – before the shooting starts on 12th August.
2. Vote Hen Harrier as the National Bird.
This is a campaign organised by David Lindo (The Urban Birder) to try and find the nation’s favourite bird. To be honest, we haven’t paid much attention to it before now, partly because we are supporting RSPB Scotland’s petition to name the golden eagle as Scotland’s national bird (although it has since become mired in ludicrous bureaucracy as Ministers argue whether there’s a ‘need’ for a national bird – see here), and partly in respect of nationalist sensitivities. However, what is clear is that the hen harrier’s plight needs far greater public awareness than it currently has and an easy way to raise that awareness is to get this species noticed in a ‘national’ (UK) albeit unofficial poll. Incredibly, it has already made the final ‘top ten’ so in many ways this is already a success, but the closer it gets to being voted as number one, the more publicity it will receive. Voting closes at midnight tonight. You can vote here.
Finally, this isn’t over. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.