Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands by Mark Avery. Bloomsbury Press, London. 304pp.
Publishing date: 30 July 2015
ISBN (hardback) 9 78-1-4729-1741-6; ISBN (ebook) 9 78-1-4729-1742-3
This book won’t make it on to my bookshelf for quite some time. The reason? It’ll either be being held in my hands as I (re)-read it or it’ll be on my desk within easy reach for when I want to be reminded that the time for negotiation and 2nd, 3rd, 4th,…..18th, 19th, 20th, etc. chances is over and the time for change is now.
I won’t ruin Mark’s story by giving a detailed analysis of the book’s content but the main thrust is that Mark thinks driven grouse shooting should be banned and his arguments for this position are laid out with compelling clarity.
Inglorious begins with a raging, damning condemnation of driven grouse shooting in an impassioned foreword written by Chris Packham. Then there’s a short preface from Mark with a synopsis of the book and his reasons for writing it. Chapter 1 opens with the basics of hen harrier biology and ecology and their persecution on driven grouse moors; Chapter 2 provides an overview of driven grouse shooting, including its history, how it works and who’s involved; a detailed analysis of the first Joint Raptor Study at Langholm (also known as ‘Langholm 1) which took place in the mid-1990s and was focused on the conflict between hen harriers and grouse shooting is discussed in Chapter 3; an explanation of the political events and scientific studies that took place between 1997-2013 and brought greater attention to upland management practices is provided in Chapter 4; Chapter 5 presents Mark’s perspective on events that took place in 2014 when the public finally woke up to what was happening and began the fight back for hen harriers; Chapter 6 tells the fictional story of a former gamekeeper, now gainfully and happily employed in 2046 as a land manager for the National Trust, reflecting on his previous career and how it all came crashing down; Chapter 7 outlines all the things an ordinary member of the public can do to help hasten the inevitable demise of driven grouse shooting.
It’s obvious that a lot of thought went in to the structure of Inglorious, effectively building the story from the plight of one relatively little known bird (the hen harrier) to the exposure of the corruption, criminality and political influence that underpins the driven grouse shooting industry. Inglorious is audacious, courageous and defiant. If you’re not outraged after reading this book then you’ve either not been paying attention or you’re someone who has a vested interest in this racket.
If, like me, you thought you were pretty well-versed in the subject of driven grouse shooting and its associated environmental atrocities, Inglorious will surprise you. Yes, all the by-now- familiar scientific evidence is in there (and is well explained for a non-technical audience) but interwoven is a fascinating insight to the political backdrop of nature conservation, especially during the period 1997-2013. Understanding what was happening behind closed (and sometimes open) parliamentary doors during this 17 year period and how it impacted on the (mis)fortunes of the hen harrier and on the management of our uplands is crucial to understanding how Mark reached the decision to call for a ban on driven grouse shooting. Of course, some of this insight is subjective as it stems from Mark’s personal experience from his time working as the RSPB’s Conservation Director but that makes it all the more persuasive. His isn’t the view of someone uninformed and with a shallow understanding, hitching a ride on the back of an increasing public awareness of ‘wildlife crime’; this is the view of someone with authoritative credibility earned through his intimate involvement over many years in UK nature conservation policies.
The publication of Inglorious couldn’t have been better timed. First, it comes soon after the suspicious ‘disappearance’ of five breeding male hen harriers in the space of a few weeks in May this year. When that news broke, any tiny flicker of optimism that the grouse-shooting industry wanted to stop their disgraceful persecution of this species was extinguished. Secondly, it comes just a few days before this year’s Hen Harrier Day (9th August 2015) when hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, throughout the UK will be making a public stand against the illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors, whether that be by participating in a ‘Thunderclap’ on social media, posting a selfie on the Hen Harrier Day website, or by attending one of several rallies set to take place across the country. This book will unite that community and inspire many new campaigners to the join the fight.
Inglorious bears all the hallmarks of Mark’s writing: engaging, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, articulate, well-reasoned, fair and good humoured. Although it is a depressing and poignant read in parts, it is also optimistic, and that’s important. The message is clear – driven grouse shooting has to end and the pathway to bringing that about has been brightly illuminated by this book.
To pre-order this book, please see here.
To listen to a recent podcast of Mark discussing Inglorious, click here
To read another review of Inglorious, click here