Hen Harrier spin: 2

In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favour or against some organisation of public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics” [Wikipedia].

HH the facts sga - CopyYesterday (Hen Harrier Day 2015), at 10:03hrs (3 seconds after over 5.6 million thunderclap messages about missing hen harriers were beamed around the world), the SGA posted this image on their Facebook page.

Here’s the text:

Hen Harriers – The Facts

  • In the last 40 years there has been a 17% increase in the breeding distribution of Hen Harriers in the UK.
  • In 2010, the most recent national survey year, there were 662 nesting pairs in the UK with 505 or 76% of those in Scotland.
  • Between 1992 and 1997 Hen Harriers in Langholm Moor rose from 2 to 20 pairs in 6 years on a driven grouse moor. When gamekeepers were removed Hen Harrier nests crashed to 2.
  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species rates Hen Harriers as a species of least concern due to its extremely large range.


Here are some missing facts from a government report that they forgot to include:

  • The potential national hen harrier population in Scotland is estimated (conservatively) to be within the range 1467-1790 pairs.
  • The current national hen harrier population in Scotland as recorded during the most recent (2010) national survey is 505 pairs, more than a 20% decline from the numbers recorded during the 2004 national survey.
  • In Scotland, the hen harrier has a favourable conservation status in only five of 20 regions.
  • Two main constraints have been identified: illegal persecution, and in one region, prey shortages.
  • The species is particularly unsuccessful in the Central Highlands, Cairngorm Massif, Northeast Glens, Western Southern Uplands and the Border Hills. There is strong evidence in these grouse moor regions that illegal persecution is causing the failure of a majority of breeding attempts.

Now, this claim of the species being classified as ‘Least Concern’ is often trotted out by those trying to downplay the seriousness of the species’ conservation status in the UK. It is an accurate statement in as much as this is what is written on the species’ IUCN Red List entry (from where the quote is taken), with the addition of one important statement conveniently left out by the SGA – under the heading ‘Major Threats’:

Persecution is an important threat locally, notably on game preserves in Scotland (del Hoyo et al. 1994)”.

The species’ IUCN listing is fine to use if you want to stick to a species’ global conservation status and ignore its European and UK conservation status. If you look at the IUCN global status for the three wader species for which the grouse shooting industry is often claiming to be the one and only saviour, the IUCN listings also give little cause for concern:

Lapwing – listed as Least Concern. Estimated population c. 5,200,000-10,000,000 individuals. Major threats include land use intensification, pollution and hunting. [Note, no mention of raptors being a major threat].

Curlew – listed as Near Threatened. Estimated population c. 77,000-1,065,000 individuals. Major threats include afforestation, agricultural intensification and hunting. [Note, no mention of raptors being a major threat].

Golden Plover – listed as Least Concern. No population estimate given. Major threats include cultivation and afforestation, severe weather conditions and hunting. [Note, no mention of raptors being a major threat].

So, on the basis of suggesting that the hen harrier’s conservation status is of ‘least concern’ on a global scale [and therefore why all the fuss of losing an almost entire breeding population in England and between 66-72% of the Scottish breeding population?], the statement is equally as applicable to those three wader species, right? We shouldn’t be concerned about any of them because on a global scale they’re all doing just fine, right?


Fortunately, government and non-governmental organisations are a lot more clued in and understand the concept, and importance, of national, regional and local biodiversity. Indeed, the Westminster and Scottish Governments have a statutory responsibility for ensuring that national biodiversity targets are met and maintained (although you wouldn’t know it by their continuing failure to address illegal raptor persecution). Rather than use the broad-based IUCN Red List as guidance, they look to more detailed and relevant assessments such as the UK ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’ scientific review. In this document, the hen harrier and lapwing are red listed, and the golden plover and curlew are amber listed.

It’s quite telling, isn’t it, that those with a vested interest in driven grouse-shooting should continue to not only deny their involvement in the catastrophic loss of hen harriers across the UK, but also continue to downplay its conservation significance.

Please sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE


11 Responses to “Hen Harrier spin: 2”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    August 10, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I don’t think there is any chance of Westminster doing anything during this administration. A government of bloodsportsmen, for bloodsportsmen, and by bloodsportsmen. Hopefully in 2020 the Corbyn led Labour Administration will be better. In Holyrood, I still say the SNP has been better than the Labour lot, even if it is only because they seem to be at least aware the countryside exists. I think they could do a lot better, make no mistake, but there have been some slow and stumbling efforts, which is still better than Labour. There probably isn’t enough time left before the next Scottish Parliament elections to make any big changes now, but without the focus on a referendum I would expect more next time. I hope. And yes, I’m aware how much I’ve had to rely on hope in this post, but it is pretty much all we have right now.

    • 2 Marco McGinty
      August 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      There’s absolutely no chance that the Tory government will do anything about raptor persecution, in fact I would go as far to suggest that under Tory rule there is a far greater chance that all raptors would be admitted onto a list of legal quarry.

      I would partly agree on Corbyn. He is the only hope for Labour, and of course he is the only left wing candidate, and he is the only candidate that has remained true to the ideals of the Labour Party, so I truly hope he does win the leadership contest. However, there are already mutterings from the right wing element of the Labour Party suggesting that if Corbyn does win, this will lead to a coup, with Corbyn being removed from his position. At times, the Labour Party just don’t seem to get the ideas of democracy, common sense, or common decency.

  2. 3 Bimbliing
    August 10, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Will there be letters of correction should any of this nonsense get printed?

  3. 4 keen birder
    August 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    By then there could be no breeding Hen Harriers left, if the current rate of deaths, nest failures and mysterious disappearances carries on. They havent a cat in hells chance of getting anywhere near increasing. Just need the RSPB to buy up a big big place and try and save them, theres always plenty of land for sale.

    After about 20 years as a GWCT member over a month ago I cancelled my membership,citing a few reasons, one was that the Hen Harrier situation is a disgrace. Told a few truths local keeper convicted for killing 3 buzzards, another arrested for snaring offences, and that I have become a member of the CWT and WTT., To date ive never received a reply or even a thank you, im a bit miffed at that.

  4. 5 Anand Prasad
    August 10, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    ‘When gamekeepers were removed Hen Harrier nests crashed to 2.’
    Very funny.

  5. August 10, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    It would be very easy to spoof this…. but about game keepers and their illegal activities…

    Game Keepers break the law,

    conceal evidence,

    lie to politicians,

    lie to the police and

    import illegal substances.

  6. 7 Flash
    August 10, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    You’d think they could have found a better harrier photo than that one. Sorry to go off topic but do we have to have these adverts that have appeared recently? They look really tacky on what is a serious web site and how many readers are going to be interested in how coconut oil is going to change their life?! If you need some money to help fund the site, could you not seek subscriptions? I’d gladly contribute.

  7. 11 Een Historicus
    August 11, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Could you perhaps make an international petition? I could send it to the Vogelbescherming Nederland and the NABU in Germany.

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