What Philip Merricks said at the Sheffield conference

There was a conference in Sheffield last Friday and Saturday: ‘Raptors, Uplands & Peatlands – Conservation, Land Management & Issues’. Mark Avery has written a blog giving an overview of his impressions (here).

Raptor conference poster

We will be publishing a selection of transcripts from this conference and here is the first of those. Note, this is NOT a parody. You’ll probably need to remind yourself of that if you manage to reach the end.

Philip Merricks, Chair of the Hawk & Owl Trust:The Hawk & Owl Trust’s involvement in the Hen Harrier Recovery Action Plan‘.

It’s very good to be at Sheffield. Our daughter spent four happy years here at uni and she very much enjoyed it and got to know and love the moors, and when I took her to meet her brother at another university, ultimately, you know, she was always thought to be brighter than him, after a day of going around his college she said, walking back to the parking, she said: ‘Dad, why do I want to have to come here and do two essays a week when I can go to Sheffield and have a real life?’. But to be serious she got to know the moors and love the moors and now she and her husband are managing a nature reserve in Kent, a long way from the moors, below sea level in Kent, but you know, she has many, many happy, well many happy years out on the moors.

Now I completely agree with everything that Angela Smith said. I don’t know her, but I thought that as local MP everything she said made a huge, huge amount of sense. And it’s a real, real disgrace, I mean a real disgrace that she and other people, Sheffield people, can’t see hen harriers, peregrines and everything else on those moors, it really is an utter, utter disgrace. She made a very good point that to resolve this issue we should remember that politics is the art of the possible, and that it’s always preferable to act on the basis of consensus and partnership, and that’s driven me all of my life and hopefully it drives the Hawk & Owl Trust. Just remember that she said that politics is the art of the possible.

Quick introduction about myself. I manage two National Nature Reserves, Elmley and Swale, and two former RSPB reserves, all below sea level, all in Kent, and the two National Nature Reserves on the Sheppey marshes, they now hold the largest concentration of breeding raptors, breeding birds of prey, in south east England, something we’re really, really pleased about, and also really large numbers of marsh harriers, which I’m sure you will all know are rarer than hen harriers. And as Ian [Ed: Professor Ian Rotherham, Sheffield Hallam University] said were incredibly rare when he was as a student or when he was a young lecturer many years ago. And then 40 miles south in Kent we manage the Romney Marsh reserve, which similarly holds, I’m told, the largest number of birds of prey on the south coast, or south east coast.

I come from a land management background, as you can understand, I’m passionately interested in management for nature conservation and I’m passionately interested in getting an understanding of land management and getting managers to understand, I mean are there any land managers, grouse moor managers in the audience? Does anybody have responsibility for managing grouse? Yeah brilliant, so there’s one guy, who, well I, I’m very keen on talking to land managers to get them to manage their land, you know, for conservation. Whether it’s, and of course I’m a long way away from the moors, but quite clearly, at the end of the, pragmatic point, at the end of the day the overwhelming majority of countryside is managed by farmers and landowners, and that’s a crucial point.

And another introduction point, I should say, I don’t shoot and I never have shot, for those that like to write about me, I’ll just repeat that, I don’t shoot and I never have shot. Ok. But I Chair the Hawk & Owl Trust, I served as a trustee over 20 years ago, a couple of terms which was six years and then the Chairman died, I was no more than an ordinary member then and I was asked to see if I would come back and Chair, which I did, and quite clearly the Hawk & Owl Trust is a pragmatic organisation and it works, its strap line is ‘Working for wild birds of prey and their habitats’. And as you might imagine, the overwhelming majority of wild birds of prey are on land managed by, well by farmers and landowners and of course on the moors and by gamekeepers. So that’s pretty important point, you know, if we’re going to work with those who manage the habitats throughout most of the UK we have to manage, we have to work with farmers and landowners and up here on the moors we have to work with the gamekeepers again.

And this is where we come to the crux of the problem for this whole conference. The Hawk & Owl Trust is more than happy to be working with those who manage the habitats, farmers and landowners, we do that every day, sometimes I do it all day, but it’s not so easy to do it with gamekeepers when it’s pretty bloody clear that a number of them are continuing to break the law, and persecuting these birds, especially hen harriers. So I’ll just repeat that, it really is a despicable crime and something that’s been going on for far too long, and, which we’ve heard today, is continuing. On that line, it’s going on, I recently called in to see a great guy, a former RSPB Chairman, former RSPB Gold medallist, one of the great guys, and he gave me, he showed me, this invitation to a press release, and it just shows that this is something, I think then he was the incoming Chairman of the Council, became Chairman of the RSPB, and it just shows, 1971, you can possibly see that closer I think, 1971 the RSPB were, basically this is staff and council members, were giving a press conference on the persecution of birds of prey. And I mean clearly they were raising awareness of it then and they’re raising awareness of it now, so I’m just showing this is nothing new. What I do like about that, the way the RSPB operated, they stopped at 12.15 for cocktails. Can you see that at the bottom there? I’m sure things go on like that exactly the same way at The Lodge today.

Right. But I said, and I’ll put this up, the position is no damn different or better today. And one of the dreadful examples we’ve seen and you’ve all heard about is the setting of a pole trap on the Mossdale grouse moor. And that is appalling. As soon as I heard about that or was told about it, I went up to Mossdale because I’m always someone who likes to see things at first hand. I’ve got to the age now where actually, I actually want to see things and talk to people about it first hand. Has anybody been to Mossdale by the way? Brilliant, some of you have.I’ve talked to the head gamekeeper, I’ve talked to the owner, has anybody done that? A couple anyway. And I, you know, it was quite appalling, you know, it’s easier in some ways for me to give them a piece of my mind because I can almost speak landowner to landowner, although, you know, they might well be up in, you know, up on the moors and I’m down below sea level but I mean the principle is just the same. It is quite a disgusting incident, despicable act. And you know, I’m sure you’re all aware of it, this is a thing on a post, it holds birds by the legs until they die. I mean, and it was done by an untrained, unsupervised twenty-something year old, 22 year old, and it was a real, real dereliction of management, of supervision, and of training, absolutely appalling. And you know, that is lack of those, supervision and management and training by the head keeper and ultimately by the landowner. And, you know, I, it’s relatively easy for me, landowner to landowner, to say, ‘Look you bloody fool, you, you are, well, not just breaking the law but you’re letting all of us down whether we’re in below sea level in Kent or whether you’re up here’. And I, I, think, you know, perhaps things like that are easier.

So, how do we bring this to an end? We all want the same thing, everyone in this room wants the same thing. I think that’s the one thing that unites us, and the only thing that we may differ about is how we do it and that’s why I think we can all agree with that. Mark, [Avery] down on the front row, will say that banning grouse shooting is the best bet, and the RSPB will say that licensing is the best bet, but as Angela Smith said this morning, politics is the art of the possible, and I did clock that pretty strongly. And, you know, on that government has made it abundantly clear that they won’t go down the route of banning it and they won’t go down the route of licensing it and it seems now that this government is stabilised, with, with, Theresa whats-her-name, Theresa May, but, you know, stabilised for another three years and probably another term after that, so for a long time, you know, this government is in power and they’re not going to change their minds. So, on the art of the possible, if the first two routes are off the table that only leaves the government’s preferred option of the DEFRA six point plan which we heard about in detail from Adrian [Adrian Jowitt, Natural England] today. And of course, there are many people who for whatever reason don’t like that, but I bring you back to this point, this Angela Smith point, about, you know, politics being the art of the possible.

But another guy I went to see, you know, and who’s a good friend of mine who I’ve known for 20 years and is one of the great, great conservationists, well he’s a guru to me more than a friend. I like, I’m proud to call him a friend, he’s a guru to me, probably for 30 years, he’s guided all my steps in conservation, possibly for 35 years, and he’s one of the great, I mean he is of probably of all conservation biologists of all time, he’s probably done more for birds of prey than anyone else. You know, we heard from Ian [Rotherham] about the effect of persistent organochlorides [sic], DDT, on raptors, and this is the guy who started and appointed the team, and that team that included great people like Derek Ratcliffe, he, he set up that team at the research and then eventually cracked the problem of the birds of prey and of course, you know, I guess many of you will know who that is, Norman Moore. He really was one of the greats and I’m proud, well, we all need our gurus don’t we. He was, he was one for me. And it was such a privilege, I had the honour of speaking at his memorial service at the cathedral earlier this year and it was a huge, huge privilege to do that, and you know, he was immensely effective and was one of the greats.

So we get to the next one [next image on screen], and this is what he said. Can everybody at the back read that? Well, you don’t need me to tell you about it, you don’t need me to read it, but I’ll just leave you with it. You. Are you comfortable now, having read it? Well the point being, now who was it made that point this morning? Was it, was it Ian? Made that point, or somebody who made it, it’s just not science. And a couple of issues, people with different points of reference, well, we know that grouse moor managers have got different points of reference so things have to be explained, but, I’m pretty certain it was Ian who made that point this morning. But what for me, we just have to, if we want to get things across we have to get them across to people who are culturally completely different.

Right, my, the subject of my talk which I hope I haven’t wandered from, you know, I’m talking about the Hawk & Owl Trust’s involvement in the DEFRA plan and we heard from Adrian this morning and he went through it, so the first one, prevention, intelligence, led by senior police officers […inaudible…]. Well done to all involved and more power to your elbow.

Second one is monitoring of hen harrier breeding sites and winter roost sites. Well I do know a bit about this because winter roost sites on, in fact all four of our, well three of the, our four reserves are winter roost sites for raptors and marsh harriers and that’s when we see these hen harriers, down with us in the south east, that’s when we see them, and it’s absolutely crucial they’re monitored everywhere and protected everywhere, so well done to the guys who do that and usually on a voluntary basis.

So, and then of course number three, the sat tagging and the satellite tracking. Well, I mean nobody knows more about that than the other Steve [Stephen Murphy, Natural England] and he’s told me all about it, and I’m really pleased to see, to say that a number of tags have been fitted this year, tags funded by the Trust and fitted by, by Steve, and, and, and Trust staff and volunteers I think were with him when, when, it was, I mean they were fitted. And I think you’ll soon, as soon as they, well Steve will be able to tell you more of the detail, but soon you’ll be able to see the, their movements on the website. I mean it’s something I’m not very good on IT but I mean it’ll be really, really interesting that, and I, and I think it’s crucial, the more sat tags that are fitted, by everyone, the RSPB have obviously fitted them in the EU LIFE campaign means they can fit a lot, the less likely it will be, criminal gamekeepers to shoot them in other areas, you know, the risk will become increasingly greater because, you know, and I think this, this really does prevent it.

And then number four, diversionary feeding. I’ve been to Langholm a couple of times, well actually three, but once in early days and I’ve seen how effective this is and we’ll hear about this tomorrow from the speaker tomorrow, Sonja [Sonja Ludwig, GWCT], the speaker tomorrow, and of course this obviously is something that’s strongly supported and it should be carried out more widely and it is of course I’m told that people do it and where they, yeah, and it’s so damn obvious.

Number five, southern reintroductions, that was explained by Adrian and that’s something that obviously hasn’t started yet but of course it’s important and that’s where it’s crucial to get some confidence of landowners, farmers and others in the areas where they’re going to be reintroduced or where it’s proposed that they’re going to be reintroduced. It’s all about getting the confidence of the guys who manage the land, and there are several places been suggested, and, and that should be very interesting.

And then number six, which is what we hear so much about, we’ve already heard today, the trialling, and I do say trialling, people seem to think it’s an action, it is a trial. It’s the trial removal of eggs and young chicks where a certain threshold’s been reached. The incubating of them, the rearing of them, and you know, and don’t forget the Hawk & Owl Trust has got world class facilities to do this, owned and managed by a Trustee, and these really are world class facilities. And then of course, as Steve was telling us, released back on to the moors. And the other thing that we’ve done, the Trust, is make a really, really determined effort to get to know moorland owners and moorland managers and we’ve got quite a, quite a list of moorland managers and moorland owners who would be keen, no, more than keen, they would be proud, I’ll say that again, they would be proud to have hen, a pair of hen harriers on their moors. Of course they know that there’s, they’re semi-colonial nesters and everything but they’re proud to act as receptor moors for those translocated birds.

And I think the key issue about the DEFRA recovery, hen harrier recovery plan, is that while that hen harriers benefit hugely from and are largely dependent on the habitats created by good moorland management, large number of hen harriers and once again as I’ve said, don’t forget they are semi-colonial nesters can make grouse shooting unviable and we’ve heard about that hence, you know, that the management has that choice. As Langholm has shown, or, I mean, you’ll dispute what it’s shown, but I’m no expert on Langholm, but that, but that, oh I’m sorry I’m just losing my place, but, well you all know what Langholm does and you’ve all made up your own mind what Langholm did but it’ll get written up over the years and then we’ll all know more about it.

But I guess that, I guess the issue is, on the moors, that gamekeepers fear for their jobs, and their income and their houses, and they do continue with this appalling persecution, or some of them continue with this appalling persecution of these lovely birds and this is quite appalling. But, I mean and Mark said, in his book, it’s an understandable crime and there’s a reason for it, and I’m going to put Mark’s book up on the thing which is a really good read, it’s an interview with many bird watchers, and Mark’ll probably tell us about it. Right, good, now I’m almost at the end which I’m sure several of you will be relieved about. Right. Behind the Binoculars, and interesting one, on we go to the next one, this is where he interviewed, that’s right, Ian Newton, Ian obviously an eminent guy, eminent guy, Hawk & Owl Trust Vice President and he Chairs the Hawk & Owl Trust scientific advisory panel, so on to what he said. Mark, the first paragraph is Mark and I’ll just read the bits that I think, clearly he had the viewpoint that it [hen harrier persecution] was understandable, so what are we going to do about it? And Ian then on the second paragraph goes through and says well there are three possibilities as we heard about this afternoon and then on to the next one and then he says, this is Ian Newton again, really I think you’re left having to accept a third proposal: that harrier densities could be limited on grouse moors, to levels that allow some hen harriers to survive but allow grouse shooting, driven grouse shooting, to survive also. Ok, the idea then was the difficulty was in finding landowners. Well the good thing is that we’ve done that work, you know, because we’ve found landowners, we’ve got as I said, quite a respectable list. Then he says that would be a potential solution, and I bring you back to this word ‘potential’. Everybody thinks well we don’t know if it’ll work but it’s a potential solution.

So, where do we go to now? And I’m being hurried up, which is good, right. So, it goes on to say that we have, and it is a trial, I’m rattling through that, and I’ll just bring you back to something that Professor Redpath said. There’s a lot of evilness out there, and I like that word, it’s been used lots of times, Chris Packham, I picked up, it is because there is a lot of evilness out there but this trial will find out whether this evilness ceases or not, it’ll discover whether removing the reason for the crime reduces the crime, which’ll be the key. Whether it’ll work, I don’t know but grouse moor owners, or some of them, say that it will and I sincerely hope it will but it’s up to the guys out on the moors. We’ll find out whether this attempt at conflict resolution, and I’m a great believer in conflict resolution, we’ll find out whether it works or not. And for the sake of our hen harriers I hope it does.


60 Responses to “What Philip Merricks said at the Sheffield conference”

  1. September 12, 2016 at 7:16 am

    The incoherent ramblings of a blithering idiot. Makes Bertie Wooster seem like Einstein!

    • 3 Jane McArthur
      September 12, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      And some poor sod had to type this guff!!

    • 4 nirofo
      September 12, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      I had difficulty following Merrick’s drivel and I’ve had years of working with the mumblings of people who don’t know what they’re talking about. The man just doesn’t talk sense no matter which way you look at it, he does the highly persecuted raptors on the grouse moor estates no favours at all, he should be kept out of any meaningful discussions on the way forward at all costs.

  2. 5 Benjamin Ford
    September 12, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Words fail me, as they obviously did for Philip Merricks. The man gives a very good impression of being a bumbling idiot. How is he still in the position that he holds?

  3. 6 Dave J
    September 12, 2016 at 7:38 am

    I got half way down and found myself imagining Peter Griffin speaking those words. It made a lot more sense after that.

  4. 7 Andy P
    September 12, 2016 at 8:19 am

    This falls well below the #ecozealot standard.

  5. September 12, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Has anyone seen my “will to live”? I seem to have lost it near here?

    He starts of by saying ” And it’s a real, real disgrace, I mean a real disgrace that she and other people, Sheffield people, can’t see hen harriers, peregrines and everything else on those moors, it really is an utter, utter disgrace. ”

    So after acknowledging that the birds and the habitats are issue, he basically spends the rest of his ramblings saying that he/we doesn’t really give a toss about the habitats. (This was supposed to be a conference about moorlands and peatlands.)

    For clarity Philip, driven grouse moor management creates bad habitat and causes local extinctions(not just hen harrier!!!). It wreaks blanket bog and causes pollution. If you had a conservation bone in your body you would know this. It is a disgrace that the people of Sheffield do not see Juniper on the moor… but you dont even seem to be aware.

    How can anyone so unfocussed end up in a position of power?

  6. September 12, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Was Mr Merrick tired and emotional after a generous amount of liquid hospitality?
    Utter waffle and I should think a waste of delegates time listening to it, except to have a distrust of the Hawk and Owl foundation.

  7. 12 WetMonday
    September 12, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Yup, Kermit the Frog here, Dave J.

    How do these havering buffoons get the top jobs and on a handsome wage too, I suspect.

  8. 13 Nimby
    September 12, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Well done, did you manage to catch his response when asked about the views of the membership of the H&OT involvement in the brood management trial [Mark Avery also refers to it]?

    Recall something of a fudge, something about Trustees being in agreement and supportive but not clear if the membership had even been informed.

    • September 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Yes, here’s the transcript from that particular question and answer:

      Question from the audience. “You are a membership organisation, are your members completely behind you in this matter? I mean brood management, you’ve got the full consensus of the Hawk & Owl Trust members?”

      Answer from Philip Merricks: “Well we’ve got 7,000 members and I would imagine six and a half thousand different views, so it is quite clearly, that the Trustees are united and the Trustees manage it and so that’s it. And of course, though, I’m well aware of the different views of some, but we’ve got 7,000 members and of course some are going to feel that and I’m sure it’s the same with members of the RSPB”.

  9. 15 steve macsweeney
    September 12, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Just run that past me again……
    God help the Hen Harriers.

  10. September 12, 2016 at 9:29 am

    An astonishingly incoherent contribution even if one acknowledges the difference between a spoken presentation and a more formal written one. Early on in his ramble, he comments about “… working with those who manage the habitats, farmers and landowners ….” with whom he clearly identifies and regards as the ‘good guys’. He then adds that “… it’s not so easy to do it with gamekeepers when it’s pretty bloody clear that a number of them are continuing to break the law, and persecuting these birds….”; they are clearly vulgar, unruly plebeians who undermine the noble aims of the patrician class. Then he later observes ” …. the issue is, on the moors, that gamekeepers fear for their jobs, and their income and their houses, and they do continue with this appalling persecution …” From whence does this insecurity stem if not from the knowing demands of their landowning employers and their agents? He must be aware of this but seems bizarrely unwilling to openly acknowledge the fact.

  11. 17 Nimby
    September 12, 2016 at 9:44 am

    What isn’t clear is how any ‘brood meddling’ will (a) be licensed or (b) be funded. Can NE given their support of raptor control for commercial gain (eg control of buzzards for pheasants in Norfolk) be objective about this matter and legitimately consider issuing any licence? As far as I’m aware the threshold hasn’t (a) been notified so (b) hasn’t been reached. There wasn’t clarity from NE speakers and certainly not Mr Merricks.

    If it is to be funded then one would assume it would be Defra (even if it were through NE budget), so public money. Surely such commissions need to go due process, so out to tender? If not and you could almost sense that there had been a ‘done deal’ in some shady corner of a mis-managed moorland somewhere? Then again perhaps we could see a generous offer to finance it so the real issue can be kicked into the long grass again? Have they demonstrated impartiality or potential conflict of interest thus far in the whole shameful debacle?

    Yes, land managers are crucial in any solution particularly as they are as much a part of the problem in some areas as part of a possible solution. Objectivity is required and that seems missing, such a shame and such a missed opportunity?

    Perhaps the up coming H&OT AGM will provide clarification? Very little detail on their website other than the date and venue despite it being less than a month away.

  12. 18 S TUCKER
    September 12, 2016 at 9:52 am

    I want to know how many members the H&OT have lost since Merricks became a mouthpiece for the apologists for criminal behaviour. Appeasement seems to be his thing.

    I would like to see the transcript of Steve Redpath’s talk. He kindly corresponded with me when misquoted by the arch numpty, Andy Richardson, as being a supporter of brood management. Which of the 3 nests in England this year should be managed, when there should be 300? Or the 600+ Scottish nests when there should be 3,000?

    The simple fact is that the DEFRA inaction plan should have two overriding preconditions: the end to the illegal killing of birds of prey and that there will be no RPA payments to any estate that fails to maintain their BOP’s at, at least, 50% of the carrying capacity of the environment.

  13. 20 John Armitage
    September 12, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Thanks Jan. I’ll try and get a Blog ( maybe two ) out in the next couple of days or so. I’ll try and be polite………

  14. 21 Dougie
    September 12, 2016 at 10:30 am

    The utterances of Stanley Unwin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFB_FS9rV0c are easier to follow.

  15. September 12, 2016 at 10:35 am

    What’s the old joke – is this a genuine transcript of his presentation or did you just ask Philip to fart next to a speech recognition device?

  16. 23 kevin moore
    September 12, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Marsh harriers rarer than hen harriers ???

  17. September 12, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Two interesting points: ”…the Hawk & Owl Trust has got world class facilities to do this, owned and managed by a Trustee, and these really are world class facilities…”. Here, Philip is referring to the International Centre for Birds of Prey in Gloucestershire, run by Jemima Parry-Jones. I understand that this organisation was a private concern until registering as a charity in 2015. I’ve been told that part of the reason it registered as a charity was to ease access to Defra funding for brood management – presumably the procurement rules are easier when handing over dosh to a charity than a private company.

    The logic on display with the following statement is bizarre: brood removal will ”… discover whether removing the reason for the crime reduces the crime…”. This identifies hen harriers (rather than criminality) as the problem, and their removal as the solution, and it perpetuates a land use which also relies on the illegal removal of other protected species. It’s basically condoning and prolonging the life of intensifying driven grouse moor management.

    • 26 Nimby
      September 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Whilst I sensed there might have already been a deal done behind closed doors, if Defra (public funds) are to be used then it seems reasonable that any such commission should be through open tender procurement rules?

      It is up to us to lobby to ensure that those who have failed to date to deliver cessation of illegal persecution through this all so wonderful conflict resolution so mellifluously spoken of and promoted, Angela Smith MP was emphatic about the precursor being cessation.

      I’d concur with John Miles to some extent, the declined invitees were well hidden and deafeningly silent. Philip was well treated, as were all attendees IMHO, in fact it might even have been described as an easy ride – there’s little point in engaging any other way? The devil will be in the detail in due course?

      As for Tim Baynes, he seemed to only want to talk to land owners / managers. That’s fine but begs the question of any expectation of pubic funding in which case whilst land owners are crucial they are one element of the ‘mire’ of a worsening situation.

      State of Nature imminent 2016 ….

      • September 12, 2016 at 4:59 pm

        It would be fascinating to make a FoI request of Defra and see what that reveals about how HOT and their partners in crime – the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) – were selected to deliver brood removal for Defra. I’m not sure what the procurement rules are but for Defra funded research (I assume a trial will be classed as research?) there are usually publicised tender documents and an open tendering process. One might also wish to examine the audited accounts of HOT and ICBP, available on the Charity Commission web site, to see how much Defra funding they have received and will receive going forward.

  18. 28 Roderick Leslie
    September 12, 2016 at 11:43 am

    The key issue, which I have put to Phillip, is that there are no Hen Harriers – and when people go on endlessly about giving conciliation a chance, however flawed it is the Defra plan effectively laid down a challenge to Grouse moor managers: stop killing the birds and we will try and find a solution to your issues. The response has been a loud bang – not one single pair of HH allowed to nest on a Grouse moor in the whole of England. It takes two to tango, and Phillip kindly reminded me that in an email exchange in 2014 I said ‘the game is now clearly in shooting’ court’ ie it was shooting that had to take the next step. faced with what in effect was a deadline, it has shown that there is to be no give whatsoever.

  19. September 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Sorry couldn’t get more than a quarter way through.
    Is this a six year old in a body swop of a man or just a typical old Etonian?

    ‘My my my my my my my you know my my my my my moor my my my my my my my my Sheffield my my my my my my my my you know l I I I I I you know I l I I I I I my my my grovel grovel grove l I I I I I I l l I I you know I I I I l I I I I I I I I I I you know l I I I I I I I I you know I I I l I I I I I I l I I I I I disgrace I I I I l I I I I I l you know I I I I I I l I I I I you know I I l I I I I I l I I I I I you know I I I I l I I l I I I I you know I I l I I I I I I you know I I I l I I I I I bloody I I I I I l I I you know I l I I I I I I l I you know I I I I I I I l I you know I I I I I I I l landowner I I I I l I I l I I I I you know I I l I I I I I I I I I I I I ….’

    I am sure in the comments will let me know if he actually said anything new.
    Perhaps he told us how brood persecution will protect all the other raptors which his daughter ‘you know’ loves so much on ‘you know’ moorland.
    Perhaps he informed us why he or the HOT has moved the goalposts of ‘immovable conditions’ on HH Inaction Plan.

  20. 30 T Willis
    September 12, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Wow. As noted above, even taking into account the context of this being a transcript of a verbal presentation, this comes across as very poor indeed. Rowley Birkin QC came to mind, unfortunately (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXczSof201U). The whole bit about going up there (from below sea level, apparently) and giving people a stern talking to was just laughable.

    S Tucker (above) asked how many members had been lost. I’ve no idea, but I am one of the number. I informed the Membership Secretary of my reasons when they contacted me about renewal. They didn’t respond.

  21. 31 AlanTwo
    September 12, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I can think of at least 3 explanations for this omnishambles of a talk:
    1. Poor preparation by someone who has difficulty with clear, logical thought and organizing ideas in a coherent fashion;
    2. Someone with a very high opinion of themselves and their achievements. Such people’s discourse is often riddled with anecdote, personal reminiscence, name-dropping, irrelevance, boasting and straw-clutching if things get tricky;
    3. Someone who has worked hard to take up most of their allotted time with the nonsense mentioned in 1 and 2, in order to avoid having to say anything of substance or provide any insight into the HH non-plan and the involvement of the HOT.
    I don’t know the speaker personally and I can’t say which of these was the case. My guess is that it’s a combination of all 3.

    • September 12, 2016 at 11:14 pm

      2. In Merricks case it is classic case of Dunning-Kruger effect.
      A couple of times he has made what he thought was a great point when stating that there was no conservation obstacle to brood-persecution and that he has not heard one argument which wasn’t ideological. This is presumably his basis of calling everyone who signed the petition eco-zealots.

      Ignoring the fact that dozens of sound ecological arguments have been put to him and he has chosen not to hear them, he has also missed a major flaw in his logic. Conservation by its very definition is ideological. It is about protection and prevention and restoration of damage, in this case to moorland ecosystems. How can that not be idealogical?
      That is why it is impossible to argue with anyone who sees not value in species or ecosystems. Most discussions with climate deniers or with those who, almost by default, hate environmental causes will end up with the argument that ‘extinctions have always happened, who cares?’. There is nothing to say to people like that because it is a value judgement. If they think like that then they are right.
      In the case of raptor persecution it is also about the law but again Merricks seems to think that asking the wealthy and their henchmen to obey the law is also ideological.
      So i’ll wear the eco-zealot badge and be proud of it.

  22. 33 crypticmirror
    September 12, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve seen more coherent stuff from Boris Johnson, and also parody Boris Johnson from a Rory Bremner skit too. I don’t suppose Mr Merricks was tired and emotional throughout this?

  23. 34 Philip Ridsdale
    September 12, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    I had the displeasure of sitting through all of this and after listening to this and several other indirect ramblings about those silly HH that just fly away from young in nests, commit suicide on grouse moors, and all those innocent grouse moor keepers who are as flummoxed as everybody else about where all the BOP have gone from managed moors I by lunchtime I was beginning to feel overly frustrated and angry.

    Sereral speakers, some of whom would have a vested interest really tried to play home the point about seeing the problem from the other person viewpoint, addressing the keepers reputation and need to reach his quota of grouse shot to keep the shooters happy and him in work, and in order to keep the needed head of grouse they need to shoot BOP. It was at this point where Mark Avery popped the question” so are you saying that driven grouse shooting wholey dipends upon the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and other BOP?” Not surprisingly they didn’t give a straightforward answer and just bs their way out of it.

    But to put their own idea back at them as I do wonder just how many Keepers and grouse moor owners give the slightest bit of consideration of our point of view of this, the the views about grouse moor mismanagement for people living in the Calder valley and other places affected by flooding, habitat destruction and sustainability of some old past times and the level of destruction created for the HOBBY of a small bunch of the richest people in the country to shoot a few birds for a couple of days a year.

    They talk about the livelihood of the keepers who would have to diversify if grouse shooting has banned, so what, look at genuine industries that employed many more people, the coal mining industry that wasn’t a toffs hobby, it was a industry they employed a nation at one point and brought money into the uk, ultimately is was found to be unsustainable and not good for the environment, thousands of people around Yorkshire had to change and find new jobs, maybe it time this happened on our uplands too.

  24. 35 Jack Snipe
    September 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    This shows clearly what we’re up against – idiots being taken seriously by other idiots. I know it’s not considered PC or clever to throw insults like that, but it’s come to a stage where we need to call a spade a spade. As he had NOTHING to say which made ANY ecological sense, why should we have any trust or confidence in the Hawk & Owl Trust? We all know the so-called brood management scheme is a non-starter, so surely it’s time to take off the gloves and treat this “trial, just a trial” with the contempt it deserves? We’ve been too polite for years now, tried to enter into meaningful dialogue with the grouse shooters, but where have we got – a miserable THREE pairs of Hen Harriers nesting in England. This is a shocking indictment of the corruption and criminality clearly implicated in the whole business, from top to bottom. Do we really believe the senior figures who say it is “unacceptable” that “a minority” of their gamekeepers sully the reputation of the noble practice of slaughtering grouse in their thousands? Their seriousness in tackling the disgrace is reflected in that one statistic, only three pairs of harriers breeding in the whole country. The whole Defra plan is a sham, designed with only one objective in mind, that is to restrict the population and range of the Hen Harrier on English grouse moors. It has nothing to do with restoring the population to natural levels.

    • 36 AlanTwo
      September 12, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      But surely, JS, a little bit of working closely together and a few regulations applied with a suitably ‘light touch’ would put all that to rights in just a jiffy?
      Come on, RSPB, WT, NT and all the rest – stop toadying to the clowns and use your clout to actually do something.

    • September 12, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      I do think it’s ‘gloves off’ time, and the most effective approach would be to challenge Merricks for the leadership of HOT – we need one or more people to stand for the Chair and for other Trustee positions on an anti brood removal, pro hen harrier / bird of prey ticket. There’s a HOT AGM in October I think – time for anyone to stand?

      • 38 AlanTwo
        September 13, 2016 at 10:58 am

        Will Ms Parry-Jones’ ICBP benefit financially from HOT’s involvement in the brood removal scheme?

        • 39 Nimby
          September 13, 2016 at 7:38 pm

          I have previously made the point about funding, if it is Govt. eg Defra through say Natural England then there is a tender protocol to be followed for commissions of more than £5k. It should be open tender. It seems reasonable to assume that there will be others equally competent to deliver meddling, so interesting revelations in due course?

          Then again ….

  25. September 12, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    For those that never went this man did. He could have declined like a lot of those Red Grouse moor owners and the comment that one speaker [Tim Baynes] gave ‘I would have preferred to have been speaking to practical people’! [which I put my hand up] suggesting that most of the conference was being attended by folk that did not know what they were talking about! Philip even came to the out door meeting on the Peak which many did not and he asked several sensible questions. So for those who got bored ask yourself this – if he had not come what the hell would you be writing about on here?

  26. 42 Pete Hoffmann
    September 12, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Likes to hear his own voice…he needs to be challenged by some one on a public forum …perhaps an invite to a TV discussion on the subject…the ridicule has to be public!

  27. 43 stiubhart-uu
    September 12, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    As the man with the tennis racquet used to say, “You cannot be serious!” how does he hold down the job he does while exhibiting this sort of terminal inarticulacy?

  28. 44 SOG
    September 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Like others, I persevered to about half-way. I assume it didn’t improve later.

    My one comment is – is this chap negotiating with the shooting landowners? Oh dear, this could end badly.

  29. September 13, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Brilliant speech. Never heard of the man but clearly he’s done some ‘nature study’.

  30. 46 Paul Seligman
    September 13, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Oh dear, oh dear. But it’s not a crime to be rambling and inarticulate as a public speaker, at least in a transcript, and doesn’t prove that he is an ‘idiot’. I think a lot of the comments here would not be made if the man and the organisation he leads were not already derided as being on the wrong side of the current argument. As some have pointed out, he did come and was prepared to put forward his views and take the flak. He could have just stayed away. And that wouldn’t have been good because it’s better to have a dialogue with Hawk and Owl Trust, which was once an admirable small organisation, and probably still does some good work. Let’s try and get them back on track and one day they will have a more articulate Chair. And maybe hidden in the bumble are a couple of valid points.

    • September 15, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      It isn’t just the terrible ramblings from the ladybird book on how to be a car salesman.
      That wouldn’t matter if the content was valid.
      Merricks has kindly sent the script without the ramblings to Mark Avery’s blog

      I will try and read it all when i calm down but i was first furious and then quite depressed by the content which i could see was going to be repeating all that he has said before on these two blogs and on Talking Naturally Podcast.

      The depressing thing is not the rambling, that just adds insult to injury, it is the fact that all the crimes on the moors this year haven’t made one difference to his determination which appears to be for him to go down in history as being the man who solved the HH ‘problem’. And we are the zealots!

      The anger comes from
      1. His naivety, assumptions with no evidence and lack of logic. There are too many examples to go into.
      One example would be his assumption on Talking Naturally that if a gamekeeper is on a moor with his gun, has a Hen Harrier in his sites, knows another pair is nesting more than 10km away and Merricks can see into the gamekeepers mind and knows that this man is going to say to himself. Rather than pull this trigger, bang, wouldn’t it be much easier if i walk the 10 miles home, check the distance of those displaying pairs. Over the next couple of weeks I will make the walk numerous times to locate the nest and then when I know the exact location, calculate the breeding density, if it is under the 10km limit call the HOT. Get the HOT to come, if they aren’t too busy with hundreds of other estates with the same ‘problem’, with all their kit from hundreds of miles away to the estate. Then we will walk the 20 mile round trip to show them the nest. Thinking all that the gamekeeper is not going to say to himself ‘fuck that, bang.’
      Now of course i can’t read a gamekeepers mind either but Merricks whole gamble is on the first scenario. I call that naive. He also strangely ignores the landowner, how convenient or how naive.

      2. Him not addressing key issues. Again there are too many to list but the most glaringly obvious omission is the fact that the HH Inaction Plan will not stop other raptors being killed on grouse moors. Again i am sure in his ideology there is some kind of assumption without any evidence that the same gamekeeper will think to himself, well that went well with the HOT HH brood persecution scheme and it felt so good in my heart that i think i’ll just let this Peregrine, Buzzard, Short-eared Owl and this roaming Red Kite take as many grouse as they like. Gosh it feels good. So good who cares if the boss gives me the sack.
      Another key issue is his lowland re-introduction scheme. Without the removal of the original threat (illegal killing) re-introduction will be going against international guidelines. Everyone who knows anything about Hen Harriers knows that the majority will try to breed on prime habitat with abundant prey, grouse moors. Everyone except Merricks knows they will be shot when they fly over grouse moors. Now we come back to point 1. This gamekeeper has in the past just blasted every HH out of the sky on his grouse moor. He does this knowing that he is keeping the population level down and reducing his work load. We are supposed to believe that he is going to welcome the multiple increase in his workload when these re-introduced Hen Harriers also start to breed on his grouse moor.
      Merricks whole argument rests on the belief that removing Hen Harriers from the grouse moors will solve the problem. Actually he is going to do the opposite. Presumably he wants to have large numbers of breeding Hen Harriers in the lowlands not just a couple of pairs. This will just increase the number of Hen Harriers trying to occupy territories on grouse moors. He will have multiplied the ideological problem for that poor suddenly philosophically challenged gamekeeper and still we are supposed to have the religious faith that he isn’t going to take the simple solution and pull the trigger, again and again and again.

  31. September 13, 2016 at 10:08 am

    He did make a few valid points but either the guy was very nervous or is just not up to the job of presenting to a group. As others have this chap should be removed from negotiating with any landowners as he just has not got the necessary skill set to do the job. I am not saying his heart is not in the right place or he does not know anything about conservation, what is need is a strong vocal leader who is skilled at presenting the case for the protection of the Hen Harriers and winning over the landowners and game keepers to encourage them to see sense. If this fails then that very same person also needs the skills to bring together public and the conservation bodies all singing from the same sheet to force about a much stronger level of protection and pursue a possible ban on Grouse shooting.

  32. 49 Dave Appleton
    September 13, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Well of course some of it doesn’t make sense – it’s a transcript of a speech without the accompanying slides! Maybe Philip Merricks doesn’t have the greatest public speaking skills but if people have to resort to criticising him for this (as they have done before for his lack of social media skills) then perhaps it says something about the strength of their case for criticising what he actually stands for.

    If you look a bit deeper at what he says you’ll see:

    1) A lot that most of us would agree with (like that illegal persecution of Hen Harriers is an appalling disgrace)

    2) A little bit of defence of his credentials (the reserves he manages hold the largest concentration of breeding birds of prey in SE England)

    3) Some significant and important facts that many in this debate seem intent to ignore to suit their own purposes (such as the fact that the overwhelming majority of wild birds of prey are on land managed by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers, and the fact that the Government has made it abundantly clear they won’t go down the routes of banning or licensing grouse shooting)

    4) Some much needed (in view of the last point) pragmatism (he and Hawk and Owl Trust recognise that it’s best to act on the basis of consensus and partnership; he and they seek an outcome that suits both Hen Harriers AND the interests of grouse moor owners)

    5) A really positive motivation (he’s passionate about getting land managers to manage land for conservation)

    6) Hawk and Owl Trust’s involvement in DEFRA’s six point plan is in part an attempt at conflict resolution intended to help Hen Harriers

    I will summarise the situation as I see it:

    1) Landowner and gamekeepers are responsible for the vast majority of land that is critical for Hen Harriers and indeed for so much more than Hen Harriers. Therefore those of us who care about the fate of Hen Harriers or for conservation in general must see landowners and gamekeepers as one of our most important stakeholder groups

    2) Government policy and legislation can influence conservation positively or negatively to an enormous extent, so politicians and policy makers are also one of our most important stakeholder groups

    3) Landowners and land managers have disproportionate influence over our Government and politicians – especially true of our current Tory Government but probably always the case – and so they are even more important as stakeholders for conservationists

    4) Many landowners, land managers and even gamekeepers are genuinely interested in wildlife and want to see it thrive on their land – we (conservationists) have much in common with most of them

    5) Some landowners, land managers and gamekeepers see high concentrations of birds of prey as a threat to their financial interests – and indeed to some extent this is reality

    6) Balancing the interests of nature and of economics is never going to be easy but to whatever extent it can ever succeed it depends entirely on conservationists working with, not against, landowners and land managers

    Personally I cannot see for one moment why anyone might think that stirring up conflict and setting ourselves up against our most important stakeholders can possibly hope to achieve a positive outcome for Hen Harriers, other birds of prey or indeed wildlife as a whole. To describe the Hawk and Owl Trust, and by implication those of us who support it, as apologists for an industry which relies upon the illegal killing of birds of prey (as in the most recent blog post) is offensive and utterly wrong.

    I am enormously grateful that Philip Merrick and the Hawk and Owl Trust have the guts to take an unpopular but pragmatic approach that seeks to work alongside landowners and land managers for the benefit of Hen Harriers. Some of the comments above have implied that Hawk and Owl Trust’s membership do not support the Trust’s approach – of course there will be a range of views among the membership but I’m one who has joined the Hawk and Owl Trust recently because of their pragmatic pro-conservation approach that stands out among a crowd of conflict-loving antis who seem to be doing more to harm than help the cause of conservation.

    Good on Philip for accepting the invitation to speak at this conference, despite the inevitable hostility he would face for doing so.

    (PS: Like Philip Merricks, I do not shoot and have never shot, but unlike Philip Merricks I’m not a landowner or land manager. I’m just an ordiary bloke who loves birds and nature and wants to see Hen Harriers thriving in England and Scotland once again.)

    • September 14, 2016 at 12:33 am

      Not a bad translation! No, his slides also appeared to have been produced by the Boris Johnson PR company of piffle and waffle. Honestly, there was nothing worthwhile there either, I’m afraid. Loved the one about RSPB cocktails, though. Heart in the right place; policy possibly off beam. He’s clearly influential, and cares. But it’s not coming across well at all. I didn’t have the heart (or balls) to tell him in the pub afterwards that his ‘talk’ was pretty sh*t and a waste of a good timeslot where he really should have bravely explained where he was taking the H&OT. But he received respect and absolutely no hostility because of that talk. I think we were all too perplexed by its lack of content. It was a lost opportunity, that’s all.

    • September 16, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Dave Appleton, please see post above
      September 15, 2016 at 5:39 pm.

  33. September 16, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Anyone who has every done a talk will tell you that the slides are just there to back up what you are talking about and highlighting the major points. This just adds to facts that his talk was very poorly presented.

    One major area that really bothers me though is and that he acknowledges in his own talk is that people have been trying to persuade landowners and gamekeepers since ’70’s to get their act together and actually operate within the law, but over the years things have not improved but got worse. And for some reason he feels he will be able to succeed where many others have failed in persuading the very same landowners and gamekeepers to embrace his way of thinking. Either he is very naïve and a major optimist or he cannot see the simple truth that a lot of people and organisations have tried the lets work together strategy but that it always fails as its not really in the landowners interests to have the moors filled with predators that eat their precious Grouse, its much easier to kill any predator out there no matter if it flies or walks.

    I have walked over Grouse moors in Yorkshire which had plenty of Meadow Pipits and other small birds but we did not see a single raptor or corvid any where across the moor, not seeing a single one till we had left the moor far behind.

    I have basically reached the point where I feel that time has run out in trying to work with the landowners/game keepers its now time to take a much more hard line, and slowly it does look like the various conservation bodies are reaching the same conclusion.

    • September 16, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Timothy you wrote ‘And for some reason he feels he will be able to succeed where many others have failed’.
      That made me realise that he is actually not trying to do what anyone has done before. He has given up on that. He is actually trying to do something new, change the whole preferred habitat of the Hen Harrier. Moving it off the uplands onto the lowlands. Trouble is that it won’t work. Every gardener or farmer and ecologist knows this but not Merricks. Maybe a few pairs will stay in the lowlands but the vast majority will try to breed where the prey density is highest, on grouse moors where they will continue to be shot. It will be a highly unethical and pointless experiment.

      • September 16, 2016 at 11:03 am

        I do wonder with this proposed relocation strategy has he managed to secure agreement from farmers and landowners in the lowlands to take these birds? Also has he managed to find sites where the Hen Harriers will not be in direct competition with other birds of prey such as Marsh Harrier or Buzzards?
        After all moving the HH down into the lowlands will surely just mean they will switch prey from Grouse to Pheasant again putting them in harms way from Gamekeepers.
        Merricks hearts in the right place and he is trying to find the third way to resolve the problem, but it still does not help the other birds of prey or mammals that call the moors their home, next we will be relocating Mountain Hares to the lowlands.
        The Hen Harrier after all is not the problem but the gamekeepers and Grouse moor owners.


        • 55 Nimby
          September 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm

          From memory and you guys have the transcripts, I recall that his pitch as ‘Mr fix-it’ was that he had a group of land owners [southern] “signed up already” and who would be “honoured” to be involved in relocation.

          Begs the question how to define ‘honoured’ not perhaps the simplistic definition but a due course payment?

          Is it just me that still has concerns about any NE involvement in licensing and the requirement for open tender process for any defra funding to support a doomed experiment?

  34. 56 Dylanben
    September 19, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Only one pole-trap on Mossdale Estate! Marsh Harriers rarer than Hen Harriers! Say no more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 6,561,399 hits


Our recent blog visitors