Today is a milestone. It’s the day that 123,077 members of the public forced members of Parliament to debate in Westminster the issue of driven grouse shooting.
That’s an incredible achievement, and although we’re not expecting to hear anything more than an establishment-led whitewash today, it’s just the beginning. Whatever the outcome this afternoon, we’re not going away. But more of that another time. Today is a day to celebrate how far we’ve come.
We wouldn’t have reached today’s milestone without the vision of one man – Mark Avery. Sure, today’s debate wouldn’t be happening if 100,000 people hadn’t signed a petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting, but those 100,000 people wouldn’t have signed if there wasn’t a petition to sign.
Mark started this campaign two years ago with his first petition. When that didn’t reach the required number of signatories, he launched another one. That petition did better than the first one, but was still way off where it needed to be. It didn’t help that the main environmental NGOs refused to support it. Most people would have given up at that stage, skulking away with their tail between their legs. Not Mark. He launched a third petition. That takes some balls.
This time, the petition roared past the finish line and then some! That didn’t happen by luck or by chance. It happened because a lot of people put in a huge amount of effort to promote it, and not least Mark. He’s one of the most hard-working and productive people we’ve met. He’s driven. And he’s driven this campaign, with quite brilliant strategic acumen, inspiring many of us along the way. Throughout it all he’s been subjected to vile, vitriolic personal abuse from some within the grouse-shooting industry but not once has he resorted to retaliatory invective. He’s retained his composure, his manners, his sense of humour and his integrity. That’s quite something.
Hats off to you, Mark, and thank you for all you’ve done. Today you shouldn’t have to buy a single drink (this is a one off – don’t get any ideas!). We’ll see you in London.
For those who can’t get to London, today’s debate can be watched on Parliamentary TV here (kick off at 4.15pm).