Today is a milestone, and there’s one man to thank

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).

Photo: RPUK

46 Responses to “Today is a milestone, and there’s one man to thank”

  1. 1 Jack Snipe (Iain Gibson)
    October 31, 2016 at 3:57 am

    An historic day in the entire history of avian nature conservation in the UK. I’ve had disagreements in the past with Mark over RSPB policy, but if I had borne any grudge it would have long since vanished thanks to his tremendous campaign to save Hen Harriers. This is surely a legacy that will always be remembered, whether or not we are successful this time around. It is the first time that the shooting industry has been seriously challenged over the ethics, ecology and environmental impact of grouse moor management. The first time the bullies of the gamekeepers’ associations have been faced up to, despite the threats implicit in their responses. Chris Packham also deserves our extreme gratitude, and I’m sure Mark would agree that Chris’s contribution to raising awareness of the issue has been literally invaluable. My only real disappointment during the campaign has been the lack of active assistance, and some apathy, coming from birding clubs in general, and the RSPB’s calculated lack of support at its highest level. Unfortunately if we get to the stage of legal arguments, I fear that the shooting people will take advantage of this apparent lack of unanimity. Raptor Persecution UK has excelled itself in the standards of presentation and the quality of debate. Thank you all.

    • 2 Peter Hack
      October 31, 2016 at 10:14 am

      I talked at one stage to one of the key people in RSPB Species Protection and he rather scoffed at the petition “even if it achieved 300,000 signatures it would not achieve its objective”; I noted it would achieve a Parliamentary debate and that is now a quite remarkable achievement. I am now calling for a good long look at the land rights history of these moors, their re-wilding and perhaps an Act for their Enclosure and a return to a National Common and Park, that parrtly focuses on the return of the internationaly important wader assemblage as well as the Golden Plover, lightly keepered to promote diversity with rough shooting rights for locally resident people.

  2. 3 Roland Pitts
    October 31, 2016 at 7:11 am

    It really is a tremendous achievement by Mark and he deserves to be very proud of it. He has poured an amazing amount of energy into this campaign and I often wonder where he finds the time to pen his prolific blogs and tweets. And in his spare time he manages to write a book or too, including of course Inglorious. Many thanks for getting the campaign this far, I suspect that many of us who have supported the campaign and want to see a ban are not expecting too much to come out of today’s debate but it is a milestone and a huge step forwards. The issues around Driven Grouse Shooting have been brought to the attention of all MPs and many members of the general public, and the spotlight is on the industry today. Many thanks too to Raptor Persecuton, you too are doing a splendid job of supporting the campaign. I will be watching the debate today with interest to see how many MPs attend and who says what. I don’t know what you big beasts and drivers of the campaign have planned for the future but I and I’m sure many others will be doing our little bit to support and to bring about change.

  3. October 31, 2016 at 7:14 am

    thank you to Mark Avery and Chris Packham. we have to stand up to the game keepers, the pheasant shooting industry and the controls it urgently needs, the hundreds and hundreds of wildlife crimes committed on foxes and badgers every week and the Police do nothing but often visibly support the criminals.

  4. 5 Lorna Bett
    October 31, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Huge thanks to both Mark and Chris. What an achievement. Birds of Prey are my passion and I have watched, incandescent with rage, as the shooting industry killed and maimed our beautiful birds. And all for money. The battle may not be won today, but it has certainly started.

  5. 6 Nigel Raby
    October 31, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Yes Well Done to that man – Thankyou Mark

  6. October 31, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Hear hear. Thank you Mark.

  7. 8 Dr Monika Schroder
    October 31, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Originating from a town (population 100,000) not far from the moors of the Lueneburger Heide, I’ve lived very happily in Britain for several decades – though never feeling comfortable with the shooting industry, its secrecy, sense of entitlement and close association with, to me, outmoded societal structures. My husband and I had not heard of Mark or the hen harrier, or its German cousin the Kornweihe, before being alerted to Mark’s petition when it stood at ca. 80,000. I want to congratulate Mark on his leadership (passion, integrity, sense-making) and hope that in a broader sense, his approach to campaigning can be taken across the European continent.

    Come on, MPs, Britain’s supposed leaders, prove that you can be as great as Mark.

  8. 9 Dylanben
    October 31, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Thanks here should be threefold – Mark Avery, Chris Packham and RPUK. Each has played a very significant and admirable role in getting us to where we stand today. This should have given both the DGS lobby and Parliament an abundantly clear message – we are not going to go away!

  9. 12 mairi
    October 31, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Yes, a big thank you to Mark, also Chris P, this site and others standing up for the rights of our wildlife and future generations to see it. Each step chips away at the foundations of the insular minority who’ve held the reigns for far too long. Onwards and Upwards!

  10. 13 Simon Newman
    October 31, 2016 at 9:39 am

    A big thanks to all the volunteers handing out leaflets around birding sites and also to the general public, most of which were unaware of the Petition. The climate of opInion and awareness is now changing amountgs the general public,though there is a huge amount of work to do with big obstacles in the way. The bigest being the apathy shown by some Agencies who would, one would assume, be sympathetic to the cause. Keep the pressure On!
    Simon Newman

  11. 14 againstfeudalism
    October 31, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Because the shooting estates all benefit from the illegal killing of raptors and the Scottish wild cat, they are operating as a Criminal Cartel, this has to stop. It is not only the grouse industry, it is also pheasant and other game bird shooting. Thanks to Mark, RPUK and Chris, and all the other tireless workers out there, this sick ‘industry’ is now under a spotlight, and the general public is becoming aware of the mass slaughter of our wildlife.

    I do not expect much today, but this will not stop, until the criminal atrocities stop, and I believe that that will take the banning of all gamebird shooting. They are not above the law.

  12. 15 kevin moore
    October 31, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Best of luck to you mark , you should be proud of what you have done up to now as we are all proud of you.
    I expect today will be full of quotes like ‘shooting good for the economy ‘ ‘ gamekeepers do a wonderful job’ etc etc .

  13. 16 Peter Hack
    October 31, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I stand and salute. There is no issue more likely to go to the very heart of the establishment. The moors of Radnorshire that I know are not “driven” but they were “enclosed” and are now “the domain” of key figures in the landowning/farming community (ex President of the NFU); what is the land rights history of these tracts of land; were they not all enclosed from our common inheritance ? I hope for some real research on this matter and one day that they are taken back for “the people” and I do not exclude local “shooters” from that vision, that would include substantial re-wilding and some keepering for the waders on the fringes; maybe one day a new Enclosure Act of Parliament will return this land to the people; a massive new moorland Park, with access rights?

  14. October 31, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Mark has proved himself the central part of an environmental Trinity – Father (Mark Avery), Son (Chris Packham) and Holy Ghost (RPUK) – which has taken a niche issue and raised it to the level of a national debate. Together they form a whole that is greater than the parts but without Mark’s catalytic action today’s debate about what is a growing political scandal would not be happening.

  15. 18 steve macsweeney
    October 31, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Brilliant achievement and another major step towards riddance of this horrific abuse.
    It’s worth remembering that not just our predatory birds, but every British wild mammal, apart from the Hedgehog, is currently persecuted.
    The UK must have one of the worst records of wildlife abuse in the world, and almost all of it for recreational purposes.Corruption between the perpetrators and the policeforce is clearly rife.It will take monumental efforts to change this, but change it will thanks to the determination and inspiration of RPUK, Mark Avery, Chris Packham et al.
    Pity David Attenborough cannot be persuaded to say something. Anything!
    Proud to follow and support…….Steve

    • 19 crypticmirror
      October 31, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      Hedgehogs are deliberately destroyed on grouse moors too, they eat eggs. Many grouse moors, if allowed to start regenerating, would actually for some good habitat for hedgehogs.

  16. 20 Peter Jones
    October 31, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Today will see the reward of one man’s campaign against the organised crime that manifests itself in the Victorian practises of driven grouse shooting. Congratulations Mark Avery for such hard work and persistence, also to those many people who have supported you. Useful blog by Mark today, let’s hope decent people will win against the few, although they control government and our law enforcement. Like many here, I am not expecting too much from today, but we are all in this together for the long haul. Mark’s blog today: http://markavery.info/2016/10/31/dear-minister-1-status-quo/#comment-1127905

  17. 21 Michael Whitehouse
    October 31, 2016 at 10:50 am

    An excellent article which I fully endorse. “Mark has retained his composure, his manners, his sense of humour and his integrity. That’s quite something.” This is the mark of the man and these attributes have shone through in the campaign that he has led. Thank you.

    I am particularly looking forward to hear Teresa Coffey today to see whether our widespread and articulate concerns have registered. We will be able to judge today how this campaign moves forward so that we can achieve our aims.

    There are, I think, 2 questions that hen harriers would have liked my MP to ask the Minister today.
    1. Does the law of this land apply equally to tax payers, people on benefit and significant land owners?
    2. When the State issues licences for people to own and use guns is there an expectation that they will be used legally?

    If the answer to both of these questions is “Yes” then the evidence produced for today’s debate would indicate that the Government is failing to uphold the law of the land which is one of its primary duties.

    This is an excellent website – keep up the good work. Very best wishes for today.

  18. 22 Peter Robinson
    October 31, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Our parliament is not an engine for radical change, rather a safety valve for the establishment, however the issues will be aired at last. I contacted my MP, Karl Turner, who was well informed and sympathetic. Hopefully he will attend….

  19. 23 Les Wallace
    October 31, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Thanks Mark!

  20. 24 Alan Cranston
    October 31, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Hear hear.

  21. October 31, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Charlie Moores… of BAWK is the forgotten man in the trinity with Mark & Chris – low profile, no fame, just total commitment and hard word… well done Charlie

  22. 27 Roberta Mouse
    October 31, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Just watching the debate and want to sincerely thank old Nick Soames for enlightening me with regard to Gamekeepers…apparently they are the ‘unsung heroes of conservation’. You heard it here first !!!

    • October 31, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Unsung if you discount how much effort they put into telling everybody what fantastic conservationists they are. Never, ever heard D Attenborough tell the world what a great conservationist he is, it seems you need to wear tweed and have a bottle of carbofuran which he doesn’t.

  23. 29 George M
    October 31, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Well done Mark, Chris and RPUK. Sad to see and listen to the misinformed arrogance of the pro-shooting lobby though.

  24. 30 Mo Richards
    October 31, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Well done Mark, Chris and RPUK and keep going!

  25. 31 Roberta Mouse
    October 31, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    How very very sad….the mere singular mention that there might be an ethical, moral side to this question is met with ‘ridiculous nonsense’ and completely ignored. Makes ya proud to be British doesn’t it !

    • October 31, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Thus far it’s not so much a debate as a braying Tory pack. Only Kerry McCarthy has spoken strongly on the other side of the debate and seriously touched upon the intensification of management & gross levels of persecution.

  26. 34 Peter Shearer
    October 31, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    A good example today of what is wrong with our political system! A series of Tory MPs come out with their written notes from the people who sponsor them and dismiss the views of the public as extreme. Maybe it will be their inability to understand the anger of the public that will be their downfall. Time to take stock and decide the next move.

  27. 35 Louise
    October 31, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Immense respect to Mark, RPUK and the eco-zealots for everything accomplished so far !

    By contrast our elected representatives hardly covered themselves in glory today… My friend and I watching the debate would love to see some of these people subjected to the “peer review” they are using as a term to cosh each other with ! Littered with straw men, wilful conflation, misrepresentation of others’ results, failure to refer to the recent literature and lack of familiarity with relevant data (e.g. those provided in the written submissions), their papers are clear “reject”s or, if the editor was feeling very generous, “revise-and-resubmit”s — I am still howling at “Wales is an ornithological desert”.

    Kerry McCarthy and Rachael Maskell really stood out for their accuracy, consideration of the wider issues and not least respect for their constituents.

    • October 31, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      Having never really taken much interest in political debates before I was taken by surprise at the poor quality of many Conservative MPs speeches. They were so obviously reading from scripts written for them. Kerry McCarthy and Rachael Maskell were conspicuous by there diligent preparation and clear understanding of the issues. I am afraid that the Driven Grouse lobby will have done themselves no favours in the long run.

  28. 37 Dylanben
    October 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    I know very little about the ethics of Parliamentary procedures but I was disgusted by the opening address to the Debate from the member of the Petition Committee – whose name escapes me. This was extremely biassed in favour of the DGS lobby and set the tone for the rest of the session. It must have been very difficult to have held, and tried to express, a minority view in the face of that lot. Those MPs who tried their best to do so have both my sympathy and respect.

    • 38 Northern Diver
      November 1, 2016 at 11:20 am

      This man (Steve Double) was probably trying to ensure he wasn’t de-selected next time, because of his personal behaviour since being elected. Grovelling to endear himself with the established Tory hierarchy. A good Christian? I think not.

  29. October 31, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    The vast, uncrossable ocean between those of us who know the facts, and the MPs willing to produce any amount of smoke and mirrors, left me almost smiling. Still, it is at least a start, and to Mark and Chris and everyone else who has campaigned on behalf of our innocent hen harriers must go the most stonking congratulations. We must not be discouraged.

    • 41 heclasu
      November 1, 2016 at 2:07 am

      No! We should certainly not be discouraged! It would seem that they are going to have to fight on multiple fronts in future if the latest information, as to what is beginning to be reported in areas like the Calder Valley, is to be believed. The noose is beginning to tighten around their necks. It is up to us to ensure that we continue to increase the pressure. When we are finally victorious – which we will be – we will consign them to their own rotten stink-pits, where they belong!

  30. November 1, 2016 at 1:14 am

    I think that I am now ready to sign the next petition…… ! If they think that mass reading of the moorland association press release is going to make me go away they are as intelligent as they appear!

  31. 43 Bob
    November 1, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Well done Mark, you may now enter the hall of birding fame.✌

  32. 44 Merlin
    November 2, 2016 at 12:10 am

    if you can trust yourself when others doubt you; if you can be patient and not lose your temper; if you can handle being lied about but not lie yourself, and being hated but not hating yourself; if you do not look too good or talk too wise:
    If you can dream but not let those dreams cloud your reason; if you can think but still take action; if you can deal with both triumph and disaster; if you can handle it when others twist your truths into lies,

    Rudyard Kipling

    Much respect to the few MP’s who gave their time up to fight our battle, thank you very much, As with everyone else concerned with fighting the Organised crime blighting our uplands I was left deeply disappointed with this debate, I missed the opening 45 minutes but sat uncomfortably watching what preceded thinking it was a competition of who could come out with the most ridiculous comment,
    Did you know Heather Moorland is rarer than Rainforest?
    Well actually I did, heather moorland is manmade and can be produced quite easily within a few years, it has no agricultural significance yet the British Government gives millions of pounds of taxpayers money to multi millionaire owners in agricultural subsidies, Rainforest take hundreds of years to grow, there is no short term fix to replace them, Oh and by the way, football pitches are also rarer than rainforest and are also manmade and can be easily replaced.

    A hundred years ago there were no Hen Harriers in the UK, now there are 700 pairs.

    There were no breeding pairs 100 years ago because they became extinct due to persecution from Gamekeepers along with White tailed Eagle, Osprey, Goshawk, Eagle Owl and nearly the Red Kite which fortunately hung on in central Wales.

    In 1960’s there were only 300 pairs of peregrines now there are more than 1500 pairs?

    In the 1960’s peregrine falcons were almost wiped out due to DDT

    There were many more and I admire all those who attended for not jumping up and shouting out, it must have been so frustrating, the comparison with rainfall and bull Elephants came across as nothing more than Bullshit, please don’t be disheartened, this time we sat on the sidelines, next time we will be sat amongst them

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too:
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting.

    keep the faith

  33. 45 Dylanben
    November 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Last night, whilst looking for something else, I came across this from the Countryside Alliance. They are seeking to belittle the attempts to ban DGS by publishing the results of a poll which, it is claimed, shows that the general public have neither interest nor concerns about DGS. It is based on the polling of just over 2000 people. I can readily believe that the public, in general, might well come up with such responses. I found this to be the case when doing my bit in talking to people to ask them to consider signing the petition. Most had little or no knowledge of what DGS involved. After I had explained that the Red Grouse was a naturally occurring species which was exploited by people who were paying lots of money to shoot them, at the expense of the control of potential natural threats, whether by legal means or otherwise, they soon came round to agreeing that it was an unacceptable situation. As with any poll, it’s down to what the questions are and how much awareness those being asked have of the topic in hand.. Have a look here and see what you think:

  34. 46 H Siviter
    November 10, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I listened to all the debate and rarely have I heard anything so biased. The guy who presented the petition was a complete idiot. Nicholas Soames spoke in favour of the shooting lobby as expected as did quite a few more MP’s. No real progress made as far as I could see. The main concern seemed to be the loss of jobs and income for the land owners. Very little concern expressed for the criminality of the game keepers who are breaking the law and the land owners who are abetting them. Very disappointing outcome.

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