We’ve recently been blogging about DEFRA’s hen harrier brood meddling scheme, due to start in the 2017 breeding season. A series of FoIs has uncovered some of the plans to date (e.g. see here, here, here).
Today’s blog relates to the proposed social science study, which is being viewed as an integral part of the brood meddling trial.
The proposal has been submitted by Steve Redpath (Aberdeen Uni & Trustee of the Hawk & Owl Trust) and Freya St John (Kent Uni), both well known for their interest in wildlife conflict management.
Here’s the proposal: social-science-proposal-brood-meddling-june-2016
Basically the proposal is for a seven-month long study, estimated to cost ~ 50K, to assess how grouse moor managers, gamekeepers and conservationists ‘feel’ about hen harriers and about the different aspects of the wider Hen Harrier Inaction Plan.
Not being social scientists there’s a very good chance that we’re missing something here, and we’d be happy to be corrected, but we’re struggling to see the point/value of this study. Apart from the obvious flaw that the study will rely upon grouse moor owners and gamekeepers telling the truth (good luck with that, researchers!), the attitudes of all these ‘stakeholders’ are already blindingly clear, surely?
The vast majority of driven grouse moor owners and gamekeepers don’t tolerate hen harriers, to the extent that the English hen harrier breeding population is on its knees because these birds are routinely killed. Conservationists place a high nature conservation value on hen harriers and want grouse moor owners and gamekeepers to abide by the law and stop killing them.
The whole premise of the brood meddling scheme is to see whether driven grouse moor owners and gamekeepers will ‘tolerate’ hen harriers if they can be assured that there won’t be more than one breeding pair per 10 sq km. The claimed purpose of brood meddling is to reduce the pressure of predation on red grouse caused by parent hen harriers hunting to provide for their broods (and yet strangely, the industry isn’t up for trialling diversionary feeding). But this predation pressure is not the only aspect of hen harrier ecology that the grouse shooting industry objects to. It is also known that they don’t like to see hen harriers flying over the moors during the grouse-shooting season because the harrier might disrupt the flights of red grouse being driven towards the guns. So who thinks that releasing young hen harriers back to the uplands in August/September is going to work?!
The proof will be in the pudding. Will those captive-reared hen harriers survive once they’ve been released? Their satellite tag transmissions will provide the real answer, not the result of some questionnaire that’s been answered by members of an industry that’s based on criminality and that has proven itself untrustworthy time and time and time again.