He’s too modest to make this announcement himself so we’ll do it for him: Mark Avery has been voted by Birdwatch magazine readers as their 2016 Conservation Hero of the Year.
He will balk at the title and many of us will revel in making mild piss-taking references to Bonnie Tyler, which he’ll accept with his usual good humour, but actually, ‘a streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds’ is not a bad definition of this year’s Conservation Hero.
You need strength, courage and determination to take on the mighty Establishment and Mark has displayed these qualities time and time again as he propelled his Ban Driven Grouse Shooting campaign towards Westminster. We’ve written of these qualities before but it’s worth repeating for those who might have missed it:
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.
This is such a well-deserved accolade for someone quite extraordinary – the conservation community is lucky to have him – congratulations, Mark!
Other winners in this year’s Birders’ Choice Awards include You Forgot the Birds, who won the 2016 Guano Award, and the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting campaign which won the 2016 Campaign of the Year Award.