momentum across the media, in protest, and online. I am a signatory for a few reasons: the illegality of grouse moor practice, wider environmental impacts such as burning, the lack of harriers and the creation of a heather monoculture in place of varied upland habitat. I don’t agree that moors are fundamentally ‘bad’ for wildlife. Unfashionable as it may be to say, they have an excellent track record with Merlins, are generally amenable to Short-eared Owls and encourage high wader productivity – they form landscape level refuges for red-list species; and I have no objection to Fox removal. Ironically, this would benefit harriers too: we must always prioritise vanishing populations, such as upland waders or raptors, over common generalists we can find in most city or town gardens. So, would the birding landscape be better if we banned driven shooting? Dr Mark Avery argues convincingly that driven grouse shooting will be banned in 10 years’ time. Let’s assume he’s right. With driven grouse shooting banned, will the harrier – and its wider ecosystem – be better off? On the day driven grouse shooting is banned, grouse moor owners find themselves considerably poorer – and more hateful of harriers than even before. For more than two decades, harriers have become the symbol of a Green Movement that has just divested grouse moor owners of millions in revenue. The financial incentive to kill harriers has been removed, that’s all. The ideology of hatred remains. The gamekeepers remain. The 200-year contempt of harriers remains. Almost everything remains the same. The landowners now face two options – keep the land, or sell. The ‘current ownership’ option is unlikely to benefit harriers for the reasons above. Slightly poorer but still wealthy, large landowners retain Hen Harriers favour rough grassland over heather moors
INNOCENT ‘CULPRIT’ The native Red Grouse is nurtured to be shot for profit Hen Harrier Day takes place on 7 August 2016. Visit henharrierday.org enough keepers to snuff out these graceful symbols of the conservation movement with more hate than ever before. Life goes on unchanged. ‘Walk-in’ shooting becomes monetised and more of an intensive industry. More people walk across the moor, more grouse are shot on foot, more grouse are needed: harriers lose. As long as harriers remain the hostage of those who despise them, they stand no viable chance of survival. The ‘panic and sell’ option is the alternative. Divested of millions, landowners look for a rich buyer. Step forward a range of unexciting possibilities – big agriculture or big energy. What happens to the grouse moor? It disappears! If the grouse moor owners keep the land, the harrier has lost. But if they sell to most parties – the overall quality of the land degrades, not just for harriers but 70% of our nesting Merlins, many waders, some Black Grouse and moorland passerines. There is only one buyer that will redeem this situation: us. Crowd-funding and larger scale philanthropy are the obvious solutions. If this can buy enough land to prove that conservation of the uplands is financially viable, government and business may, in time, provide the rest. For now, we must become unapologetically rich and make sure our approach to the harrier is not ideological but pragmatic. One thought to finish on. At a fundamental psychological level, hunting is hard-wired into the modern human genome. We hunt with cameras and binoculars, others with guns and dogs. However we dress it up, however destructive or curious, we all go hunting. The only solution is to own enough land to redress the odds. In 50 years’ time, we must ensure that in the Hunt for the Harrier, it’s worth more alive than dead.
59 pairs in Northern Ireland, 57 pairs in Wales, 29 on the Isle of Man but just 12 in England