I’ll probably regret writing this because it will provoke a gnashing of teeth and a wailing from the green ink brigade. But here goes, anyway.
A former colleague was once sent to another part of the country to interview an elderly gamekeeper. His first question was: ‘What is the main purpose of your job?’
The old chap replied: ‘To protect the game birds by killing vermin.’
The journalist, a probing sort of fellow, asked: ‘And what do you class as vermin?’ The gamekeeper replied: ‘Anything that isn’t a game bird.’
As you will have guessed this was way back when there was a less enlightened approach to our wildlife, not just by gamekeepers but most of the population in general.
Around the same time as the interview, I recall a friend in North Yorkshire saying he hadn’t seen a raptor in years and assumed it was because of his close proximity to the shooting moors. Happily, attitudes have changed and he now regularly sees the distinctive v-shaped wings of buzzards circling the skies around his home. I hope that’s because persecution has stopped rather than the hungry birds waiting for him to drop off the twig.
Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that everything in the garden, or the grouse moor, is rosy. There will be one or two estate owners around the UK who are prepared to turn a blind eye to wrong-doing by their staff. Also, there will be some estate
workers who will use illegal methods that would horrify their employers.
This happens in all walks of life. You’ll be startled to discover it even occurs in the world of journalism. I recall a gentleman called Boris who parted company with The Times for making things up. No doubt, he’s now mended his ways.
All of this fizzled through my beer-addled synapses as I read that we’d had the most successful breeding season for red-listed hen harriers for a decade. There were 34 young birds from nine nests across Lancashire, the Lakes, Northumberland and Derbyshire.
A bird back from the brink. So was joy unconfined? Was it heck! The news prompted wildlife groups to blame gamekeepers for having caused the near demise of hen harriers in the first place while the shooting lobby said they deserved much of the credit for having played an important part in saving the species.
Both sides seem to be foaming at the mouth and a plan to remove eggs from the moors and raise the chicks elsewhere has proved so contentious it’s going to court. In the melee, the birds almost seem to have been forgotten.
I just hope that when it does go to court, it’s before a judge who is good at knocking heads together.
Never let it be said Borrell doesn’t capture the zeitgeist. A few issues back I complained about restaurant staff calling customers guys, even when they are plainly not of the guy gender.
This was taken up by the slightly scary Jane Garvey, of Woman’s Hour, and has become a national talking point (well, in my world anyway).
I’ve just spent a few days in the North East and on at least two occasions I have been greeted by barmen with the word: ‘Wodjafta.’ At first I thought they were Polish but then realised this is Geordie for: ‘How may I help you, sir?’
Have a great month, guys
Hen harrier chicks have made a come back in Lancashire – but who is to blame?