This year, OneKind is getting behind Hen Harrier Day. We will be at the Highland Hen Harrier Day on the 6th August in Boat of Garten, where our Director, Harry Huyton, will be giving a talk about our campaigning on this topic, and we’re promoting events across the country to our members.
We’re not bird watchers (well, actually some of us are). So why are we doing this? Here’s three reasons:
Because hen harrier persecution is the tip of the iceberg.
Because driven grouse shooting and the intensive ‘management’ it requires is the root cause of so much persecution and cruelty.
And, because it’s time to come together and unite behind a radical agenda for reform of how Scotland’s grouse moors are managed.
The hen harrier story itself is fascinating and it tells us much about the wider challenges we face.
Once, the hen harrier was a common sight on Scotland’s moors and bogs. Then came the ‘sporting’ estates during the 19th century. They perceived the hen harrier as a threat to the precious grouse that are conserved on grouse moors so that they can be shot for sport. As a result, they were quickly exterminated in mainland Scotland. Grouse shooting and suchlike declined during and after the world wars, and with it the hen harriers bounced back . But now, as Scotland’s grouse moors are managed more aggressively than ever to produce as much grouse as possible, they are in decline again .
Illegal killing, particularly on grouse moors, is thought to be driving much of this decline. The killing is brazen and, so far, the Government is failing to stop it. Just last month, RSPB Scotland released this shocking video showing someone clearly shoot a hen harrier dead as it flies from its nest. Incredibly, the Crown wouldn’t pursue the case, claiming that the video evidence was inadmissible .
Hen harriers are, of course, far from the only victim of this relentless battle against nature. Golden eagles are illegally killed too . Small mammals eradicated. Foxes lured into stinkpits and snared. Mountain hare slaughtered. All this for the leisure pursuits of the few.
As a charity that opposes all killing for sport, OneKind supports a ban on driven grouse shooting. Sadly, however, the politics are such that a ban will not be forthcoming. I believe it will happen, but it is many, many years away. Think, for example, how many decades of campaigning it took to deliver a fox hunting ban. In the meantime, our challenge is to secure changes that result in better protection of wildlife on grouse moors. There are no shortage of opportunities to achieve this. Most importantly, the Scottish Government have announced an independent inquiry into grouse moors, including consideration of a licensing scheme. At the same time, calls for land reform and fair taxes in Scotland continue to grow, and Brexit means that big changes in public subsidies to grouse moors could also be on the cards.
What’s missing is a cross-society campaign for reform in the public interest at its broadest. Alone our respective arguments – raptor persecution, animal welfare, conservation, climate change, social justice – are strong, but together they are overwhelming. That’s why we’re supporting Hen Harrier Day, and why we hope to see the movement continue to grow.