United in a weekend for Hen Harriers

This weekend was superb. If you went to a Hen Harrier event you’ll know what I’m on about but if not then make sure you do next year! If I were to sum it up in five words, which is difficult, they would be very inspiring, exciting, lots of motivation, fervent and uplifting.

But why am I using such positive words to describe events which are about a depressing and serious matter? Well, when you hear a lot of negative stories, including the five Hen Harriers which disappeared (yeah, OK) this year, an event like this makes you feel incredibly positive as you see so many people joined together showing their support and feeling the same as yourself. Even though I knew all of these people existed and most of the country, a part from SOME, are and would (if only they knew about what goes on) be opposed and saddened by ongoings of wildlife crime everywhere including upon the upland moors, again it was very positive to be there, see it with my own eyes, and to see that change is definitely happening and that we will win.

Whether it’s the fact many species, including raptors, are being illegally persecuted to protect ones own interest, a bird of prey is being pushed to extinction,  habitats are being damaged or the burning is having a role to play with global warming and flooding, the activity of driven grouse shooting upon upland moors needs to end. This was a key message expressed by all of the speakers at the Hen Harrier events I went too. Along with this the fact that we’re right, we’re backed by science and we deserve justice.

If you’d read a few of my latest posts, follow me on Twitter or even saw me there yourself I spent my Hen Harrier Day up at the Goyt Valley near Buxton, Derbyshire.  As well as this I went along to the Hen Harrier Eve event at The Palace Hotel in Buxton on Saturday. 

When we arrived in Buxton on Saturday afternoon, whilst walking around waiting for the evening event to start, I bumped into quite a few people who were going. Either wearing their t-shirt or I knew who they were already. We even got sat next to two ladies going to the events when we went for something to eat along with some others at our B&B the following morning. Hen Harrier supporters had taken over Buxton!

But this was great! I often see this when I go on street marches, all the people passing by take an interest by what it says on their t-shirt or placard. This also had the same effect at the Goyt Valley when walkers, runners and cyclists passed, along with at the afternoon event in the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton. I heard quite a few people passing and muttering ‘what’s with the black t-shirts’ and so on.

Once at The Palace Hotel for the Hen Harrier Eve event it was great to have a chat with some old and new faces before the talks began. Overall there were a variety of things talked about by each speaker along with a variety of speakers.

First to speak was Mark Avery who was one of the organisers and introduced the evening. He has also had a massive impact on the fight to ban driven grouse shooting with the work he’s done, including his recent book Inglorious and the ban driven grouse shooting petition he set up again this year after last years success of it reaching over 10,000 signatures. So far this year the petition has over 11,000, you can sign it by clicking here.

He was followed by the other organiser, Susan Cross, and also Gordon MacLellan who presented some literature about the Peak District and Buxton, and also included context about Hen Harriers. After this the RSPB’s skydancer video was introduced by Amanda Miller and CEO RSPB Mike Clark said a few words about their hard work on helping the Hen Harrier. It was brilliant to have two people from the RSPB talk, along with Jeff Knot (RSPB) speak at Hen Harrier Day. As well as the RSPB, Jo Smith who is the CEO Derbyshire Wildlife Trust also spoke at the Hen Harrier Day event.

Next was Mark Cocker in conversation with Jeremy Deller. Jeremy Deller is a Turner Prize winner (2004) and has produced such art work as ‘A good day for cyclists’ which shows a massive Hen Harrier clutching a blood red Range Rover in its talons. Whilst in conversation with Mark Cocker he spoke about a lot of his work, including this piece, which was very interesting.

Jeremy Deller, the artist featured in the British pavilion, had one of the most talked about installations at the Venice Biennale preview, attended by critics, curators and collectors from around the world. Photo by mary Louise Schumacher

Then after the interval Mark Cocker gave his own talk. This was about birds of prey in culture across the world with references to his book. As well as Hen Harriers.

Next to speak was Findlay Wilde who said a few words about Hen Harriers before going on to how he made two new brilliant models. One was a grouse butt and another was a massive bottle of poison. With this he showed a video mash-up of how he did so with a sound track created by his younger brother, Harley.  He also announced how he’d persuaded Ecotricity to support satellite tagging of Hen Harriers next year.

Then there was another video mash-up about the adventures of Henry the Hen Harrier around the UK which was created by Phil Walton from Birders Against Wildlife Crime. If you don’t already follow Henry on Twitter then please do at @HenryHenHarrier.

Last, but one, to speak was Chris Packham who was superb and inspiring as usual. He spoke very passionately and expressed his anger of persecution of Hen Harriers, the huge decline of wildlife, Cecil the Lion and much more.

To finish of the evening of talks, there was a quick announcement from Charlie Moores (BAWC) about the exciting arrangements of the next day, Hen Harrier Day.

As I walked up to the venue of Hen Harrier Day at 10am the Hen Harrier thunderclap went out. This reached almost 5.7 million people which was just amazing, lets hope all those people took note of what they read. The thunderclap read…

The location of Hen Harrier Day, in Buxton, was perfect. As the speakers said what they wanted to say you could gaze over onto the moorland. When they spoke you could just picture their dream, and your dream, of what they want that area to look like one day. You could visualise the aim. Along with this, at this location Hen Harriers have been spotted here in the past.

However the image of what we’d all love the upland before us to look like was somewhat shattered and taken over by what it really looked like at that moment. Not a bird in sight, it looked dead and you could see the areas where it’s been burnt for intensive driven grouse shooting. But this brought no one down, in fact it gave more motivation. Along with the inspiring and wise words from those who spoke and being surrounded by those who care immensely.

Speaking at the event was Charlie Moores, Mark Avery, Chris Packham, Jeff Knot (RSPB) and Jo Smith (The Wildlife Trust). The talks started about 11am and ended just before 1pm. Then after that many still gathered, chatted and after a while some headed down to Buxton Pavilion Gardens as there were a few stalls, along with lots of interest from people passing by.

As I’ve mentioned, and you can probably tell, it was a fantastic weekend as I’m sure were all the other events happening around the country and I look forward to next year. It feels very odd today after such an exciting weekend! But also on a more serious note, lets hope yesterday made an actual difference and this continues as we won’t be stopping until it does.

Here’s another tweet from Birders Against Wildlife Crime which sums it all up very nicely.

Here are some photos from the weekend.

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A weekend for skydancers

From my latest post you’ll know that this Sunday is Hen Harrier Day. Not only that but on Sunday a thunderclap will be sent out stating that we’re missing our Hen Harriers which has so far got a social reach of just over 5.5 million people which is amazing! Don’t forget to add your support by clicking here, it all helps!

As well as people meeting all around the UK to show their support, anger and make it clear that we won’t tolerate wildlife crime, there is also an evening event in Buxton tomorrow which I’m also sure will be great fun and inspirational too.

If you can’t make any of the events this weekend then there’s still plenty you can get on with that WILL make a difference. Even if it’s just posting a selfie with a ‘we’re missing our Hen Harriers’ poster on your Facebook and someone who knew nothing about the issue saw it, that’s one more person that’s now aware and could potentially show their support. Other ways you can help include…

Adding your name to the Thunderclap – https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/28786-hen-harrier-day-2015

Adding a twibbon to your profile photo on social media – http://twibbon.com/support/hen-harrier-day

Buy a Lush Hen Harrier bath bomb. They came out today and look amazing – https://www.lush.co.uk/products/bath-bombs/skydancer-far-madding-guns

Sign the petition against driven grouse shooting, already over 10,000 signatures! – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104441

Post a selfie with the ‘We’re missing our Hen Harriers’ poster – http://henharrierday.org/gallery-missing.html

So, altogether, just get the message out there in any way you possibly can.

I also advise you listen to this superb Talking Naturally podcast featuring Charlie Moores and Chris Packham – http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/content/talking_naturally.aspx?s_id=282761936

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You can read more about Hen Harrier Day, why it’s such an important day and much more on my latest blog, with a poem I wrote too – https://georgiaswildlifewatch.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/join-hen-harrier-day-2015/

 

Join Hen Harrier Day 2015

Just a few hundred years ago Hen Harriers were a widespread and common bird of prey. However this is certainly not the case at the moment as there are only 600-800 in the UK and only four pairs in England last year.

Hen Harriers have been illegally shot since driven shooting first became popular by Queen Victoria in the 1800’s. Grouse shooting takes place between the 12th of August and the 10th of December each year and moors are managed year-round in preparation for this. Species like red grouse are entirely dependent on heather for food and shelter. Unlike pheasants they can not bred in captivity. Instead gamekeepers are employed to manage the habitat by burning patches of heather to create a mosaic of old strands for nesting and young plants for the birds to eat. They also carry out illegal and legal activity and intense control of generalist predators such as foxes, crows, stoats, weasels and birds of prey like our endangered Hen Harriers.

As you may be able to tell from my blog, I really enjoy writing. I also enjoy poetry, even though I’m not very good at it myself! A few weeks back though, I wrote a poem which I thought could be included nicely in this post, here it is.

Beyond the suburb,
not all is as you’d expect.
Look closer in the hills
and in fact, it’s quite a wreck.

Of course there’s still the badger which enjoys a mutter,
the kestrel which glides on the wing,
and the butterfly which has a good flutter.
All real natural and beautiful things.

However Earth’s creatures are under serious threat.
Consumption or persecution, it’s all down to man.
With little help from the Gov or Met,
we must act now and stop bottling the can.

Amongst all ongoings
some know they do wrong.
With evil acts of murder showing,
and them finding the satisfaction strong.

In the back alleys of the countryside
they enjoy to kill in many ways.
No matter what creature it is
as long as it’s open eyed.

First of all, when you hear bang bang,
it may be that from the upland moors.
Competition to shoot from the tweed gangs.
But is it only that bird they’ve mourned?

Not only that bird
but the greed before measured
to them taking a sky dancing treasure.

Trotting on horse back with hounds by side,
within the law and tradition they say.
With bright red hoodies they prop with pride.
Still like little boys who like to play.

Suddenly one squeals as a fox is disturbed,
the hounds ears pricked as it’s fully aware.
The barbaric torture begins as it’s curbed,
flesh torn from the bone as they have no care.

They take no notice of the law,
thinking us ‘tree huggers’ are a joke.
With no thought what they do is vile gore,
you could mistake them for local psycho folk.

Well I tell you for sure we want no more,
we will make that clear
by never giving up, therefore
one day we will win here.

A walk beyond the suburbs
could return to it’s innocence
and those species could roam
like many years ago with brilliance.

A week tomorrow will be Hen Harrier day, just three days before the ‘glorious twelfth’. Events will be happening all over the UK, including the North West and East, Scotland, South and Central England. Hundreds will unite around the country to protest against wildlife crime and the governments failure to tackle the crime which is committed. Although the persecution of Hen Harriers is a big focus point of the day, it is also about rallying against the persecution of other birds of prey which can be found on the shooting estates and the wildlife crime  which takes place here too.

The people who will join together next Sunday are very angry people. They are people who are fed up and want to express their point and they’re all people from different interests. From nature lovers and birdwatchers to ramblers. You can find out more about the events by clicking here.

Other ways you can get involved to help get the message across is by joining the Thunderclap with your social media pages, by adding a twibbon to your profile photo or add your name to Mark Avery’s ban driven grouse shooting petition which has just reached over 8000 signatures! The links are below.

Twibbon – http://twibbon.com/support/hen-harrier-day

Thunderclap – https://www.thunderclap.it/en/projects/28786

Petition – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104441

I also found this tweet interesting early, very true and makes you realise how important it is that we need to get the message out there.

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Urging your MP to stop the slaughter of wildlife

Now the general election is all over and done with and local MPs are settling in, either new ones or re-elected ones, it’s very important that we let them know how we feel about policies and issues. With the Tories running the country on their own now it’s even more worrying for our wildlife. Two main issues include the on going badger cull, which will resume in the summer, and their promise to give MPs a free vote on whether the Hunting Act should be repealed. It is rumoured that this vote could happen in a number of weeks. Obviously there are other issues facing our wildlife which we need to contact our local MPs about but these two are amongst the most worrying at this exact moment in time.

Just before the general election I did a blog post as part of A Focus on Nature’s Vision for Nature blog series. My blog was all about inspiring the next generation (click here to read it) and I emailed it round to all of my local party candidates. I was pretty pleased with the response. The response I got back from my Tory candidate was that if he got re-elected, which he was, that I should get back in touch and we could meet to discus the issues further. At that point I knew it was very obvious that he would be re-elected so when I replied I said that if we do meet I would like to discuss other issues which face our wildlife too. This should be very interesting as after doing a bit of research I discovered that he was FOR the badger cull and FOR the repeal of the Hunting Act. When the Conservatives got in I was quite reluctant to meet him as I didn’t really like the idea of meeting a Tory MP so I got in touch with the League Against Cruel Sports and they reassured me that the best way to get my opinion and concerns across was to meet with him. Due to this I got back in touch this week about it. When I do meet with him I’ll be doing plenty of blogging about how it goes.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in touch with my MP, I’ve been in touch with him and many others lots of times. I’m regularly sending emails or letters to MPs. It is really easy to do so and only ever takes a few minutes to write and send it, either by post or email. Obviously one letter or email isn’t going to make the world of difference but if we all bombard our local MPs with our views and concerns on issues like the badger cull and the Hunting Act then it WILL make a difference. After speaking to people in the past they’ve said that they don’t contact their local MP for many reasons like they don’t know what to say, it’s a waste of time, they simply can’t be bothered and many other reasons. At this time when a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act could be weeks away and the badger cull is certain to go ahead later on in the year it’s vital that we get in touch with our local MPs to get the message across and make them listen. For those who aren’t sure what to say, think it’s a waste of time, simply don’t have time or for whatever other reason I have put together a template below for you to copy and forward to your local MP. It will take a matter of minutes to do and it could make a difference so what’s to loose?! I’ve put this together for the benefit of helping to get a message across to help our wildlife so feel free to copy it or edit it to suit you but please make an effort and help make a difference, it is worth it.

Dear ——

As the MP for my constituency I am writing to you today expressing my concerns on some important issues. The natural world is important to every single one of us here in the UK and all around the world. Not only is it the fact that without it we wouldn’t be here but many of us enjoy every moment we spend when it surrounds us and find the disgusting acts of cruelty and disrespect against it very upsetting. There are many wrong doings against wildlife but today I will be writing about two main ones which I would like you to consider and speak out about as big decisions are being made about them which is very worrying. One is the repeal of the Hunting Act and the other is the badger cull which is planned to be rolled out again this year and possibly in more areas of the South West.

Men wearing red jackets, on the back of a horse, riding through the countryside blowing horns in big groups with a massive pack of dogs in the hope of ripping an innocent mammal such as a fox or hare in the most disgraceful way possible can not be classed as a ‘sport’ or ‘fun’, so definitely not legal. These are innocent creatures which deserve a place in our countryside more then anything else. They were here a lot longer before us and part of the natural world and ecosystems which help us survive. How can anyone think it is acceptable to destroy these mammals in a horrific way. We should be embracing these species for their beauty not discriminating them in the worst way possible.

There are many arguments that the Act has ‘done nothing for animal welfare’ and that it is a ‘humane method to control fox numbers’ but this is far from the truth. It’s just an excuse that the hunters can give when all they want to do is shred an innocent mammal to pieces. It’s not just myself who has this opinion, 80% of the British Public are in favour of the Hunting Act along with 86% who are against deer hunting and  88% are against hare hunting and coursing. How much more obvious could it be that the British public want this ban to be kept. Therefore if a free vote for MPs on repealing the Hunting Act does go ahead, as promised by the Prime Minister and could take place in the next few weeks, I urge you to vote to keep the Hunting Act.

As mentioned another issue which I am writing to you about today is the badger cull. Yet another summer and more innocent badgers are being killed in the unsuccessful attempt to eradicate Bovine TB. However it is most likely that this year and over the next few years that the cull will expand more and more in the South West. As the cull is going to be rolled out in a matter of months I am writing to you with my concerns about it.

It’s obvious that Bovine TB in cattle is a problem and it needs to be sorted. However culling badgers isn’t the answer, it doesn’t take a genius to work that out. Badgers are being blamed and hold responsible far too much. There are many scientific studies that tell us the cull won’t work. One study example is the Randomised Badger Cull Trial undertaken by the last government between 1997 and 2007. The results of this study concluded that “Given its high costs and low benefits, badger culling is unlikely to contribute usefully to the control of cattle TB in Britain and we recommend that TB control efforts focus on measures other than badger culling.”

Along with this a poll has revealed that the cull is the fifth most common complaint to MPs. So if scientific studies and the public don’t want it then why is it still planned to go ahead? There are better alternatives to the cull so why aren’t they being used. As well as this the cull has caused many badgers to be killed in horrific ways. This includes them taking up to ten minutes to die when they are shot free running and also wildlife criminals given the ‘green light’ for badger persecution. There’s no doubt that since the cull has began badger persecution has risen and this is due to the cull. Badgers are killed in some of the most disgusting ways you could possibly imagine. They are one of the most protected species in the UK yet they are the most persecuted.

I hope you can take into consideration what I have said and my concerns on some animal welfare issues. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

——

To make it even easier for you here’s where you can find who your local MP is – http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/