Basically, Alan believes that the 'shooting community' (if only we were that organised and cohesive!) is systematically persecuting hen harriers and other birds of prey, and that something should be done to stop us.
I have stated my position as clearly as I can, as follows:
Let me state my position clearly. I know that illegal killing of raptors does happen. Although I've never witnessed it with my own eyes, I accept that people connected with shooting are sometimes responsible. I have never seen reliable statistics on the true extent of the problem, and can only speculate on how widespread it is. I am 100% against any illegal killing of raptors. Any gamekeeper or shooter who illegally kills a raptor is not worthy of the name, and I despise him. If I personally came across a case of this happening, I would not hesitate to report it to the authorities, and I would urge any gamekeeper or shooter to do the same. It is not only despicable it drags the reputation of shooting through the dirt.No doubt there's the odd unreconstructed old keeper who would like to see me keelhauled for that. Well, that's his opinion, and he can cancel his subscription to Sporting Shooter - I don't want him as a reader.
I thought it would be interesting to ask Alan what, in an ideal world, he (and presumably other birders) would like the 'shooting establishment' to do. I suspected there would be many points of agreement, and areas where we could find compromises acceptable to both sides.
Alan posted his 'wish list' on his blog. And to his credit, his answer wasn't 'ban shooting'. In fact several of his points are not far from what happens already, although perhaps shooting doesn't do the best possible job of publicising its efforts in these areas.
My natural reaction is to resist yet more certification, inspection and red tape - there's enough of that in land management and farming already. I don't suppose the birders would be happy if we demanded the right to inspect their homes on a regular basis just in case they were collecting birds' eggs. But shooting estates can and do work with local raptor groups etc, and it would be great to see this develop.
Below is Alan's list of requests. "Not much to ask" he says. Actually it is rather a lot to ask, but I reckon it's a workable starting point. What do you, the reader, think? If we could get a cast iron guarantee that the RSPB would put its full support behind shooting, provided we complied with Alan's list, could we live with that? Do email me or add a comment below to let me know.
1. The 'Shooting & Game' media should be consistently delivering the message that Illegal Persecution has no place in your sport. It should be a seen as a cancer that undermines the responsible and all particpants should be encouraged to root it out. If the number of column inches devoted to this message were equal to those criticising the conservation organisations such as RSPB and Natural England then people outside shooting may begin to believe their is a willingness to resolve the problem.
2. How about an industry accreditation/stewardship scheme that had Biodiversity Management Plans at it's core and was independantly scrutinised. The rewards for achieving different levels of accreditation could be directly linked to stewardship payments providing financial reward to those managing true biodiversity and achieving the highest standards. A combination of planned annual and random visits would verify the scheme. This could be used as a selling point in the same way as star ratings work for hotels and British Standards and ISO in other industries.
3. Committment ahead of the end of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project to its findings & if diversionary feeding is demonstrated to work (again)it should be universally adopted (and incorporated into 2). The Brood Management Scheme proposed by Prof Steve Redpath should also be given due credence and tested as to viability.
4. Better promotion of the CAIP (Campaign Against Illegal Poisoning) with free advertising space in shooting magazines. Regular poison 'amnestys' on banned substances such as Carbofuran to take stocks out of circulation and put them beyond use.
5. I'd like to see a rural schools education programme to counter the underlying culture that dictates all birds of prey are bad, one that teaches the principals of predator/prey relationships to help the next generation of farmers, landowners, gamekeepers & shooters avoid the misconceptions that are so prevalent today. Perhaps an urban scheme to enlighten townies on countryside management might also be appropriate.
6. A requirement by law to notify the relevant authorities of the discovery of an active Hen Harrier nest placed upon all individuals.
7. Removal of the pressure being placed upon the Scottish government to issue licences to control Sparrowhawks & Common Buzzard by the Scottish Gamekeeper's Association and other shooting interests in Scotland.