Wednesday, 9 September 2009

An Unbiased View?

James Marchington Editor of Sporting Shooter magazine has posted an unveiled attack on the RSPB on his blog yesterday which can be read here. It is disappointing but perhaps unsurprising that someone in a position to influence opinion should make some of the statements he has.

It is notable that he omits to inform his readers that at the same time as the RSPB 'Vision' was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust published it's own report entitled Hen harriers and red grouse: economic aspects of red grouse shooting and the implications for moorland conservation in the same Journal. Why criticise the RSPB for allegedly "running off to the press shouting your mouth off'" when GWCT have pretty much done the same thing. Simply because the RSPB questions whether a sporting activity that relies on protected birds of prey being disturbed and killed is a sustainable land use is not "misleading & disingenuous" as JM claims. His post provides no details of what irks him about the RSPB report but I fail to see how when the RSPB uplands conservation officer Dr Pat Thompson is quoted as saying "The next step is for grouse moor managers to adopt techniques such as diversionary feeding more widely and demonstrate that driven grouse moor management is compatible with bird of prey conservation." is "sticking the knife in" as James puts it.

What saddens me is the message that he sends to the shooting community when he says " I could help the RSPB get to the bottom of what's going on in that remote spot. Because I know every crag, every clump of heather, every pool of the burn, like no-one else on earth. And I'm not going to. Because I can't trust them not to double cross me and grab another opportunity to shaft shooters. I wonder how many other shooters are in a similar position?" effectively condoning and encouraging the culture of silence that exists amongst the shooting fraternity when it comes to wildlife crime.

In the comments JM responds to me highlighting some of these issues by accusing me of being confrontational and having a 'with us or against us' attitude if by the word 'us' he means those that stay within the law then yes we should confront law-breakers and those that perpetrate wildlife crime whatever their age, race, occupation or political views in that context I'm 'with us and against them', aren't most reasonable, rational and moral people?


James Marchington said...

Hi Alan,
We can agree to disagree over the specific details of who said what when, but I don't want to lose sight of the important point here, which is that "shooters" or "shooting interests" are frequently demonised as destroyers of wildlife, when in fact many of us who are enthusiastic shooters are also passionate about wildlife and conservation. Only when this is recognised can we make real progress by working together. When the RSPB, or whoever, put out media releases implying that shooters are the enemy of conservation, it drives the wedge in further, and is counterproductive.

Alan Tilmouth said...

I think that it is recognised that their is a need to 'work together' hence the RSPB involvement and partial financing of the Langholm Moor Project along with the GWCT. At the same time I was surpried by your comments regarding the witholding of information given that you have displayed a common sense approach in many of your past posts. Counter-demonisation in a tit for tat manner of the RSPB is equally counterproductive. By all means disagree with their position but I felt this post fell short of providing reasoned argument.

James Marchington said...

Fair points, Alan. Many people have hunches and suspicions about who's behind crimes of all sorts, rural and urban. We don't rush off to the authorities a) because we're not 100% sure and b) because we have to live and work with those same people. My point is that organisations like RSPB could do better at not alienating shooters, many of whom have very similar aims. For instance, it would be nice to see releases that referred to "rogue shooting estates" rather than implying that all shooting estates persecute birds of prey, and perhaps the occasional acknowledgement that a bird killed with a gun was not necessarily killed by a "shooter" (a fine distinction I know, but an important one).
From talking to readers of our magazine, I know that many of them are (perhaps unfairly) deeply suspicious of the RSPB's motives and long-term aims; there is some serious bridge-building to be done. It's not all the fault of one side or the other, and it's not something that will happen overnight. I do, however, believe it would be in the interests of wildlife if we could make some progress in that direction.
If my comments help that process along, then they will have been worthwhile.

A Williams said...

Hi James and Alan,
As a keen birdwatcher and shooting man and regular reader of Alans blogs and James's magazine I can see can this from both sides.
Alan you say that the RSPB do recognise the need to work with shooting and to an extent this may well be true but I think it can not be denied that the RSPB make every effort to make people aware of the negative aspects of shooting such as illegal persicution of birds of prey but make little or no effort to make people aware that they recognise the positives shooting has to offer and until this changes its hardly suprising that shooters will be very reluctant to help the RSPB.