Harrier Day 2017 was celebrated all over the country with ten events over the weekend marking this special day. Since the first Hen Harrier day back in 2014 this event has gone from strength to strength as the public have become more aware of the cruelty on our moorlands. The destructive nature of driven grouse shooting on the lead up to, during and after is killing so much wildlife and leaving us with a controlled, managed landscape that only benefits the landowners.
I attended the Sheffield Hen Harrier Day. The location for this event was Devonshire Green, a small green oasis in the center of the city of steel. From the young to the old they turned up to show their support for the Hen Harrier and to demand change to what is happening to them. It was wonderful to see so many from previous Hen Harrier days and from the BAWC wildlife crime conference in Bristol last year where I had the privilege of speaking. Brilliant speeches from Blaniad Denman, Mark Avery, Iolo Williams and also Natalie Bennett, from the Green Party.
It was a great event and wonderful to see so much passion on show for this stunning bird that sadly is rarely seen in the UK now. There were three successful nests in England in 2017, from a total of seven attempts, producing 10 fledged young. This is thanks to the hardwork of many involved but sadly massively below the number of Hen Harriers that should be soaring over our countryside.
You can read more about this work and the RSPB Skydancer project on this link. The following film explains why these stunning birds “Skydance” one of the most beautiful things you will ever witness in nature.
What is happening on our uplands throughout the country is truly shocking, the large scale killing, trapping and poisoning of anything with a pulse that landowners deem a threat to the Red Grouse. Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which damages protected wildlife sites, increases water pollution, and increases flood risk, increases greenhouse gas emissions and too often leads to the illegal killing of protected wildlife such as Hen Harriers.
The National Trust recently advertised for a shooting tenant for its land in the Peak District from which its current tenant, Mark Osborne, will soon be exiting. This can only be seen as a slap in the face for many NT members and general public alot of them local to the Peak District, who signed this petition asking their organisation not to renew the shooting tenancy in their local National Park. They asked the Trust to look and explore other alternatives rather than another tenant for grouse shooting.
Personally I have seen so much change over the many years I’ve visited the Peak District National Park. Alot of the areas I go to photograph Red Grouse, Mountain Hares and other wildlife has changed alot. I often come across gamekeepers or their staff walking the moors with shotguns and dogs and there is always a very uneasy stand off when I appear.
They like to call this “Tradition” something passed down from generation to generation from a world most of us will never be invited into. Many grouse moors now are often like the many monoculture landscapes I’ve seen in Sumatra, Indonesia and Madagascar with the vile and lifeless palm oil plantations they have there. The estates are owned by a mixture of lords, dukes, earls and barons as well as bankers, businessmen and firms based in offshore tax havens.
The British government subsidies grouse moors, and not so long ago raised the subsidy it provides for grouse moors from £30 per hectare to £56. While the poor in society are being forced out of their homes through government cuts, homelessness is blighting our streets. The demand for food banks reaches an all time high our money is used to subsidies grouse moor estates. Who then kill everything that lives there pushing birds like the Hen Harrier to extinction.
The small reprieve for the Red Grouse that are left is only short lived though as they are slaughtered too for vast amounts of money from 12th August right the way through to December 10th 2017. While the rest of us are struggling the interests of the very rich are ring fenced and protected. Without nature there is nothing, and the systemic, brutal sterilising of our national heritage can’t carry on.
Wildlife doesn’t just disappear, birds of prey are iconic and belong on these moors and so do the Red Grouse, the Mountain Hares and all the other wildlife slowly being murdered and removed so people can blast native, innocent wildlife for sheer fun and that’s all it is. It brings too the surface the murky side of this country I live in. It shows us the dirty underbelly of the class and what is does and how it changes some people born into wealth but are so removed from reality its unbelievable.
The passion and drive I saw over the day was amazing signalling that people aren’t having this no longer and things will and are changing. At times the country only favours the rich, the upper class those with Tory friends and donors that’s clear to see but what they cant buy, stop or pay off is peoples passion to see the right thing is done. We are a nation of wildlife lovers at the core and nothing and nobody can ever stop that or use their power and wealth to blow out that candle of hope. Because as long as you still have hope you have everything.
Well done to everyone that came along to show their support. Thank you to everyone behind the scenes in organising this event along with all the other wonderful events over the weekend that hopefully will carry on and keep these remarkably birds alive along with all the other species that live alongside the Hen Harriers.