A hen harrier painted by an unknown artist on the blockhouse at Shellness, Isle of Sheppey in Kent , possibly in response to the persecution of hen harriers in Britain.
An article in BBC Wildlife Magazine set my blood boiling this week. (October 2014) A plan is being drawn up to remove eggs from the nests of hen harriers, one of our rarest breeding birds, to hatch them in an aviary and release the birds in places that are considered acceptable for them to live.
Acceptable for who? Not the birds, not the million plus members of the RSPB. not the vast majority of the public, but acceptable for a tiny minority of extremely wealthy individuals who feel that they cannot live alongside a predator which takes a few red grouse as these are the exclusive preserve of a few fat cat city boys who pay vast sums to swan around the countryside, pretending to be country gentlemen, and shooting them.
There are only 3 pairs of breeding hen harriers in England but this is three too many for the owners of the grouse moors who have spent years persecuting these birds, shooting, poisoning and, in one case, nailing a live hen harrier to the door. It’s not only hen harriers that have suffered at the hands of these criminals but other wildlife. Red Kites, thriving in other parts of the country, have never recovered in the north of England or Scotland where the vast majority of grouse moors are. In Spring 2014 16 red kites were found dead next to a poisoned carcass put out to kill predators.
And yet, even if caught, the people who break the law are rarely given jail sentences, personally I would like to see owners of grouse moors who turn a blind eye or encourage this behaviour from their gamekeepers have their shooting rights for their estates removed. After all, why should they financially benefit from crimes that they allow to continue?
Yet, it seems, in 21st century Britain, conservation groups bend over backwards to appease these people. Working with landowners to benefit conservation is to be applauded but not when it removes a bird, which is desperately struggling to survive in this country, from the habitat it needs.
Thankfully the RSPB have yet to back this plan and let’s hope they never do. If we can’t live alongside a bird as benign to the majority of people in this country as the hen harrier then how can we ask other countries to live alongside top predators? What message are we sending out? That Britain is a country of wildlife lovers as long as the wildlife stays were we choose to put it?