August 2015 | Issue 278
Much attention has been focused on the illegal massacre of migrating birds in the eastern Mediterranean, and thankfully something is being done to combat the slaughter – not least by this year’s British Birdwatching Fair, which is raising funds for BirdLife’s work in the region. But what of the legalised massacre of birds? You don’t have to go as far as Malta or the Middle East to witness the killing of birds on a vast scale – just take a look at what’s happening on our own doorstep.
On 12 August, a barrage of guns will annihilate countless thousands of Red Grouse on moorlands around Britain. It’s a ‘sporting’ tradition celebrated with some glee by participants, to the point where it has become known entirely inappropriately as ‘the Glorious 12th’. The scale of the killing would be bad enough in itself, but that’s just one of the problems: such industrial-scale slaughter necessitates an infrastructure with serious spin-off issues of its own, from permanent alteration of upland habitats to ruthless predator control, both legal and illegal.
Inextricably caught up in this unholy mess is the Hen Harrier, now England’s rarest breeding raptor, with the last few pairs persecuted almost to the point of extinction. Where there are grouse moors, it seems harriers are unlikely to survive. All aspects of this conflict are now laid bare in Inglorious, the new book from our columnist Mark Avery – read this month’s exclusive extract to see why a permanent ban on driven grouse shooting has to be the best way to save the Hen Harrier.
In the short term, wider attention must be drawn to the species and its plight. A fine start has been made by Hen Harrier Day, and the second annual programme of events will take place on 9 August this year. As a magazine we’re proud to be supporting Hen Harrier Day, and urge all readers to do the same.