To somewhat use the words of one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs, at Hen Harrier Day at Carsington the only persons on the scene, missing, were the 600 gamekeepers. Eh?
In setting up Hen Harrier Day there were lots of things to worry about, or at least to consider. Things like power supplies, promoting the event with an ever-changing list of speakers, whether Chris Packham’s travel plans would get him to the event and as we neared the actual day, the weather. It’s all part and parcel of a pop-up event at a new venue run by amateurs!
But when your event is a celebration of Hen Harriers, a species which everyone claims universally to love, one has to put up with nastiness from members of the game shooting industry too. We are used to this (see here and here for recent examples), it is part of being environmental campaigners who touch the issues that affect game shooting.
And so as soon as we announced the venue and the date we found social media comments about coach loads of gamekeepers arriving to disrupt our event from across the country. Various shooters, possibly in their cups, promised direct action against the event. Severn Trent Water, who were fantastic, and who run Carsington Water, had phone calls objecting to the mere existence of an event which praises the Hen Harrier (that illegally persecuted bird that everyone loves!). And the rumour was circulated that 600 gamekeepers would arrive with megaphones and chants.
They would have been very welcome and it would have been interesting to see them storming the stage, and filming them, as 9 year old Fraser was reading out his poem or when Superintendent Nick Lyall was, in uniform, spelling out that raptor persecution is a crime, or when the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner was saying that in his county, and in his mind, fighting wildlife crime is a police priority.
But the messages, some of which certainly came from current and former gamekeepers, amount to another example of nastiness and attempted intimidation. We consulted the police and, of course had many police officers on site since Hen Harrier Day is largely about upholding the law, and were advised to take certain precautions but that the threats were not credible. A bit like what much of the grouse shooting industry says.
And so the only people on the scene, missing, were the 600 gamekeepers. But we did have the pleasure of Amanda Anderson from the Moorland Association keeping an eye on us, and she was very welcome.
And by the way, our e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting passed 70,000 signatures last night after just over a week – only 29,900 to go!
Please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting – click here.