Sunday 12 August 2018

Hen Harrier Day Highland 2018

August 12. The day red grouse are blasted out of the sky by people who enjoy killing small birds. And in the name of ensuring there are plenty of grouse to kill many other birds and animals that might eat the grouse are slaughtered year round. A wonderful graceful raptor, the hen harrier, has become the symbol of those of us who oppose this abuse of wildlife as there are far too few of these birds, especially on grouse moors.

In 2014 a new group, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, organised the first Hen Harrier Day as a way of raising awareness about hen harriers and their plight. Now Hen Harrier Day events are held all over Britain in the weeks leading up to the Inglorious Twelth. This year the one for the Scottish Highlands took place in the Grant Arms in Grantown-on-Spey on the twelth itself.

There were stalls from various groups including BAWC, the Scottish Raptor Study Group, OneKind,  and the RSPB, and six speakers, all of them interesting.  Andy Wightman MSP gave an excellent hard-hitting talk on land ownership and control, politics and power, the damage driven grouse shooting does to the land in general as well as to raptors, and the need for "a much more robust approach to those who break the law... If someone in another industry consistently breaks the law then they lose their licence to operate in that industry." 

Other speakers were raptor expert Brian Etheridge, who showed some wonderful pictures of hen harriers; zoologist and wildlife journalist Isla Hodgson, who spoke about her recent work on conservation conflict (it's much more complex than you might think); wildlife detective Alan Stewart, who offered some fascinating insights into wildlife crime investigations; OneKind director Harry Huyton, who talked about the campaign to stop mountain hare slaughter, and Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorm National Park, who talked about the park's work and what it hopes to achieve regarding wildlife.

I found the event invigorating, inspiring, and informative. I hope that this and all the other Hen Harrier Day events lead to a time when they're no longer needed.

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