“We are not outside the rest of nature and therefore cannot do with it as we please without changing ourselves … we are a part of the ecosphere just as intimately as we are a part of our own society … Paleontology reveals that the development of life on earth is an integrated process, despite the steadily increasing diversity and complexity. “Life is fundamentally one.” Arne Naess
I attended Hen Harrier Day yesterday, deep in the Dark Peak of Derbyshire. I didn’t go alone and was accompanied by my wonderful friend @MrsEmma. We arrived to a torrential downpour, which relentlessly soaked us to the bone. For the whole time there was no let-up, but we didn’t care. The rain only seemed to make all shine beneath umbrellas and hoods. And there were many smiles.
Nearly six hundred people gathered to Derwent Dam, and there were others across the country, to peacefully protest at the unfathomable decline in Hen Harrier populations. In England, where there should at least be three hundred breeding pairs, there are now only three or four. To add insult to injury, males are naturally polygynous, mating with a few females, who now simply do not exist to ensure a healthy population. Hen Harriers are generally ground nesting birds, enjoying young forest growth and open heath. They are vulnerable to land management changes and they have been easy targets.
So why are they at risk? Because of the self interest of the few. Land managers who rear red grouse to be shot by paying guests on moorland shooting estates have allowed the illegal killing of this most spectacular raptor species in order to protect their perceived interests. The law is firm on the illegalities of these actions, but for whatever reason, people have failed these stunning, sentient beings. Worse, In closed circles I have over heard a shot hen harrier may still be deemed a valuable trophy by some, despite their obvious catastrophic decline; an overt expression of human dominion over the natural world, if ever there was one.
So it was with sadness that I planned to attend yesterday, but I am very glad that I did. Knowing there are like-minded souls is a huge boost to the delicate morale of an environmentalist these days, and Emma and I were very fortunate to meet a few, not least conservationist and author, Mark Avery, who set Hen Harrier Day in motion with the BAWC and young Findlay Wilde who had lovingly sculpted a hen harrier ‘Harry’ and brought it for us all to sign.
Chris Packham, raptor scientist and Presenter, no less impassioned by these losses, spoke sincerely about what he perceives as the injustice of the loss of our Natural Heritage by a few bad apples within the shooting industry, who seek to take away our enjoyment of nature for their own selfish purposes. We conservationists have failed by not preventing this happening. More, by taking away predators, these criminals know not fully what they do. Ecosystems do not function healthily without predator/prey interaction, even though some shooters believe they are, of course, the ultimate predator with an omniscient remit to control. Little do they know.
There is no doubt that most of us attending yesterday did so because we are passionate about the natural world. We humans are integral to it. We are one. This planet is one. Our love for all life is a love for ourselves also. But some are obviously so blind to that connection that any protection mechanism sadly needs to be founded beyond love. That is why laws are formed and exist to be upheld. It is a tragedy that the law in this case has been flagrantly broken. These crimes are rooted in human centredness, money, short-term wants and wishes.
To my mind, we should save them not, therefore, because of any alternative human short-term wants and wishes, for these shape-change at the shallow end of human drive.
Who are we to pick and choose what and what not to love, what species we deny life to for our own selfish purposes, particularly for greed? The right to life and existence is strong. It has taken millions of years for Hen Harriers AND Red Grouse in the wild to evolve into the individuals they are (in my view, red grouse should be afforded similar protection and the guns laid down for good; an argument for another day). These birds have worth in their own right, for their own sake. They have a will to flourish.
Yesterday, I went to Hen Harrier Day not for people and their needs, I went for Hen Harriers. I’m not a birder per se, you see, I am passionate about all life here on Earth and I am a mother who believes that all living things have intrinsic worth.
“Save these birds for being all that they are”.
Despite differences, rooted in love, we all responded yesterday to Mark, Chris and the dedicated BAWC’s call to act. Act we must. These are good people and they know that we can all play a part in the recovery of the Hen Harrier. There is power in number and justice in doing the right thing. We simply cannot allow these birds to disappear without a fight. Fight we will, and as Chris Packham said on the day, “we will win”.
For more information, please visit http://birdersagainst.org/projects/hen-harrier-day/