Inglorious: Mark Avery reviewed by Patrick McGuckin
This review was written by a member of the Ilkley Literature Festival review team. The Review Team take part in a special reviewing workshop at the start of the Festival before attending Festival events.
Mark Avery worked for the RSPB for twenty-five years, with thirteen of those years spent as the Director of Conservation. He has been freelance for the last four years or so, dedicating much of his time to writing. His latest book Inglorious puts forward the case for the total banning of driven grouse shooting on the moors.
I had been warned that this event could be controversial. I am aware of the Ban Blood Sports on Ilkley Moor campaign. However the people packed into the Ilkley Playhouse seemed mostly on Avery’s side.
He did tell us some shocking facts. Not least of which is the amount of money it costs for a day’s grouse shoot. People will pay around £6000 each. For this, a line of, as Avery described them, “poor people” walk along the moor driving the grouse towards the shooters. Up to 2000 birds may be killed in one single day’s shooting.
Avery went on to explain the environmental impact in areas concentrated in Yorkshire, County Durham, and Scotland. He told us that there was increased flash flooding due to the highly intensive management of moorland. Nature would have provided trees across much of this landscape. Rain water run off, as well as being less prone to flash flooding, would also be less acidic. He explain that we all pay higher water bills to have this acidity removed and that our insurance premiums are higher in order to cover for potential flash flooding.
Avery first came to be interested in the management of moorland through his working in the RSPB to protect the Hawk Harrier, Golden Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. It is already illegal to harm these birds. However, the money paid for grouse shooting is an incentive to break the law in some cases. These birds are natural predators of grouse and so landowners kill them. They also trap other mammals such as stoats, pine martens and weasels.
Avery told us that the current population of grouse is one hundred times what it would naturally be. This leads to disease. The medicine put down to combat the diseases can harm other wildlife.
Avery is an easy and engaging talker. However this presentation was missing any arguments from the other side of the debate. The closest the questions got to opposing his point of view was that if we had less managed moorland we would have fewer curlews. Avery acknowledged this and said it was true but felt that the other benefits of a ban would outweigh the few good points of the current system.
I felt the chair should have asked the audience if there were any questions from the other side of the debate. There was clearly a lot more points that people were wishing to make but the time ran out. However as a talk in itself it certainly made you think, and gave many more aspects to the argument than I was aware of.
Patrick McGuckin has lived in Ilkley for 18 years and attended Ilkley Literature Festival for most of those years. Since attending the Review Writing Workshop a few years ago on a whi his has regularly reviewed events for the Festival. Patrick also reviews performances at Ilkley Playhouse for Ilkley Gazette.