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The Hen Harrier

An ashen figure slices through the pale sky, climbing steeply away from the ground. His amber eyes focus intently on the bundle of cream clouds traversing the landscape. Heavy wingstrokes propel him forwards with an elegance beyond the capabilities of even the most celebrated acrobat.

He follows the curvature of the hills, sweeping over them as they hunker down into the ground, shying away from the brilliance of this aerial king. He wheedles through the sky, looping through the atmosphere in gentle arcs and sharp turns. Each ripple of air is met with quivering wingtips and a chattering burst of avian speech. He dives forwards, exposing his silver belly to the vast sky in a display of humble subservience. Then, somewhere between the snow-peppered hills and the knots of tousled weed, the gaping hole of a rifle aligns itself with this king. As the finger tightens against the cold trigger, his chatter rises in frequency and volume. He is alarmed, but only moderately so.

It strikes his soft chest, driving him upwards momentarily, his wings outstretched like an angel silhouetted against the darkening sky. The rifle is put away and hot air is blown over cold fingers. Boots stamp away over the brittle, frozen ground, leaving the night descend in mournful silence over the red land.

Hen Harriers are persecuted to the point of near-extinction. The sky is lacking the chatter of these birds all because of a minority who take pleasure in killing. Some farmers breed Grouse intensively so that, when the time comes, they can point their guns to the sky and bring the Grouse to the ground. Unfortunately, Grouse are the natural prey of Hen Harriers and, as a result, farmers regard them as nuisances that must be ‘dealt with’. This cycle of slaughter is driven for economic and pleasure purposes. It has now caused such a rapid decline in Hen Harrier numbers that there are only 4 breeding pairs that remain in England.

We so often demonise poachers who target creatures in distant lands, yet when the animals that exist right on our doorstep are being persecuted, we descend into silence. Now it is time that we expose this unethical practice of DGS (Driven Grouse Shoots). On the 12th of August it is the start of the Grouse season, a day that hunters call ‘the glorious 12th’.

It is in fact the inglorious 12th (to quote Finlay Wilde), a day that marks the start of the death not only of grouse, but also of any other creatures that stand between the rifles and their targets. Please support Hen Harriers, demand an end to Driven Grouse Shooting in any of the following ways:

- Contact your MP to ask for this to end

- Educate others about the inglorious 12th

- Don’t participate in DGS

- Log any sightings of Hen Harriers

- Report any suspicious behaviour that involves DGS or Hen Harriers

#henharrier #raptorpersecution

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