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Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing, London

Publication Year: 2015

Binding: Hardback

Page Count: 304

ISBN Number: 978-1-47291-741-6

Price: £ 16.99


Hen Harriers are probably one of the most divisive species in the British Countryside. To many birdwatchers and conservationists, they are wild and spectacular birds worthy of celebration, but yet are persecuted as vermin by others. Mark Avery has written Inglorious in an attempt to shift this conflict from its current stalemate in which there are far fewer Hen Harriers in the UK than there should be, to inspire a ban of driven grouse shooting. As a result, this is an uncompromising book that will polarise its readers as much as the Hen Harrier can.

The book begins with a decent summary of the ecology and conservation status of the Hen Harrier, drawing on a range of scientific papers and experiences of the RSPB investigations team to demonstrate that persecution on grouse moors is limiting the UK harrier population. The next chapter then describes driven grouse shooting from a historical and social perspective and outlines some of the management involved. In the third chapter, Mark Avery then examines the ecological evidence linking Hen Harriers with grouse predation, drawing on the results of the Joint Raptor Study (JRS) undertaken at Langholm.

The next two chapters, which form half the book, follow a different format, where we are taken on a journey of Mark Avery’s experiences and reflections from the publication of the JRS to the end of 2014. He explains why he became convinced of the need to ban driven grouse shooting as the only means to restore Hen Harrier populations, and describes his launching of an e-petition and the establishment of the first Hen Harrier Day. The book concludes with a short, fictional chapter outlining a positive view of what the uplands could be like in 40 years without driven grouse shooting, and a final call to work together to ban driven grouse shooting.

If you like Mark Avery’s style of writing and his mix of narrative and travel-log, then you will like this book. As ever, he does a good job of interweaving scientific evidence with a more personal narrative, which makes the information accessible to a wide audience. This is a book that anyone can pick-up and read, with very nice summaries of key points at the end of each chapter. My one frustration though, was that in some areas, it felt a partisan review of the subject, and that some important issues, such as the association between grouse moors and breeding wader populations, were given scant attention.

To summarise, if you are interested in Hen Harriers, red grouse or the future of the UK uplands, and would like to understand why Mark Avery is against driven grouse shooting, then read Inglorious

Book reviewed by James Pearce-Higgins

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