The Armchair Activist’s Tale


Reg stared at his laptop screen and began to chuckle. He’d been trolled and he was delighted.

His insistent Tweeting and Retweeting about the persecution and illegal killing of Hen Harriers on the uplands of Britain had been picked up and scorned by an overweight gun-toting shooter from some gun association.  The man had foolishy exposed his own prejudice and ignorance in a short video by accusing someone of being an “armchair conservationist”. That particular someone, thought Reg, knows a helluvalot about driven grouse shooting.

“I’ll show him!” thought Reg.

He methodically and persistently became even more active with his Tweets, encouraging his followers to join the Twitter Thunderclap against raptor persecution. He wanted to play a small part by helping gather signatures and supporters ahead of the so-called “Glorious 12th” of August  – (Reg reckoned it was all far more like “Inglorious”, the book he’d read about this strange fascination of shooting specially-reared birds to be shot dead) – when those who have guns and money begin their annual shoot of red grouse on the moors. Guns, money but not much sense between the ears, thought Reg.

Reg, retired and 78 years old, had been passionately interested in birds since he was a child. He’d worked on the land as a gardener, taking pleasure in gardening in harmony with nature, letting it be, including and nurturing it rather than trying to manage it severely. His modest garden design and maintenance business had always done well and he was known locally as “the wildlife gardening man”. Nowadays he tended  his own smallish patch, but had to take it easy as his knees had seen better days and he wasn’t as nimble as he used to be.

A Yorkshireman through and through, Reg was troubled by the succession of floods which a few years ago had blighted and ruined his daughter’s home in Hebden Bridge; the practice of managing the nearby grouse moors by burning the vegetation, creating  areas where rain water runs off and results in flooding troubled Reg a lot and made complete sense to him; he’d worked in close connection with the land.

He’d made it his business to find out more details about grouse shooting and the persecution of Hen Harriers and other raptors up on t’moors and had discovered many others who felt the same way. He could only be an armchair activist – those knees of his  wouldn’t support going along to Hen Harrier Days (oh yes Mr. Troll, thought Reg, there are a LOT of people out there who are of a like-mind about this issue). He’d wanted to be able to join the march to No. 10 Downing Street to raise awareness of the shooting carnage due to start on 12th August but had instead pitched in by using his Twitter account to spread the word.

Rubbing his hands with glee, Reg realised he’d riled quite a few of the shooters over the past weeks. They’d taken to responding to him on Twitter – even a once-upon-a-time famous cricketer who’d taken to defending his personal participation in, and promotion of, this so-called “sport” had had a go at him.

What saddened him though, was the stark fact that only 3 pairs of Hen Harriers had bred in Britain successfully this year. He didn’t want his grandchildren to grow up never having experienced the sight of  this most magical, sky dancing bird on the moors and uplands of Britain because it had been persecuted to extinction.

Just so that some people could kill other birds in the name of sport. All for greed and no’ for need, as the saying goes.

Reg took a swig of tea, pulled his chair closer to his laptop and prepared to rebuff the troll with a few deft facts….

Suggested reading: ” Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands” by Mark Avery. All the facts about driven grouse shooting are there.

Read this blog post by Findlay Wilde, about the Glorious 12th when the shooting begins, and sign the Thunderclap if you feel moved to do something about the illegal, criminal persecution of raptors.

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