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Mark Avery launches vindictive attack on award winning naturalist and curlew campaigner Mary Colwell

[Mark Avery pictured at Cheltenham Races]

Mark Avery, an anti-grouse shooting activist and one third of Wild Justice, has launched an astonishing attack on renowned female naturalist, environmentalist and accomplished author, Mary Colwell.

The attack came in the form of a blog on his website, which was a vicious and unpleasant review on Colwell’s new book, ‘Beak, Tooth and Claw – Living with Predators in Britain.”

Amongst the petty, personal and vindictive criticism of Ms Colwell, Avery writes: “I found this a very irritating book because the author steps into areas of high controversy and doesn’t really seem to have understood them very well” and “I felt like throwing this book across the room several times as I was reading.”

Avery’s tone is astonishingly patronising and, arguably, misogynistic.

The reason for Avery’s unpleasantness and hostility towards Ms Colwell comes down to the fact she is brave enough to be honest about what her experience of grouse moor management has led her to believe.

One line from the book that received particular anger from Avery is on page 158, in which she writes: “Intensive [grouse moor] management also benefits other species, apart from red grouse and hen harrier. Grouse moors provide food and habitat for golden eagle, peregrine, merlin, short-eared owl as well as lapwing, golden plover, curlew, meadow pipit and skylark, If heather moorland disappeared, these species may also decline.”

Let us be absolutely clear, Colwell is no grouse shooting supporter. Her background is from the BBC’s Natural History Unit and she is a leading voice of environmentalism in the UK. She was voted one of the most influential conservationists in the UK by BBC Wildlife Magazine and has received various awards for her work. What Colwell is is an honest, pragmatic and brave campaigner. In her own words: “All I want is for wildlife to have a far, far better deal in this country. I deeply and passionately care about this planet and am doing my utmost to move things forward.”

Avery’s astonishing attack on Ms Colwell has reinforced the long held views amongst some within conservation circles that he is little more than a snide egotistical bully.

According to journalist and farmer, Robin Page, during Avery’s time at the RSPB he was considered a ‘bully’ and known as ‘The Fat Controller’. Robin Page has also suggested Mark Avery previously recommended campaign organiser, Tina Lindsay, be employed to encourage people to 'intimidate him'.

Avery's circle of friends are well known for deploying such intimidation methods. Take for example his pal, Luke Steele, the convicted animal rights extremist who previously went to prison for 18 months after the harassment and abuse of scientists from Huntingdon Laboratories. It says a lot about Avery that he so brazenly campaigns alongside such people as Steele.

In response to the vindictive review which Avery published to thousands of his followers, Ms Colwell responded with the eloquence you would expect.

“Mark you have trashed my whole book on one part of one chapter. It is a spiteful, narrow-minded review and championed by spiteful narrow-minded comments. I thought you were better than that and had a wider take, but you literally see the word grouse and can go no further. I said absolutely nothing different in this book than in Curlew Moon, but then you also gave that a poor review based on grouse. All I want is for wildlife to have a far, far better deal in this country. I deeply and passionately care about this planet and am doing my utmost to move things forward. I may not do it in the same way as you, but I am trying. I think dialogue and constantly increasing common ground is working. You don’t. That is fine, but why trash a whole book because you disagree? You have thousands of followers who hang off your every word. No wonder, just no wonder we are in the god awful mess.”

Then, as if Avery had not been patronising enough already, he responded to Ms Colwell’s comment with further gracelessness:

“Mary - thanks! I’ll come back to this but it might take a few days as I’m busy right now (I’m writing a book - maybe the publisher will send it to you to review?)”

This whole debacle reflects the single minded obsession that Avery and some of his disciples have with grouse shooting and the giant impediment their actions have on progress in the broader conservation sector.

You only need to look at the progress being made on the Curlew Recovery Project to see what can be achieved from a multi-party collaborative approach to conservation, but people like Avery don’t seem to like that approach, perhaps because that wouldn’t be good for his fundraising efforts.

Avery can preach and blog and patronise as much as he likes in his efforts to campaign against driven grouse shooting however the problem for him is one simple fact. The truth. And that is that Moorland Management has been proven time and time again to be by far the best option for for wildlife, for wildfire preventions and for local economies. Politicians know this, local communities know this and honest environmentalists know this.

Those with an interest in grouse shooting have only ever wanted the public to be given the facts, and then for them to form their own opinion based on those facts. Not the self-interested narrative that the likes of Avery try to present.

Respected Scottish journalist, Matt Cross, spoke for the vast majority of decent humans when he responded to Avery and this ugly and unedifying episode with:

“Shame on you. Shame on all of you. Shame on you for a series of viscous personal attacks on an honest and decent woman who has done a great deal for conservation, just because you don't feel she has backed your 'side' strongly enough. Shame on you for speculating wrongly about the content of a book you haven't even read. Shame on you for not having the moral courage to call out the bullies on your midst. Some of you really need to have a long hard think about yourselves.”

Yes Mark. Shame on you.

For everyone else, may we suggest you order a copy of Ms Colwell’s book here, digest the contents and draw your own conclusions.


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