POLL: RSPB picks a fight over grouse shooting

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The RSPB has sparked a row with countryside groups over grouse shooting by calling for moors to be licenced amid claims the charity is becoming increasingly politicised. The charity is writing to all major political parties urging them to introduce a robust licensing sysem “to prevent the wanton destruction of wild birds”. It claims birds of prey such as the Hen harrier are being illegally killed on driven grouse moors – 50 per cent of which are designated as Special Protection Areas for the rare birds they support.

RSPB claims birds of prey such as the Hen harrier are being illegally killed on driven grouse moors – 50 per cent of which are designated as Special Protection Areas for the rare birds they support Photo: Alamy (file photo: hen harrier bird)

However, the Countryside Alliance described the RSPB’s calls as “irresponsible”, arguing that grouse moor owners collectively spent more than £52 million each year on the upkeep and conservation of moorland.

Adrian Blackmore, shooting director for the CA, said: “Moor owners put in an enormous amount of their own money each year to manage and conserve those moors.

“If that money was to cease then the implications to conservation and rural economies would be enormous.”

The Moorland Association said the RSPB’s seemed intent on making a stir in public, rather than discussing the issue directly.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “Rather than sitting down with us and actually discussing what successful Uplands management looks like, which I’ve suggested we should do, the RSPB tend to do their advocacy in this very public way using open letters, which does surprise me.

“Having a public debate in this way is interesting but it’s not going to get the results they actually want.”

Asked if the RSPB had become increasingly politicised, she replied: “Well, they’ve definitely become quite noisy”.

The RSPB claimed they had evidence of the “systematic persecution” of Hen harriers on grouse moors. This year, just three nests were found in Northern England, according to the charity.

It also said “intensive management” of the land, including strip burning to make way for the growth of heather, a key source of food for grouse, was removing the natural habitat of wild birds.

In an article written on the RSPB’s website, Martin Harper, conservation director, wrote that “reform is urgently needed”.

“Hen harries are, for some grouse moor owners, their least loved bird,” he said. “Given the near eradication of the species as a breeding bird in England and the intensity of the management of our uplands, we cannot accept the status quo.

“We need and expect the grouse shooting community to change: the industry must demonstrate they can operate in harmony with birds of prey and help to restore the environmental quality of our hills.

The charity wants a licensing system to be introduced after the general election in 2015 so that licences for grouse shooting could be withdrawn if there is evidence of illegal killing of wild birds.”

Mr Harper said he would be contacting all the major political parties to “urge them to introduce a robust licensing system to govern driven grouse moor management”.

A spokesman for the RSPB said: “As a charity the RSPB must remain strictly non-party political, but it has always played a robust role in seeking to change policies and practices harmful to nature, adopting the role of ‘constructive critic’ to encourage the best possible environmental policies.”

The row come after the RSPB, which is funded by donations, was accused of becoming too politicised.

There have been calls for the RSPB  to be stripped of its prosecutor role following allegations, which it denies, that it has increased the number of cases brought to court in order to boost fundraising.

This article was written by Alice Philipson for The Telegraph.


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Leigh Lofgren

Can you sign from the US?

Paul Seligman

Ridiculous poll in this context – RSPB is not calling for an end to all grouse or other shooting. Nature lovers want the wildlife laws respected. Some estates do this, some don’t.. A licensing system is a good idea. I can’t see any moral or legal reason to stop all Grouse shooting. Of course, we could say we don’t like the super-rich owning huge tracts of land etc. But if someone chooses to breed birds for shooting on their own land, (or legally hunts a stable and not endangered population of any wild animal), I don’t see it’s worse than,… Read more »

Helen Wood

Grouse shooting is devastating to wildlife and habitats and disgusting to anyone who doesn’t share the sadism of those involved.

Steve West

Surely the article is not about Grouse Shooting or no Grouse Shooting. As far as I can see it’s about ensuring the wildlife protection laws already in place are respected by imposing a new safety mechanism, seeing that harrier persecution appears to go on regardless. This is really a very amateur article, confusing RSPB with RSPCA, and then the question at the end which has nothing to do with the real issue. Rather that “For or against” the continuation of Grouse shooting it should be “For or against the application of a licensing system”. One gets the impression that the… Read more »

Mark Ian Avery

If you voted ‘no’ and mean it – then sign up to an official UK government e-petition which has raced to 10000 signatures inside 10 weeks and say that you want driven grouse shooting banned. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65627 (UK citizens only)

Alan Petrie

I am not a vegetarian but I do oppose all shooting. It is crazy to raise thousands of birds to be shot in an artificial environment. Pheasants in particular are a non native species and should not be used and abused in this way. It is just an excuse for sadistic killers to get their kicks. Added to this is all the criminal activity that is carried out by gamekeepers ie posoning, pole traps, shooting anything that moves. It is all completely mental IMO.

Paul Seligman

Ridiculous poll in this context – RSPB is not calling for an end to all grouse or other shooting. Nature lovers want the wildlife laws respected. Some estates do this, some don't.. A licensing system is a good idea. I can't see any moral or legal reason to stop all Grouse shooting. Of course, we could say we don't like the super-rich owning huge tracts of land etc. But if someone chooses to breed birds for shooting on their own land, (or legally hunts a stable and not endangered population of any wild animal), I don't see it's worse than,… Read more »

John Cantelo
John Cantelo

Surely it is the grouse hunting fraternity that has ‘picked a fight’ with the RSPB by its persistent law breaking and illegal persecution of raptors. It ill behoves the ‘Countryside Alliance’ and other ‘countruyside’ organisations to criticise any organisation for being ‘political’ given their own activities. Having spent decades trying to protect Hen Harriers and other birds of prey within the current legal framework, only to be denied and obstructed by many within the grouse shooting community, the RSPB would be failing in its duty were iy not to call for radical action.

Alan Petrie

Ban it now and stop these moronic numpties killing our raptors and messing with the eco system.

Steve West

Surely the article is not about Grouse Shooting or no Grouse Shooting. As far as I can see it's about ensuring the wildlife protection laws already in place are respected by imposing a new safety mechanism, seeing that harrier persecution appears to go on regardless. This is really a very amateur article, confusing RSPB with RSPCA, and then the question at the end which has nothing to do with the real issue. Rather that "For or against" the continuation of Grouse shooting it should be "For or against the application of a licensing system". One gets the impression that the… Read more »

Helen Wood

Grouse shooting is devastating to wildlife and habitats and disgusting to anyone who doesn't share the sadism of those involved.

Mark Ian Avery

If you voted 'no' and mean it – then sign up to an official UK government e-petition which has raced to 10000 signatures inside 10 weeks and say that you want driven grouse shooting banned. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65627 (UK citizens only)

Anna Broszkiewicz
Anna Broszkiewicz

"quite noisy" but fell off my chair laughing at that one.