POLL: Should driven grouse shooting be banned?

POLL: Should driven grouse shooting be banned?

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After 150 years of being treated as a quaint rural pastime, shooting is now under the microscope – unless it reforms it is doomed, and it may drag other country sports down with it.

On Saturday, the start of the grouse shooting season, the social media hashtag #inglorious12th was trending, and a social media message, “I want to see an end to persecution in the uplands. Criminal activity needs to be stopped”, set up by 15-year-old birdwatcher and conservation campaigner Findlay Wilde, was sent to more than 11 million people.

First blood on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ at a grouse moor in Aviemore, Scotland, this year. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Thousands marched in London protesting at the , calling for foxhunting to remain banned and calling for an end to grouse shooting. Recently, Sir Ian Botham was given a rough time on BBC Radio 5 Live when he couldn’t answer questions about gamebird shooting, and on Friday the RSPB released a video of armed men, who might have been gamekeepers, meddling with a nest of a rare bird of prey on a North Yorkshire moor. What’s going on?

There is big money involved. Eating a roast grouse costs around £25 in a London restaurant, but shooting that grouse costs £75, so a day’s shooting may cost several thousand pounds.

Focus on Highland estates follows revelations that at least 779 protected birds have been illegally killed over a 20-year period in Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/the Guardian

Red grouse live in the hills of Scotland and northern England. To increase red grouse numbers, heather is burned and to provide a mixed-age profile of heather plants for the birds to eat, wet areas are drained to encourage heather growth. Natural predators such as foxes, stoats and crows are trapped or shot (in very large numbers) because they eat grouse (and don’t pay £75 a bird for the privilege). Grouse are given medication because their unnaturally high densities allow diseases to spread. Mountain hares carry ticks that affect grouse, so are killed. Grouse moors are as intensively managed as East Anglian wheatfields.

The growing opposition to grouse shooting stems from three overlapping communities: animal welfare activists, environmental campaigners and nature conservationists. Many, when they realise the scale of the killing, not just of grouse but also predators, are appalled that this Victorian “sport” is still allowed.

Environmentalists highlight the intensive moorland management and a body of science demonstrating that this causes increased flood risk, higher water-treatment costs, greater carbon emissions, damage to moorland habitats and reduced insect life in the streams running off grouse moors. It’s a classic case of a niche activity of a few, hitting the pockets of the many through higher home insurance costs, higher water bills and a damaged environment.

Nature conservationists’ poster-bird is the , just one protected species illegally killed on grouse moors. There should be over 300 pairs of hen harriers nesting in the English uplands, (2,600 pairs in the UK as a whole) and this year there were just seven pairs ( around 550 pairs in the UK). The police struggle to catch the perpetrators of these wildlife crimes – understandably, since they operate covertly on private shooting estates in the least populated parts of the UK.

There are many reasons for calling the start of the grouse shooting season “inglorious” and the industry is under extreme pressure. But rather than mend its ways, reform its management and throw out its bad apples it has copied the tobacco, and fossil fuels industries and poured money into vilifying its opponents and a campaign of denial. TV presenter, author and photographer Chris Packham has been targeted – the Countryside Alliance called on the BBC to sack Packham for his off-camera campaigning, and less famous campaigners have been threatened and vilified. The grouse industry funded a campaign targeted at the RSPB.

Grouse shooting has friends in high places – even the Balmoral Estate visitor centre sings its praises – and the Conservative government has done nothing to push the case for reform. In Scotland there is more progress and a strong chance that the SNP government will introduce licensing of shooting estates in 2018.

On this day last year, an online petition I organised which called for an outright ban on intensive grouse shooting reached 123,000 signatures when it closed in September (a rival pro-shooting petition raised only 25,000) and secured a Westminster Hall parliamentary debate. The Conservative MPs packing that debate represented a large proportion of the House of Commons’s old Etonians, and they spent as much time denigrating Chris Packham and me as supporting grouse-shooting.

The Green party supports a ban of all bloodsports but Labour, a fundamentally urban party, hasn’t yet woken up to the fact that a policy of banning grouse-shooting is the right thing to do and is also an electoral asset.

Intensive grouse shooting will cease in my lifetime. The industry has been nasty and intransigent and is dragging down the reputation of less disreputable country sports. The pressure on grouse shooting will not go away.

The question for the rest of the shooting community is: do they want to be dragged into a mire from which they may never emerge or should they cut the grouse shooters loose and distance themselves as quickly as possible?

Dr is a former conservation director of the RSPB; now a, blogger, campaigner and author and author of Inglorious – Conflict in the Uplands.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 12 Aug 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether driven grouse shooting should be banned? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should driven grouse shooting be banned?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Steve Jaques

Editorial Comment: “The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime”. The wording of the (two issues) poll kinda suggests otherwise? Raptor persecution is already banned and rightly so. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs that influential spokespersons such as the BBC’s very own Chris Packham for example use their ‘celebrity status’ to knowingly publish misinformation and lies for his audience to digest and react to. The fact Mr Packham will then retract his publications some days later and acknowledge he was once again incorrect (although being… Read more »

richard playle
richard playle

Ok 150 years does that not go to show it works for all wild life Our Wimbrel go up to the Moors to mate and rear their young ,,and if you ban grouse shooting then the Wimbrel will become a endangered bird as no one else controls the predators of our fantastic ground nesting birds like the game keepers do !! 150 years and longer of careful management has given all of us a fantastic moorland to vist ,view , and enjoy ,dont let the single minded like Chris Packham tell you any more lies !!!

Willie Speirs
Willie Speirs

Richard Playle – god help whimbrel if they’re dependant on driven grouse shoots for survival

Bert Burnett

Who dreamt up this poll, a twelve year old … how to get the answers you want rig the questions.

Jon Pound

Yet another biased ‘report’ to wind up the misinformed anti hunting/shooting , if people stopped listening to Packham and May and actually asked people involved with conservation they would be much better educated as to the upkeep of the countryside and the moors.

Graham Shepherd

But Packham and May ARE people actually involved with conservation.
They want to conserve foxes, badgers, stoats, weasels, hen harriers, buzzards, perigrines, peatbogs, moorland, crows, rooks, mountain hares, …Shall I go on?

Jon Pound

Yes please.

Chris S
Chris S

There have been numerous studies recently proving the huge benefit to moorland and for biodiversity through Grouse shooting and management.

You may not like the idea of animals being shot and eaten but when you see that by supporting the rural community involved in the management of these moors through shooting you are protecting the countryside and its’ wildlife.


M Leybra
M Leybra

The author, Dr Mark Avery, a former conservation director of the RSPB is campaigning hard against this outdated, anti-environmental slaughter & predicts it will end in his lifetime. We don’t know what his lifetime is, but do know many things will end for life as we know it today, as human population inexorably increases along w/ all it’s resulting anti-environmental calamities.

Tony Fleming

Poorly worded question conflating two issues, plus the supporting diatribe is collection of false accusations, questiomnable science and wild assumptions. 300 pairs of Hen Harrier, who says that should be the England population, on what basis? What evidence of persecution, other thAn RSPB claims which have been proven wrong by RSPB employees?

Rod Foster

It is already against the law to kill by any means all birds of prey, what really needs to happen is that the shooting estate gamekeepers and estate workers do not habitually break the law by killing legally protected raptors and other protected wildlife. Because the shooting estates have made it so obvious that they have no intention whatsoever of stopping raptor / wildlife persecution, then they leave no alternative but to ban driven grouse shooting altogether.

Norman Murray

Sounds familiar,you wouldn,t be a follower Of Dr Avery by any chance ?

Willie Speirs
Willie Speirs

Norman – Are you aware that driven grouse moors produce grouse to the detriment of virtually everything else on the moor. They are protected to produce Grouse in some cases fifty times the sustainable population. Yes, it can be argued that some other birds benefit from the persecution foxes, stoats, badgers and raptors and, incidentally hares that are culled to prevent the transfer of tics etc. Add to that the burning of heather and the chemical additives to grouse grit – they can’t be described or sold as organic. No-one is arguing here to completely stop grouse shooting. The objection… Read more »

Rod Foster

Norman Murray Why? Do you have a problem with what I’ve written, or is it that you don’t agree with protecting legally protected wildlife from illegal persecution by shooting estate gamekeepers and others.

Sheran Boelema

This is two separate issues so unable to vote as needs two answers

Arlene Labbe

I agree with Artemis Athena, 100%.

Akshar Goyal


Artemis Athena

everything that has to do with hunting for sport should be banned