The “Glorious Twelfth” may be effectively cancelled this year, shooting estates have said, as the grouse breeding season has been so poor.
Hard frosts while the birds were laying has meant that fewer were born, and some eggs are still yet to hatch. Sleet and cold rain during the hatching season earlier this summer caused the loss of entire broods.
The grouse-shooting season extends from 12 August – the Glorious Twelfth – to 10 December. Estates across Britain have been postponing the opening of their seasons, and trying to find alternative activities for those who still wish to visit.
While some moors will have a delayed season, others will not be able to open for shooting at all.
Adrian Blackmore, director of shooting for the Countryside Alliance, explained: “Hopefully later broods will have done better, and with luck some moors will have a sustainable surplus of grouse to allow shooting to take place later in the season. However, for others this is looking unlikely. This could therefore be a hard year for many rural communities in our uplands, a poor grouse season affecting not just local businesses for whom the sport can be the main economic driver, but also the numerous people that rely on the casual work that a day’s grouse shooting brings.”
Environmental activists have used the potential cancellation to renew calls for moorlands to be “rewilded” and for driven grouse shooting to be brought to an end.
Luke Steele, executive director of conservation group Wild Moors, said: “Grouse moors are performing an intensive programme of heather burning, draining and wildlife persecution in a frantic attempt to drive game bird numbers up to levels where shooting can take place.
“The irony is that grouse moor management is causing carbon-rich peatlands to dry up, leaving the environment and wildlife, including the humble grouse, increasingly vulnerable to climate change.
“With the world fast moving in a direction where restoring land for nature, carbon capture and people is at the forefront of solving climate change and biodiversity loss, the writing is on the wall for outdated and destructive grouse moors. It’s time to head on a new path of restoring Britain’s uplands.”
One estate that may have to cancel its Glorious Twelfth shoot is Bolton Abbey, owned by the Duke of Devonshire. A spokesperson explained: “We reflect the position nationally, in that grouse prospects are bleak.”
The royal family may also have to miss out on an annual tradition, if experts at Balmoral, their Scottish residence, decide that grouse prospects are too bad for a shoot this year. Prince William was seen with his son George on a shoot on Corgarff, part of the Balmoral estate, last year. Senior members of the family have often been seen out shooting on the moors on 12 August in previous years.
This article by Helena Horton was first published by The Guardian on 30 July 2021.
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