I’ve written quite a lot over the last few weeks about driven grouse shooting and why I want to see it banned in England.
I’ve had lots of responses too – on this blog as comments, on Twitter, on Facebook, by e-mail and face to face. Here’s a summary of what I think are the strongest arguments for and against signing my (our) e-petition.
The arguments for banning driven grouse shooting:
- the dramatic population-scale impacts that criminal activity associated with grouse shooting has on protected wildlife such as the Hen Harrier
- the unpleasant scale of legal killing of foxes, stoats, mountain hares, crows etc associated with grouse shooting
- the damage to blanket bogs from ‘over-enthusiastic’ burning
- the amount of public money, your taxes, that prop up this land use
- the landscape impacts of intensive heather-burning, building tracks, car parks and grouse butts for grouse shooters
- the carbon impacts of intensive moorland management for grouse shooting
- increased risk of flooding through intensive grouse moor management
- increased discolouration of water, increasing water bills, through intensive grouse moor management
- the human health impacts of medical residues and lead levels that may be found in grouse meat
- restrictions of access to open moorland because of grouse shooting
- killing wildlife is wrong
- eating wildlife is wrong
That is a re-shaping of the list I produced (with links to evidence) a couple of weeks ago. This time I have listed the reasons more or less, without agonising over it, in order of importance to me (most important first). All of those reasons affect me a bit – and different ones will affect different people differently. I guess some people will start at what is the bottom of the list as far as I am concerned and that will convince them on its own.
The counter reasons for not banning driven grouse shooting seem to me to be these;
- I don’t like banning things – it’s a sledge-hammer to crack a nut
- not every grouse moor manager is a criminal
- grouse moors are good for some wildlife (they are – but see answer here)
- the alternative is worse (it isn’t – see here)
- the rural economy benefits from grouse shooting
- all the arguments above are factually wrong
That’s the list of arguments I produced a couple of weeks ago and, again, this time I have put them in what is for me, the decreasing order of persuasiveness (for me). Clearly, for me, the arguments against don’t weigh as heavily as the arguments for – but you see what you think.
I haven’t really dealt with the money issue at all yet – and I’m not going to here and now either as I think it is entirely trivial. but eventually I will. Instead, I will deal with the top two arguments (from my perspective) in the list above and why I find them unconvincing.
Not every grouse moor manager is a criminal: true, but not all the arguments that are important to me (and others) are about criminality so that doesn’t matter. Many of the faults of grouse moor management are the result of entirely legal activity. That was easy!
Banning is too extreme: this is still the argument that weighs most strongly with me, because I am a wishy-washy liberal who likes being nice to people. And so are most of the conservation and environment movement who will be nodding in agreement over my list of ‘reasons to ban’. The temptation is to treat each of the ‘reasons to ban’ as a separate issue and negotiate on each to seek gradual improvement but that is very difficult and so far hasn’t worked. It’s the system of land management that is wrong and it needs to be swept away.
Whether to ban driven grouse shooting is about much more than the lack of breeding Hen Harriers in England – although that is an excellent example of how talking to grouse moor interests for decades has seen the situation get worse rather than better. It is about a whole system of land management – only by banning driven grouse shooting can all its deleterious impacts on the environment and society be tackled.
And little progress can be made on these issues by talking to grouse moor managers. There has been no progress at all on the subject of Hen Harriers. There has been no progress on the level of burning of blanket bogs on the ground – quite the opposite I feel. There has been little progress on moorland restoration to provide enhanced ecosystem services except on land managed by NGOs and in a very few other places.
And so, when individuals and organisations decide whether or not to support this e-petition they should think across all the important issues and see whether they can think of how best to address all of them. I’ve come to the conclusion that picking them off one at a time is hopeless – the time is right to say ‘Enough!’.
Grouse shooters have been playing, quite adeptly, to keep these issues alive but in the long grass. Help me expose them by cutting the grass – please sign this e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting in England and joint thousands of others who have signed in the last few weeks and will sign in the coming many weeks.