M&S – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

Mon 20 July CopyM&S announced today that they intend to sell Red Grouse meat this year – I had asked them following previous years discussion (2014: here and here; 2015 here and here).

Today I asked M&S some questions.

Here are their answers:


Our team have worked with the RSPB and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to launch an industry leading ‘Code of Practice’ to ensure all our game, including red grouse, is sourced to the highest standards of game rearing and moorland management, from a small group of estates that we know and trust. Our red grouse will be sourced from a single estate in Scotland.

It is also our requirement that estates operate to the industry’s Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Game Birds.

Lead shot is the most humane way to shoot grouse. We ensure lead shot is not used near any water courses and our policy on lead shot follows the Food Standards Agency guidelines and is clearly detailed on our packaging.


The self-styled ‘industry leading’ Code of Practice hasn’t been sent to me.  This is the closest I can find on the M&S website which mentions the Code of Practice but doesn’t actually say what it is. I’ve asked M&S for a copy, as a customer – well, maybe not for much longer.

I asked the RSPB to comment on this matter early this morning but they haven’t yet got back to me – but it will be interesting to see whether the RSPB welcomes the potential sale of Red Grouse by M&S and give this a big thumbs up.

M&S require the estates supplying them to stick to the law – that’s good. How do they check?

What checks do M&S put in place to monitor the potential cocktail of chemicals that might end up in Red Grouse meat – see this cracking blog, of today, by Raptor Persecution UK?

We can only assume that M&S are happy to sell you meat with lead levels up to 3500 times those which would be legal in beef, pork, chicken etc since they don’t say that they aren’t, don’t say that they are requiring their suppliers to use non-toxic ammunition, don’t say that they are going to look more carefully at the science and don’t say anything except they won’t shoot lead into areas near water courses. M&S seem to be more careful about the lead levels in water courses than they are about the lead levels in the meat that they put on their shelves for you to buy and eat. Amazing. It’s not just lead-loaded meat, it’s going to be M&S lead-loaded meat!

‘Lead shot is the most humane way to shoot grouse’ – I wonder where that came from? And does this mean that M&S will require all suppliers to use toxic ammunition rather than non-toxic ammunition? Do M&S sell shot waterfowl? Are they going to stop selling these as it would be illegal for them to be shot in England, and in most circumstances in Scotland, with lead ammunition? Do M&S sell shot venison – and do they reject those shot with copper bullets?  M&S do not appear to know what they are doing on this tricky subject – they are tying themselves up in knots.

M&S has not disclosed the estate from which they intend to source their grouse.

M&S game policy is in a mess.  Let’s see whether they can come to a sensible position in the next few days, shall we.




Questions for M&S

Mon 20 July CopyFollowing their announcement today, I’ve been in touch with the M&S press office and they say they’ll get back to me with clarification on these questions – later today. That’s very nice of them.


  • can you please send me a copy of your code of practice for selling game meat?
  • who are, or at least what is the expertise of, the ‘independent industry experts’ you have consulted?
  • was the RSPB involved in the Code of Practice?
  • are you stipulating that Red Grouse meat that you might sell in your stores is shot with non-toxic ammunition?
  • have you read the summary of the Lead Ammunition Group report ? Presumably your experts referred you to it? see here http://www.leadammunitiongroup.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/LAG-Letter-to-SoS-Environment-030615_Redacted.pdf
  • have you read the Oxford Lead symposium report? Presumably your experts referred you to it? see here http://oxfordleadsymposium.info/
  • why would you want to sell the public meat which contains over 100 times the lead levels that would be legal for other meats? see here http://markavery.info/2016/01/31/lead-week-22-pbweekmia/
  • will any Red Grouse meat sold in your stores be labelled ‘May contain very high levels of lead. Lead is a poison.’ or with any similar warning?
  • do you plan to disclose the estates from which you source your Red Grouse?
  • have you noticed that 35,000 people have asked the government to ban driven grouse shooting? see here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003

many thanks


M&S are preparing to sell Red Grouse

Mon 20 July CopyIn reply to this blog, M&S have just recently tweeted:

Last year we worked with independent industry experts & the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to introduce the industry’s first ‘Codes of Practice’ to ensure all our game, including grouse, is sourced to the highest standards of game & moorland management. In accordance with this, we’re currently working with our supplier to monitor numbers for this season and will only stock grouse if the numbers are strong enough. Thanks.

In the absence of any information to the contrary (eg the M&S are stipulating that their grouse must be sourced from suppliers that use non-toxic ammunition) this means that M&S are prepared to sell their customers meat with lead levels that are over 100 times those that would be legal for other meats. Really?

To remind M&S, and others, Red Grouse meat bought from Iceland stores last year was tested for lead levels and it was found that three quarters of samples had higher lead levels than would be legal for beef, pork, chicken etc; a third of samples had levels more than ten times the levels that would be legal for other meats, one (out of 40 samples) had lead levels 169 times the lead levels that are legal for other meats and another had lead levels that were over 3500 times the legal lead levels for other meats. Iceland stores have never responded to these results but are not expected to sell Red Grouse in their stores again and yet M&S appear to be sanguine about selling the public Red Grouse meat contaminated with high levels of a poison. M&S food – simply wrong!

I notice there is no mention of the RSPB in the above statement – though the RSPB were working with GWCT and M&S on this matter in the past? Where have they gone?

And who are these independent industry experts – and which industry are we talking about? The game producing industry? In which case how independent are they.

Presumably M&S will be willing to name the estates from which they might source any Red Grouse that they sell, to enable the public to decide whether or not those estates really are worthy of our support?

There are many questions that M&S need to answer to convince me that they have taken any care at all about this matter. And if M&S do sell Red Grouse, shot with toxic lead ammunition in their stores, then they will be losing this active customer.




Travels and round-up

Somewhere in Durham, but nearly in N'Land

Somewhere in Durham, but nearly in N’land

I’ve been travelling around since Monday and I got back late last night – so this is just a few notes on my travels and a few catch-ups:

  • On the Durham moors near the signpost above, there were very few waders to be heard, which surprised me, as I am always careful to point out that grouse moors often have impressive numbers of breeding waders. However, to be fair, there was a Golden Plover cheekily standing on a grouse butt by the road.
  • the number of comments, which I think are all objections, to the retrospective planning application for a track on Midhope Moor has risen from c30 to over 160 largely thanks to readers of this blog  (you are wonderful!). And the period for public consultation has been extended to 27 May. We’ll see!
  • Scotland seems to be full of Cuckoos although I didn’t hear any on the moors of northern England.
  • have a look at how the Catfield Fen enquiry has ended here.
  • I saw a lovely male Hen Harrier when I stopped briefly to scan the moors at Langholm – aren’t they brilliant birds?!


Kerry McCarthy MP - one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people making plans for Hen Harrier Day (s) events.

Kerry McCarthy MP – one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people making plans for Hen Harrier Day (s) events.



By Cuculus_canorus_vogelartinfo_chris_romeiks_CHR0791.jpg: Vogelartinfo derivative work: Bogbumper [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cuculus_canorus_vogelartinfo_chris_romeiks_CHR0791.jpg: Vogelartinfo derivative work: Bogbumper [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve heard a Cuckoo in Northants this year – but only one. And that was not at my local patch of Stanwick Lakes, despite many visits.

I’ve checked my records, and this is exceptionally late for me NOT to have heard a Cuckoo at Stanwick Lakes.

The Birdtrack records look as though arrivals have been a bit late this year – but not spectacularly so. Maybe it’s just me, or just bad luck. How about you?



The Messenger – good film






On Saturday afternoon – one of the first warm days of the spring – I headed into London to watch a film in the Barbican. The Messenger is about the threats faced by songbirds – not just in the US and Canada but also in Europe and elsewhere.

It’s a good film and non-birders will probably find it just as compelling as those who, like me, sat through it with a self-generated commentary in their heads of bird names as different species appeared in view or in song.

There are some beautiful, and pretty much unique, images of birds in flight (taken in wind tunnels) and a lot of them in the wild too.  It is a vivid reminder of the fact that birds really are simply stunning – visually, vocally and because of the feats of migration they accomplish.

But life is tough for birds. I was a bit worried when the film started with issues and impacts such as collisions with buildings – probably a bigger issue in the US than in Europe (?) – but it moved on through trapping to the bigger issues of pesticides, land use and climate change. A lot of ground to cover (just like a migratory bird) but the film brought it home.

In the Barbican we had a short panel discussion after the film with Carles Carboneres from RSPB, Dave Timms from FoE and Joanne Jackson who joined us by Skype from Canada who produced the film.

A few thoughts from me:

  • I’d been for a walk on Saturday morning and not heard a Cuckoo – I haven’t heard one at my local patch yet this year. Where are they?
  • there was a brief image of a Passenger Pigeon – is the Turtle Dove following it?
  • the images of Canadian prairie farmland growing canola (oil seed rape) showed basically single criops being grown on a massive scale – how could we expect not to have problems with pests and diseases?
  • footage of Mao’s war against birds – shocking!
  • American warblers are stunning!  I want to be in Ohio for The Big Week (here and here).

Hen Harrier Day – coming to Rainham Marshes

imageI visited Rainham Marshes RSPB nature reserve recently for a chat about the Hen Harrier Day event which will take place there on SATURDAY 6 August starting at 11am.

For new readers, Hen Harrier Day is a celebration of this marvellous bird to highlight the fact that its numbers are severely reduced by criminal activity by grouse shooting interests.  Hen Harriers are unsporting enough to eat Red Grouse that ‘sporting folk’ wish to shoot for fun.  Killing a Hen Harrier has been illegal since 1954 but it still goes on to such an extent that Hen Harriers are almost absent from UK grouse moors which ought to be hosting hundreds of pairs. The UK Hen Harrier population is c650 pairs (almost all of which live away from grouse shooting areas) whereas it ought to be c2600 pairs according to the science (see Chapter 1 of Inglorious for many more details).

Hen Harrier Day events have been held in England and Scotland for the last two years, with growing numbers of events, and growing numbers of attendees.

HH day Chris and Mark

A rather wet Hen Harrier Day rally in the Peak District in 2014 #sodden570

This year there will be several events as usual (see here for details as they emerge) but probably the biggest of them all is likely to be at Rainham Marshes RSPB nature reserve within easy reach by public transport of central and east London, Essex, Suffolk, Kent, Cambridgeshire and beyond. It’s going to be massive! Well it will if you come.

Chris Packham will be attending, and this year it is the only Hen Harrier Day event he can make so you can only catch him here.

A six foot Hen Harrier will also be present.


There will be speeches, camaraderie and this is your chance to voice your opposition to protected birds of prey being killed in the UK uplands and elsewhere. And if you live in or near London you don’t have so far to travel this year – thanks to the RSPB Rainham Marshes team we are bringing Hen Harrier Day to you.

I will say this only scores of times – parking is limited and the event is likely to be very well attended – please come by public transport if you possibly can (and it is quite easy – I’ve done it many times myself).  If you have to bring a car, then please fill it up with friends!

Further details of the event will appear on this blog, on the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website and on the Rainham Marshes RSPB page.  But you can start making your travel plans, start making your banners and placards, and start looking forward to sending a strong message to the criminal elements in the grouse shooting industry that they cannot keep breaking the law.

Photo: Gordon Yates

Photo: Gordon Yates



Mon 20 July CopyMarks and Sparks – are you going to attempt to sell Red Grouse stuffed full of lead in your stores this year?

Have you read this?

Have you seen these blogs (here, here, here, here) about lead levels in Red Grouse sold to the public in Iceland stores last year?

With the departure of Marc Bolland, shooter, and the arrival of Steve Rowe, Millwall fan, who has led the M&S food business, do you really want your customers to be saying ‘This isn’t just a Red Grouse with high lead levels, it’s an M&S Red Grouse with high lead levels’?

Maybe this year, under new management, you would like to promote this e-petition to your customers – 35,000 of whom have already signed it. It asks the government to ban driven grouse shooting because of the ecological damage it causes.

Pb shot grouse 1Red Grouse 1c fat arrows - Copy

Red Grouse carcasses 2- Copy-1


Oscar Dewhurst – Black-tailed Godwit


Oscar writes: This was taken on a very overcast day last month in Suffolk. I was watching this Black-tailed Godwit pulling worms out of the ground but it was in a very cluttered bit of the water so I couldn’t photograph it. Luckily for me it soon came out and started feeding in the open. Overexposing in-camera meant I was able to get this high-key effect.

Nikon D800 | Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR lens | Nikon 2c TC





And now we have a Labour London Mayor but Zac’s constituents have put him (at #1) way ahead of Sadiq (#41) in this list.

Across the UK, the average number of signatures on our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting is 54 – only nine (of 73) London constituencies are above average. We know that as a whole, it is rural Conservative and SNP constituencies which have so far given greatest support to this e-petition.

The range in signatures is immense – a ten-fold difference between the top and the bottom.

I don’t know the capital that well, not well at all, but it rather looks to me (am I right?) that it is Labour constituencies north of the river, and Conservative constituencies south of the river, that are giving greatest support. If true – what does that tell us?

  1. Richmond Park 85 signatures – Zac Goldsmith MP, CON
  2. Holborn and St Pancras 76 signatures – Keir Starmer MP, LAB
  3. Islington North 73 signatures – Jeremy Corbyn MP, LAB
  4. Hornsea and Wood Green 72 signatures – Catherine West MP, LAB
  5. Lewisham West and Penge 66 signatures – Jim Dowd MP, LAB
  6. Twickenham 63 signatures – Tania Mathias MP, CON
  7. Walthamstow 60 signatures – Stella Creasy MP, LAB
  8. Wimbledon 58 signatures – Stephen Hammond MP, CON
  9. Orpington 57 signatures – Jo Johnson MP, CON
  10. Hampstead and Kilburn 54 signatures – Tulip Siddiq MP, LAB
  11. Islington South and Finsbury 54 signatures – Emily Thornberry MP, LAB
  12. Hackney North and Stoke Newington 54 signatures – Diane Abbott MP, LAB
  13. Kingston and Surbiton 53 signatures – James Berry MP, CON
  14. Dulwich and West Norwood 51 signatures – Helen Hayes MP, LAB
  15. Camberwell and Peckham 51 signatures – Harriet Harman MP, LAB
  16. Greenwich and Woolwich 51 signatures – Matthew Pennycook MP, LAB
  17. Brentford and Isleworth 49 signatures – Ruth Cadbury MP, LAB
  18. Lewisham Deptford 49 signatures – Vicky Foxcroft MP, LAB
  19. Croydon South 48 signatures – Chris Philp MP, CON
  20. Westminster North 47 signatures – Karen Buck MP, LAB
  21. Streatham 46 signatures – Chukka Umunna MP, LAB
  22. Romford 46 signatures – Andrew Rosindell MP, CON
  23. Leyton and Wanstead 43 signatures – John Cryer MP, LAB
  24. Putney 43 signatures – Justine Greening MP, CON
  25. Lewisham East 42 signatures – Heidi Alexander MP, LAB
  26. Chipping Barnet 41 signatures – Theresa Villiers MP, CON
  27. Bromley and Chislehurst 41 signatures – Bob Neill MP, CON
  28. Eltham 41 signatures – Clive Efford MP, LAB
  29. Sutton and Cheam 40 signatures – MP, Paul Scully MP, CON
  30. Ealing Central and Action 39 signatures – Rupa Huq MP, LAB
  31. Hammersmith 39 signatures – Andrew Slaughter MP, LAB
  32. Cities of London and Westminster 39 signatures – Mark Field MP, CON
  33. Ruislip Northwood and Pinner 39 signatures – Nick Hurd MP, CON
  34. Feltham and Heston 37 signatures – Seema Malhotra MP, LAB
  35. Hackney South and Shoreditch 37 signatures – Meg Hillier MP, LAB
  36. Kensington 37 signatures – Victoria Borthwick MP, CON
  37. Bermondsey and Old Southwark 36 signatures – Neil Coyle MP, CON
  38. Mitcham and Morden 36 signatures – Siobhainn McDonagh MP, LAB
  39. Chingford and Woodford Green 35 signatures – Iain Duncan-Smith MP, CON
  40. Finchley and Golders Green 35 signatures – Mike Freer MP, CON
  41. Tooting 35 signatures – Sadiq Khan MP, LAB
  42. Tottenham 34 signatures – David Lammy MP, LAB
  43. Ealing North 33 signatures – Steven Pound MP, LAB
  44. Croydon Central 33 signatures – Gavin Barwell MP, CON
  45. Carshalton and Wallingford 33 signatures – Tom Brake MP, LIB
  46. Hornchurch and Upminster 33 signatures – Angela Watkinson MP, CON
  47. Vauxhall 32 signatures – Kate Hoey MP, LAB
  48. Croydon North 32 signatures – Steve Reed MP, LAB
  49. Dagenham and Rainham 32 signatures – John Cruddas MP, LAB
  50. Enfield Southgate 32 signatures – David Burrowes MP, CON
  51. Beckenham 31 signatures – Bob Stewart MP, CON
  52. Old Bexley and Sidcup 29 signatures – James Brokenshire MP, CON
  53. Bethnal Green and Bow 28 signatures  – Rushanara Ali MP, LAB
  54. Ealing Southall 28 signatures – Virendra Sharma MP, LAB
  55. Erith and Thamesmead 28 signatures – Teresa Pearce MP, LAB
  56. Harrow West 28 signatures – Gareth Thomas MP, LAB
  57. Poplar and Limehouse 28 signatures – John Fitzpatrick MP, LAB
  58. Enfield North 26 signatures – Joan Ryan MP, LAB
  59. Uxbridge and South Ruislip 26 signatures – Boris Johnson MP, CON
  60. Chelsea and Fulham 25 signatures – Greg Hands MP, CON
  61. Hendon 25 signatures – Matthew Offord MP, CON
  62. Ilford North 25 signatures – Wes Streeting MP, LAB
  63. Bexleyheath and Crayford 23 signatures – David Evennett MP, CON
  64. Brent Central 23 signatures – Dawn Butler MP, LAB
  65. Ilford South 22 signatures – Mike Gapes MP, LAB
  66. Battersea 20 signatures – Jane Ellison MP, CON
  67. East Ham 19 signatures – Stephen Timms MP, LAB
  68. Hayes and Harlington 17 signatures – John McDonnell MP, LAB
  69. Barking 16 signatures – Margaret Hodge MP, LAB
  70. Harrow East 14 signatures – Bob Blackman MP, CON
  71. West Ham 13 signatures – Lyn Brown MP, LAB
  72. Brent North 13 signatures – Barry Gardner MP, LAB
  73. Edmonton 8 signatures – Kate Osamor MP, LAB

Our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting has reached 35,000 signatures in week 7 – we aim to get to 100,000 signatures by 20 September. Please, London, play a bigger part in this. Driven grouse shooting causes ecological damage which affects us all: increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased flood risk, increased water treatment costs and devastation of protected wildlife. London, please show you care about these things even if they are not on your doorstep.