M&S: the smoking gunner?



How interesting that the meat buyer for M&S, Tom Harvey, is, in his own words ‘a massive fan of anything shooting/game or wine related‘ according to his Twitter account.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course. If he’d like to buy me a glass of decent Rioja then I’d be very happy to talk to him about M&S’s procurement policy on grouse.

Interesting though that the M&S Chief Exec and their meat buyer both like to shoot.

So, not much excuse for any lack of knowledge of the right questions to ask about hen harriers, lead and general management of grouse moors supplying M&S with game, then.

If you have any doubt about M&S’s meat buyer’s keenness on shooting then read this piece in the Independent.

All the more reason to ask some questions of M&S in their live Twitter Q&A at 1pm on @marksandspencer #AskRosie (I do hope Rosie puts some clothes on or she’ll catch her death).

Questions like:

@marksandspencer Please reveal the names of the estates supplying you with red grouse  #AskRosie

@marksandspencer How did you check that your suppliers do not kill protected wildlife?  #AskRosie

@marksandspencer Will any lead-shot grouse be labelled with a health warning? #AskRosie

@marksandspencer What steps have you taken to check that your suppliers are wildlife friendly?  #AskRosie

@marksandspencer Which wildlife and health experts did you consult before deciding to sell lead-shot grouse?   #AskRosie

Will M&S respond or continue to keep blanking any discussion of this matter on Twitter?  Many of us would like some answers please.

The silence is difficult to interpret – guilt? arrogance? bemusement? ignorance? or just out shooting?

Although, at the moment (look out for the tired old joke coming up next), they are shooting themselves in the feet.




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29 Replies to “M&S: the smoking gunner?”

  1. ‘a massive fan of anything shooting/game or wine related‘

    I have to commend him for his honesty. How many of his peers would publically admit to being a fan of raptor persecution, indiscriminate snaring/trapping, lead poisoning, monoculture, CO2 emissions, soil erosion and that jolly old pastime of flooding out northern townsfolk ?

    1. He's never said he is a fan of any of that. One can be a fan of the good aspects of something while wishing to reduce the bad sides. That can be something that it is a little hard for people who only think in black and white to understand.

      1. Tongue in cheek Giles. Although obviously that can be a little hard for those of an earnest disposition to understand.

        1. I am aware of the tongue in cheekyness of your comment Joe - would an LOL on my response have helped?

          1. No need Giles, with my new fangled Google Glass thingy, any comments expressed by CA members are automatically followed with a LOL. Although clearly I still haven't mastered the colour settings yet. 🙂

            Mark - apologies for hijacking the thread!

          1. Giles,

            In that case I must offer you a sincere and unreserved apology. I appreciate the offence that this remark must have caused. I will endeavour to check my facts more accurately in future.

            I'd be happy to buy you a pint or two next time I'm down in Devon.

  2. I have a feeling M&S won't respond, for evidence look at what you wrote in one of your birdfair posts and the lack of will to engage in the debate of lead sot. Currently they have the government of choice and a minister who reportedly hates raptors and is heavily biased towards farming/shooting and very little interest in anything else to do with the countryside, I'm not sure a boycott will work.
    I was wondering though if grouse and other game meat will be availiable in a few stores and probably eventually other supermarkets wether game shooting can any longer be classifeid as a "sport" or "past-time" or wether it should be counted as an industry? It then got me wondering if it is to be counted as an industry wether there is any laws that govern farming can applied, but also now it's blatantly an industry wether now if any gamekeeper is caught trapping or poisoning if a succesful prosecution is brought wether now the "procedes of crome act" can also be brought against the guilty estate...it's going to be very hard for estate owners to state they didn't know what their gamekeepers were doing now. Perhaps the "red tractor" logo will be replaced with a red tratcor pulling a trailer full a grown men with guns.
    As for a boycott I think direct action is a better option, I would love someone to design me a Hen Harrier costume as I would personally just go and rob as much grouse and other game meat as possible, it would be worth doing just to see the headlines "Hen Harrier arrested for stealing grouse from M&S....Defra call for cull on urban Harriers", their is two things stopping me mind 1) I would be worried that dressed as a Hen Harrier somewhere between the store and the police station I might "disappear" without trace and 2) If I make it out of the police station I might get and equally authentic radio tag to go with my costume 🙂

    1. Picking up a point made earlier about the 'proceeds of crime', it is worth noting that north of the border certain rural business advisors have been recommending that estates create separate holding (shell) companies to manage shooting tenancies. Then if the worst should happen (the keeper actually gets caught and convicted of killing raptors) the estate is at arms length from the crime and agricultural subsidies etc can still flow in. I think a really interesting study would be to look at driven grouse moors and who now actually owns/manages the shoots. I believe it would be one of the planks needed to build the case of licensing the shoot on a piece of ground.

  3. I'd be interested to hear about people's views on this Scotsman article http://www.scotsman.com/news/grouse-moors-can-help-diversity-and-the-economy-1-3053139. Are there any benefits from Grouse moor management to some bird populations (apart from grouse)? And are their potential benefits to Hen Harrier populations from predator control.

    Is there something constructive Marks and Spencer could be doing that involved selling grouse AND discouraging some of the current bad practices.

    And is wild game better or worse than this? (which presumably some supermarkets here are offering)


    1. Giles, there is no doubt that a grouse moor or grouse moors run to best practice have conservation benefits but the price we are currently paying and it is not just about persecution of raptors is way way too high because to put it simply moors run to ALL aspects of best practice are as rare as English breeding Hen Harriers. Best practice guide lines are not that different to the NT plans for their estate in the Peak.
      It is not a case of whether game is better or worse than something else supermarkets sell ( we should be encouraging the highest standards in all things), that when it comes to grouse currently, whether individual estates persecute or not is almost a red herring as enough of them do for the whole industry to benefit (in their eyes) and to my mind that means they should ALL be tarred with the same brush. The questions we should put to M&S are simple is your game supplier buying game from estates x, y, z etc because whilst these estates cannot be proved to be persecuting and we are not accusing them of such they have all had harrier nests fail in recent years in circumstances which are dubious. (As it happens I can think of 12 estates in the Yorkshire Dales alone where that is true. Why do harriers nesting on grouse moors disappear about 30 times more frequently than on none grouse moors? I can think immediately of another six where traditional peregrine sites have been abandoned because it is so long since they reared young, indeed some never have. We are talking about a problem that is endemic, then there are the short eared owls that have disappeared, the buzzards and kites that are found poisoned or seen with shot damage or instant asymmetrical moult as we call it. The whole industry is rotten with lousy management practices and that's without considering the lead issues or carbon sequestration, or flooding or coloured drinking water or arrogant keepers telling people lies on CROW act access land so they will leave and not come back or the fact that most of these estates get HLS money because they are SSSIs for the very species which are absent ( its like paying them govt money to persecute). Only and I mean only when the industry widely adopts all aspects of best practice and this would be evidenced by an increase in diversity in both habitat and species present, including appropriate compliments of protected predators should we allow them the luxury of a lack of criticism and to be able to sell their products through national icons ( as long as its shot with lead free).

  4. ps I did put a question to Rosie but I think she's more centred on the bra and panty side of the business

  5. The blandest of replies:
    Dear Mr Hague

    Thank you for your email. I hope you don’t mind me responding on Stephen’s behalf.

    I’m sorry you have not been reassured by Stephen’s email. I’d like to reiterate that we are working with only the most sustainable and well-managed estates. We take issues regarding animal welfare very seriously, as evidenced in our Plan A programme. You can read more about our Plan A at http://plana.marksandspencer.com/?intid=gft_plana.

    I’m afraid I am unable to give you specific details of our suppliers, as this is commercially sensitive information.

    We are unable to comment further on this matter at this time, but I hope you will not interpret this for a lack of interest from M&S. We are closely monitoring this matter and will continue to review the situation. This will enable us to guarantee our suppliers are meeting our exacting ethical standards.

    Thank you again for your email.

    Kind regards

    Simon Hoskins
    Executive Office

    My response... not had a reply yet:

    Hi Simon,

    Quite frankly Simon the level of denial at M&S on this issue is staggering. What are M&S afraid of?

    You talk of well managed estates, is that well managed in that any predator; Fox, Stoats, Crows as well as Hen Harrier are exterminated so as to allow unnaturally high numbers of Red Grouse to be reared? I'm not for one minute suggesting your estate suppliers are illegally killing Hen Harrier but you have failed to even answer if you are aware of the problems on Grouse Moors or not.

    As for the 'commercially sensitive information' on suppliers that is a joke. M&S are more than happy normally to prove the providence of it's meat, take your website talking about beef suppliers John & James Brown. If you're not aware I will copy you the link http://producerexchange.marksandspencer.com/news/ms-beef-suppliers-focus-quality-and-welfare
    It seems welfare is important to the Browns and they have nothing to hide. Why is M&S hiding from releasing the names of the shooting estates?

    It also seems that others such as mark Avery have contacted you about the use of lead shot in the UK. Can you confirm or deny that the product will indeed be safe for human consumption.

    There are a other interested parties trying to get the same answers but getting non.

    Kind regards

    1. John - that's like the one I got today except I didn't get the 'We are unable to comment further...' paragraph (I think, I'll check this evening). Thank you for writing.

  6. Oh dear
    Mark's off on one again – he's now taking on M&S – three blogs!
    It reminds me of his 'ethical recommendation' of the Co-op Bank (share price now 50p – last May 135p) - I hope nobody here has lost out financially following his observations
    M&S shares ? - 350p in March – 450p now ! MUst be doing something right!
    Perhaps this is Mark's tactic to divert folk from the Labour Party's current shambolicisms!

    Really – conservationists = confrontation (non-stop)

    And Mark – I've noticed you don't 'always' correct bloggers' typos
    It hurts doesn't it?

  7. Trimbush, well of course ethics are measured by share-prices. How silly of us not to realise that the value of something is only equivalent to what bankers sell its stock for. And you mention diversionary tactics? Dragging the argument away from welfare questions in order to praise paper profit sums up much of what is wrong about this government and many of its supporters.
    And, yes, conservation = confrontation because the shooting industry isn't actually known for responding to polite requests (and neither are M&S it seems).


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