The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust blog is reeling.
Yesterday they were in a complete spin over the Leeds University study showing impacts of heather burning on soils, waters, emissions and biota – a pretty clean sweep of physics, chemistry, biology and backed up by quite a lot of maths. They got themselves into a distracting lather about those calling for a ban on heather burning. It was a rather pitiful sight. I wonder who is calling for this ban – not me. I’m calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting (remember?). I don’t mind a bit of heather burning now and again as a management tool but we don’t need it very much, certainly not on a landscape scale.
GWCT, presumably because they haven’t yet found a nit to pick, said that the report looked ‘perfectly sensible’ and then started erecting straw men instead of addressing the question of whether driven grouse shooting would be possible without the level of harmful moor burning that we have experienced for decades?
Then they get lost in a false analogy with ploughing – they can plough their own furrow for as long as they like but they are simply digging a deeper hole.
But GWCT fails to address the issues, instead they have written to the Times saying that Mountain Hares like heather too – I thought they were a pest that had to be culled so that Red Grouse could flourish?
You need to go back just a couple of weeks (19 September) to a blog which sets out the 10 public goods and services delivered by grouse shooting as follows, the annotations in bold are my comments.:
1. Employment and investment in remote rural areas: a very small figure now that the Pay Cheque report has been eviscerated (see here and here). Rather trivial sums of money. True, they are in rural areas but there are plenty of urban areas, or rural areas away from grouse moors, that would like more jobs too.
2. A key cultural landscape: you don’t have to shoot grouse to keep the landscape. And anyway, many of us think that burned squares across the hills are very ugly. The landscape promised by the National Trust in the absence of driven grouse shooting looks pretty good to them and me.
3. Support for nature-based recreation: eh? You mean grouse shooting is good for grouse shooting?
4. Reduced risk of damaging wildfires: you don’t have to shoot grouse to stop fires. And you don’t have to ban all fires in the absence of grouse shooting. How big is the fire risk, anyway?
5. Carbon storage: see the Leeds University report of yesterday. This argument never had many legs and is now fatally wounded.
6. Flood risk alleviation: see the Leeds University report of yesterday. This argument never had many legs and is now fatally wounded.
7. An alternative to and mitigation of forestry, farming and renewables in the uplands: nonsense. All SSSIs, SACs and SPAs are protected already (unless this government weakens the statutory sector even more or we leave the EU – and if that happens this will be the least of our worries). National Parks are protected too. Those designations are there to protect these areas from the greedy short-term interests of individuals. But if private individuals outside of designated areas wish to make use of market forces then presumably GWCT would cheer them on? I think better of GWCT’s grouse shooting members than obviously does the GWCT itself.
8. Retention and restoration of heather moorland; you don’t have to shoot grouse to protect heather moorland. The best areas are all designated. Those designations are there to protect these areas from the greedy short-term interests of individuals.
9. Conservation of globally important ground-nesting species such as waders: I think that means the Curlew – and i have always acknowledge this as a point. It clearly doesn’t mean the Hen Harrier. Nor does it mean the Mountain Hare. Nor the Short-eared Owl from all I am told by folk with boots on the ground. Do cliffs count as ground – what about Peregrines?
10. Bracken and tick control, benefitting graziers: I thought you had massive problems with ticks which affect grouse numbers and that’s why the Mountain Hares need to be culled? Which is it?
Of the 10 points, several have nothing to commend them at all (1, 2, 3, 5 and 6), several have almost nothing to recommend them (4, 8 and 10) and a couple have some resonance but can be sorted out (as I’ve always said)(7 and 9).
I’d give it a score of about 2.5 out of 10.
And therefore, the case is terribly weak and we should simply decide to instruct the next government to ban driven grouse shooting.
PS and by the way, in the last three days over 200 people have signed this e-petition whereas a mere nine have signed the GWCT e-petition on the non-joint non-plan which is a non-solution to the long list of problems associated with driven grouse shooting.