Thin, very thin

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.


12 Replies to “Thin, very thin”

  1. As GWCT have failed to publish/answer my comments on Andrew Gilruths post on their letter to the Times I will ask it here:

    If management for grouse is so great for mountain hares, how do they justify some grouse managers for culling mountain hare due to it being a vector for louping ill?

    What percentage of wild fires are a result of controlled burns?

    How much burning would grouse moor managers have to do to genuinely control wild fire risk (or cut instead!) vs what is done for commercial grouse management – I would suggest it’s an awful lot less.

    What proportion of wildfires occur in close proximity to major public rights of way/access points in relation to the vast open areas of grouse moors that the public rarely venture on to?

    Would wetter, less burned and more naturally maintained bogs not provide lower fire risk than commercially managed moors that are burned regularly to promote fire tollerant heather growth?

    I expect more than this lame response from an allegedly science based GWCT, I suspect they are worried by the implication this report poses for their their cronies.

    I get the impression that if commercial driven grouse management involved molesting young children some individuals would somehow justify and defend it, irispective what the law, the public and the statistics told them.

  2. It always amuses me that they won’t just admit that they enjoy Grouse shooting. The nearest they come is no 3.

    1. Jamie – good for you! That’s the most honest and most convincing argument I have heard so far…although, not, by itself totally convincing.

    2. Jamie,

      I enjoy looking at Goshawks displaying in the Peak District, it’s the ultimate birding experience.

      However, due to your fellow game management practitioners over the years, they have denied me, my children and other members of the public this (legal!) experience in many parts of the Peak District (and UK as a whole). You appear to be setting a good example at Chatsworth and I applaud you for this, but how many others in your industry are doing this or making a concerted effort to root out those who don’t?

      The greatest changes to modernise, legalise and adopt best practice within driven grouse management can be made by individuals and supporters like you from within. I love that you have not tried to justify the damage highlighted by the report published this week (like GWCT have) and your above comment shows passion. You cant rely on leadership from the likes of GWCT on issues like this as they have clearly lost the plot.

      You now need to take your passion and get stuck in to clear out all the damaging deadwood within your industry and demonstrate that you can deliver sustainable driven shooting that doesn’t need to be underpinned with damaging management practices. Routine illegal killing of protected wildlife, burning on important peat soils all need to go and more investment and research put into the long-term sustainability of medicating grouse and the effects this could have on other species, human health, water quality, soil invertebrates and welfare of host species and livestock used to combat the ills of grouse. If you and your industry can pull this off, I cant see why you couldn’t be able to sell and market sustainably (and legally) produced grouse in the future. How about you work to get a beacon of best practice in the Dark Peak?

      Key here is sustainability – with current staggering numbers of grouse produced per square km across many moors this year and last, way in excess of industry figures for what is needed to run a viable driven shoot, greed has got the better of many. This is not sustainable without the raft of damaging practices to support it and enough is enough. Individuals like you need to have some serious discussions internally as those reaping the boom now will be the individuals to point the finger at long term should regulation or a ban ever be brought in.

      Public opinion is moving against the minority and the evidence is growing. Unless you help sort your own house out, D-day will arrive sooner than you think.

    1. GWCT say an ‘awful’ lot ….. as do their members and supporters.

      Need I say ‘moor’ in this instance?

      HH Day was by all accounts an ‘ultimate experience’ and as for D-day – arriving soon, bring it on!

  3. Grouse shooting is the ultimate experience? I find that remark repellent on so many levels. The dissonant justification used to support this outdated, anachronous and repellent ‘sport’ become lamer every year.

    The sooner this ‘pastime’ has gone the way of bear-baiting, dog-fighting and – on the face of it – fox-hunting, the better. There is no place for this kind of entertainment, which is all driven shooting is, in an evolving and enlightened society.

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