Grouse shooters – time to give a mile

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The issues surrounding driven grouse shooting are far wider than ‘just’ the despicable illegal killing of protected wildlife – but that isn’t a bad place to start.  And we need to start to end it.

IMG_2604It is clear from today’s blog by the RSPB’s Conservation Director, Martin Harper, that the RSPB feels that the criminal elements embedded cosily within the grouse shooting community have not given an inch. Well, it’s actually time for them to give a mile, not an inch.

This is what the Moorland Association, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation should do to lessen the heat on themselves and perhaps to prolong the existence of driven grouse shooting for a few more years (for it is surely doomed whatever they do):

  • issue a joint statement saying that they admit that wildlife crime is far too prevalent amongst grouse-shooting estates and that this is the main reason for the low densities of many protected birds of prey in the uplands of England.
  • state that they realise that no-one in wildlife NGOs, in government or in the public should trust grouse-shooting while this situation remains and so…
  • …state that they will do their upmost to reduce the illegal persecution of birds such as the Hen Harrier.
  • Accept that this would be without prejudice to ongoing discussions over damage to protected blanket bogs, the use of lead ammunition and the wider impacts of heather burning etc on greenhouse gas emissions, flood risk , water quality etc (ie accept that fixing crimes against birds of prey is not the end of the debate over grouse shooting).
Photo: Kositoes via wikimedia commons
Photo: Kositoes via wikimedia commons

In return, they should expect that wildlife groups should come back to the table to talk to them about brood management schemes once all relevant English SPAs re-attain the qualifying thresholds of Hen Harrier and Peregrine populations but not before.

This won’t be at all palatable to the grouse shooting community but they are the ones who have to move – they are making a fortune out of record grouse bags and those profits are partly based on illegal activity.

Through its intransigence, and its tolerance of criminality, grouse shooting has let the cat of public opinion out of the bag and it won’t be going back in again. Grouse shooting is going to be very scratched whatever happens.  From now on, there is a light shining on the English uplands that has never shone before.  As those nice people in Birders Against Wildlife Crime (and aren’t they brilliant?!) say – ‘Wildlife crime is everywhere. So are we’.

IMG_2638Despite a series of dirty tricks and an outpouring of misinformation this year, the heat is on grouse shooting like never before. And the reason for that is that grouse shooting has a very poor case. The more the public hear of the details of grouse shooting the more people will be against it.  This is now a one-way street.

I think that some in grouse shooting may recognise this and have determined to delay the inevitable and cash in for as long as possible.  They have almost given up fighting the arguments and are now just attacking their opponents. By the way, who funds Beefy’s nasty little website? A bunch of keen cricketers – I doubt it?

If shooting is to get even a small proportion of its demands from the public and government it will have shift its position hugely – not an inch, not a few yards, but a mile.

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13 Replies to “Grouse shooters – time to give a mile”

  1. regardless of what ever they might say. their actions have proven their pronouncements to be utterly worthless.
    they already say that raptor persecution shouldn't be tolerated, then immediately turn round and campaign to have it leagalised while continuing to kill raptors.

    once grouse moors have a proper sustainable and natural population of birds of prey, then they could be included in discussions about the fuuture. until that point they should have how things will be dictated to them and be excluded from having any say about it.

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  2. Mark,

    You know from earlier days my views on these matters so I need not repeat them. All that I would urge is, keep up the good work on the question of red grouse/moorland management/raptor conservation as well as on the many other issues about which you write. It seems very clear that you have plenty of allies to ward off the vitriol which must be going in your direction from certain quarters - although I think that you are capable enough of fighting your own corner anyway.

    Taking one specific issue with which I have been closely involved in Scotland, there is clear merit in championing in varying ways the case for positive raptor conservation and the case against criminal raptor persecution. Your own very public gung-ho approach (if I may call it that without meaning to be in any way disparaging) is extremely important. Although the political climate is different up here there is also the need for what one might call committee work, within the "corridors of power" and trying to keep calm there (not always easy) at the same time as putting the case as strongly as possible. We need both approaches and any others in between.

    You suggest discussion about hen harrier brood management schemes only after all relevant English SPAs re-attain the qualifying thresholds of their hen harrier and peregrine populations. I would go further than that and urge that as a pre-condition there should be a wider recovery of hen harriers, moorland fringe goshawks and peregrines over the uplands as a whole, with a concomitant ending of persecution of these species there. Looking further ahead, we ought to see golden eagle re-colonisation of the north of England although to what extent that should or should not be a pre-condition of anything is difficult to judge at present.

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  3. I find it sad to see this situation - on hen harriers, grouse shooting and the use of lead shot - developing into a campaign against shooting. But it seems shooting organisations have brought this on themselves by ignoring the evidence. And thinking that they don't need to compromise. It's a reflection of the bad side of British culture. PS No mention of BASC above Mark - intentional or oversight?

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    1. Anonymous - BASC are a bit marginal to the grouse shooting issue, although it is clear which side they see themselves belonging. thank you for your comment.

      It's difficult not to be anti-shooting when the likes of Botham, Howat and Scott have a rather random attack on the RSPB. But I guess they haven't funded the whole thing themselves - I wonder who is behind them?

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  4. With regards to above comments..this isnt an anti-shooting campaign, its an anti driven grouse shooting campaign. The diehard persecutors and their allies would love to make it look like an anti-shooting campaign, to take the heat off their specific criminality and habitat destruction. Dont let them.

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    1. Dave - you are right. There will be some folk who support this campaign because they are against all shooting, and that's fair enough, but it doesn't include me.

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  5. Same folk who fund GWCT? I'd like to hear people's thoughts on the cultural aspects involved here. Because this is the crux of the problem

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  6. Keep up the good work Mark, each time I read one of your blogs it reassures me that we are still a force to be reckoned with. To the grouse shooters, take heed of what is written on this page. Burying heads in sand will not make this go away. You can come out of this looking clean or looking like low down vermin. Your choice.

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  7. I to think that the killing of raptors cannot be defended & should stop.

    The differsity of upland birds on grouse moors is primarily due to land management aimed at encouraging large numbers of grouse. Without this kind of management the diversity will diminish & has done on many former grouse moors, for example in Wales. Like it or, not much of the comment surrounding this issue is has become vitriolic & personal against a few celebrities who support shooting & that should be deplored. It does those who express these notions no credit. The case should be made soley on the facts.

    Let me reiterate my personal comdemnation of raptor persecution. I'm not a grouse shooter but am happy to let other pursue their sport if they wish. It should not be forgotten that this industry is worth millions of pound to the economy of areas where employment is scarse. There is a danger that the "baby is going to be thrown out with the bathwater" if grouse shooting is banned. A sensible solution needs to be found.

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    1. Nigel - welcome and thank you.

      Grouse shooting isn't worth much money at all to the economy. The money would still be spent even if it were on other things.

      Management would have to continue as the areas are designated for their nature conservation interest (including often the missing raptor interest).

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