It seems like the grouse shooters are in a corner and they are not sure what to do next. So they are falling back on the tactic that has served them well up until now – do nothing, give no ground, wait and see.
Grouse shooting is in a corner – a corner of its own making, of course. That corner consists of:
- an almost total absence of a protected bird as a breeding species in England because of grouse shooting’s illegal persecution – and this is a bird they keep complaining is a pest. Duh! There aren’t any.
- evidence that the management of grouse moors is bad for the wider environment – water quality, flooding, greenhouse gases and aquatic wildlife (and much moorland wildlife too)
- retailers responding to public pressure and withdrawing the sale of grouse because they can’t be confident of their provenance
- an international agreement to ban lead ammunition to which the UK signed up
- increasing public scrutiny of the whole business of grouse shooting
- land reform and vicarious liability in Scotland showing a way that England could go
- getting ‘beefy’ with the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts has only shown the world that ‘we are all on the same side really’ is not a tenable position and has radicalised the nature conservation organisations’ memberships to a surprising extent
- an uncertain electoral outcome in May
- analysis showing that grouse shooting is of little economic value eg here and here
- a wildlife rally next week in Westminster chosen to take place on the penultimate day of the grouse shooting season
- significant support for the banning of driven grouse shooting at a time when politicians are drawing up their election manifestos
So, what do you do, grouse moor managers? Doing nothing is an option. If you do nothing then you’d better hope for another Conservative-dominated government or else doing nothing for the last five years won’t look so good to a new administration. That is certainly looking more possible now than it did a year ago so to that extent, which isn’t a very large extent, things have improved.
Doing nothing will just get people more frustrated and angrier too. You probably don’t realise how angry some people are. There were plenty of people calling for mass trespasses of grouse moors as the focus for Hen Harrier Day 2014 – they will be even keener in 2015.
Doing nothing will not keep everything as it is now.
This time last year, how much of what has happened in the last 12 months did the grouse industry foresee? None of it , I guess. I don’t blame them, neither did I.
How much more scrutiny could you survive on the economics of grouse shooting and the public subsidies that support it? How many people will want to be seen going grouse shooting as its reputation declines through the intransigence of an industry that does not root out the criminals in its number?
What do you think Hen Harrier Day 2015, in glorious sunshine, and with events right across England and Scotland, might look like?