Inglorious 12


This infographic has been sent to MPs by the Moorland Association and BASC recently. It allows me to make a few points.


1. They say: ‘Managing heather helps preserve and protect UK’s biggest carbon store‘.

Not so according to The Times (1 October) reporting a recent study by Leeds University : ‘The owners of grouse moors who set fire to heather to promote green shoots for young birds to eat are polluting rivers and contributing to climate change‘ or one of the researchers involved: ‘Altering the hydrology of peatlands so they become drier is known to cause significant losses of carbon from storage in the soil.‘ said Professor Joseph Holden, who continued ‘This is of great concern, as peatlands are the largest natural store for carbon on the land surface of the UK and play a crucial role in climate change. They are the Amazon of the UK.” BASC and the Moorland Association should withdraw their infographic unless they can back up their point on the basis of science.


2. They say: ‘Fresh water sources and reduced flood risk

Not so according to that same Leeds University study which suggests high particulate matter in water from catchments dominated by grouse moors (leading to increased water bills for many customers since the costs of water cleaning are borne by the water customer not the polluters), increased acidity ( more treatment costs) and perhaps (not certain) a greater risk of flooding rather than a reduced risk. Here again, a recent, major, scientific study says the opposite of what BASC and the Moorland Association are claiming – that’s how I read the science. BASC and the Moorland Association should withdraw their infographic unless they can back up their point on the basis of science.


3. They say: ‘79% of upland EU Special Protection Areas for Birds are managed as grouse moors‘.

Shouldn’t that be mismanaged? Where are the 330 pairs of Hen Harrier that should live in the English uplands, many of them on SPAs? Indeed, the Hen Harrier populations were one reason for the SPAs being designated in the first place. They have been persecuted almost to extinction as an English breeding species by grouse moor interests.’Special’ ‘Protection Areas’ where the species that caused the areas to be ‘special’ have been wiped out by an industry that then brags about the SPAs? I couldn’t make that up, could you?


4.  They say: ‘Heather moorland is found in Britain because of grouse moor management‘.

Really? Driven grouse shooting is 200 years old and heather has been around for a while longer than that. Grouse moor managers are claiming to have invented a species of plant now! Do get out more (moor?)! When Thomas Hardy wrote of Egdon Heath in Dorset were there men in tweed rushing around looking for Red Grouse? I promise you, there weren’t.  Grouse moor management is an exploiter of our uplands, not their protector.


5. They say: ‘90% of English grouse moors are within AONBs or National Parks’.

Yes, why is it that our National Parks are killing fields for the rich?  Why cannot the people enjoy the sight of a Hen Harrier or a Short-eared Owl flying across open countryside on their weekend walks? Why are large areas temporarily closed to the public for grouse shooting for the few? How exactly does heather burning improve the landscape of our National Parks?  When will National Parks outlaw driven grouse shooting within their boundaries?


6. They say: ‘Grouse shooting in England, Wales and Scotland supports the equivalent of 2500 full time jobs’

They seem to be a bit confused here as the Moorland Association said last week that grouse shooting in England and Wales produced 1500 jobs and 42,500 hours of work (c30 hours work per ‘job’). They have just got a bit confused I expect.  It will be a different figure next week perhaps.


7. They say: ‘Grouse shooting invests £100m into conservation

It is not at all clear how much of that is the taxpayers’ money anyway through farming subsidies and grants that could go to other better-deserving and higher -delivering land managers. Here is a proper economic evaluation of the value of shooting as a whole, of which grouse shooting is a tiny part, which shows that all the composite figures are probably exaggerated four-fold.  Grouse shooting is the reason why many protected species are at very low levels. That’s the conservation impact directly associated with grouse shooting.


8. They say ‘Controlled burning reduces the risk of wildfires

It probably does. But you don’t have to shoot grouse and kill protected wildlife to do a little bit of burning, now and again, to reduce fire risk. And in National Parks all over the world others are managing natural fires as a part of the natural ecology of their wildlife sites.


9. They say there are ‘…up to 5 times as many waders on managed grouse moors

Note the ‘up to’. What does that mean? There are up to a billion times more Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons on areas not managed for driven grouse shooting than on those that are. Mind you, I only said ‘up to’.  Statutory agency figures suggest there should be 500 pairs of Hen Harriers on driven grouse moors across the UK and in 2008 there weren’t 500; there weren’t 50, there were about 5. Golden Eagles, similarly, do badly on grouse moors – often ending up dead on them. Science shows that Peregrine Falcons  have appalling nesting success when attempting to breed close to grouse moors in northern England. To be fair, some grouse moors are pretty good for breeding waders because all the Stoats, Foxes and other predators have been wiped out in this industrialised landscape.


10. They say ‘Grouse shooting is an important source of healthy food

The science shows that about half of grouse bought in supermarkets and game dealers could not be sold if they were beef, chicken, pork etc because of their high lead levels. The Food Standards Agency says this ‘The Food Standards Agency is advising people that eating lead-shot game on a frequent basis can expose them to potentially harmful levels of lead. The FSA’s advice is that frequent consumers of lead-shot game should eat less of this type of meat.’. How ‘healthy’ is that?  M&S weren’t convinced – except to change their mind and NOT to sell grouse meat, as did Selfridges.


11. They say ‘Control of disease and invasive species‘.

I don’t really know what they are on about here but Red Grouse are managed to live at such unnaturally high densities by grouse moor managers that they need treatment, on the hills, for high worm burdens, tick infestations and a new disease, a form of cryptosporidiosis, seems to have been spotted recently.


12. They say: ‘At least 40,000 people take part in grouse shooting annually‘.

Really? Is that all? And that includes beaters etc. Not much of a crowd puller is it?



This is the grouse moor managers’ case and it is terribly weak.  The first two of the 12 points I list here are diametrically the opposite of what BASC and the Moorland Association claim.


Over 19,500 of us feel that we’ve had enough of grouse shooting and call upon the next government to ban it completely. Please sign here if you agree.



36 Replies to “Inglorious 12”

  1. Up to 650 MPs in Westminster won’t believe a word BASC or Moorland Association say or write. Along with, probably about 19,500 members of the public and up to 60 million others. Give or take.

    Clearly, the anti-biodiversity, pro-shooting lobby are fearful of their position and the status quo. But also contemptuous of our politicians in so far as they think that they believe anything that is sent to them. Fools!

    1. & were the 850 unelected variants in the Lords also recipients? Perhaps some of them might have contributed to its creation and might even have distributed some of the infographic?

  2. I have to take issue with point 8 ‘controlled burning reduces the risk of wildfires’. The statement may be factually correct, but misses the point that much muirburn on grouse moors is not controlled. Research is currently being undertaken looking at the causes of wildfires in northern Scotland over the last 5 years and uncontrolled muirburn is one of the causes of wildfire here. Until the research into the causes of wildfire is completed then it would be premature to say whether muirburn reduces or causes more wildfires. Of course the issue of whether wildfire in ecosystems is desirable in another discussion entirely.

  3. Well said Mark, totally support all you say. Maybe the organisers of next weeks Rally should produce our own infographic for sending to MPs after the Rally setting out your above arguments.
    Very pleased to see that in Scotland the Government there is proposing to no longer grant tax exemption to the grouse moor owners/businesses. High time too.
    Look forward to being at the Rally next Tuesday (I am slated for the second shift in the afternoon.)
    Perhaps it is not totally relevant for next Tuesday, but I am reminded of an extract from a speech from President Kennedy, ” My(or our call) is to the young in heart regardless of age, to the stout in spirit regardless of party, to all who respond to the scriptural call be strong and of good courage be not afraid neither be dismayed”

    1. Alan – thank you. I’ll look forward to seeing you next week.

      Kennedy had excellent speech writers – but he also had an excellent heart. Pity they shot him, I’ve always thought. Wonder what the world would be like today if he had lived another 10 years.

  4. How many of those MPs will read your blog, and therefore these valid points?

    Perhaps this blog page needs to, either make it into national newspapers, or two, be printed off and handed to every MP to ensure they are not taken in.

    MPs are a gullible lot, and quite likely to believe all of the nonsense spouted on that leaflet.

    Oh yes Mud Lark, to the ‘lords’ too!

  5. Oh boy…. If only climate change deniers’ propaganda was as easy to demolish as this! I just love my food laced with lead and anti-nematode treatments……

  6. Advertising Standards Agency anyone? Utter tripe from the game lobby as usual. A bit like the “Agreed” Hen Harrier recovery plan with its brood management density set at 1 pair per 314sq km rather than the figure the science suggests of 1 pair per 10sq km, which of course is 30 times higher!

    1. I have to say such a raft of unsubstantiated opinion dressed up as fact deserves to be investigated by the standards agency. Its very badly written and no doubt this just adds to the inaccuracy… eg 79% of SPA’s! They make this statement without understanding that there are SPA’s all the way across Europe……

  7. It’s a simple choice.

    Have all those benefits paid for by someone else, or pay for them yourself.

    We will find out next year whether the gallant British taxpayer is keen to keep funding an ever more restrictive and expensive regulatory burden. potentially including an rspb proposed, illiberal, expensive and impractical nation wide estate game shoot licencing regime.

  8. Grouse Moors = Red Grouse not Black. History shows that heather was not the main feature in our uplands even before the curse of sheep!!

  9. The point about the ASA is a serious one. Does the use the MA has put this to fall under the ASA’s remit? If so then a formal complaint is required, which could well be followed by a very embarrassing forced retraction for the MA and certainly good publicity for our case.

    Mark – I think this one falls to you. Write to the ASA to ask if this flier falls within their remit and pointing out the lack of evidence and contrary evidence as set about above. Ask them to require an MA retraction. CC your letter to papers and other media contacts as most likely to lead to publication.

  10. The problem with things like this is that they polarise people even more, clearly people are feeling the pressure of the ever increasing raft of scientific evidence that is stacking up against those that cannot or will not operate within the laws and work within the best practices that would enable shooting to co-exist with other interests in the uplands, this type of PR sends a message that says we have no intention of making any changes that might be required to enable shooting to find an acceptable status quo with the environment and with conservation interests.
    Shooting (at the moment at least) seemingly has some protection from the current government, will this last with the growing body of evidence that is building? Evidence that shows that the current practices are just not compatible with the wider picture.
    Would it not have been better to release something explaining how the gap between where we are currently and where we need to be for driven grouse shooting to be sustainable in long term is going to be approached? There are positives to the land management but over egging them and ignoring what needs to change diminishes the value of these positives vastly.
    To me at least the message this sends out is that we believe everything is just fine as it is, and it shows me (and I suspect many others) that more work must be done on our part to increase the pressure to get change implemented, because it is not being taken seriously.
    There is a lot of pressure for change, acknowledgement of the issues would be a huge step forwards, it would show some leadership and it could lead to change, a change that would benefit both sides.
    Is someone going to take the lead or are all and any changes that get made going to have to be brought about by regulation and restriction? Won’t this just lead to even more polarisation and push us further towards the ultimate sanction which I feel will be a loss for both sides.

  11. Their nonsense could have been put together by Lynton Crosby. It’s the same amoral distortion of reality used by Osborne and Ian Duncan Smith.

  12. I tweeted this article to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA; @ASA_UK) and asked if this required investigation. I don’t know if a tweet constitutes a formal request or not but if others do the same? Social Media can be very powerful.

    I see no reason why anyone can’t submit a complaint. It would be very powerful if an MP (eg Andy Sawford or Barry Gardiner submitted one; the former on behalf of at least one of his constituents!).

    But what is more telling is that BASC and the MA have felt driven to do this. They are under pressure and are desperately trying to present and gain the moral ground. But there in lies their problem. By raising awareness of the whole issue, they risk garnering attention they so desperately want to avoid. If their communication had come across as robust, their rebuttals intelligent and their arguments persuasive then it might have been worth the risk. But they presented a lamentable, laughable and derisory communication that has more holes in it than a sieve.

    The second thing that I constantly find remarkable is that every time this lobby communicates something, it is awful. Their constituents must be fuming that their interests are being so badly communicated. But, this is all to the good from our perspective.

    And finally, they even start to take on the cuddly mammals…pine martens. Now that will be a PR disaster. How do you convince the general public that removing, by whatever means, a native mammal with a high ‘cute’ factor to benefit a few wealthy folk who want to kill grouse, under the cover of ‘protecting’ a non-native subspecies/ race of another grouse is going to be a real challenge.

  13. Mike, I think you’ve hit the nail firmly on the head – grouse shooting with the will to survive would be doing just what you suggest, acknowledging there are real problems and putting forward ideas to at least start solving them. However, when people only talk to people they agree with its very easy to go down the ‘fight the world’ route shooting is (and generally does) take. Add to that the fact that many people on the shooting side probably believe that money will protect them – and some of that money comes from nations where the idea of public opinion doesn’t really register – and you can see why the group think is so overwhelming.

    1. Many grouse moor owners pay over a million quid a year just to subsidise their moors and keep them going.

      They don’t think money will protect them, they think that if grouse shooting is licenced the value of their asset will decrease, so they will sell, and the land will be put to alternative uses.

      ‘Stopping management for grouse has been suggested as a means of improving the fortunes of Hen Harriers (Thompson 2009). However, although this would remove the main proximal constraint on populations in some areas, it might not translate straightforwardly into increases in Hen Harrier populations. In areas currently dominated by grouse-moor, a shift to alternative land uses such as forestry or high-density stocking with sheep or deer, could diminish the value of the land for harriers by decreasing food availability or nesting success.’

      So it doesn’t seem, to me, that anyone advocating a licence regime, or a total ban on grouse shooting, has any interest whatsoever in the conservation of upland ground nesting birds in England.

      1. It is cobblers to think that the cessation of grouse shooting will automatically result in stocking by more sheep or deer. The financial side just does not add up – assuming they could also get agreement from the statutory agencies on designated sites. It is also cobblers (in England at least) to think the alternative is forestry. Even if these were real threats, it would be worth the gamble because you could at least have a sensible conversation with those involved.

  14. Munro seems to think that conifers and sheep will flood the moors if shoots are curtailed. I doubt that would be allowed on SSSIs (which many of these moors are), like it was in the past; times have changed, hasn’t munro noticed?

    1. Indeed, the significant changes that Mr Thompson was talking about back in 2009 are no longer viable options. Trees cant be planted on peat… Stocking has to done in line with the support scheme and has to meet GEAC, deer have to be controlled via collaborative plan.. Their hands are tied….

          1. And neither am I, but if grouse shooting goes, that is the likeliest outcome, in the longer term (which is what we should all be thinking about, I would respectfully suggest) despite protestations elsewhere on this thread.

            His paper is based on one originally commissioned by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

            He makes some excellent points.

            Appendix 1 however probably makes the best point of all:

            ‘…the need to provide a definition of the ‘natural heritage’ that DCS and SNH are charged to maintain. Is it the open moorland and bare hillsides that have been typical for much of the highlands for the last three to four hundred years? Or the ancient forest that preceded it…….’

          2. Monro – when grouse shooting goes commercial forestry is not the most likely option. What world are you living in? One of your own imagination clearly.

          3. The same world as the Scottish government:

            ‘……the Scottish government’s target to increase woodland cover from 17% of the land area to 25%……woodland expansion onto moorland is one way to achieve this target.’


            The Welsh Government:

            ‘the Welsh Government will be providing support for capital investment for the agriculture and forestry industries. This will give priority in the first instance for projects in the upland areas of Wales’


            Oh, and increasing numbers of people in England (who aren’t very nice about you!):


    2. Oh Bertie & Chris, would that I could be as confident as you that our stalwart defenders of wildlife would protect SSSIs …. sheep, deer – all depends on who is behind them with a metaphoric gun?

      Recall Helen Phillips retreat over Walshaw? Then we are afflicted by a centralised planning response which ignores grass roots staff …. but we can dream?

      Interesting politics continue to roll out, now we have the autumn statement …. 154 days ….

      1. Mud-Lark, we should have a cocktail down the Drones some time, it would be fun!
        I think that you will find that by the time Walshaw was resolved for the “benefit” of people and wildlife, Dr Phillips had moved on to the next stage of her glorious (in her mind at least) career.

    3. That would be me, Natural England, the BTO and the GWCT.

      Once Natural England, the BTO and GWCT bow to your far better informed judgement, I would of course be delighted to do the same.

  15. If Egdon Heath had been a grouse moor it might still be around today if only in our imagination.

  16. Is this perchance the same Moorland Association which had such a favourable time on Countryfile couple of weeks ago?
    I agree with Richard Wilson, take this to the ASA Mark. It needs to be publicly rebuffed.

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