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.
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