Today the Observer has a piece on the Climate Change Committee’s report to parliament (mentioned on this blog on Wednesday) which raised the issue of intensive grouse moor management ‘The damaging practice of burning peat to increase grouse yields continues, including on internationally protected sites.’.
The article was interesting for a number of reasons.
The Moorland Association’s Amanda Anderson was quoted as saying ‘It probably is fair to say there has been more burning in recent years compared to the preceding decade‘ which is an interesting statement, admission or concession, depending on how you look at things. If moorland burning has intensified, and if it is damaging peatlands and causing higher greenhouse gas emissions, reducing aquatic invertebrates, increasing the acidity of watercourses and perhaps leading to increased flood risk too, then policy makers should be gunning for grouse shooting. After all, grouse shooting is a pastime for the rich, hardly an essential activity in the modern day.
As the RSPB’s Dr Pat Thompson says (quoted in the Observer) ‘The research that has been done to date suggests to us that, when you burn that vegetation off, whether it’s dwarf shrubs like heather or mossy vegetation, you are left with a bare peat surface that is really vulnerable to drying out. The peat blows away or washes away as sediment. Over a period of time, big areas of our peatland have fallen into a really poor state. They are carbon rich, they are often at the heart of some of our key drinking water catchment areas, and these are nationally and internationally important wildlife sites.’. Pat also said ‘It is utterly perverse to me that we are degrading our uplands in a way that benefits the minority rather than society as a whole.’.
So that was quite interesting too, although I was disappointed not to see Andrew Gilruth quoted, as he almost always seems to be in articles which mention YFTBs, as the Observer did. Maybe Andrew would have said ‘The tragedy of over-burning is that it does damage the habitat and the wider environment but you get to shoot more Red Grouse and therefore the gamekeepers who do over-burn are, in some ways, right to do so‘ but I am, of course, just guessing on the basis of previous statements.
I also saw a new name in the article – at least I thought it a new name – that of Jeremy Herrmann, who is a millionaire hedge-fund manager. I’m really pretty unsighted as to what a hedge-fund is, but Mr Herrmann manages them apparently. He also is very good at catching fish, and owns a couple of grouse moors at Muggleswick (Co Durham) and East Allenheads (Northumberland). But his wasn’t really a new name, as Mr Herrmann appeared in the Ethical Consumer report last year which called on people to turn their backs on grouse and it is said that when Boris Johnson was allegedly up on the moors last autumn (see here) he was visiting Mr Herrmann’s place (or one of them). This wouldn’t be surprising as Mrs Herrmann donated to Boris’s campaign to be Mayor of London and also to David Cameron’s campaign to be top Tory (I don’t know what a hedge fund manager does but Mrs Herrmann seems quite good at hedging her bets).