This is not just spin, this is M&S spin

Mon 20 July CopyThe story so far:

For several years this blog, and lots of M&S customers, have been asking M&S (previously run by a keen shooter, Marc Bolland) not to sell Red Grouse in their stores – and so far they haven’t.

The production of Red Grouse for driven grouse shooting is environmentally damaging and is underpinned by wildlife crime (the illegal killing of protected predators such as Hen Harriers – see e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting supported by Chris Packham, Bill Oddie and the League Against Cruel Sports).

So a while ago I asked M&S about their plans for this year.

And yesterday they said they planned to sell Red Grouse meat this year, all being well.

So I asked them some questions.

And then M&S half-answered some of the questions, but I didn’t find their answers terribly convincing.


The next chapter – what the RSPB says:

Marks and Spencer, as you can see, dodged answering most of the questions but they did say:

Our team have worked with the RSPB and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to launch an industry leading ‘Code of Practice’ to ensure all our game, including red grouse, is sourced to the highest standards of game rearing and moorland management…’

…which might give you the impression that the RSPB is happy with M&S’s plans.  But I’d asked the RSPB a couple of questions too, and here is how they replied yesterday evening:

The answers to your questions are:

1) Has RSPB agreed to the code of practice with M&S and GWCT?

In the past we have provided M&S with help to identify the processes required for their products to be considered sustainable, in line with their Plan A commitments. We have not agreed to a code of practice between M&S and the GWCT for the sale of grouse in M&S food outlets.

2) How does RSPB feel about M&S selling Red Grouse?

Without seeing the code of practice it is difficult to answer this question. However, if the code of practice follows existing moorland management systems then it will fall short of what we believe to be sustainable moorland management. This would be a disappointing development.

So, M&S has worked with RSPB in the same way that Jeremy Hunt has worked with the junior doctors; they had a lot of talks but didn’t reach an agreement. RSPB has no knowledge of the final version of the Code of Practice said by M&S to be ‘industry leading’ and is not in a position to support it.

But the RSPB goes further when it says ‘if the code of practice follows existing moorland management systems then it will fall short of what we believe to be sustainable moorland management‘. That means that the RSPB believes that existing moorland management systems are not sustainable.  I agree, as I almost always do with the RSPB – certainly in terms of diagnosing the problem.

So, my assumption is that M&S would have been very, very keen to have RSPB on board at this stage, but somewhere along the road, Jeremy Hunt-like, they parted company. And yet M&S are still using the RSPB name to give the impression that their secret and hidden ‘industry-leading’ Code of Practice is the solution to every flood victim’s, Hen Harrier’s, water consumer’s, climate scientist’s and nature conservationist’s dream.

I wonder whether the code is a dream or a nightmare. Let’s see your ‘industry-leading’ Code of Practice M&S – you sound very proud of it.


PS M&S: you seem very sanguine about selling Red Grouse meat with high levels of lead in it – you didn’t respond to any of that in any sensible way.

PPS  M&S: you have spun yourselves into a hole – time to get some proper advice so you don’t look like fools.




15 Replies to “This is not just spin, this is M&S spin”

  1. I am relieved that the RSPB were not a party to this supposed ‘Code of Practice’ and hope that the Society will take issue with M&S for giving a misleading impression to the public. Deliberate?!

  2. M&S do have a way of making their foodstuffs taste better than other food outlets.
    Perhaps they have found a way of converting highly toxic lead shot into a safe, palatable substance?
    As for the usage of the RSPB name in their code of practice; the RSPB should sue them.

  3. Given that the RSPB’s name is being used by M&S to mislead people, I’m surprised that the RSPB hasn’t issued a statement on its web site to clarify its position.

    I think there’s potential to devise some sort of independently validated and verified certification scheme, signifying genuinely sustainable moorland management, but M&S has pulled the rug from under that opportunity by claiming to have devised a secret set of standards with no wider stakeholder engagement or independent verification.

    Well done M&S – this isn’t a good move.

    I suggest M&S withdraw its current claim, and initiate open engagement with stakeholders to develop decent standards for sustainable red grouse and moorland management.

  4. A well known political website states that over the past 9 years the RSPB, WWF and FOE have received 82.5 million euro between them from the European Commission. Surely this cannot be true?

    1. Pete – no idea. That’s 9m euro/ur which is about £6mpa between the three of them?

      RSPB is a large landowner and so that land will get subsidies (whoever owns it) and grants if the organisation applies and is successful. That’ll be quite a chunk.

      Then there are contracts which you and I could tender for, to do specific bits of work.

      That’s the best I can do off the top of my head.

  5. Dear Markson Spencer
    It has come to my attention that you have started to pretend that you are a Butcher. I don’t shop in your Salisbury shop, not since seven years ago when I bought six pairs of Underpants. This is not to say I haven’t been in your shop since – I use it as a shortcut to the Dentist to save me walking through George’s Mall with all its hideous chain stores and superheated coffee shops. Anyway – about this butchery thing: please cease and desist. Having looked on the Interweb of Things I am appalled to see that your meat is likely to be Kosher or Halal, so I wouldn’t buy it anyway but the main problem I have with clothes shops pretending to be Butchers is the commercial pressure on proper Butcher’s shops, which are increasingly difficult to find. I am fortunate that Mr Pritchett has an excellent Butcher shop in Fish Row and as I now find myself in need of some I shall call in next week for some Underpants – I’m sure he wouldn’t sell any that had been polluted by the interference of some cleric or other.
    Yours etc

  6. Just written to Steven Rowe (CEO of M&S) and copied in the head of their Food and Wine Dept. Needless to say I left them in no doubt that I did not want to see Red Grouse on sale at M&S.
    Just maybe, if lots of people dropped the a line, they’d get the message….

  7. If a gang of smartly attired if beige-clad 65+ yr old shoppers can force a store to rearrange the entire food department layout to their liking, because ‘We knew where it was when it was over there…’ Then I see no reason why the anti-beige and ethical customers among us should not be able to force M&S to stop selling unethical produce in their isles and get their priorities right. All very well having massive posters with smiling sunlit farmers and pig’s bottoms and hens on the walls. Say what you mean – mean what you say.

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