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.
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.