Is that your best shot? Thanks for trying…

Fieldsports magazine has asked its reader (is there more than one?) to use this handy checklist on social media to ‘spread the truth about grouse moor management’ – here are some responses. Please feel free to respond to any social media on this subject by linking to these answers.

Presumably this is the best that the hobby of driven grouse shooting can do to come up with convincing answers – not very convincing at all. But fair play to Fieldsports for being one of the few attempts from grouse shooting’s supporters to make a case for their hobby. After all, despite asking the Moorland Association and the GWCT no landowner representative of grouse shooting is available for a debate at the Bird Fair on this subject. Often grouse shooting resorts to abuse of Chris Packham, myself, the RSPB (eg here and here) or just the world in general rather than arguing their case.


  • 75 per cent of the world’s total expanse of heather moorland is found in the UK.  More or less correct – and will still be there when intensive grouse shooting is a thing of the past. And your point is?
  • Around £100million is spent on grouse moor conservation by shoot owners and Guns each year. The report from which this figure is taken depends on unverifiable data from the grouse shooting industry. It does not take into account the financial costs of intensive grouse moor management: increased flood risk, increased home insurance costs, increased water treatment costs, increased greenhouse gas emissions and reduced aquatic biodiversity and loss of protected wildlife that would be an asset to the tourist industry. 
  • Of the £100million spent on conservation, most goes towards controlling diseases and invasive species. See above. Diseases of? Presumably diseases of Red Grouse that are caused by unnaturally high densities necessary for the hobby of driven grouse shooting. Red Grouse meat for human consumption is not currently tested for the chemicals used to dose Red Grouse and it should be. Does the large scale killing of Mountain Hares fall into this category – killed because they may carry ticks which may affect Red Grouse numbers which may affect the numbers available for shooting?
  • 79 per cent of Special Protection Areas in the North York Moors and Pennines are managed for grouse shooting. And many were notified for their Hen Harrier populations – which are now practically absent because of wildlife crime. Many grouse moors are also Special Areas of Conservation because of their blanket bogs – the European Commission is investigating the UK government’s failure to protect these areas from over-burning and over-drainage by grouse moor managers.
  • Up to five times more endangered species, such as curlew and dotterel, are supported on moors dedicated to grouse shooting. Not many Dotterel on grouse moors actually – think you may have got your species wrong there. Some bird species benefit from grouse moor management (but none is dependent on it) and some lose. All species living on grouse moors live elsewhere too. All species living on grouse moors live elsewhere in the world where driven grouse shooting is absent. All species living on grouse moors evolved and lived for thousands of years before intensive grouse moor management for the hobby of grouse shooting came into existence in the nineteenth century.
  • Of all English grouse moors, 90 per cent are located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or national park. One AONB, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, has the Hen Harrier as its logo. It regularly used to hold more than a dozen pairs of nesting Hen Harriers. This year there are none. Last year there were six nesting attempts from which four male Hen Harriers ‘disappeared’ – the likelihood is that they were illegally killed. In 2013 two satellite-tagged Hen Harriers. Hope and Skye, ‘disappeared’ abruptly in the Forest of Bowland. Peregrine Falcons are also persecuted in the Forest of Bowland AONB and National Parks across the north of England. The Forest of Bowland has lost its logo and much of its natural beauty because of wildlife crime.
  • Managing the heather essential for red grouse helps to preserve and protect the peat found on grouse moors, the UK’s biggest carbon store. Grouse moor management was criticised by the Committee on Climate Change who said ‘The damaging practice of burning peat to increase grouse yields continues, including on protected sites’.
  • 70 per cent of the UK’s drinking water comes from the uplands that include managed grouse moors. Water companies spend huge sums on cleaning polluted water coming off intensively managed grouse moors. Getting rid of driven grouse shooting would reduce water bills for customers who never see a Red Grouse let alone shoot them.
  • The equivalent of over 2,500 full-time jobs are supported by grouse shooting in the UK. Start retraining – that’s what is needed when a pastime is underpinned by wildlife crime and is environmentally unsustainable.
  • 40,000 people take part in grouse shooting every year, bringing together on average 40 people per shoot.  63,000 people have signed a petition to ban driven grouse shooting – please sign here.
  • Controlled heather burning or muirburn dramatically reduces the risk of destructive wild fires. Some truth in this – but much lighter burning could continue in the absence of intensive grouse shooting.
  • Grouse is a delicious, healthy and important source of protein. It’s not that great actually – although that is a matter of taste – and it’s certainly not important. What is a matter of fact is that grouse meat on sale in the UK has very high lead levels (even when all pellets are removed before testing) and lead is a poison. Grouse shooters have refused to switch to using non-toxic ammunition.

Later I’ll supply some handy tweets for those of you on Twitter.

Please sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting – many thanks!

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30 Replies to “Is that your best shot? Thanks for trying…”

  1. The old adage is ' FOLLOW THE MONEY'. The grouse moor owners, and their PR mouthpieces always claim how much money they spend on 'conservation' ?

    However, they never tell us how much money they get from the public purse, ie. tax payers moneys ?

    How much do they receive in grant and subsidies? I do think this should be brought out into the discussion. The CAP payments in the UK is about £3 billion / year, they do all have their snouts deeply in the trough.

    1. And how many species, including critically endangered ones, are excluded from the moors by their 'Conservation work'?

      1. Sorry Les, I was being 'ironic' about conservation, as practiced by the estates ! Their version is akin to strip mining, and as damaging to the environment.

        1. Sorry AF I was backing you up, sorry it was misconstrued! Trying to be clever doesn't suit me.

  2. They remain incapable of commenting on the illegal activities, or acknowledging there is a problem. At the least one would expect a line claiming that a tiny minority (it always is) are responsible for "some" illegal activity.

  3. The final point is the one that riles me most of all. Chicken and Turkey is delicious too (in my opinion). Oddly no one needs to go out and shoo them from undergrowth in order to make them fly towards a few blokes with guns. Farming in enclosures, with humane slaughter, seems to work pretty well for most other meat we consume.

    1. 'Farming in enclosures' sounds like a euphemism for factory farming.

      Which might work pretty well for those who eat the flesh, but hardly for the animals forced to endure such horrors.

      Sorry, off topic, but this subject was raised above.

  4. Walk on any grouse moor or moorland and ask yourself where are the raptors? I have just been to Birk Bank in Bowland AONB, not seen a single raptor all morning.

  5. The fact that waders breed on grouse moors is a convenient accident, not something that happens by design. I dare say the moor owners couldn't care less whether they breed there or not. And think of the invertebrates that are killed by the burning. This is certain to disturb the ecosystem even further.

    1. I'm certain I've seen pictures of waders being caught in traps on grouse moors too. SO the idea that they are jealously guarding those waders is complete bunkum. It is just they are not as actively targeting them as they are other species.

    2. "is a convenient accident, not something that happens by design"

      that's true of nature as a whole

  6. "The equivalent of over 2,500 full-time jobs are supported by grouse shooting in the UK."

    Over ten thousand jobs were lost when Ravenscraig steel mill was killed off by the Tories in 1992. I'll try and contain my tears at the loss of a quarter of that, spread across the entire UK, number of mostly Tory supporters. Shall we add up all the other industries that lost tens of thousands of jobs because they were deemed out of date? Lets start with the pit coal mining?

  7. Against Feudalism is right, establishing which grouse moor 'factories' receive what in terms of public subsidies would be a useful piece of research. We hear of the need to have cost benefit analysis / ecosystem service assessment to evaluate the public benefit.

    What better point to start than by designing new assessment criteria for when the CAP payments end? Public benefits such as open access x points, breeding hen harriers y points, breeding peregrines z points etc. etc. then deduct points for negative public benefit elements such as bad management practice, missing raptors etc.? Total up the points, compare with agreed thresholds and calculate any payments due to good landowners, or conversely perhaps additional taxes against decline in favourable status etc.? The tax / fine levied would be used to return the site to favourable conservation status (this work undertaken by a third party, independently appointed)?

  8. Heather moorland isn't a naturally occurring habitat. No wonder 75% occurs in UK, the world capital of grouse shooting. The question is, do we really need so much of it?

    1. This is for Ben: a valid question - by way of comment, blanket peat bogs were there long before guns were used for 'sporting past-times' (c.f. Lindoe Man), so with Mrs May dumping responsibility for Climate Change at least we would have some sequestered carbon to our names by encouraging its continued growth.

  9. I notice all their points aren't plain statements of benefit, it's all hints and implications, because as soon as you try and state it plainly it's obvious it's crap. e.g. "70 per cent of the UK’s drinking water comes from the uplands that include managed grouse moors."
    If you state it plainly instead: "Grouse moors help to protect and maintain the supply of UK drinking water", then it's obvious to anyone with any knowledge that the statement is bullshit.

    1. Yes, good point. The fact that a high percentage of the water we drink comes from the uplands is simply to do with physics and in no sense a benefit bestowed by the management of grouse moors. Even if there was no evidence that grouse moor management adds to the costs of treating drinking water this would be a ridiculous, meaningless statement.

    2. Here is an eye opening short blog, about how estates use water as a weapon !

      Radical land reform cannot come quickly enough.

  10. Seems to me the spirit of Bullingdon is very much alive and well among the 'sporting' fraternity. I thought most 'sports' allowed supposedly equal chances to all players: maybe the Red Grouse habitat does have a chance what with lead poisoning for grouse meat consumers and the chances of catching Lyme disease or one of the growing number of bird-based zoonotic diseases like SARS, West Nile Virus plus Zika if our skeeters and midges begin to carry it! Or are our elite alteady suffering?

  11. Is heather moorland not a plagioclimax, rather than a naturally occurring, habitat anyway?

    Bit like a golf course.

  12. Mark, I think it's you who is a bit off the truth!

    - heather moorland will not still be here in its same form without grouse shooting, it is the management for grouse that's made it what it is! It would be covered in bracken, self seeders etc

    -100m spent on conservation/disease management/invasive species
    Presumably diseases of red grouse- WRONG - what about louping ill in sheep?
    What about bracken controll? What about tick controll that helps everything including humans? what about self seeders? What about thistle controll? - just a few! Think you really have no idea! Who is going to pay for all of this if there is no grouse shooting?

    Not many dotrell on grouse moors actually - WRONG - check the sightings page of teesmouth bird club - danby moor ! They might stay a little longer if birders did not chase them from morning till night trying to get pictures - is this down to grouse shooting? No it's down to birders!
    If there was no vermin controll how would our wader numbers decline - see evidence reports, not just waders but everything - look at Dartmoor how many non vermin species are thriving ???

    All species live in other areas of the world? Please tell me where the Red Grouse is present anywhere else in the world, not grouse species - RED GROUSE.

    Grouse shooting hobby! Grouse shooting is the only way to pay for correct moorland management - who else is going to spend on average £120000/year per 4000acres of moor running costs?

    The damaging practice of burning peat - WRONG ! If done properly heather burning only burns the heather not the peat - hence its name HEATHER BURNING !

    Blanket bogs in my area are in excellent condition due to work carried out by the estates at Hugh costs. They are burnt too!

    62000 people have signed e-petition. - how many people know the truth? How many have spoken to moorland managers? How many of them have been ill informed by yourself and Packham? How many from the towns even knew what a harrier was before you made them aware? Town folk are ridiculous anyway, half of em don't even know where bacon comes from but don't like the idea of things being killed! How many would buy chicken if they seen inside a processing plant ? It's easy to target people who have no understanding and believe everything you tell em about moorland management.

    I've often heard you quote: blasting defenceless birds out of the sky. - have you ever tried shooting a grouse - obviously not or you would know how dificult it is to hit em! You obviously don't spend any time out and about grousemoors to learn the truth about what goes on ( you can see by your gut !) maybe if you got out and about and worked with country folk instead of pen pushing and doing talks on something you know nothing about it would do you good in more ways than one!

    1. Billy Smith - welcome to this blog - what a distinguished name you have. Thank you for your comment - I'm guessing you won't spend much time here in future because people who arrive anywhere, insult their hosts and fellow guests and SHOUT a lot usually aren't planning to stay.

      Heather moorland - how did it manage before the men in tweed managed it? For all those thousands of years? Do try to apply your brain to the issue in hand. How can heather be dependent on something that has only been around for a century and a half or so. C'mon old chap. Try to think a little.

      Diseases - what about them?

      Dotterel - no, I think you'd better stick to something you know about. What do you know about by the way? Those Dotterel are passing through - we get them in pea fields down here in the soft south. They coped for thousands of years before pea fields too.

      Vermin control - one man's vermin is another man's wildlife. How would species cope without men in tweed - the same as they coped for tens of thousands of years before men in tweed - obvs! There would be winners and losers with a change in management - the overall change would be positive.

      Red Grouse = Willow Grouse = Willow Ptarmigan - same species, different races. So, the answer is 'loads of places'.

      Correct moorland management - says who? That's the management that increases flood risk, water costs etc etc So how does that add up to a net benefit to society? And there are many ways of paying for good management - when we leave the EU and CAP we can spend our agricultural support funds however we wish. Maybe we should pay for clean water, flood alleviation and carbon storage. It's in my book - have you read my book?

      Peat burning - you did only say 'if' which doesn't mean that they actually are, does it? And they aren't, which is why the EC has taken up the RSPB complaint over burning on deep peats and blanket bogs. But really you'd better take that up with the Climate Change Committee, they obviously lack your expertise on the subject.

      Your patch - well since you don't tell us where you come from nobody could possibly argue with your anecdote.

      64,300 now! How many know the truth? That's a very philosophical question. But you aren't paying attention are you? Most signatures come from rural constituencies - many of them grouse shooting ones. It's the people you might pass in the street, assuming you live near grouse moors as you claim, that are signing up. Just remember that - they want driven grouse shooting gone!

      Shooting grouse - no, you've got one right at last. I've never tried. And I didn't say it was easy, I said it was blasting birds out of the sky - that is what it is, isn't it?

      Please feel free to comment any time you wish.

  13. so is the prevalence of heather moorland in the UK unconnected with grouse shooting?

    If so why is there so much more on this island than anywhere else? There must me something fairly unique about our situation.

    1. giles - the prevalence of grouse shooting is connected with the presence of heather (obviously) - but most areas with heather, and most areas with Red Grouse, and most areas with Hen Harriers do not have driven grouse shooting - see this

      Yes there is something special about the UK - it rains a lot.

      1. It does rain a lot but it rains a lot in Scandanavia too (or at least it did when I was there) so leaving aside grouse (if I am allowed to) I wonder if it is partly connected to certain management practices (perhaps including ones you so despise). We have heather moorland on Exmoor too. Maybe that's why you don't want to completely ban things like moor burning (if indeed you don't)?

        Another thing I was thinking about was the issue of meso predator release. Does the absence of larger predators such as wolves lead to more foxes for example. It does seem that foxes do take a fair few hen harriers and other raptors so in the absence of wolves would some degree of predator control benefit HH numbers more than just leaving things to their own devices.

        I see nature rather like a pyramid. If you chop of the top of the pyramid you don't just end up with a pyramid without a top you end up with a smaller pyramid. Ie it is both less tall but also has a smaller base.

        As for nature having existed for 1000's of years - it's worth remembering that's only (I believe) 20,000 years in most of the UK prior to which the land was virtually wiped clean of all life by several mile thick sheets of life. 20,000 years is not a massive amount of time in the grand scheme of things so unless we actually make species extinct it shows how much things can change and develop in a relatively short space of time.

        1. giles - I don't despise very much - please don't make up my views - I've mentioned that before.

          I'm sure heather did not evolve in the nineteenth century so we have to look a bit further back than the current unsustainable management practices, don't we? I think it's about 10,000 years actually.

          Meso-predator release is interesting - if we didn't kill off Golden Eagles then we would have more Golden Eagles and perhaps a few fewer Hen Harriers - that is, fewer Hen Harriers than the number we would have if 'we' weren't killing them off to aid the killing off of grouse for fun. But Golden Eagles are killed on grouse moors so they also have to kill Hen Harriers to produce massively unnatural Red Grouse populations for shooting.

          And yes, grouse moors could be great for Hen Harriers if the predator control stopped at foxes and Stoats and Crows and didn't include Hen Harriers too. But since it doesn't, they aren't. I think we've done this before but maybe you weren't paying attention.

          1. Apologies maybe 'despise' was too strong a term!

            Yes I appreciate that heather evolved a long time ago but that slightly misses the point I was trying to make.

            Grass evolved many years ago but lawns are a fairly recent thing. I was referring specifically to heather moorlands which I suspect are at least in part a man made landscape feature and have a similar relationship to naturally occurring heather as lawns do to naturally occurring grasslands.

            One could make similar points about hedges and woodlands.

            It would be interesting to know if we had 75% of the worlds heather moorlands before human intervention. I suspect we didn't but I might be wrong.

          2. giles - it's sometimes easy to miss the point you are trying to make. Must be my fault.

            I suspect we did - but I might be wrong.


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