Apologies to anyone for whom this post is not displaying perfectly – I’ve tried to fix it and that’s the best I can do. Sorry! Here’s the link to this letter on Chris Packham’s website.
Marks and Spencer Group plc
London W2 1NW
Dear Marks & Spencer
I have a few questions relating to the possibility that you may be selling Red Grouse in your stores this year.
You say ‘We’ve been working hard with estate managers and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to further develop our industry leading responsible sourcing Code of Practice for game suppliers’.Q: Do you consider the GWCT to be a fully independent body and therefore best placed to help oversee the development of this code?You also state ‘We already make sure that the estates we source from, which are well-known to us and are across Northern England . . . and the Scottish Borders, protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape’.Q: Please name the estates to which you refer, and what measures you have in place to ensure that the grouse will be supplied from an “approved estate” and not any other source.You write that these estates ‘All comply with legislation, of course they do. But for us that’s a bare minimum. We insist that they operate to the industry’s Code of Good Shooting Practice and the Defra Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Game Birds (www.defra.gov.uk). But to go one step further, we’ve developed and are implementing our own responsible sourcing code for the industry that is truly transformational’.Q: Please provide a copy of your sourcing code and explain what is meant by “transformational”.Further you state ‘It needs to provide a high level of protection for habitats in need of conservation and ensure that the estates that comply with the code are recognised as adding value to rural communities’, and ‘We know our estates are already doing well in these areas and our suppliers are therefore playing a huge role in developing the code’.
Q: Please confirm whether or not you are aware of the research recently published by Leeds University which implicates grouse moor management as a contributory factor in climate change. See https://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/3597/grouse_moor_burning_causes_widespread_environmental_changes
Q: Please confirm whether you are aware that management on the Walshaw Moor Estate in the South Pennine Moors is currently under investigation by the European Commission in relation to contravention of the Habitats Directive. See letter attached below.
Q: Please confirm whether you are aware that blanket bog burning at Walshaw Moor may have significantly impacted upon serious flooding issues in nearby communities? See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/deluge-farmers-flood-grouse-moor-drain-land
Regarding the birds themselves you say ‘Last year we worked with independent industry experts and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to introduce the game industry’s first ‘Codes of Practice’ to ensure all our game, including grouse, is sourced to the highest standards of game rearing and moorland management, from estates that we know and trust’
Q: Please identify the industry experts referred to.
Q: Please identify the estates referred to.
You also state that ‘Unfortunately, due to poor spring weather conditions last year, our red grouse single estate had insufficient quantities to meet our customer demand, so we were unable to sell grouse’.
Q: Please identify the estate referred to.
Q: Do you consider that this message may imply that further intensification is required (both in terms of habitat and predator control) to provide a shootable surplus in order that you can meet customer demand?
You say ‘We are currently working with our supplier to monitor numbers (of grouse) for this year’s season’.Q: Please confirm whether or not you monitor the populations of (i) breeding birds of prey and (ii) mountain hares on the estates from which you source grouse. In this regard I assume that you are aware of the critical state of the UK Hen Harrier population, particularly in England, and that it is a species being persecuted on grouse moors.In an email I have been forwarded you have said that the grouse you sell will be ‘hand inspected to minimise risk of excessive shot and any risk to our customers’.
Q: Please confirm what lead level you regard as acceptable in grouse meat sold to the public.
Q: Please confirm what is meant by “excessive shot”, by what criteria this will be measured, and whether or not your statement anticipates that birds sold will contain shot.
Q: Please confirm whether or not you will be labelling grouse meat to inform your customers of the actual or likely lead levels?
Q: Please confirm the process of hand examination that will be carried out and how you can be sure it is reliable.
I look forward to your replies concerning this issue as it is one currently concerning many conservationists in the UK and, if social media is anything to go by many of your customers too.