FoE begins to expose scale of taxpayer handouts

The British uplands as God intended them? Photo: Peter Cairns
This is where your money goes. Are you getting good value for it? Photo: Peter Cairns

Grouse moor owners are receiving massive handouts from taxpayers on land used for the hobby of grouse shooting, reveals a study by Friends of the Earth in today’s Guardian.

It won’t come as a  surprise to readers of this blog that the future of grouse shooting is being debated by MPs in Westminster Hall on Monday thanks to our e-petition which calls for a ban on driven grouse shooting.  This newspaper coverage will increase pressure on Defra to announce its intention to reform the whole nasty business of driven grouse shooting.

Shooting large numbers of Red Grouse for fun is a hobby which depends on intensive management of the uplands such as predator control and widespread burning of heather, as well as the widespread and systematic illegal killing of birds of prey.  Your taxes are helping to fund this sport despite the evidence that heather burning increases flood risk, water treatment costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

No doubt some MPs will attempt to make the case on Monday that grouse shooting brings in money to local communities – and we know that those claims are greatly exaggerated. But they pale into insignificance besides the costs imposed on the rest of society. And the rest of us are paying millions of pounds a year, in an age of austerity, so that some of the richest in the country can continue shooting birds for fun.

Heather burning on commercial grouse moor. Glenfeshie. Scotland. April 2007.
Heather burning on commercial grouse moor. Glenfeshie. Scotland. April 2007.



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30 Replies to “FoE begins to expose scale of taxpayer handouts”

  1. What about the £250m the RSPB have received in taxpayer handouts?

    When in front of the select committee you stated you were NOT anti shooting. How do you explain your membership to LACS?

    1. Andrew Fox – I’m not actually a member of LACS – but I am a supporter. If I were anti-shooting how would you explain the fact that my petition is not about all shooting, or even all grouse shooting, but driven grouse shooting only?

      Do you mean explain or justify? It’s easy to explain; I wouldn’t attempt to justify it because I support a cap on the subsidy element for individual landowners (as I said to an audience of 40+ people in West Yorkshire yesterday evening).

      1. But for completeness you did offer support for Chris Packhams Woodcock petition.

        Btw, having no practical experience and having flushed a few Woodcock in my time in mid twitch, I wonder how the hell anybody ever manages to shoot them!

          1. Mark, its a little more complete than your original statement ” If I were anti-shooting how would you explain the fact that my petition is not about all shooting, or even all grouse shooting, but driven grouse shooting only?”

            But not as complete as what you are now hinting at above?

            You have to be careful here because whereas some decision makers will be sympathetic to your bid to eradicate a practice that demonstrably causes harm to others (eg Hebden Bridge – if I intepret your words correctly) they will be turned away if it appears that you are actually fighting to create some kind of sociocentric (vs individualistic) society! You could see that during the select committee session where a number of mps were trying to trip you up and you weren’t as sure footed as Jeff Knott.

          2. PD – your retrospective advice is noted but you’ve probably done your best to get your point across now, thank you.

    2. It may seem confusing to some but being a member of something doesn’t mean you support all the aims or even the title of the organization.
      Are all RSPB or RSPCA members royalists (see marks previous guest blog).
      Are all GWCT members really worshippers of Wildlife, Conservation or Trust.
      The League Against Cruel Sports have done some outstanding work well away from the image which i imagine many people have on them.

      The Intensification of Grouse Moor Management in Scotland
      Shooting Animals for Sport: Worth less

    3. Andrew you never let facts get in the way of a good, public display of righteous indignation do you? Ever thought of joining the Royal Shakespeare Company?

  2. Just an example of what else is going on in the countryside. A friend was stopped by a head keeper the other day and was told that a public road was closed for a pheasant shoot!! Apparently this is breaking the law as no one has the power to stop traffic for a shoot! He was told to wait or turn around. He waited being a shooter himself. The drive produced approx 800 shots with 80 pheasants seen to be hit. Those good with maths will see it took 10 shots to hit one pheasant! This does not include the pheasants carrying lead which carried on into the wood only to die a slow death. Badly wounded birds would be picked up by dogs behind the guns.

    As the Pheasant season is quite young a lot of these pheasants could hardly fly so most were shot at low level making it dangerous for the beaters coming up to the guns. Most of the high birds were left by the guns showing how poor the guns were at shooting a comment even made by the keeper! So only money pays for the day not the experience or knowledge of shooting. This does not matter when shooting ‘cleys’ but when it is a live bird it should if the estate is concerned for the good of the countryside.

    This brings me on to Buzzards. As you know the government is giving licenses to kill them for taking pheasant poults. The same pheasants that are shot by people with no experence of shooting but with money! In the same area of this shoot I have been told about Buzzards feeding on pheasants most of which are these birds ‘full of lead’ dying a lingering death.

    So how does a government give a license to kill Buzzards when the estates can not even control the people who are aloud to shoot and in this case were doing more damage to birds than the number shot! Like Nissan – No we have not given a cheque! But you have given ensurence that this so called sport will be protected at all costs!

    1. One drive and 800 shots! Now Eley Impax catridges -whichbI used to use before I lost interest- used to contain 1 ounce of lead. This I suggest would be a minimum load of cartridge for game shooting. So that’s 800 ounces of lead fired into the air on 1 drive. Most shoots will have a minimum of 5 drives in a day- so just for fun let’s say this shoot expends 800 shots per drive. So that sends 4000 ounces of lead skywards. This is ONE day on a shoot which almost certainly repeats the exercise 10 times or more per season ie 40,000 ounces!! Some shoots might fire more cartridges, many far far less. How many organised shoots are there in the UK because that’s a lot of lead. And yes I know lead is illegal for waterfowl and Bismuth and steel are the legal alternatives. But no matter how you square it there is one hell of a lot of lead ending up in the ground as a result of the industrial scale of modern game shooting.

    2. There are around 360 pellets in an average cartridge, all going off at say half a degree – they have to be pretty rubbish to miss with that kind of advantage?

      OK if we were charitable then maybe they were a ‘long way’ back so it’s not easy (mmh), but seriously 10 shots to kill a bird and a low flying one with disregard for health and safety? It’s kudos and hormones, but estates must be laughing twice or thrice over from revenue generation?

      Report law breakers, film them it’s all grist to the mill against illegality of ‘sport’?

  3. Good campaigning ahead of the debate Mark. Will be interesting to see who speaks on Monday. Im hoping that after it our former employer the RSPB will review its position and back a ban. Lets see.

    1. Mark, Anand perhaps inadvertently raises an interesting point. Have you articulated an alternative employment plan for gamekeepers and others who lose their livelihood in the event of your hoped for legislation? Brexit has demonstrated its a good idea to have such a thing and as a good socialist you must surely be sympathetic? In theory I guess it’d be possible to continue to manage the landscape changing the focus onto wildlife optimisation and environmental services. It might help the decision makers in their deliberations.

      1. Establish community abattoir’s… that will indulge their killing skills but they may be challenge by having to work within a legally enforced environment.

          1. Well the stais show that most will need to be rehabilitated before they are safe to play a normal part in society.

            Seriously its not for us to come up with alternatives (even though we have made many suggestions in the past). They are well used to moving around between estates so moving to a new job should be second nature.
            If it was a significant industry, the government would no doubt set up a task force and there would be retraining and career advice on offer. However, the numbers involved are trivial and despite the hot air and bluster about “professional skills” they actually have the transferable skills of a manual labourer… so there will be loads of opportunities all over the country.

      2. Gamekeepers would still be required to maintain moors for walked up grouse shooting.

        Probably fewer would be needed, but there would still be some employed.

        The shooting industry are keen to rubbish the idea of walked up shooting, saying there’s no demand and so is therefore economically unviable.

        But if driven grouse shooting is no longer allowed, and the only form of grouse shooting available is walked up, it will suddenly become attractive.

    1. Indeed.. it might be worth re-submitting the information request on the basis of the FOE analysis… pointing out that they have access to the actual data.

  4. John Miles: I’ve read your comment about the massacre of young pheasants, by uncontrolled idiots who aren’t properly trained to shoot, and have far too much money than they have sense.
    I very much object to the taxes I pay from my hard earned money going to wealthy, blood-lusting hooray henrys. It just goes to prove that it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know that gets results in this particular campaign.
    What price democracy in all this?

  5. Thank you for that information, John Miles. I have tried to send an in depth comment before but it wasn’t allowed because ‘they’ said I couldn’t send the same comment twice, when I hadn’t sent one before.

  6. Andrew Fox
    RSPB reserves are open to the public at all times, taxpayers can enjoy them whenever they like. Now if this situation applies on grouse moors please let me know and which ones are open. Then I will come and visit, probably around the 12th of August.

    1. RSPB delivers projects for the public benefit, grouse moors are an all-round burden on society.

    2. Chris, that isn’t strictly true, if by ‘open’ you mean free to anyone.
      [I don’t want to fall into the ‘denier’s’ error of never pointing out flaws in your own ‘side’s’ arguments.]
      On that note it was a shame to read brilliant evidence to the petition committee only to come to the last line mentioning imported or hand reared chicks.

      1. Anand, you’re quite right to point out flaws in your own sides arguments. It strengthens your hand!

        While I support Mark in his marvellous efforts overall, I have been providing an ongoing illustration of how his style undermines his cause by adopting his approach! Counter productive I know in terms of inducing a change but as I say its an illustration and my point!!

    3. You’re both right. Although to access all open parts of many RSPB reserves and the full range of facilities available you need to be a member (or pay a modest fee) most reserves have footpaths and often hides open to the general public from which they can benefit from the work done by the society. Some are entirely free of access, a good example being the Titchwell reserve in Norfolk.

  7. The answer to the question about alternative employment, is yes this blog has – see my guest blog, which no doubt Mark can locate. On which subject, it is worth bearing in mind that tourism, including wildlife tourism, is just about the onlyunsubsidised activity in the uplands and before anyone rushes in, the shooting contribution is a tny part of the total. Far more people come to enjoy the wildlife than shoot it.

    1. Roderick, I did try to find something on here but unless you hit the right keywords the search doesn’t work and at x hundred odd there are a lot of pages to plough through.

      If it is there it may well be worth reiterating for the benefit of Monday’s debate. I assume the participants are monitoring this blog and it can’t hurt. Unlike Mark’s continuing mockery, rudeness and censorship of my post to Circus!

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