The Moorland Imbalance (4)

In their little booklet, the GWCT address five areas that they say are commonly heard criticisms of driven grouse shooting. This week I’ll deal with each of them.

In their booklet GWCT state that a commonly-heard criticism is that ‘This rich man’s hobby damages the environment and society‘ and their defence is that there are conservation and economic benefits of driven grouse shooting.  They are right that there are conservation benefits as well as losses from driven grouse shooting – although of course that doesn’t mean that they are equal in size – but I’m interested that this booklet says so little about the economic impacts of grouse shooting.

The PACEC report is not really mentioned, and is not referenced, perhaps because it is so heavily criticised for being inadequate that it is now accepted that it cannot be relied upon.

I think that the grouse shooters realise that a proper economic analysis of grouse shooting would have to include the externalities of water treatment costs, flood risk, carbon emissions, damage to protected habitats, loss of protected wildlife and factor in the contribution of the taxpayer to the whole sorry mess as well as counting the income generated by this rich person’s hobby.  The last thing that grouse shooting wants is for that analysis to be done – so it’s excellent news that the Scottish Government is planning to do something that looks very much like that.

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14 Replies to “The Moorland Imbalance (4)”

    1. Using Paul's figures 123,077 (£6.89m or thereabouts) of us actually signed a GOV.UK petition which was disproportionately allocated talk time on behalf of the 25,322 (£1.41m or thereabouts)

      That's English democracy for you?

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  1. It's sad how some people view money as the best measure of the value of things. I guess people who put their own wealth and interests above everything else, struggle to think more creatively about the world. Lots of activities generate plenty of money, but do more harm than good.

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    1. Paul - spot on. Hence we reviewed (as it says on the cover) the conservation science not economic reports.

      It is revealing that Mark has avoided the conservation analysis (something it does do) by focusing on economics (something it does not).

      Best. Andrew

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      1. Andrew - there you go again - spinning like a top!

        How did I 'avoid the conservation analysis' when I wrote that '...there are conservation and economic benefits of driven grouse shooting. They are right that there are conservation benefits as well as losses from driven grouse shooting – although of course that doesn’t mean that they are equal in size...' and spent yesterday's post on the poor coverage by your little booklet of the plight of raptors on grouse moors to which you have no answer.

        You do bring economics into your little booklet several times. How about 'Rarely does a hobby contribute so extensively to jobs...' which are the very words which follow the quote from your little booklet reproduced in bold at the head of this post. As an example of you dragging some economics in to your case that's pretty clear, wouldn't you say? But you don't back it up, and you avoid quoting the poorly-regarded PACEC report. That is, as I wrote, what I found interesting. I still find it interesting. Would you expect a thorough economic analysis of driven grouse shooting to show it is a net cost or a net benefit to society?

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  2. Mark you are absolutely spot on about the grouse shooters not wanting a proper economic study to back up their claims- not one signed petition PEO1663 asking the Scottish parliament for a comprehensive and independent analysis to see if DGS was actually bringing in more money and jobs to rural communities than the business options it was displacing. I made strenuous efforts to contact as many representative organisations and media outlets for the DGS fraternity to let them know here was a chance for them to put their money where their mouth was and make their glowing endorsement of DGS official. Apart from one Moorland Forum that asked for my email address ( then never used it) absolutely nil response. Although many people prominent in the anti DGS movement signed there was not one from the opposing side.Of the 99 comments left on the petition not one was from a grouse shooter saying they wanted to prove what they do is a boost to rural communities. So DGS has been dumping on rural communities as much as it has on hen harriers all these years - their bluff was called. If they lose the economic argument they lose the fight. Wonder what Andrew G has to say about the petition and the Scottish government's intention to do what should have been done years ago?

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  3. By a strange coincidence, I was only discussing this issue of moorland management with my MP yesterday (Kevin Hollinrake, Con, Thirsk Malton and Filey, including parts of the N York Moors). My main thrust was with flood issues, but his predictable response was the economic benefits of shooting to the local economy due to shooters, employment, hotels etc. I pointed out that this must be offset by the social costs from fast run off exacerbating flooding - potentially significant for places like the Calder Valley. Time was limited, so I didn't have time for the full list! Any reasonable, open minded person must accept that the true economic impacts, as per your last paragraph, are absolutely vital to this argument. I would add in sedimentation to the list. What a pity only Scotland feels that this is an issue worth investigating. I wonder what regard will be taken of the results by the rest of the UK? Unfortunately due to AGW, time doesn't seem to be on our side regarding the carbon and flood issues.

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  4. I've at last worked out the only possible explanation for this booklet being so incomplete, containing such huge errors and missing so many important issues.
    The writer has never read "Inglorious".
    I have not read the book (don't want to give them any money) but is Inglorious referenced? As a treatise on grouse shooting and the science behind it I feel it is a must.

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  5. Undeveloped, i.e. "greenfield" land provides a wide range of "ecosystem services", few of which can be commercially costed.
    The type of ecosystem services provided vary according to the type of land, but these include production of food, water and timber, groundwater recharge, flood control, support for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, outdoor leisure. all the intangible (but very real) benefits that access to the countryside provides etc..
    Some of these have an obvious commercial value like food and timber production, others obviously have an economic value which is much more difficult to price like water supply, groundwater recharge or flood control and others still which it's very difficult to put any sort of value on at all, though it hasn't stopped people trying.
    Sadly our current system of political economy only tends to take much notice of things with a direct financial value and we need to find some form of economics which takes these other "goods" into account.
    But it would be interesting to hear what are the directly commercially valuable alternatives on the land used for DGS.

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    1. "it would be interesting to hear what are the directly commercially valuable alternatives on the land used for DGS"

      If the economic costs of driven grouse shooting outweigh the economic benefits - and it appears that there is considerable evidence to suggest this is the case, then the onus in any case should not be on the conservation side of the argument to propose a commercially viable alternative anyway. If something has a net cost, simply stopping that activity will result in improvement - in this case reduced water treatment costs, reduced flood prevention, clean-up and repair and insurance costs, reduced ghg emissions.

      People are evidently interested in visiting the moors for reasons other than shooting so there's potential for estates to develop this further and if they wish to keep shooting grouse there would still be walked up shooting with lower revenues but also lower costs for the estate. I am not suggesting that either of these would replace income lost by a DG moor in the event of a ban but they would represent potential sources of income.

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      1. You're so right. These estates could very easily develop alternative sources of income to DGS, but they don't want to - it's their 'culture' that they want to conserve to the cost of rural communities, the land and wildlife. I've yet to see a post on Scottish Land and Estates site where they underline how successful bird of prey tourism has been for people wanting to see eagles, kites and ospreys. Strange omission if they are interested in widening business options and the only reasons walkers are on their land in the first place is because public access legislation was brought in - how many estates didn't fight against that? Mind you having walkers means like the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and at least one keeper on Ilkley Moor you can blame them for driving off hen harriers, falcons and eagles - yes the estates really want to welcome the non shooter don't they?

        Through two conservation working holidays in the Forest of Bowland over the New Year of 93/94 and 95/96 not only after the main tourist season, but the grouse shooting one as well myself and a good few others spent a fair amount in the local shops and pubs whilst doing genuine conservation removing invasive rhododendron (probably put in as cover for pheasants) during the day. I'm sure the scope to develop that type of thing for weekends and even weeks away for businesses and their employees is pretty massive. The local conservation group hosted 'work in the community' parties from the DWP and Royal Bank of Scotland in their little wood - which were thoroughly enjoyed by the participants - estates could do much more. DGS will never be a mass participant activity and it compromises everyone and everything else including game fishing by screwing up water quality - far, far more people could be out there enjoying and contributing to our (future?) wilder lands than are at the moment. Survival and bush craft courses, wildlife photography etc, etc. along with less damaging forms of hunting (and improved fishing) would surely fill in any gap left by the ending of DGS and then some.

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  6. The economic benefit argument is a particularly weak justification. Any activity where there's a lot of money involved is bound to have certain economic "benefits" to some. However, it's an absurd argument if not put in the big picture because it can be used to justify the illegal drugs trade, prostitution, the arms trade, and even slavery, if it is presented in a partial one sided manner.

    The big question is whether in terms of the big picture it is desirable? And especially if in the absence of this activity, a similar cash flow through the local economy could be generated and maintained. As Mark implies the grouse shooting industry is reluctant to address this issue in a balanced way, almost certainly because they're well aware that tourism etc, could generate similar or greater local economic benefits in the absence of driven grouse shooting.

    It's a tiresome type of false argument to list only benefits and turn a blind eye to the negative aspects, or to present them in a distorted untruthful way. For instance if you wipe out all the predators it's bound to have a short term boost to the populations of their prey species. However, the real question is how does this fit into the big picture as regards biodiversity conservation and the overall ecology? If you create an artificial situation where some species thrive, other species will be negatively impacted. This is because the species preyed on by larger predators are often predators themselves (on invertebrates, possibly amphibians and reptiles), at least at some point in their life cycle. But again the shooting industry and it's apologists only want to cherry pick the benefits, and to suppress and deny the negative impacts.

    Conservationists seem able to objectively assess the pros and cons. The deep problem is that the shooting industry only wants to acknowledge the pros and goes into active denial, distortions of the truth, and even outright falsehoods when it comes to the cons. The GWCT has essentially destroyed what is left of it's credibility with this very partial and disingenuous presentation.

    This one sided presentation of the pros, and the denial or untruthul and inaccurate presentation of the cons, wrongly assumes that the critics of driven grouse shooting only present the cons. But as is evidenced by Mark's blog entry here "They are right that there are conservation benefits as well as losses from driven grouse shooting", conservationists do deal with both the pros and cons.

    It is for this reason that I regard presentations like this one from the GWCT as dishonest propaganda. It would only be justified if the critics of driven grouse shooting were distorting the truth themselves and were only putting forward a one sided criticism. However, the fact is that conservationists have always objectively acknowledged the benefits from shoot management. Indeed I can remember Chris Packham on Springwatch/Autumnwatch actually defending managed shoots because of some of the conservation benefits.

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  7. The economic argument promulgated by the grouse moor lobby, is just smoke and mirrors. You could argue that there was very strong economic case to keep coal mines open, these definitely provided thousands (not hundreds) of well paid jobs in what were small communities and rural locations around Wales, Northern England and Scotland. However the impact on the environment of primarily burning coal for power was very severe (and they operated within the law -so much so that the improved H&S legislation ultimately affected their economic viability).

    Yet the grouse moors want to be exempt from these pressures (any and legislation that affects their viability), and carry on. Well if the coal mining communities have had to reinvented themselves then the game-keeping communities need to as well. they need to move out of the 19th century into the 21st.

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    1. It's been said before, but I don't recall during Thatcher's time lots of gamekeepers and grouse shooters standing in solidarity with the miners, who were striking due to mass job losses which virtually wiped out many rural communities. So all their sobbing about the impact on the rural economy that would occur if grouse shooting was ended is sheer selfish hypocrisy. There is another side to the coin, of course, which if studied in detail reveals that as far as ordinary people are concerned, wealth is actually being removed from the system. Financial speculators on the international money markets are currently increasing grouse-moor land valuations. This effectively provides a high percentage of the profits being made by estates from this archaic industry, while at the same time the landowners and investors are cleverly avoiding paying their due taxes. Add to that the isolated circulation of the transfer of wealth within the shooting community, and the net 'benefit' to the vast majority of the local and rural community, and the nation as a whole, is nowhere near as significant as they would like us to think.

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