Heather burning banned by three large landowners


The Guardian website is running this story ahead of tomorrow’s Observer. It states that the National Trust, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities have all put major restrictions on routine heather burning as practised by grouse shooting interests, and not just for this year.

It is of course notable that these three landowners have the public interest more at the core of their enterprises than do many individual landowners in the uplands. This news does not quite rank with Waitrose’s decision to go lead-free in its game meat but it is certainly a step in a similar direction. The Moorland Association’s members are looking more and more out on their own selfish limb and I gather cracks are appearing in the public facade of a united front. Maybe that’s why the Moorland Association website still doesn’t say ‘We support a cessation of heather burning because of the current situation’ up-front on its website – instead there is a lot of guff about men in tweed being the eyes and ears of the public until you get to the fifth paragraph!

Governments will take close notice of this move and it is to be hoped that the Scottish government will take this as a nudge towards the rapid introduction of licensing for grouse shooting as the Werritty report almost recommended.

The Observer headline looks a little of an overstatement, but there is no doubt that the pace of movement in the direction of an end to driven grouse shooting is indeed gathering pace.

Many grouse moors have done little shooting in the last couple of years and the prospects for this year do not look good – restrictions on burning, mounting criticism of the high level of wildlife crime on grouse moors and restrictions on access in the short term because of coronavirus make the prospects for grouse shooting this season all the more uncertain. Added to which, I hear that shoots of all sorts, Pheasant, partridge and Red Grouse, are finding that clients are attempting to cancel booked days of shooting this autumn partly due to uncertainties of the economic position by then. A day’s grouse shooting can easily cost over £5,000 per participant and then there are travel and accommodation costs, let alone your bar bill, on top of that. Not even the rich will necessarily see this as an essential anymore. The social cachet of a day’s grouse shooting is falling because of the headlines this activity has been attracting over many years (there’s even a book about why the whole sorry enterprise should be banned) and if your job, your bonus and even your ability to travel are under some doubt then it’s easy for the clients to want to give it a miss this year – and many grouse moors won’t find it easy to carry another year of low profits or complete losses.

So, although there is nothing in the article which really backs up the headline, there may be a lot more truth in it than there might seem on first reading.


10 Replies to “Heather burning banned by three large landowners”

  1. That’s really good news. As mentioned recently the skids are under these driven grouse shooters and others who like to kill our wildlife for fun. Perhaps this action by these public bodies will goad this rotten Government into tabling their Bill (which I think they have promised??) on banning moorland burning. Heaven knows it is taking an age but they are probably deliberately dragging their heals.
    As far as the Moorland Association, as you say Mark they are looking more and more like an isolated group with Victorian attitudes and only interested in their own selfish antediluvian interests.
    Slowly but surely “ Mill is grinding”

  2. Good day in the garden and then to come in to this news. Good excuse for a good bottle I think.
    Re the pheasants. Won’t the poults have to have been ordered already? Another hole in the finances and another nail maybe?

  3. As you say Mark, a bit of an overstatement at this point.
    The loss of routine burning would indeed be a grievous blow to driven
    grouse shooting on these holdings, but not necessarily the end.
    If it is prohibited ,over large, widely separated areas, it will be an interesting opportunity to measure the changes in bird assemblages,
    amid claim and counter- claim from opposing sides in the argument.
    Incidentally, regarding the restrictions on burning for the remainder of this season, certain more responsible landowners have long banned burning in April, and one of these, at least, has furloughed
    their keepering staff at this time.

  4. A big step in the right direction, next step no snares and no bloody traps, please! Good lord we might even get Peregrines breeding back on YW land in Upper Nidderdale for the first time in living memory. but then as the tenant and keeper are still there perhaps not.

    1. I perhaps should point out that Peregrines have not bred successfully on YW land in Upper Nidderdale since Sir Joseph Nickerson was the tenant and he died in 1990.

  5. There is obviously a good way to go yet before driven grouse shooting is totally banned, but these are very good steps along this road. I think much credit and congratulation for this considerable progress goes to you Mark as well Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay. but particularly to you Mark for highlighting in the first place the gross abuse these grouse moor owners inflict on our upland wildlife and environment and for leading the campaign against this abuse.

  6. Another really good piece of news, although not directly related to banning driven grouse shooting, but indirectly certainly is, is the election of Sir Keir Stammer as the new leader of the Labour Party. At long last Labour has a moderate and perceptive leader, and one which is pro EU. However most of all I think he is well capable of defeating Boris Johnson and the Tories. That would of course open the doors to much tougher action being taken against driven grouse shooters and the like.
    Well done the Labour Party. At last they now have a leader who very many people can unite behind and who can defeat the Tories and all their privileged and vest interests which certainly includes grouse and other wildlife shooting for fun.

  7. Yes I have to agree although I do have political tendencies a bit farther to the left, closer to Corbyn although personally I was never quite bowled over by him. However, I’ve never thought that even a Blairite govt was every bit as bad as a typical tory one (at least it brought in a minimum wage, and I remember Michael Portillo saying that would cost millions of jobs), better to make some social/environmental progress than none at all. Let’s face it even a more centrist Labour Party is still a significantly different and better animal than the grouse moor sycophancy Conservatives, it’s not as if Labour would have to be to the left of where it is now to treat driven grouse shooting for the ecological and social justice disaster it is. The next Labour government stands a very good chance of forcing an end to DGS, if pushed, and that would be a massive step forward for conservation, better rural economies and culturally for the nation. A step closer to being able to have the type of real National Parks other countries have which is no small thing!

    The world is in a terrible way with Trumps, Bolsonaroes and Orbans, people who unbelievably got power not by coup but the democratic process even if it was a bit flawed. This tide desperately needs to be turned. Trump is clearly shitting himself about what the current situation is doing to the stock market as he has been trying to push for a return to business as usual ASAP, and lickspittle Fox News has been saying that more clearly and directly than he can, other people dying is obviously a price worth paying for that – https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/04/04/tucker_carlson_dr_fauci_is_suggesting_national_suicide.html If public safety means nothing to ‘leaders’ then conservation and the environment will mean even less. This really is the time to end infighting and for everybody who is relatively decent work together to fix it. At the age of fifty three after spending the rest of my life thinking the end of fascistic tendencies and spread of democracy were inevitabilities I’m now not so certain, there’s blood chilling doubt instead. Not good times even before a pandemic, what are we going to have after it?

Comments are closed.