Thoughts on 2020 (1) – Driven Grouse Shooting

You have to feel sorry for the grouse shooters, don’t you? Well maybe not.

2020 was another awful year for those involved in grouse shooting, and one which brought the end of driven grouse shooting closer. For those of us determined to see an end to this damaging hobby, it represented a great leap forward.

What will bring about the end of driven grouse shooting? Legislative and policy change driven by hardening of public opinion. And what will drive public opinion? Unfavourable facts whether they be learned scientific papers or pictures of dead ‘protected’ birds of prey (or piles of dead Mountain Hares). 2020 provided all these things.

In Scotland, legislators eventually did the right things and protected Mountain Hares, promised to license grouse shooting and muirburn. A dead, poisoned, White-tailed Eagle in the Cairngorms National Park will only have made this more certain.

DEFRA promised to address burning on peatlands in 2020 but unless we see an announcement today they will have broken that promise – a commonplace occurrence in the Westminster government. I can’t recall being promised a world-beating Peat Strategy for england in weeks but we were certainly promised a strategy of some sort by now. Labour announced that they favoured licensing of grouse shooting.

Wild Justice set up an e-action (with RSPB and Hen Harrier Action) which resulted in 123,000 emails being sent to elected politicians across the UK asking for proper protection of birds of prey and of blanket bogs from the damage caused by driven grouse shooting. Such a figure would have been unthinkable even five years ago.

Coronavirus will have hit grouse shooting in the pocket but the special treatment given to shooting parties by the Westminster government in particular led to a week of unfavourable publicity for this bizarre hobby and its supporters in Westminster.

The Moorland Association has more or less ceased to have a public face.

Natural NoMates England appear to let the grouse shooters write their press releases and, yet again, the statement by Natural England at the end of the Hen Harrier nesting season is inaccurate and misses out important information (like armed men sneaking up on Hen Harrier nests with large owls). Brood meddling is discredited but continues under a shroud of secrecy.

And the RSPB announced at their AGM that if there were no effective reform of driven grouse shooting then their position would change to one of calling for an outright ban – they gave government and the grouse shooters a maximum of five years.

It feels to me as though the last 12 months have brought the end of driven grouse shooting not just one year closer, but several years closer.


8 Replies to “Thoughts on 2020 (1) – Driven Grouse Shooting”

  1. Well said Mark. I think one should be very pleased with the progress this year towards achieving a ban on the revolting practice of driven grouse shooting. Great credit for this progress is down to many people and organisations, but very much to you and Chris and Ruth.
    Every cloud has a silver lining even this terrible pandemic which as you say has severely hit the grouse shooters. Also, in the USA it has been an important reason for Trump’s departure. Trumps going is a major step forward for conservation in the USA and for international conservation including the well being of our world generally. I think this is not perhaps fully appreciated by some this side of the water. It is also a significant blow to this very right wing Westminster Tory Government for many reasons. What a disgrace they are having done absolutely nothing to right the wrongs of Driven Grouse Shooting in England but nevertheless showing that they are firmly allied to and even part of those people who like to kill our wild life for fun. I think 2021 will show them as a more and more isolated and degraded Government failing wholesale to keep promises and that what they say is really not worth “a bean”.

    1. Alan – thanks for that and thanks for all your comments (and guest blog) here in 2020. Best wishes for 2021!

  2. Yes, I agree with all of the above. By any rational measure there is little reason (one would think) for optimism among the “upper end” of the DGS world.
    And yet…in at least one of the grouse moor heartlands – more money is being pumped in to renovate cottages for yet more keepers, more tracks renewed, new vehicles, new & refurbished lines Butts going in, refurbished lunch huts. More heather being burnt and overall average heather height on moors is still reducing. A short drive across the moors and there is always one or two keepers beavering away on their quads replenishing grit trays / “vermin killing”. These are only my observations, and I have not had time to study/try and interpret values of any recently sold moors – which would tell us something. But I think there is a disconnect somewhere. I suspect the powerful people think they will always have influence where it matters, and that some have the selfish attitude “well, if I only get my lifetime out of it before they ban it, then so be it”. Maybe it’s their version of the atmosphere of parties and hedonism near the end of Weimar Republic.

  3. Whilst I have at least one friend amongst those involved in DGS and his opinions I respect even though we rarely agree, the time is hopefully getting ever closer when not only will this so called sport with all its ills and constituent criminals go but our uplands may get a well deserved ecological boost. More woodland more scrub more rewetted blanket bog, more wildlife and far less sheep, one can but hope.

    1. Paul – thanks for that and thanks for all your comments (and guest blog) here in 2020. Best wishes for 2021!

  4. Totally agree Mark. It definitely feels as if DGS is on a steeper downward slope than at any time before.
    So a festive but virtual pat on the back to everyone, high-profile and otherwise, who’s been doing their bit to make the world a better place by helping shove DGS towards the bin. The momentum is with us and let’s hope it increases even more so in 2021.

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