Inglorious – no sparkle here

My book (publised 2014 and 2nd edition 2015): out of print but available on some dusty bookshop shelves, in many public libraries and from Amazon

Driven grouse shooting still exists but it is beleaguered. It’s good to think of how far we have come in just a few years. It is a worthless hobby and its proponents have no answers to the charges against it except to ignore them.

If driven grouse shooting hadn’t been invented c170 years ago then no-one would introduce it into our hills today – it is mass killing of wildlife, it depends on wildlife crime and the burning management which dominates the grouse moors is bad for protected habitats and for the climate. Who’d vote for that package (let alone medicated grit, lead ammunition, increased flood risk and the list goes on).

Ten years ago the media coverage of intensive grouse shooting around the Inglorious 12th would have been soft and supportive, now it highlights the controversies that are part of the very nature of grouse shooting. There is conflict in the uplands over grouse shooting and it can only be resolved in one way – with the end of intensive management for the hobby of grouse shooting.

The grouse shooting clique cannot cope with these issues:

  • the scale of legal and illegal killing – it’s a hobby that is shooting birds for fun. There is no getting away from that although the pro-grouse shooting clique try to make out that they are managing the moors for Curlews and so that local communities can make some money. Not so, it’s a hobby where people pay to gun down wildlife, and it requires intensive predator control on top of the Red Grouse that are killed. It’s up to you how much you care about our wildlife being killed in such large numbers but it is very clear that the public mood is switching away from thinking that traditional wildlife slaughter is ‘a good thing’. This is why grouse shooting does not post images of shooting actually happening – they know it wouldn’t look good. Rows of dead birds, some injured and all for the private satisfaction of the shooters.
  • burning the uplands is bad for the climate – the Committee on Climate Change call for rotational burning of heather etc on grouse moors never to start again – they want it ended before the next burning season. This is because the peat stores of the uplands are prejudiced by burning. So a hobby refuses to reform and declines to be part of the battle against climate change. It’s not quite a choice between a day’s shooting and the planet going up in flames but even if it were I can see no sign that the grouse moor clique would change their ways – it’s a tradition you know? Traditional grouse moor management is standing in the way of progress in so many ways, but thinking that you can ignore climate change is a pretty arrogant position for the hobby of shooting birds for fun.
  • wildlife crime – there are people associated with grouse shooting, I think, who really do believe that there is little wildlife crime intimately associated with this hobby – but the number must be falling all the time. More of the grouse shooters, I believe, are perfectly aware of the scale of criminality but really don’t care. A hobby that wants to shoot more than half a million Red Grouse a year for fun isn’t too bothered about adding hundreds of protected eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards, hawks and kites to that list. And who cares if it’s a crime – they don’t often catch us and DEFRA are on our side too! But away from the grouse butts, the realisation of criminality simply grows and grows. What sort of a hobby depends on killing protected species? In all the coverage of a slowly increasing Hen Harrier population in England you will see no mention of the lack of other raptors (as well as the almost total lack of Hen Harriers still of course) on the moors. If your hobby were underpinned by criminality then you might think twice about whether it was going to last very long.

The mood has changed enormously and it is still changing. The English grouse moors cannot bear to mention Scotland where the same issues have led to a different parliament moving toward licensing of grouse shooting and muirburn. The same will eventually happen in England too.

The very nature of the hobby of grouse shooting is a public relations disaster – it’s a hobby about killing wildlife for fun and depends on environmentally damaging management and criminality to survive. All the money and all the ‘reports’ in the world can’t get you away from the essence of grouse shooting as we see it on the grouse moors of England. There’s an old, and somewhat in-your-face saying that applies here ‘You can’t polish sh*t and make it sparkle’. There’s been quite a lot of sh*t polishing going on this week but it when you look closely, it certainly doesn’t sparkle.


29 Replies to “Inglorious – no sparkle here”

  1. A great piece of summing up Mark and totally , totally right. Over recent years I am sure the attitude of the public has been slowly but surely changing. It won’t be very long now before an overwhelming proportion of the population demand that, this mass killing of our wildlife for fun and the abuse of our upland environment by just a few select rich people has got to be stopped. The streak of sadism that the hobby appears to conjures up and the criminality and cruelty that goes with it is really quite revolting and in any civilised country wont be tolerated for much longer.
    However, as with most things this Westminster Government are likely to be the last group of people to get this message, but at least the Scottish Government are receiving it loud and clear and acting upon it.

    1. The Scottish Government has to, and it proves the point that real democracy can only ever be from local democracy, as we here in Scotland don’t have such a large population that the government can ignore action groups and let them be swallowed by the apathetic mass electorate. A half million people concerned about something in England can be ignored, but even fifty thousand people in Scotland is a voter chunk that can swing elections.

      Remember that, fellow Scots, when next the independence from Westminster question is asked again. Scotland Alone, is a Scotland Stronger.

  2. I would just add, as demonstrated yet again in Plymouth., that no one should be allowed to own or keep a gun.

    1. I disagree. It’s flawed logic to say that the actions of one person should reflect on the freedoms of the wider public. There is blame to be laid here but it is more to do with successive governments cutting funding for mental health support and the police while allowing the rich to push up living costs. People in this country seem to be conditioned now to blame the weapon rather than question the cause of the individual person’s actions. I consider myself a responsible person and yet it is now illegal for me to even carry a multi-tool in my pocket due to knife crime prevention laws. The rest of the world mocks us for how quickly we give up our rights for this sort of knee-jerk reaction. It’s tabloid newspaper logic and we’re better than that. Taking away more rights just adds to the reason as to why so many young people in this country are so desperately unhappy and disillusioned with their prospects in life.

      1. Hi Dave. I am a gun owner (perhaps like you), and I don’t really want to give them up and I don’t really think there is any reason why I should. But I would never consider keeping them is “a right” as you imply. Where do you get that idea from?

        1. Well Home Office guidance states ‘gun ownership is a privilege not a right’ but any person has the right to apply for a licence if they need a gun. That’s not really the point I’m making but you can understand where I’m coming from.

      2. It is not illegal to carry a multitool in your pocket, that is the rightwing tabloid bullsh*t.

        1. It’s illegal to carry any bladed article that has a fixed or locking blade, or a blade of over 3″ long, in a public place without ‘good reason’ and you’ll struggle to find a decent multitool that doesn’t have a locking blade of some kind on there. This is the law not opinion.

          1. See you admit that you can carry a multi tool, both with and without a good reason, just not one you want. You are the one who has just invalidated your own argument.

            Also, if you do have an actual reason for carrying a longer or locking blade, you can have one as long as you need. If you’ve got work or a hobby, then you are fine.

    1. 242 page report. Don’t worry folks, no need to read beyond page 11.
      In fact, just read page 11.

      1. It’s bog awful isn’t it? Truly dreadful, I’d have been embarrassed to have written such rose tinted bilge for my paymasters and I’m not an academic with half an alphabet after my surname.

  3. I do feel we are getting closer to the end, but as has always been the case, a large part of the problem seems to be getting the message out there. Certainly more people are aware of the issue each year but it seems very slow progress in a nation of animal lovers. Somehow we need to find a way of turning this trickle into a flood. Would a mass, peaceful, protest across a famous grouse moor be so hard to organise? Would enough people turn up? It would certainly need to be headed by a big name.
    I would also like to see a reprint of Inglorious. If that is not palatable to a publisher, I’m sure it could be published through Unbound and I’d be first in the queue to help fund it. That it is out of print at this time is very sad.

    1. What we need is for the “reasonable” faction to stop condemning direct action against the gamekeepers and lairds, when it happens. The polite lunches and seminars crowd really set the cause back when it comes time to bust out the tar and feathers.

  4. A very, very good article Mark. Thank you.

    Most people I know love to look at birds and get great enjoyment and pleasure from seeing nature in the raw. I live in a northern city. This week a neighbour, very excitedly, told me that he had a peregrine falcon sitting on his garden fence. We rushed in side and got the binoculars (not a gun), confirmed it wasn’t a sparrow hawk and really enjoyed the moment.

    Other people need access to 60 million or so partridge and pheasants and half a million red grouse. That is not enough for them as they also like to shoot ducks, geese, crows, pigeons, woodcock, hen harriers, buzzards, goshawks and the list goes on.

    The recent propaganda that you refer seems to celebrate that hen harriers are now welcome on some shooting estates. It was not long ago, when hen harriers were virtually extinct in England, that the same spokesperson had the gall to say that “we cannot allow hen harriers back onto the moors”. Hen harriers are not a quarry species – they are legally protected as we all now know.

    I know that I am truly glad that my friends and I are on the right side.

    Please keep up the good work.

  5. Well said Mark. Grouse moors are often (usually) protected sites and a further blight on these areas has been an upsurge in pheasant and red legged partridge release. However that doesn’t seem to be happening this year on sites local to me. Is this result of the Wild Justice action? Big thanks for that. Certainly the new GL43 states:

    “You must site red-legged partridge release pens in cover crops[footnote 7] on arable land or on improved grassland within a European site. You must not site them in semi-natural or unimproved habitats[footnote 8].”

    And release pens have generally been on unimproved habitats. Is Wild Justice able to gather any data on this? And very interested to hear other readers observations.

  6. Now I’m not of quite the same opinion as Alan in that I’m not opposed to all shooting and am not sure the folk involved are sadists, indeed I rather doubt that. However what has become abundantly clear over the last dozen years or so is that driven grouse shooting is an anathema to good habitat management and has one very bad premise, that to achieve high densities of Red Grouse there needs to be a great dearth of predators so they are killed in profusion all the legally killed Mammals plus some that are protected, I used to know keepers who admitted to killing badgers, Otters ( just f***ing big mink!) and who knows if the so called feral Polecat-Ferrets they all kill are really Polecats as its so difficult to tell. then there are the Crows, Rooks as some can’t tell one from t’other, Gulls ( now needs a licence (bet some are still doing it) and all the illegals, Ravens, Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Owls, Buzzards, Kites and whatever else takes their ire. Its slaughter out there much as they would have us and the public believe otherwise. that coupled with burning, draining turning or having turned wetland blanket bog into a semblance of wet and dry heath, tree removal ( vermin perches!). Our uplands deserve better, our wildlife and biodiversity need better, the country and planet demand better.
    Walked up grouse on lightly managed moors or even hunted over dogs guns or hawks and falcons with a degree of respect for the quarry. The day of treating Red Grouse just as a commodity or living target must be gone. I feel the same for any driven shooting time it went and no amount of lies, misuse of the truth, bullshit, threats to me or about the consequences will change my mind. Mark sums it brilliantly but the ostriches in tweed will bleat, complain and stick their heads back in the sand from which they only come out on shoot days.

    1. Hi Paul, re Polecats, likely you might be aware of them already but the Vincent Trust will help identify these. I sent in some photos of roadkill on a road that (funnily enough) runs beside a grouse estate and the person at the Trust said they believed it was a Polecat, but would need the skull for measurements to be certain. I went back along to get the corpse but it had gone. It was a much bigger animal than even a big male ferret, a different shape of black mask around the eyes and a very muscular jaw. I have since captured some fleeting images on my trail-cam. ps I will seek out the ‘professors’ film later this week when I am in need of a laugh.

      1. I too in the past have found road kill that is according to all measurements and appearance is Polecat adjacent to moors in the Nidderdale AONB but even local mammal recorders insist they are polecat ferrets. Now living in mid Wales and the road casualties here are identical in all ways! I was once told that legal opinion is that they cannot be told apart! The professors film is for so called academics laughable nonsense, but then it was bought and paid for by the grousers.

  7. The Countryside Alliance’s little powerplay in the late nineties/early oughties, to try and spite the then Labour Govt’s (very weak)rural reforms really backfired on it. They tried to play up the jolly country gent angle, which had some short term success, but instead of promoting blithe acceptance in the populace only served to get people looking hard at that country gent lifestyle. And what they saw was not the Georgian-to-Edwardian rural idyll the CA and Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin’ lobby behind them wanted them to see. They saw spite, and hatred of even their allies, and unpleasantness, and avarice, inequality, and criminality underlying the entire British countryside.

    If the fieldsports, farmers, and other countrygrifters are upset at the scrutiny and the distaste for the way they ruin the countryside, paid for by the UK taxpayer, then they have only themselves to blame for inviting all the scrutiny in the first place to try and defeat what was pretty much the last legitimate democratic mandate a British government ever had.

  8. As always another great blog Mark, still amazed that some WAGBI (am old enough to have been around then and prefer to use the old name) members STILL CAN’T IDENTIFY the difference between Grey Plover and Golden Plover in the field, the sand in the timer is gradually running out on those that choose to spill blood on this country of ours.

    1. Hi Trapit, yes it is flowering well this year. And sometimes when merrily and swiftly driving through it to work and back, music playing & a head full of carefree thoughts I will drive over a crest in the road and a whole valley of it is laid out before me. I do get nostalgic, I feel a slight pull back toward the fantasy- romance that the DGS world inhabits. But the simple solution is to stop the car and look closely and coldly at it – identify all the management techniques that I can readily identify and remind myself of how damaging, perverse and unneccessary 90% of it is. I can stretch my legs for 500m along the newly resurfaced scar of an estate road, count up a dozen grit trays and 2 or 3 stoat traps some of which will have a rotting corpse of something or other in them, I can kick cartridge cases along the road, I can look at the scorched peat burnt to the edge of a stream, count few hundred plastic wads on in front of the monstrous new deluxe butts that are more like garden sheds. But above for me the illegal persecution is the thing I cannot stand most of all – so I remind myself that if I chose to walk that track at first/early light or last light I would be (and have been in the past) watched, cursed, glared at and gossiped sourly about among the keepers for interrupting their shameful work.

      1. That is it – that it is exactly. However hard they try, they cannot deny the existence of what is before our very eyes when we walk around their estates. Hard to miss, isn’t it? It is blindingly obvious from the evidence they leave behind that they care not one jot about wildlife, habitats and environmental destruction.

    2. In this country at least a whole landscape turning one colour either indicates a crop or an extremely unhealthy ‘natural’ ecosystem dominated by one plant species which will not only be poor for the vast majority of our wildlife, but be susceptible to disease and the ‘pest’ species that feed on it. In the case of heather being flammable, but not fire sensitive then burning actually encourages its growth while displacing species like juniper, that then means you have a landscape that’s also very fire prone as well as a buffet table for heather beetle. No when our hills turn a colour that, one would imagine, is familiar to those who work in STD clinics we should actually be seeing a big, red flag.

  9. Hi Mark, you say the ‘proponents have no answer to the charges’. Well, BASC have put out a little ‘myth-buster’ film, a chat between Gareth Docherty and Ian Coghill. To me it is casual and careless deepening of the the hole they are in on all of the four topics they cover. The bit about raptor persecution just will not stand up to any enquiring mind (even those brand new to this) that cares to look into it. Ian Coghill is basically just saying…it’s all in the past, nothing to see here, be grateful for what you’ve got, leave it to us, move on…etc.

    1. I’ve seen it too and it is lightweight nonsense, fluff to try and deflect the criticism and of no real consequence. Have you seen the “professors film on sustainable DGS” too that fails to convince me of anything positive about DGS. There are politicians who will swallow it though.

  10. Hi Les, re the heather beetle. I smirk at the trouble they are having with this because back in the early nineties (when the traditional ‘small number of big burns’ approach to burning was superceded by the Grouse Guru’s ‘hundreds of tiny burns & endless mosaic of short heather’ approach) many an old keeper said it would spread the (usually localised) heather beetle to every part of the moor and to neighbours moors. They were right. They also said medicated grit would just create a sickly and drug-dependant population of grouse. They were right. From Owners points of view these shifts of management practice have taken a long time to begin to show their true faults and they have made good money & had big bags in that time, but I wonder if they are these days quite so sure it was a prudent long term idea to run so blindly down the Grouse Guru road.

Comments are closed.