Not just any red grouse…part 3

MSFor part 1 see here, and part 2 see here.

The pressure is building on Marks and Spencer…..have a read of this article in today’s Guardian (see here).

On Tuesday we told M&S they had seven days to name the estates that are supplying them with red grouse. We also asked them to explain what measures they have used to assess these estates to ensure they are not involved in the illegal persecution of birds of prey. M&S have previously stated they only source game from “well-managed estates”. We want to know what criteria were used to assess and define “well-managed”.

 If they don’t respond with the answers to these questions within 7 days (so by next Tues, 27th Aug) we will be alerting Trading Standards and asking them to investigate M&S for what we think could be misleading claims about their products.

Tick tock.

UPDATE 3rd September 2013: Not just any grouse….part 4 – see here

44 thoughts on “Not just any red grouse…part 3”

  1. Also highlighted this text book bullshit reply from M&S on Facebook. A company ignorant of the knowledge regarding Hen Harriers should put up or shut up. I challenge your statement . RSVP

  2. Your all full of shit. Well managed is well managed, It doesnt mean there is raptor persecution going on in those estates.
    And on what planet are m&s making “misleading claims”???

    If you understood the real side of the countryside then you would at least be open to listen to what gamekeepers have to say. But unfortunately you lot obviously live in some flat in london and you seem to have branded every gamekeeper as a raptor killer. And brainwashing anyone else that will listen to you utter bullshit.

    1. I live in the highlands, and until convinced other wise, I do consider gamekeepers both historically and currently, killers and destructors of the natural countryside.

    2. Dear Aaron
      Your remarks are ill informed unsubstantiated nonsense….please come to terms with the fact that we are all living on planet Earth. Once you have sorted that out maybe your cognitive processes will start to develop. Try having a look around and observing what is happening around you…..

    3. Hi Aaron,

      “And on what planet are m&s making “misleading claims”???”

      Well, it’s quite simple. If M&S are claiming that their red grouse are only sourced from “well-managed estates” they need to be able to provide evidence to support that claim. If they can’t substantiate their claims, then this could be an indication that their claims are misleading.

      Take note – we didn’t say that M&S ARE making misleading claims. We said we believe they COULD be, and it would be for the Trading Standards Office to investigate and decide whether the claims are accurate or indeed misleading.

      And, er, no, we don’t live in a London flat, but even if we did that wouldn’t neccessarily equate to misunderstanding the countryside. It sounds like you’re the one making sweeping generalisations and unsubstantiated assumptions.

      1. I think you will find that many of the commentators on this site do work, or have worked, in the Scottish countryside, and are well aware that raptor persecution is widespread on driven grouse moors.

        If you would choose to open your eyes Aaron, you would soon realise that a well-managed grouse moor with an abundance of grouse, generally means high levels of raptor persecution and a poorly managed area for biodiversity. It would seem that you have been brainwashed by the lies and propaganda of the game-shooting industry.

    4. xxx xxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xx xx xx xxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

      [Ed: You seem to have forgotten you’ve been banned from posting on this site]

      1. And just as gamekeepers know they shouldn’t be killing protected wildlife, yet choose to do so, the Crow Man knows he’s banned from posting on the site, yet chooses to do so. These people have no concept of rules and laws.

    5. Take your head out of the mud mate, many of us were brought up in the country way of life and are probably more connected to it than yourself. Gamekeepers don’t need branding, they’re quite good at branding themselves. It’s well known that many of them regularly flaunt the law and are well prepared to illegally kill protected Raptors whenever possible. They do this quite happily as the huge well documented list of Raptor persecutions shows, even sinking so low as to use banned poisonous substances indiscriminately.

  3. Surely it is up to the individual if they buy red grouse to eat. If you don’t like where they come from then don’t buy it.There are farms that food comes from that are shitty and welfare standards are appalling. No body seems to care about that on here. I have seen some dairy cows and often hope I don’t come across the milk they produce!
    All gamekeepers are not criminals and as far as I can see all you are doing is trying anyway you can to make it difficult for everybody concerned with moorland managed for grouse shooting. Everybody has the freedom of choice, let them decide for themselves instead of pushing your biased opinions. As of the above comments it is plain to see that most of the people on here and this website included live in a dream world when it comes to understanding the countryside,they might claim to but obviously they don’t . Anyone who doesn’t understand shouldn’t think they do and try to lead people in to believing their views. If your not a builder you wouldn’t try to build a house, if your not a keeper don’t make allegations of what goes on. Have any of you ever seen rogue traders? It happens in all trades.

    1. When you drive past the vast majority of farms you can clearly see the high standards of animal welfare that are applied. Unfortunately, when you walk across a grouse more, you can see the habitat abuse and the lack of biodiversity. The studies that have been done (by proper scientists in peer reviewed journals} tell us that there is a clear correlation between managed grouse moors and a lack of raptors. Its as clear as the nose on your face.
      On the anecdotal side, I have met my fair share of keepers over the years, and to play with your analogy, there was not one of them who wouldn’t have tried to poison a house if they thought it was a threat to their grouse.

    2. I’ll buy grouse from operators that obey the law. Too many Grouse shoots don’t as evidenced by the sorry state of the HH in England

  4. It is up to the individual if they want to eat grouse, but it is also up to the law-abiding citizens of this country to ensure that the grouse are coming from a legitimate source that does not practice illegal raptor persecution. And to address your point about animal welfare on farms – well, perhaps the reason that people on here don’t comment on this issue might have something to do with the name of the blog – it’s called Raptor Persecution Scotland! And how have you managed to gain insight into every commentator’s private lives? How do you know for a fact that some people on here are not involved in other animal welfare campaigns? Or was this just another nonsensical, sweeping generalisation?

    Nobody has said that all gamekeepers are criminals, however many are, so once again we are free to air our opinions and campaign against criminal activity. Why are you so offended by that? You’ve already mentioned that people should have the freedom of choice, yet you are trying to deny us an opportunity to have our opinions heard. Obviously more hypocrisy from someone involved in the game-shooting industry.

    And to answer your last idiotic point, are you trying to suggest that to have an understanding of football you must be a footballer, to know anything about rugby, tennis, cricket or any other sport, you must play that sport, to have any knowledge of politics you must be a politician, to know anything of the laws of the land you must be a lawyer? Didn’t think so. Funnily enough, another pro-shooter came out with this same argument a while back, and I answered in a similar fashion. I never got a reply from him. I wonder why?

    Go back and bury your head in the sand.

    1. That’s what I said exactly, freedom of choice. Why don’t you let people make decisions themselves? All you are doing is trying to sway people in to your way of thinking. I really don’t believe it’s got anything to do with m&s, it’s you that is burying your head in the sand trying to make people believe its trading standards not a personal grudge with shooting estates.

      1. Interesting to note that you, like others of your ilk, choose to ignore questions when set to you. You’re quite happy to make nonsensical statements, then when someone challenges these statements, you can’t manage a reply of any kind. Typical of your sort.

        And once again, you shout about freedom of choice, yet at the same time you try to deny others their right to voice opinions. Pure, unadulterated hypocrisy.

        Many people on this site, including myself, have mentioned in previous posts that we do not have a problem with walk up shooting. However we do have a problem with the monocultures that cover large tracts of land where raptor persecution is still rife. It’s all fairly straightforward – stop the illegalities and people will have more tolerance. Simple.

        Furthermore, no-one has suggested that people shouldn’t eat grouse, so it comes as no surprise that someone with an interest in driven grouse shooting has opted to lie and deceive. Once again, a most typical response from one that has been brainwashed. What has been suggested is that M&S should be transparent about their food sourcing. If the estates where the grouse are sourced have nothing to hide, and M&S truly believe that these estates comply with the laws of the land, then the estates should be named, as per their Named Farmer scheme. If the estates and M&S can ensure that lead poisoning will not be an issue, then they should say so. M&S are the ones that are stonewalling in this issue, hence the campaign. It’s all quite simple – tell the truth and stop the subterfuge.

        Back to the sand pit for you.

  5. Totally agree with Andy why do people on this blog insist on incriminating all gamekeepers? Not every gamekeeper kills raptors!!

    1. Kavala (another anonymous expert of the countryside without the conviction of using his/her real name),

      I don’t believe anyone has said that all gamekeepers are criminals but given the evidence that prey species such as the Hen harrier are simply missing from where they should naturally occur, both in Scotland and more-so in the uplands of England, something is clealry amiss. Add to the facts from cases where birds have been known to have been shot and posioned and the picture doesn’t look very good for the Grouse shooting industry.
      Perhaps given your countryside background you could provide some ideas of where all of the prey species have gone to if they haven’t been illegally persecuted? Weather can clearly affect breeding success but to cause losses to the extent seen, something has and is going on and it’s not difficult to judge what that might be – maybe alien abduction Kavala?

  6. Keep at it with M and S …people will only choose to buy or not to buy these grouse if they know about the controversy..and that means very public debate. Given the mass of evidence pointing to widespread criminality involving raptors on “managed” grouse moors, this should be an obvious choice – if the public are given the facts. We have the usual angry ripostes about “not all keepers are killing raptors” – I would suggest that these people are being lied to – after all these are criminal offences, those responsible are hardly likely to admit what they are doing are they?

  7. Kavala, Raptors are constantly going missing on SHOOTING ESTATES, raptors are missing from areas which would make ideal habitats and these are located on or very near to SHOOTING ESTATES, their nests are being destroyed on SHOOTING ESTATES, their poisoned, shot and beaten bodies are being found on SHOOTING ESTATES, illegal traps to capture raptors are found on SHOOTING ESTATES, meat laced with illegal poisons and set out on hillsides, fence posts and on stone walls are found on SHOOTING ESTATES………

    As many people on here have commented in the past, persecution against raptors is very difficult to detect due to the remoteness of these crimes, as well as the efforts the perpetrators go to hide them. When an incident is uncovered it is just an indicator as to the current methods being used to target raptors on that particular estate, as well as continuing to confirm who the main suspects are. To get a better idea of just how serious the problem of raptor persecution is, as well as where these crimes mostly take place, you just have to look at the statistics of raptor population, behaviour and locations, where these birds are and are not found.

    I agree Kavala, not ALL game keepers kill raptors……but evidence suggests that there is a fair few that do and that they are out of control.

    Kavala, I wonder if you or anybody in the game keeping community have written on any blogs or to any newspapers, condemning the sickening crimes that have been committed against raptors over the last few months?

    this blog site tells it as it is. If you do not want to know the dirty truth about raptor persecution in Scotland then nobody says you have to come on here.

  8. I have mentioned it before and believe it is worth mentioning again. In the 1980’s 90 Red Kite were re-introduced in both the Black Isle and the Chilterns. Today there are over 300 pairs in the Chilterns and not many more than 90 birds in the Black Isle.

    Apart from 500 miles the only difference is that the Black Isle is surrounded by ‘sporting’ estates and gamekeepers. Who else is killing our Scottish Red Kites?

    They should have dispersed south to the Aviemore area by now.

    [Ed: Hi Chris. Just an update on those figures, according to the Scottish Raptor Study Group: “In 2012 there were only 52 pairs laying eggs in the Black Isle area, whereas by comparison the Chilterns population in the south of England (which involved release of the same initial number of birds, and the established populations have similar productivity), now stands at between 900 and 1000 breeding pairs”].

    1. Thanks Ed., just proves that the gamekeepers, particularly on the estates south east of Inverness, are even more ruthless and efficient at killing our wildlife than I thought!

  9. Once again, we are subjected to wildly sensationalised Guardian journalism. As we are all aware lead is a naturally occuring element. Quick research shows that 641 tonnes was mined in Derbyshire in 1862 alone and it is widely known that a wide range of wildlife, including grouse, thrive in such historic mining areas. Grouse also take up grit from such areas to aid digestion.

    Fact: It would take the lead from 22.5m cartridges to return the 1862 miners efforts to the moors.

    What I don’t know is in the absence of grouse, what have avian predators got to feed on?

    Are raptor populations ever limited by the availability of prey species?

    Are raptor populations ever affected by the loss of heather moorland to forestry planting or wind farms?

    It’s about time journalists started dealing in facts rather than the trivia they are fed by others

    1. It may well take 22.5 million cartridges, and I will take your word on that, but how many cartridges have been fired in this country over the years?

      Anyway, it doesn’t matter how many spent cartridges it would take to return the amounts of mined lead back, it is the long-running effects that discarded lead shot can have on the environment. Not only do the lead pellets have problems with creatures ingesting them, there are also the damaging, contaminant properties. Lead will leach into the soil and water courses, which will then be absorbed by plants. The contaminant will also find its way into the lower food chain. From here, it rises up the food chain into insectivores and herbivores, and this cumulative process eventually reaches the predators and scavengers. I’ve seen swans suffering from lead poisoning – unable to fly, sometimes unable to walk – it’s not a nice sight. As a result of these issues, the use of lead shot has been banned in many countries, and parts of other countries where a nationwide has not been introduced. It’s about time a nationwide ban was implemented in this country, and this begs a question of my own. Why are many in the shooting lobby so opposed to the ban on lead shot when there are many safer alternatives?

      In answer to your first question, it depends which raptor species you mean. The Hen Harrier, one of the most persecuted species in the UK will take some grouse chicks, but some studies have shown that the species’ breeding attempts will coincide with the fledging period of one of their main prey items, the Meadow Pipit. The Hen Harrier will feed on a number of other small birds and various small mammals. Other raptor species take a variety of prey from small invertebrates to medium-sized mammals and large birds, but this varies from species to species.

      The answer to your second question is a straightforward yes. It’s the same with any other creature on earth – take away its food source and the population will suffer. Increase the food source and the population will flourish. However, there are major exceptions to that rule – many shooting estates with an abundance of grouse hold very few, if any, raptors on a residential basis. The only reason for this being that illegal persecution is widespread on these estates.

      Again, question three is relatively straightforward. If you make any changes to a habitat, then it could have an impact on some individuals. If the habitat changes are on a large scale, then certain populations for that locality could be altered. But again, there will be variables from species to species depending on habitat requirements, etc.

      1. Surely this means grouse moors are good for harriers as former harrier strongholds in Skye and Orkney (where there are no gamekeepers and little sporting shooting) have deminished in recent years due in no part to illegal persecution. I am not suggesting harriers have not been persecuted but perhaps all the prey available on managed moors has helped to sustain the population when there are possibly other factors for populations dropping?!

        [Ed: HH on Orkney doing very well indeed – (no gamekeepers!) – that population reached a 20-year high in 2012 with 100 breeding females and 100+ chicks]

        1. Obviously, there are natural cycles, and populations can fluctuate, but I won’t bother expanding on the Orkney population, as RPS has already destroyed your argument.

          But if grouse moors are so good for Hen Harriers, could you give me examples of four or five extensively managed grouse moors in Scotland where Hen Harriers are doing well? And if grouse moors are so good for Hen Harriers, why is the Hen Harrier now extinct in England as a breeding species? And why do so many satellite-tracked Hen Harriers simply disappear when in these areas? Could this be down to widespread persecution?

      2. Well Macro this is exactly what I was talking about in my last comments. Ban lead, oh here we go again another dig at shooting estates. Anything will do as long as it has an impact on keepers and the countryside. Why don’t you just admit what you mean, raptors,raptors,raptors at any expense don’t care about anything else!

        1. Lead was banned from fuel because it was dangerous , everyone found an acceptable alternative and got on with life. For goodness sake wake up to reality…your “alternatives” exist already…just use them.

          This attitude is just typical of the entire shooting lobby….we have always used lead so we always will use lead…we have always snared animals and let them die a slow agonising way so we always will snare animals and let them die in a slow agonising way….. .we have always killed raptors so we will always kill raptors.

          If you refuse to adopt to the prevailing conditions then you have got to expect the calls for your removal.

        2. Why is that having a dig at shooting estates? It has been proven for well over a century that lead shot has a detrimental impact on wildlife, and there are safer and affordable alternatives including tungsten or bismuth, so what is the problem with switching?

          1. Switch to bismuth or tungsten, notas if there is price difference at all ! Most people wouldn’t pay the prices. Don’t know if you are a shooting man or if you have ever used either of the above or even if you realise the performance of the alternatives but I have. They are nowhere near as humane as lead. The next thing will be shooting party’s wound more quarry than they kill……….What will be next ?

            1. I did state “including tungsten or bismuth”. To any educated person, that would suggest that there are even more substances that can be used. But, as mentioned elsewhere, you and the shooting industry would rather put costs ahead of a serious conservation issue, so what does that say about the shooting industry’s environmental credentials?

              Please do not attempt to bring the welfare issue into this argument. There may be a few individuals that take welfare into account when out shooting, but the shooting industry as a whole does not care one little bit about animal welfare.

            2. It seems to me that if anyone can afford the cost of shooting Red Grouse on any of the shooting estates, then the minor extra cost incurred by the use of lead free cartridges would be the last consideration. How many times during the grouse shooting season is a shooter likely to visit a grouse shooting estate, 1, 2, 3 times? How many 12 bore cartridges would he be likely to fire at each visit, given that the moor is fairly well stocked with grouse, lets say 200,(probably a lot less). Hardly a huge expense for a well heeled grouse shooter is it. There are now several lead free alternative shot types readily available, (visit the BASC web pages for much info), some have similar or even better game shooting characteristics than lead, none of these leave toxic residues either on the land or in the game. Why is it such a problem for the shooting fraternity to accept and comply with modern environmental thinking, especially when the problems associated with lead are well researched and documented. If more shooters were prepared to buy lead free alternative cartridges the prices would soon fall, but having said that price shouldn’t come into it when the estate owners who are looking after the environment are concerned.

  10. I often watch Hen harriers on and adjacent to grouse moors. You just have to spend time watching rather than ranting.

    1. Where was the rant? I merely offered answers to your questions, yet you have responded in an undignified manner and have failed to answer any of my questions.

      And if you choose to re-read the above posts, you will soon realise that Grouseman, as is typical of the shooting lobby, opted to continue with his long-running, lie-filled manifesto, and also failed to answer a string of simple questions.

      Yes, Hen Harriers can be seen on grouse moors, but in general they are killed before they can go any further. However, if you regularly see Hen Harriers on grouse moors, I will give you the opportunity to see if you can do better than Grouseman. Can you give me answers to the Hen Harrier-based questions above, or are you just another imbecilic, anti-predator troll?

  11. Rural Rascal and Grouseman, if gamekeepers aren’t killing our Black Isle Red Kites (see my post above) what reasons can you give us, as to why they are nowhere near as successful as in other areas, in particular the Chilterns?

    1. Perhaps the distribution has been better and they have spread and are breeding in other areas of the north of scotland?

  12. Chris Roberts:

    The habitat of the Black Isle is very different to that of the Chilterns and far smaller in scale.

    The Chilterns have some of the largest commercial shoots in the south whereas the Black Isle has no grouse shooting and very few pheasant shoots.

    On 2 occasions I have watched kites catch fully grown rabbits adjacent to the A835 at Contin, within 2 metres of the carriageway, impressive but risky on both occasions – as we are all aware they are not as nimble as a Goshawk.

    I am unaware of kites being moorland or even moorland edge birds. At Gigrin they favour broadleaves rather than conifers to nest in. There is not much broad leaved forestry outwith the Black Isle.

    There are recorded kite fatalities at wind farms surrounding the Black Isle.

    Could the Black Isle be at capacity for the Red kite population both in terms of prey and habitat?

    There are probably many other factors other than gamekeepers that need to be considered when assessing kite success on the Black Isle.

    1. Perhaps you’d like to read the following paper (because you clearly haven’t yet done so) –

      Smart et al. (2010). Illegal killing slows population recovery of a re-introduced raptor of high conservation concern – the Red Kite (Milvus milvus). Biological Conservation 143: 1278-1286.

      It’s all about the Black Isle red kite population.

  13. Marco:

    The alternatives to lead are significantly more expensive and unsuitable for many firearms. As I pointed out lead is already a naturally occurring element and is being returned to the environment by shooting in negligible quantities. It would take the most productive grouse moor in Britain 230 years to return the lead mined in Derbyshire in 1862 to the moor.

    Hen harriers can often be seen in Inverness-shire and Sutherland on the extensively managed moors you refer to. Last week I was working pointers in Aberdeenshire and we were shadowed by a peregrine for nearly an hour. It sat quite happily in tree 500m away to see what happened and hardly looked persecuted to me.

    We also know that harriers nested quite happily on Mistylaw and Clydemuirshiel when it was being keepered but the foxes put pay to those….I seem to remember it was caught on camera.

    The reality is that flora and fauna often die from natural causes as well as other factors and not by persecution as many would try and have us believe.

    1. So the shooting industry would rather put costs ahead of a serious conservation issue? That doesn’t say much for their supposed environmental credentials. Furthermore, lead was hardly ever mined in Scotland, with the Leadhills area being one of the few places where this took place, so it could be argued that by unleashing lead all over the Scottish countryside you are creating a problem where one did not exist. In response to your 230 years/1 grouse moor argument, I will offer the following – what about the cumulative efforts of all lead shot usage since the 18th or 19th centuries?

      You still haven’t answered the questions. Can you give me the names of 4 or 5 extensively managed grouse moors where Hen Harriers breed in good numbers? I’m not interested in mere sightings of Hen Harriers, as these birds will generally end up illegally killed, I would much prefer data relating to successful nesting attempts. You keep fudging the issue, so it really does look like you are struggling with this one.

      Yes, Hen Harriers nested happily in the Clyde Muirshiel area, but do not even attempt to suggest that this land is an extensively managed grouse moor. Yes, one year a fox was seen to raid the nest (all part of the natural balance), but the fox did not get all the birds. One of the nestlings managed to fight back and successfully fledged that year.

      You are perfectly correct when you state that flora and fauna die from natural causes. The main differences being that the majority of people on this site will happily accept natural deaths, including those of a predatory nature. However that is one aspect of nature that the shooting industry, with persecution at its core, will never accept. There are not many creatures that die naturally from ingesting illegal poisons, being shot, being trapped or being bludgeoned to death.

  14. Thank you to both Rural Rascal and Grouseman for the courtesy of your replies. I hope that your analyses is correct Grouseman, and that they are thriving where you suggest, even though I haven’t heard of such, although the whole of the Aviemore/Glenmore/Feshiebridge arrears should be ideal for Kites if only they could, in numbers, get by those south east Inverness estates.

    If the Black Isle is at Red Kite capacity as you put forward R.R., then they surely should be dispersing in all directions to their historical breeding grounds.

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