Want to see what an intensively driven grouse moor looks like?

Then look no further than Chris Townsend’s latest blog about the Eastern Highlands, complete with photographs, here.

As Chris says, “A savaged, stripped, blasted land“.

East Highlands Devastation Chris Townsend

Meanwhile, the Scottish Moorland Group (part of Scottish Land & Estates and chaired by Mr Leadhills himself, Andrew Hopetoun), has submitted a briefing note in preparation for a forthcoming meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee. This meeting will take place on Wednesday 4th June and will be discussing the newly-published report from the Land Reform Review Group (we blogged about it here), which places some focus on the future of Scotland’s massive sporting estates.

According to the Scottish Moorland Group’s briefing note, Scottish grouse moors provide the following:

  • Land-based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland’s prosperity; and
  • Responsible stewardship of Scotland’s natural resources delivering more benefits to Scotland’s people.

Yes, that’s really what it says. In fact there are seven whole pages of this guff. You can read it for yourself (pages 23-30): RACCE_Meeting_Papers_04_06_2014

Funnily enough, there’s no mention of the rampant and illegal killing of raptors that has been taking place for decades on these moors, so much so that it is having a population-level impact on several species, especially the golden eagle and the hen harrier. You don’t get population-level effects from a few one-off poisoning incidents – it has to be killing on an industrial scale to have this sort of effect….

46 thoughts on “Want to see what an intensively driven grouse moor looks like?”

  1. its been said before, but given the above, why on earth does the Scottish Birdfair (sponsored by so many otherwise well- meaning groups) still have any relationship with Hopetoun?

    1. Good question.

      It’s our understanding (although unconfirmed) that RSPB Scotland originally entered into a 3-year contract with Hopetoun to hold the Birdfair at Hopetoun House. If RSPB pulled out of the venue within that time, apparently they’d lose out financially.

      We have argued strenuously that it was extremely poor judgement by RSPB Scotland to ever get in to bed with Hopetoun in the first place, financial agreement or not, and we stand by that.

      However, their three-year term has now expired so it’ll be fascinating to see what happens in 2015 – we’d like to see it at a more appropriate venue. We hope the Birdfair will not return to Hopetoun House ever again. If it’s there again in 2015, rest assured we’ll be making a lot more noise about it.

  2. I endorse the comment made against the unwise decision to use Hopetoun House, by the RSPB, for its annual Birdfair. I phoned at the time, to complain, and got a bland excuse, that the House was not connected with the infamous estate at Leadhills, and so the issue should not be controversial. I immediately cancelled my membership and told them the reason why. I have continued to support their appeals to buy land or for emergencies involving endangered species.

    When I heard about Andrew Sells having been appointed as Chairman to Natural England/English Nature, I contacted them and asked why such a person, who had strong connections with the housebuilding industry, be chosen when he was associated with the proposal to extend the general licence to kill certain bird species, if they were deemed to be a nuisance. What caused an uproar, was the inclusion of the Robin and the Wagtail among others. The Guardian ran an article on this anomaly. I phoned the RSPB and asked what their comment was on this sad appointment of a man, obviously ensconced to make sure no obstacles would be put in the way of the plans to build hundreds of thousands of houses on greenbelt and farm land. I am still waiting for that comment.

    The RSPB is not unique in contradicting what it stands for by associating with the enemy in some way or other. A few years ago, the press carried pictures of the King of Spain standing beside an Elephant, and other big game species, that he had short for sport. The King of Spain was the World Wide Fund for Nature’s representative head in that country. I cancelled the several endangered species sponsorships I had been paying each month, and ended an association of many years, during which I had dedicatedly collected around doors in Glasgow and in the streets, plus sponsored walks.

    Some process should exist in these exalted charities, whereby numpties who make stupid decisions as described, should be quickly picked up on for their bad impressions on their supporters.

  3. What utterly depressing pictures – and our government, not to mention Cairngorms National Development Park – allow this wanton destruction of the once beautiful highlands to happen? Well at least we have Glen Feshie where nature is the most important thing.

  4. I agree with the many comments about our planning system not being fit for purpose…with SNH and the national Park being posted missing in action, its the only protection that’s left.

    Its just not good enough.

  5. Those photographs are so typical of the wanton vandalism the grouse shooting estates are bestowing on our moorlands and uplands, but this destruction is not a recent event, it’s been going on for years! There are parts of the far north east of Scotland that were burned like this more than 20 years ago and have hardly changed since. The patchwork quilt strip burning is still very visible with hardly any new heather growth, tracks go everywhere, (nobody walks anymore), life on the hill is virtually non existent apart from deer and nearly all the moorland Raptors have gone. You’d think according to the SGA that the lack of Raptors would allow the waders to come back, not a chance, they’ve gone the way everything else has gone once their habitat was destroyed, don’t let the gamekeepers and their associations fool you, they are far from the custodians of the countryside they make themselves out to be, they are throwbacks to a bygone Victorian age where their lords and masters controlled everything, the land, the people on it and the gamekeepers themselves! Thinking about it, nothings changed has it ??? .

    1. I agree, gamekeepers are the destroyer’s of our wildlife and countryside, pity they are not the species that is facing extinction.

    2. I cannot for the life me, understand why, with three large wildlife and environmental conservation groups active in Scotland plus 4 animal welfare organisations, that the respective memberships of these active and ethical forces, have never rallied and thrown off the outdated, cruel and very influential blood sports groups, from the landscape of Scotland. Even the political parties that have fought for change, in the way society has treated those who have been marginalised, have not concertedly turned part of their energies to work for a new way of owning and managing productively and humanely, the vast part of the Scottish landscape held in thrall by shooting estates.

      I am a realist, and accept that there are shooters who adhere to a code that respects the law, and do not go in for the mass slaughter of game birds, or any animal. Surely, if we are an advanced thinking nation, we can evolve some form of common ground between these two interests, and produce a system where there will be an end to the vile killing of creatures that have right to live where Nature intended to live and thrive?

      No matter who wins the Independence referendum, a new and changed Scotland has to emerge. Could it not be that we dispense with the protective old boy network, that has been protecting the shooting industry for so long, and give recognition to the conservation and animal welfare groups, by giving them powers to control what happens on the Scottish environment, and integrate them with a new Police and Legal Service, which will be intolerant of political and other influences that have hitherto, been regressive in creating a more humane management of our environment. Gone would be those placed in the SNH and other Government bodies to influence policy, to benefit vested interests in maintaining the old status quo. An example of the emplacement has been seen with the appointment Andrew Sells as Chairman of English Nature, who has strong connections to the housebuilding industry.

      If we cannot make such changes, due to all the groups selfishly not wanting to work together, and thereby protecting their own wee corner of the charity giving market, then events will tick tock along was before. We have centuries of inculcation of children and adults that the landowners and their gamekeepers, are the ones who created a beautiful and wildlife rich Scotland. We have to have some influence in what is taught in our schools, after all, we have brought in some controversial topics onto the curricula, so why not the conservation of our wildlife and the humane treatment of animals. Identify and remove those who are blocking this progress, and give posterity a 21st century outlook that respects Life.

      1. Quote:
        ” Could it not be that we dispense with the protective old boy network, that has been protecting the shooting industry for so long, and give recognition to the conservation and animal welfare groups”

        The problem with many of this countries wildlife conservation organisations, bird societies and wildlife protection agencies is they have people sitting on top of the respective boards / committees who have their own agendas, some of these agendas are far too closely linked to game shooting interests. It’s quite obvious to anyone who’s been seriously involved with Raptors for any length of time and follows Raptor persecution politics that they are managing to pull strings in directions that favours the shooting fraternity more than it benefits the wildlife, these people have no business to even be members of these societies let alone be allowed to be in positions of influence. Until these people are removed it will be difficult to make any real progress in eliminating or even reducing wildlife persecution to any extent.

  6. Well said Mr Greer Hart and Nirofo, if only the big conservation groups thought like this, i think the reason is fear of the establishment

  7. Chris Roberts , you need to get ah grip of yourself it’s proven that managed land improves wildlife habitat !!!
    And maybe they should stop you lot walking on the hill roads where your wanting to come out for ah jolly , convenient then isn’t it .

  8. Bonnie highlands. How could anybody stop people walking on hill roads and hills anywhere in Scotland. There is a law of freedom to roam now in Scotland and I think if some estate attempted to bar access they might find themselves facing a mass trespass of a few hundred or more people. What would they do, “shoot them,” Your estate friends need to come into the 21st century, not staying in Victorian times as they seem to think they are. It is estates that build these roads that are doing the damage to this land not the people, and all because of rich peoples greed and a pastime that should have been stopped years ago.

    1. Yes Bonnie highlands those photos above really look full of wildlife eh? I suggest you go somewhere like Glen Feshie where they are allowing nature to re-claim the baron land that the ‘sporting’ estates had left – plenty of wildlife there now.

  9. My point is stewart that you all are quick to jump on the band wagon and criticise the estates making access roads and burning but are still more than happy to walk the tracks and take the easy route through the young heather to make it easier walking !

    1. I have been walking the hills for approx 35 years and actually prefer not to walk on the roads if possible, I find the roads can be hard going underfoot if you have many miles to go. Young heather or burnt heather is easier to walk through but if it was not there I would quite happily walk through the long stuff. I much prefer to be well away from man made constructions, be they roads or wind farms, but this is getting very hard to do nowadays. Most walkers like myself wear gaiters of some kind so walking through long heather is not a problem, but I can assure you walking through areas like the above photos would bring very little pleasure. To be able to drive roads over hills like this should be stopped, estates should have to apply for planning permission to be able to do this. The law needs to be changed so that this happens.

      1. No disrepect intended but the views of Stewart love highlights the ignorance of some of the comments on this website. Does he not realise that he is walking through very sensitive nesting sites. The moment these fantastic birds hatch they are under threat from so many predators and the last thing they need is trampling along these sensitive areas. Please do not encourage such activity on a website like this.

        The overwhelming majority of Modern gamekeepers operate within the law and the land they manage has an abundance of diverse wildlife that many RSPB reserves coud only dream about. Whatever your views on shooting a harvestable surplus for sport, it is unquestionable that lawful moorland and grouse management carried out by Gamekeepers benefits all our moorland wildlife from the grouse and moorland waders to ultimately the fantastic raptors which predate the abundance of these animals which have prospered on a keepered piece of land. No grouse ultimately means no fantastic raptors which predate on the grouse. Contrary to some of the views in this site the grouse cannot prosper without the moorland management carried out by Gamekeepers. If they could why would moorland owners wish the expense of a team of Gamekeepers, tied houses, vehicles etc etc. The countryside has been managed for centuries and whatever ones views, the balance of nature requires careful and sensitive management and the utopia written about in some of these entires, regrettably cannot co exist with flora, fauna and man. A managed and keepered moor is as close as you will get to this utopia where flora, fauna and man can co exist without costing the public purse anything. Furthemore, without grouse shooting the expensive management required could not occur and ultimately the land would be put to other uses which would have an adverse effect on the grouse and the other wildlife which habitats a keepered moor. I assume nobody on this site would wish to see a dead sea of intesivley grazed bracken wasteland. That im afraid is the grim and barren reality of a unkeepered moorland. The evidence of this is regrettably in abundance due to the lack of moorland managed for grouse shooting.

        I hope to see you all in the hills digging out the snow to allow the starving grouse some desperately needed food. Granted, this requires alot more effort than posting an anti shooting online blog but it would be far more benificial to our beloved grouse and its predators. I would also urge you to take that opportunity to truly understand the far reaching work of the modern gamekeeper and understand his craft and witness the immense practical love he has for all the creatures that habiate his beloved moor.

  10. I see no harm in a gate on a hill road to prevent 4×4 enthusiasts tearing the place up!! And I would say these photos are taken to make it look bad, a deliberate attempt to rock the boat. Also strikes me that folk are complaining possibly as they have nothing else to complain about but none of those photos are even close to what windfarm construction does to the country side, might be more productive if you go take photos of that and kick up a fuss than try and have another dig at grouse moors.

    1. You are correct about gates to stop unauthorised motor transport and you are also correct about the windfarm aspect. You are incorrect about folk having nothing to complain about. Raptor persecution and it’s relationship to the management of grouse moors and other forms of driven bird shooting is of major concern and a legitimate justification for complaint.

    2. You’re right it’s disgraceful the amount of damage the construction of windfarms does to the countryside, add that to the damage the Red Grouse estates are causing to our moorlands and uplands and you have to wonder if there’ll be any countryside left soon.

  11. It’s a gate and a road hardly the destruction of a whole hill. Grouse moors have more wildlife per acre than any nature reserve in the country. Planting trees and leaving it to go wild isn’t the way forward, stick some good keepers on it and you have a great place with lots of wildlife.

    1. “lots of wildlife” you mean anything that does not predate on grouse or its eggs,anything that does is exterminated.

    2. The large majority of Red Grouse moors have less wildlife on them than almost anywhere else, stick some good keepers on it and you’ll lose virtually all natural diversity with the exception of Red Grouse and deer. In other words a man made monoculture produced for the sole purpose of yielding maximum numbers of Red Grouse for paying guns to shoot, a monoculture which holds little else in the way of wildlife, a place where no predators including so-called specially protected ones are allowed to live.

      1. Do you walk about with your eyes closed? Or are you just stupid? I’ve walked both grouse moors and these so called nature reserves and there is 10 times the wildlife on the ground with keepers on. It’s no monoculture it’s is managed for red grouse but other wildlife benefits from this. Nothing is controlled to extinction so there is no harm done knocking off legal predators.

        1. I think you must be wearing rose tinted glasses and you must live in cloud cuckoo land if you think there is more wildlife on a Red Grouse moor than on a nature reserve. I’ve spent the biggest part of my life, (which is considerable) walking the moors, I am very good at keeping my eyes open even now, during all this time walking the various moors in many areas of the UK, I’ve observed a steady decrease in the number of species living there, in particular Raptors, which were always in very low numbers on grouse moors due to consistent persecution. There was always a certain amount of burning and manipulation to suit the living conditions of Red Grouse but over the last few years this has escalated to ridiculous levels on what appears to be a purely commercial basis with no thought for other wildlife or the environment. I don’t know what age you are but if you think there is plenty of wildlife on the hill now then you obviously never walked the moors 30-40 years ago when there was far more and far less devastation. Yes there were keepers then and yes they did persecute the Raptors, but to nowhere near the extent that the persecution has reached now. You say nothing is controlled to extinction, there you go again, seeing things through those rose tinted glasses !!!

    3. I’m all for keepers that act within the law. Unfortunately it appears that too many estates are only too happy to have wildlife criminals operating 24/7

  12. Admittedly any new roads and fences look obvious for a start but the sides and middle soon grow up and they start to blend into the landscape. Do you think General Wade considered how his roads fitted into the landscape? Or the old drove roads cut into the hills? These were the same as modern hill roads, they are designed to serve their purpose at that moment in time.

    Hypothetically let’s take away all the burnt heather and roads. What’s going to happen 20 years down the line when there is a blanket of deep heather and tree regeneration and someone drops a ciggarette or has a campfire? A fire would rage through it with nothing to slow it down or stop it wiping the lot out. It would burn far hotter than the controlled muirburn currently carried out and damage the soil type and destroy the seed bed. It would take far longer to get personel and fire fighting equipment on site as there is now vehicle access.

    Some of the most unique habitats in this country have been caused and impacted intentionall or unintentionally by mans management why is there this desire in modern conservation to wrap everything up in cotton wool.

  13. “Hypothetically let’s take away all the burnt heather and roads. What’s going to happen 20 years down the line when there is a blanket of deep heather and tree regeneration and someone drops a cigarette or has a campfire”.

    You mean the type of so-called controlled muirburn that has been left to burn for weeks uncontrolled, burned right through the peat down to bedrock, the type of burn that has virtually destroyed the far north heather braes and hillsides. The burn that was set purposely to destroy Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Merlin habitats to make sure they would never be likely to come back again. Was this done by someone carelessly dropping a cigarette or has a campfire, MMM, let me think, no, it was done purposely to remove Raptors from the hill for various reasons, maybe one of the reasons was for windfarms, there are others. It was also done purposely by crofters who’s only claim to reason was to allow the growth of fresh grass, OK, but why, the sheep have virtually disappeared from the hill along with the grants so the need for grass has long since gone also. Ah, but my father and his fathers father have always done it in Spring, (April-May), it’s tradition is also a familiar excuse, how can you answer that especially when the law takes no action ???

    I’d love to see a blanket of deep heather and tree regeneration, but then there’s management and this is unlikely to happen unless the shooting estates are shut down for good.

  14. I cant believe there are actually people who believe there is more wildlife on a grouse moor than anywhere else in the country, you,ve must have read this is shooting times!!!!! add up how many different species you see on a moor then compare that to a broadleaf woodland or parkland, Lakes and rivers, even lowland farms have more diversity.

    1. Obviously moorland and the habitats you named are completely different and you can’t compare them. I’m comparing moorland with keepers and moorland without. No I didn’t read it in the shooting times I seen it for myself. You should buy it though it’s a good read might learn something.

      1. I was responding to your sentence

        “ I’ve walked both grouse moors and these so called nature reserves and there is 10 times the wildlife on the ground with keepers on”

        I’ve seen similar statements to this make letter of the week in shooting times, if you print it enough times its surprising how people will believe it without question
        it depends on how you look at it, in terms of density there are larger numbers of birds yes, mainly Red Grouse on keepered moors, add to this pipits, larks and a couple of waders and anything else generally is a bonus, the same birds appear in lower densities on unkeepered ground but the diversity is greater, you still have Corvids and Raptors, you still see Stoats Weasels Foxes and mountain Hare.
        From a birding perspective a keepered moor is on par with an out of town shopping development car park, these are usually good for starling wagtails finches gulls and Corvids and probably pip the grouse moor by being more attractive in appearance, no big unsightly metal gates or burnt out areas.

        1. There is a lot higher density of hares on grouse moors. There are still foxes, stoats, weasels and corvids on grouse moors just at a lower density . Just like there’s a lower density of grouse, waders and songbirds on ground without a keeper. Birders have a choice of where they go and what they want to see either managed or unmanaged ground. Each to their own.

          1. “Just like there’s a lower density of grouse, waders and songbirds on ground without a keeper.”

            So, you’ve just defeated your own argument!

            1. Be nice Marco, Bozo is the chair of the SGA’s science think tank, “The Canny Cuntrymenl”…
              ……he would have to be to believe that burning the habitat and killing key species in the ecosystem is good for it!

  15. Oh and the comment regarding the picture at the top being taken to purposly make grouse moors look bad. no if that was the intention a photo of a stink pit or perhaps a fox in a snare, eyes bulging whilst slipping and sliding in its own urine and excrement as it struggles to free itself would have been more appropriate

  16. Merlin, to add more ugliness, trampled BoP nest, eggs and chicks, birds of prey poisoned, disfigured in traps, crow traps with BoP in them. Hares are cleared from grouse moors because they eat heather which is required for the overpopulated grouse. In the not too distant past, all the dead predators hanging from a wire outside the gamekeepers lodge for the boss to approve, I’ve seen it when I was a lad, 50yrs ago. These are all relics of the Victorian era, where anything, except the gentry, that ate game was classed as vermin. Reading shooting mags, where killing is prime source of entertainment, proves our sad world! In the USA wolves are being exterminated because of hatred and the desire to increase dear numbers for shooters.

    1. Douglas, Hares are never shot because they compete with the grouse for heather maybe you should research your facts before you offer them up as gospel.

      1. Douglas, Grouseman is quite correct in his answer, Mountain Hares aren’t killed because they compete with Grouse for heather, no if that were the case they’d have been extinct for some time now, no the fact of the matter is slightly more sinister, Mountain Hares are a major food source of Golden Eagles, remove the major food source of any species and it either moves on or in the least it doesn’t attempt to breed.
        that’s the slightly cynical view, the official view from game keeping and estate owners point of view is that mountain hares are culled because they harbour ticks that could harbour a disease that could spread to grouse. Here are a couple of figures you might find interesting though.

        a total of 24,529 mountain hares were harvested in 2006-07 across 90 sporting estates, these are what were reported, that’s an average of 275 per estate killed on the basis they might be carrying ticks and also on the basis that the ticks they might be carrying might be carrying a disease.

        Mountain hares are a game species, there are photo’s on this blog of mountain hares thrown into stink pits. Apart from the disgrace that leaders of shooting organisations haven’t reacted to a game species being treated this way and that the health and safety exec who make lowland farmers pay to have dead livestock removed haven’t intervened to put a stop to the dumping of animal carcases in the countryside makes you wonder just what the hell else is happening in our countryside that we aren’t yet aware of!!!!

        1. I may be wrong in the reasoning for killing huge amounts of hares but the blood lust and monoculture of these estates is the cause and is unnecessary. In prehistoric times, driven game was necessary, today it is just BARBARIC.

          Much of the meat is wasted because the “ENTERTAINMENT” is in the shooting and attempting to kill birds that are over-populated for commercial reasons. The grouse are shot in their thousands, many are only wounded and some of these have a lingering, painful death because they can’t be found and despatched.

          Ticks? Perhaps the gamekeepers could spray the land with DDT, with the mentality of the them and the estates, they probably have a stockpile, along with many other poisons.

          Scotland has made illegal the holding of stocks of certain poisons used to destroy birds of prey.
          England – DEFRA ex minister R. Benyon refused to make holding these chemicals illegal with the weak excuse that it was illegal to use them. I wonder why? He does have large shooting estates???

          I do not trust any of the estates, as a young boy I saw lines of corpses hanging outside gamekeepers lodges. The lines often had birds of prey, weasels, stoats, foxes, badgers and of course crows of all types. For me it was the first time I had seen the creatures, sadly dead. Today such things are hidden!

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