Grouse shooting costing tax payers millions of pounds

An investigation by Friends of the Earth has revealed that grouse shooting is costing tax payers millions of pounds every year.

In an article in today’s Guardian (here), FoE shows how just 30 grouse moors in England received £4 million pounds in public subsidies during 2014 alone. These estates include those owned by lords, dukes, earls, barons, bankers, businessmen and companies based in off-shore tax havens. Imagine what the total would be if all 149 English grouse moors had been assessed.

One of the 30 assessed is the Mossdale Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, whose gamekeeper escaped prosecution earlier this year after he was filmed setting illegal pole traps in the vicinity of a foraging hen harrier. The police later admitted they’d cocked up and that he should have faced prosecution. This estate received £54,000 in CAP payments in 2014, and a further £170,000 in 2015.

In an age of austerity, who’s happy that their taxes are being used to support criminal activities on grouse moors? Even if we weren’t in austerity, why the hell should we be paying anything to help the super-rich trash our uplands so they can amuse themselves by killing thousands of red grouse in the name of ‘sport’?


Guy Shrubsole of FoE said:

These shocking new figures reveal the true, horrifying scale of grouse moors in England and the madness of the current farm payments system that subsidises them. Instead of handing out taxpayers’ money to billionaires and offshore firms to indulge in an elite sport, the government must reform farm payments so public money is spent on public goods – like tree-planting, restoring wildlife habitats, farming sustainably and preventing flooding downstream”.

For those of you with an interest in how FoE uncovered the scale of this scandal, have a read of this.

Photo: trashed upland grouse moor (RPUK)

31 thoughts on “Grouse shooting costing tax payers millions of pounds”

  1. The North of England’s moorlands need rescuing from this reign of terror and their true potential realised. In the light of species loss and environmental destruction globally, they could have a role to play in rewilding.

    1. Hi , I agree that the re wilding of monoculture heather crop is a useful objective; habitat mosaics and edge are key concepts re biodiversity abundance but also it is important for people like George Monbiot to understand that there is a role for predator control. The evidence re predator control and wader populations is good particularly re golden plover lapwing and curlew ( the Redshank have gone); we do not hear much about that internationally important assemblage of the upland fringe (all largely agriculturally improved) but the wetter areas of moorland (if drains were again blocked etc) could play a roll here and it would be very interesting to have keepering for managed diversity as part of the “rewildling spectrum” and a whole package defined for tourism which if given this sort of scale of investment could provide jobs and some of the better keepers also…………….I am not opposed to rough shooting; its the sort of idle wildlife massacre that many of us our opposed to and the demands then on “management practice” to deliver the slaughter…………………any one who can tramp a thick heather moor flush a bird get his shot off and hit a grouse (without shooting his own foot off or his companion or dog !) deserves his “bag”. There really needs to be a PhD on the landownership roots of many of these moors re Acts of Enclosure; it would be a very fascinating Act of Enclosure that sought to re enclose them on behalf of the nation to repay the nation for its subsidies this past 50 years.

      1. I think ‘predator control’ would be more useful in the form of trying to re-establish a more natural suite of predators on the hills/moors. Goshawk eat a lot of corvids, and maybe the odd pine marten or two, if eagle owl become established then that’s another apex(ish) predator back. Otters displace mink, and looks as if polecats do too. Of course lynx like to chomp on the occasional fox. The already pretty weak case for predator control in many cases will pretty much collapse when a predator’s predator lives alongst it. Of course when have the keepers ever said they want ANY predator back (except maybe eagle owl because they think ,erroneously, it’ll eat alll the raptors). Capercaillie numbers in Strathspey have rebounded without any predator control, but they’ve noted there is a healthy mix of predator species there. Wader numbers at Dove Stone have rebounded thanks to habitat improvement by RSPB, its volunteers and United Utilities. Again habitat management work in Dumfries and Galloway has dramatically increased numbers of night jars. If the issue of their initial decline had been brought up by game keepers can you imagine what their answer would have been – ‘Goshawks/buzzards/foxes/badgers etc, etc eating them all, bloody RSPB are useless.’

      2. If the evidence for predator control is good, why are those who interminably hype the 81 species study so reluctant to either publish or let us have sight of the suspect methodology or results? They have already had their fingers burned by pretending it was BTO-approved. Obviously predators will have some effect on prey populations (and vice versa), but so what, that’s nature, and it’s kind of missing the point that as well as some of us being opposed to predator control per se, the main problem being highlighted by RPUK is the illegal persecution of protected species. It is not grouse moors themselves that can support breeding waders, it tends to be on adjacent marginal farmland or in microhabitats within the grouse moor (heavily grazed hilltops or wet flushes for example). So-called control sites are suspected of having been deliberately chosen on the basis of being known to be less enriched habitats. The national declines in breeding wader populations are influenced by a variety of factors, not lack of grouse moors.

  2. Well done, Friends of the Earth. It’s good to see the various organisations come together to help tackle the whole issue of the damage being done to our Uplands and how they have manipulated the system in getting others to help pay for it. Their policy of getting the low paid, exploited employees to defend their interests while they hide in the shadows is disgusting too…. as is their astro-turfing. It’s time this state of affairs came to an end.

  3. This is a time of great stringency, with the NHS, schools, roads, prisons, mortuaries etc., all requiring more funding, yet we have the good old boy network in politics ensuring that their crony fellow shooters, have their estates well-funded, to ensure that the moorlands of Britain remain bleak and void of the natural wildlife that should be there. At times I feel totally powerless to make restorative change of the environment, through signing petitions, donating money and contacting politicians, when these make no difference to the horrid situation prevailing in our countryside. I have donated to save Red Squirrels, the Scottish Wildcat and some other creatures that are not now currently classed as vermin by the gamekeepers of Scotland. These are little concessions that have been granted by the shooting proprietors; a sop to Cerberus, to placate the resentful barkng of a concerned public. It also give the shooting industry a chance to boast of their good stewardship of the countryside, and so qualifying them for the large grants they are receiving, to bring their costs down, and raise their profits. This is also the time when small firms can go under for having a wee problem with an existing bank loan, and get foreclosed by the lending bank. It has been alleged the RBS was up to that old trick. We need firms creating and saving existing jobs, and here we are divesting public funds to ethically unsound practices, which have been accused of criminally ignoring the law concerning Birds of Prey. Crime pays.
    It is also the arrogance of such enterprises, that they claim to be an integrant part of the Scottish/British economy, when it is obvious that alternative uses based on conservation, wildlife tourism, sensible outdoor recreation and various other non-lethal to wildlife activities, would be more contributive, in creating meaningful jobs, through new business initiatives being given the grants once given to the shooting estates, not conformng to good and lawful practice. By their obduracy, they are cutting their own throats.

    1. Excellent post Mr Greer Hart, but I am afraid you are very wrong about Scottish wildcats. This species had been eradicated from many areas by snares and shooting. I found several wildcats in snares in the 80s and 90s, in areas where this species now appears to be absent. In addition, I have been told about the incredible extent of illegal killing of wildcats by three ex-keepers, all of whom worked on grouse moors. It is my belief that illegal persecution has been a bigger cause of wildcat decline in Scotland than inbreeding.

      I’m sorry to tell you that I have also found several red squirrels killed in illegally-set Fenn traps. Other people have reported also reported funding squirrels in these traps. Typically, the traps are on log ‘bridges’ over burns and squirrels use these to cross burns when dispersing across grouse moors. Squirrels cross moors to reach isolated woodlands.

      1. Maybe they have left pictures of obvious moggies out, but I’ve been struck by the number pics coming from trail cams of animals that if they are not wildcats look one hell of a lot like them – certainly no ginger toms, tortoiseshells, black or white or multi coloured cats. Have there ever been a significant number of feral cats in the glens and hills where wildcats had their stronghold – I seriously doubt it. No there was rampant historical persecution and can’t see that’s stopped so I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Kenny. When predatory animals have made a comeback it’s really because they managed to establish populations away from the estates I.e pine marten and buzzard. The marten is a comparatively slow breeder, but even so look how the beavers on the Tay grew in numbers, thankfully they got going before the keepers really knew they were there – as soon as they did they offered to voluntarily shoot them, as they were ‘illegal’. We are starting to get martens in the central belt and they appear to be expanding quite quickly, and grey squirrels are disappearing too. No martens would have recovered a long, long time ago if the persecution had really stopped when it was supposed to. The red kite in Scotland would be a hell of a lot more numerous if every release was as far away from ‘sporting’ estates as possible. That predators have recovered anywhere in Scotland is absolutely no thanks to the estates.

    2. Very well put, Mr Greer Hart. The abuse of the moors and the wildlife there would be a scandal without tax money being handed over to aid it; that the perpetrators are being rewarded makes it atrocious.

  4. I’ve got to agree with Kenny Kortland, the fundamental reason why the Scottish Wildcat is now incredibly rare is largely down to gamekeepers killing them in their thousands over the past 200 years. Greer Hart rarely gets his facts wrong, but I don’t know where he got his information that the the Scottish Wildcat is “…not now currently classed as vermin by the gamekeepers of Scotland.” Nothing could be further from the truth, and most keepers would regard it as a feather in their cap nowadays to find and kill one!

    I’m so pleased that Friends of the Earth have published their findings regarding the amount of public money which goes towards funding grouse moor management (and therefore the killing of numerous Hen Harriers and other protected raptor species). I’ve been banging on about this for years but it appears to have been falling on deaf ears as it rarely gets mentioned by anyone. In public it usually invokes that blank response which suggests people think I’m havering! Apart from agri-environment grants and tax rebates, these rich landowners also avoid paying tax through offshore tax havens, but in addition to that nowadays grouse moors have rocketed in monetary value on the international markets. This is due to globalisation leading to the new elite super-rich who regard UK grouse moors as recreational playgrounds, as well as extremely valuable and growing capital assets. The wealth accrued by these people is obscene, yet they try to pretend that they are “helping the rural economy” and that their profit margins are reduced if we allow harriers to survive and eat some of “their” grouse. It’s one of the biggest scams of all time. In actual fact many of the millions which they claim are injected into the local economy has been provided to them by the UK taxpayer, and most of it either moves offshore or into the pockets of their own class anyway. It’s outrageous, adding to the other important reasons why grouse shooting should come to an end.

  5. So unbelievably distorted. You accuse the grouse shooting industry of telling untruths but resort to the same tactics yourselves. Shame on you.

    1. An interesting point of view, “Lurker,” but please feel free to expand. I’m a born sceptic myself, but have got to say I find the writings of RPUK to be refreshingly honest and well supported by scientific facts. I’m not sure to whom your comment is really directed, as “yourselves” could be referring to proponents of either side of the debate which takes place under these comments. Is it those who write the leading articles? If so, I for one would be fascinated to hear what you consider to be untruths.

          1. Dear Mr Plover, Perhaps you would be so kind as to pi=oint me in the direction of the DEFRA or other government body website outlining how to apply for the grouse-sahooting subsidy. I look forward to reading it, at which point I will admit that I have been deceiving myself. Thanks.

            1. Hi Mr Lurker ; you are talking to the chap whose SERA motion demanded to know who gets what in the countryside and created the Defra file that outlines that of the 3.3 billion of public subsidy 2000 large estates receive the most of it; public subsidy for the very hypocrites that closed the mines and the shipyards of this nation on the grounds of their expense ! I have no die of the procedure but the fact that it exists is detailed in the above report by FoE; ring up Defra and ask their information assistant, they will tell you; you will not believe me anyway.

              1. Mr Plover I’d be surprised but would change my stance were the evidence that ANY estate receives public sibsidy for grouse shooting presented to me. What the FoE article tells me is that many large estates, just like many small estates, large farms and small farms receive public subsidies largely in the form of CAP payments.
                I think this arguement should focus on the issue of raptor persecution rather than using inaccurate arguements that will be exposed by in any decent debate.
                Don’t get me started on the use of the EMBER report as proof that muirburn causes flooding. Again it will be exposed as hyperbole in debate and weaken any justifiable case put forward.

                1. Lurker, I suspect your confusion arises because you are not realising that landowners receive public subsidies under an agri-environment scheme which pays out based on land area classified as agricultural land, WHETHER OR NOT any actual farming takes place. This is a policy which comes in for a lot of criticism, and organisations like FoE argue for a fairer system. Most grouse moors are also tenanted to hill sheep farmers, which means there are no questions asked as to whether the land use is agricultural. I’m not certain of the following point, but wouldn’t be surprised if grouse management wasn’t in itself defined as farming, because that’s effectively what it is.

                  1. I don’t think I’m confused but am prepared to be educated. The tenant hill farmer is subsidised, fair enough, not the lords, dukes, businessmenn, bankers and barons suggested in the article (and why does it matter who they are by the way ?). I would be surprised if grouse management was defined as farming.

                    1. The landowner is subsidised. As to why it matters, well if you think it’s okay for mega-rich landowners to be handed over taxpayers’ money simply for owning land, you’re on a different planet to mine.

  6. What you did say is that most grouse moors are tenanted to hill farmers, and I agree. The tenant receives the subsidy in this case not the landowner.

    1. …and the landowner also avoids paying huge amounts of tax as well as holding a capital asset which has a rapidly growing future value. Have you actually read the FoE Report? I certainly think you’re way over the top in accusing RPUK of distorting the truth. It’s very clearly the side with other interests who do that. RPUK has impeccable scientific credentials, and you’d have a hard job proving otherwise.

      1. Dear Jack, so the tenant farmer receives subsidy for the farming activities and the estate MAY receive Tier II subsidies. I think we can agree that neither of these subsidies is for grouse shooting which the original article without doubt suggests. These CAP payments are of course designed by the European Union so are, as with so many other systems, imperfect.

        1. No point in continuing this dialogue, because you don’t seem to get the point. Never did I say the subsidies were directly for grouse shooting, but they support the estates and has no connection with actual farming. So long as the land is classified as agricultural, the subsidy is based entirely on land area, and is granted whether or not farming is practiced. In practical terms that means they are effectively receiving huge subsidies for running grouse shooting estates. I note you ignore my comments about tax avoidance and land speculation.

          As for you not calling anyone’s scientific credentials into question, I quote your earlier comment…”So unbelievably distorted. You accuse the grouse shooting industry of telling untruths but resort to the same tactics yourselves. Shame on you.” I assumed that was directed at RPUK or its contributors, and you didn’t correct me. So who was it directed at? That’s a rhetorical question, let’s leave it at that. Readers will be finding this tedious. I’m surprised Ed hasn’t admonished us already.

          1. Dear Jack, glad we agree that grouse shooting is not a publicly subsidised activity. The distortion originally referred to was the headline “Grouse Shooting costing taxpayers millions of pounds” and the article which went on to describe how much these grouse moors receive. The clear intention is to make members of the public believe that there are subsidies given (in this time of austerity) for grouse shooting. Were the article not meant to give this impression a more accurate headline would have been “Tenant Hill Farmers on grouse moors receive subsidy for sheep farming” or “Estate receives subsidy for Forestry Work” but that wouldn’t have been on message would it. I interpret that as distortion. The industry has a case to answer regarding persecution so keep on topic and don’t get side-tracked.

  7. Dear Mr Snipe, I don’t think I called anyone’s scientific credentials into question. As I don’t know who RPUK is and what their credentials are then taht would be tricky. The only thing you may be alluding to is my comments on the the use of the EMBER study to support he allegation that muirburn causes flooding.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: