Intensive grouse moor management not only has catastrophic consequences for the environment (and especially for raptors), but the end product carries serious public health risks, too.
A couple of years ago we wrote a blog about the use of medicated grit to dose red grouse with a parasitic wormer drug called Flubendazole.
There is a statutory requirement to remove veterinary drug residues from food destined for human consumption no later than 28 days before the food is available for sale.
We’d learned that the use of medicated grit on grouse moors was largely unregulated (surprise!), that some grouse moor managers were using a super-strength drug that was 10 times, and sometimes 20 times, the strength permitted for use in the UK, and, most incredibly, that the Government’s statutory agency (Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)) responsible for monitoring meat to ensure harmful drugs are not entering the human food chain, had not ever tested a single red grouse for residues of Flubendazole because, staff said, they didn’t know where to find dead red grouse (see here).
Photo of a medicated grit tray on a Yorkshire grouse moor, by Ruth Tingay
Prompted by our investigation, the VMD said it would begin to screen recently shot red grouse for veterinary drug residues in 2016, but that VMD staff wouldn’t visit grouse moors to examine whether medicated grit had been withdrawn within the statutory 28-day period because that was beyond their remit. Instead, they would rely on the grouse moor managers to act within the law (ha!).
We followed up on the new testing regime and in 2016 we learned that the VMD had managed to screen a pathetic total of six (yes, six!) red grouse in the whole of the UK (4 in England, 2 in Scotland), out of a conservatively estimated 700,000 shot birds.
Last month, at the end of the 2017 grouse shooting season, we asked the VMD how many red grouse they’d managed to test for veterinary residues in 2017. Here’s their response:
Are they taking the piss? Eight red grouse tested in the whole of the UK? That’s hardly reassuring for consumers, is it?
And once again, the VMD claims not to know the origin of the birds it tested. Talk about incompetent. What if one of those birds had tested positive for residues of Flubendazole? The VMD wouldn’t have been able to take follow-up action because they wouldn’t have known the name of the grouse moor on which the bird had been shot!
So, yet another reason not to risk your health by eating potentially contaminated red grouse. Not only might it contain unknown quantities of the anti-parasitic worming drug Flubendazole, it might also contain:
- Excessive amounts of toxic poisonous lead (over 100 times the lead levels that would be legal for other meat – see here)
- Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Levamisole hydrochloride (also used in chemotherapy treatment for humans with colon cancer – see here)
- Unknown quantities of the pesticide Permethrin (used topically to treat scabies and pubic lice; probably not that great to ingest – see here)
- There’s also a high risk the grouse will be diseased with Cryptosporidiosis (see here).
Two shot red grouse ready for cooking, yum yum. Photo by Ruth Tingay
Time for the filthy grouse shooting industry to be better regulated? God, it’s well overdue. You can sign this new petition calling for the introduction of a licensing scheme for driven grouse moors, here.
If you think licensing wouldn’t go far enough, you can also sign this new petition calling for a total ban on driven grouse shooting, here.
These two petitions apply only to England. The Scottish Government is way ahead of the Westminster Government on this issue and an independent review of grouse moor management practices has just begun, and many of us anticipate that it will result in the almost inevitable conclusion that licensing needs to be introduced. We know the review group will be examining the use of medicated grit as part of its remit, and we expect the group to find these latest results from the VMD’s inadequate testing regime to be of great interest.