Revive coalition launches political manifesto calling for end to driven grouse shooting in Scotland

Press release from Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform (6 May 2020)


Coalition sets out its political asks one year ahead of Scottish elections

Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform has published its manifesto outlining a number of asks, including an end to driven grouse shooting ahead of next year’s elections. These include tackling climate change, land reform, social justice and protecting Scotland’s wildlife and biodiversity.

Revive is a coalition made up of Common Weal, Friends of the Earth Scotland, League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, OneKind and Raptor Persecution UK, working for grouse moor reform in Scotland and campaigning to end the circle of destruction that surrounds grouse shooting.

Campaign Manager for Revive Max Wiszniewski said: “Driven grouse shooting, an intensively managed blood sport, is inherently unsustainable. Keeping the land managed as barren monocultures for this sport maintains a large area of Scotland’s land in an impoverished state.

This is why the Revive coalition has proposed alternative visions for our moors and launched the manifesto we hope political parties will adopt into their own. We believe this is in line with voters expectations and hope a year from now we can go to the polls with all parties committing to address the environmental crisis in our countryside caused by intensively managed grouse moors.”

Revive is calling for significant reform of Scotland’s grouse moors and is asking Scotland’s political parties to make the following commitments:

● Protect Scotland’s peatland by ending muirburn for the purpose of grouse moor management

● A ban on the use of medicated grit

● A change to the use of non-lead ammunition

● Regulation of off-road hill tracks

● Transformational land reform to be enacted on a national scale

● An end to the snaring, trapping and killing of Scotland’s wildlife for the purpose of increasing grouse numbers

● Licensing of all grouse moor estates

● A transition away from driven grouse shooting

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports added: “Untold thousands of wild animals are killed on an industrial scale as part of rigorous predator control on intensively managed grouse moors just so there are more grouse available for sport shooting. The League is opposed to this senseless cruelty and wholeheartedly supports Revive’s Manifesto calling for an end to grouse shooting and the circle of destruction which surrounds grouse moors.”

The coalition argues that grouse moors managed for sport shooting is one of the least regulated industries in Scotland. Along with measures to tackle climate change and transformational land reform, Revive is proposing a licensing system to end the unsustainable elements of grouse moor management.

Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Richard Dixon said: “From their terrible toll on wildlife to their impact on climate change, grouse moors are a 19th century idea that should have no place in the 21st century. Scotland can do much better for local communities and nature.”


You can read Revive’s manifesto here: REVIVE manifesto

To read Revive’s other publications (as noted in the manifesto) please visit the publications page on Revive’s website here

22 thoughts on “Revive coalition launches political manifesto calling for end to driven grouse shooting in Scotland”

  1. I want to support REVIVE, I really do, but I have serious misgivings about their approach/Manifesto.

    Firstly I cannot see in their manifesto where is says ‘we want to ban driven grouse shooting’, only the rather mealy-mouthed ‘A transition away from driven grouse shooting’. Secondly, the manifesto states a list of wishes that include: ‘Licensing of grouse moors estates’ followed by: ‘A transition away from driven grouse shooting’. Eh? If grouse moor estates are licensed (a MASSIVE mistake IMO) then a ban on DGS – and all that goes with it – will be further away than ever. These aims, to me, seem utterly incompatible, or am I missing something here?

    1. Hi Stephen,

      It’s just a different approach, necessary for a coalition whose members may not agree on everything but do agree that driven grouse moor reform is long overdue.

      It’s the intensification and unsustainability of driven grouse moor management (specifically) that is being targeted here.

      1. Thanks RPUK. I’d suspected that the terminology used was carefully (painfully?) crafted to keep everyone in the coalition on-board.

        I guess my point is that without an outright ban and, importantly, a campaign that explicitly calls for an outright ban (i.e. a simple, clear and motivational message) then all the things that are so bad about DGS will simply continue in one form or another and campaigning energies will be wasted on aspects of rather than the true cause of the problems. I do not remember anyone saying we should ‘reform’ fox hunting for example. This is why I fear a DGS licensing system (what the shooting lobby really wants if the truth were told) so much i.e. does anyone seriously think that a DGS licensing system will be rigorously enforced so that the all the worst aspects of DGS are moderated, controlled, regulated etc.? Surely our experience of the lack of compliance and the lack of penalties thus far of the rich and powerful interests of DGS does not bode well. Therefore, I urge REVIVE and all those opposed to DGS to campaign for an outright DGS ban and use all the reform aspects listed by REVIVE as justifiers for the ban rather than the aim of the campaign itself. If that means group(s) within REVIVE having to quit, so be it.

        1. If you stake out a reasonable position with unreasonable people then nothing is going to happen. It signals that you’re not serious and whatever you are asking for can be undermined so that the status quo can continue uninterrupted. We have seen this time and time again with respect to driven grouse shooting and what has it produced – trial culls of ravens and consultations over tightening the laws and up-grading the penalties for interfering with traps which may or may not be illegally deployed in the first place. Half a step forward and five steps backwards.

          It’s time to start being unreasonable. Then you might get some change in a direction to your liking.

  2. Why not go for a full return of all estates to public ownership?

    If you are looking for reform then go all the way. Overturn centuries of mismanagement for the benefit of a few. There’s no need to take the nuclear option of nationalisation. Spend the money to buy the owners out. You might have to pay a lot for the first few estates but the writing will be on the wall for all the others and the price is going to fall to next to nothing.

    The opportunities are enormous. And end to raptor killing, over-grazing by deer, rewilding becoming practical, etc. The list is endless.

    Do what the Norwegians do and spend the money to put people back in the glens and on the islands. Make Scotland a beautiful place to live.

    A manifesto should be about some blue sky thinking rather than frittering around the edges.

  3. I understand the need to appeal to as wide an audience of potential supporters as possible but, given the history, I also take on board the position of Stephen Lewis.
    When one considers the response of the politicians, lawmakers and landowners to beaver protection, raptor protection, fox hunting etc., etc., the laws which were passed are generally unenforceable or the political will to enforce them is missing.
    However once these laws are passed the issue inevitable gets put on the back burner or thrown into the long grass — while business continues as normal.
    i also have concerns about the make up and structure of the committees and other bodies which develop, inform and recommend these laws. It is my opinion that the sincere and enthusiastic conservationists who were involved were simply used as window dressing.
    A classic example of what I am talking about is the Werrity report where the ultimate recommendations will mean, if implemented, that any measures will be thrown into the long grass for at least five years. It is my opinion that the sincere and enthusiastic conservationists who were involved were simply used as window dressing.
    Even IF licencing is ultimately introduced it would then go to “committee level” while the details will be discussed and, again, if history is anything to go by, it will emerge as a toothless sop to public opinion and will no doubt be used for widespread PR articles to pronounce how progressive the shooting community is … while all goes into the long grass again with the ultimate conclusions inevitable i.e. that little will change at ground level.
    My questions are : What will change this time around? Who will vet the appointment of the Chairperson/s or those with the deciding vote at any and all stages of the proceedings/?

    1. Well said George. Laws are being broken now with little or no attempt to bring those to justice – and I’m not having a go at the good folks on the ground (e.g. Wildlife Crime Offcicers, SSPCA Officers etc.) doing valuable work under difficult circumstances here. Do we, however, want to live in a world where ‘reformed’ and/or licensed DGS is ‘enforced’ by the likes of SNH? That thought sends a shiver down my spine. In other words the reform argument for DGS is like calling for reform of burglary: pointless and counterproductive.

      1. I’d have to disagree with you about the approach, Stephen. DGS is high on the political agenda in Scotland mostly down to efforts of the SRSG, RSPB and Revive calling for licensing reform.

        I don’t think anyone believes for a second that licensing will actually work, given the game shooting industry’s appalling track record, but pragmatists will understand that licensing is probably a necessary step on the road to a full ban.

        Going for an immediate ban just isn’t going to happen, no matter how much anyone wants it. In the immediate future, building public awareness and support for reform is key. That is precisely what Revive is doing and with a large degree of success given it’s only been up and running for 18 months.

        1. Sadly, I guess only time will tell and will judge who is right. With all due respect, however, I think that DGS being ‘high o the political agenda’ is over-egging it a bit. On the agenda, yes, but as Werrity showed us doing something meaningful about DGS is a long, long way off. I may be being cynical by I would not be surprised to see a review of the Werrity review.

          I have some past experience in campaigning (on other issues) and in my experience only simple and usually emotive messages do the trick in the court of Public Opinion e.g. show a picture of a clubbed-to-death seal pup or talk about reforming the type of club used. Which would you choose as an effective campaigning tactic? I truly wish sound, scientific and earnest pragmatism were the best campaign tools but often they are not. Calling for a ban is simple calling for ‘reform’ is not, and is therefore a very hard sell.

          So, if one goes down the reform route can you not see the value in the argument that the Scottish Government and the DGS lobby will simply claim that DGS is now licensed and therefore all squeaky clean, nothing to see here, move along etc.? The track record of enforcement of current laws/regs/guidelines/codes pertaining to DGS and other fun-killing is woeful, as is so eloquently and regularly pointed out on RPUK. Why would licensing DGS be any different to the status quo? In other words – I maintain – licensing will actually preclude a ban for decades and NOT be a stepping stone to a ban.

          To highlight this point further, Fox hunting was banned because of a campaign to ban it not because of a campaign to reform it. The same argument that fox hunting would never be banned was made at the time and yet it was, ultimately, banned, albeit with bad legislation full of loopholes.

          1. I agree with Stephen.
            How many years since the persecution of all birds of prey was made illegal have individuals and organisations been negotiating with those representing the DGM lobby and what progress has been made? Is it not true that there have been periods where persecution has intensified during those years and other unacceptable behaviour such scarring the land with unneeded hill tracks and dosing red grouse with highly toxic chemicals while illegally netting them at night ? is it not also true have strongly resisted allowing photographic evidence to be produced in court, which, if hidden camera’s were allowed and the evidence accepted in legal terms, would have went a long way to almost eradicating the persecution of nesting birds? Is it not true that only one gamekeeper in Scotland has been sent to prison between 1954 and 2020 and is partly due to the very expensive legal representatives and technical tricks paid for by the same people who will now be paying the negotiators?
            Does not the same long grass now beckon simply by the very fact of the bureaucracy involved in the creation and maintenance of any licencing system? Is this not yet another replay of old and unproductive tactics in an asymmetrical struggle which requires a different approach?
            The promotion, or proposed half-way house, of licencing is not required to gain public opinion. Opinion is largely on our side as today citizens come down strongly in favour against blood sports and any animal cruelty. Check out any surveys conducted in this field. Public support is already evident and to enlarge it what is required is publicity, and that is happening quickly due to social media.
            The tide is flowing strongly in our direction and why on earth anyone would want to enter negotiation which history and experience has shown inevitably favours the DGM Lobby at this point in time verges on the inexplicable.

  4. I think this is an excellent initiative.

    Regarding grouse moor estates, why should licensing inevitably fail? Where has licensing been proved to extensively fail elsewhere? Examples are required from those who disagree. For example, I posit: pharmacists, dentists, driving instructors, publicans, drivers, veterinary surgeons, doctors, opticians, teachers, financial advisors… etc etc

    Scores of professions/occupations are successfully licensed. The key is the wording of the license, of course, but Revive can see to that.

    1. If every estate that shot or poisoned protected birds of prey were prosecuted with the full weight of the law and sanctions applied to ensure it did not happen again, as it does to a certain extent in Spain then licencing would be unnecessary.

      It’s only because the persecution of protected species continues that licencing is being considered as a potential sanction. In and of itself it does nothing to address the underlying criminality.

      The key difference here is that if a financial advisor robs their clients. Not only do they lose their licence to practice they go to jail as well.

      Licencing can never be effective for driven grouse shooting until the same penalties apply and the estate owners go to jail as well as the keepers that carry out their wishes.

      1. Stuart, I think you are missing where the weight of evidence is required, and from whom, between two systems.

        Prosecuting an estate for raptor persecution requires a level of evidence which is difficult to obtain, because the land is private. We all know this from bitter experience. Circumstantial evidence is not always sufficient.

        But, with licensing, the boot on the other foot: estates have to prove to independent ecologists – who would be given free access at any time – that grouse moors hold ALL the species of flora and fauna, avian and mammal, which such independent ecologists deem should be there. And in the expected numbers.

        Any estate which cannot prove it has ALL the flora and fauna expected of such an environment would have it’s license to hold shoots withdrawn. End of shooting business.

        In some areas, the licensing criteria would/must also include water retention and quality.

        Reviews could be held annually, as is normal for licensing. The public would be expecting to see all this flora and fauna, too.

        These are the key conditions such licensing legislation requires, and which – I am sure – Revive would ensure.

        1. Hi Keith, I’m not sure where you are getting your information from regarding any DGS licensing conditions?
          Could you enlighten us please, as until I see such conditions written down and then rigorously enforced on the ground it sounds like a classic land of milk and honey to me. If we cannot enforce relatively simple legislation that is in force at present how on earth are we going to enforce some labyrinthine licensing system that will in my sceptical view have more loopholes than a trawler’s net?

        2. Keith,

          If that is the licencing regime you propose then I’m all for it.

          However I’d expect such strict requirements to be watered down to “acceptable” levels. Also there are number of “difficulties” with what you propose. If a given moor does not have hen harriers or golden eagles but should is a licence withheld until a pair becomes established. What happens if grouse numbers are too high when compared to what would be found on an unmanaged moor? That’s kind of the whole point of driven grouse shooting – farming grouse so you can farm rich people’s pockets. Ecological or sustainable levels are the complete antithesis to this.

        3. This is what Revive is asking for in relation to the terms of a license.

          “The terms of obtaining a licence for grouse shooting should require:

          1. A legal commitment to protect peatlands and an end to muirburn
          2. An end to mass-outdoor medication
          3. A change to the use of non-lead ammunition
          4. Ending the killing of animals to increase grouse numbers

          If the terms of the licence are broken or if illegal activities have taken place the licence should be removed or refused. As with existing offences, proving unlawful conduct beyond reasonable doubt may be difficult, but a lesser standard of proof may be acceptable as the basis for exercising the regulatory body’s discretion to refuse or revoke a licence.”

  5. I fail to see how this compromise approach will lead to any significant reduction in the persecution of raptors, principally Hen Harriers. This is the first time I’ve been so disappointed in the three key organisations coming together, and for what? I think there might be a lack of understanding how the shooting fraternity might give up shooting grouse or harriers. I can only envisage the future for raptors and the wider biodiversity of these selfishly set-up rich men’s playgrounds. I have asked on several occasions for an explanation as to why RPUK is only opposed to DRIVEN grouse shooting, but if anyone ever responded I must have missed it. Now the joint approach, a coalition with Revive and others, seem to think that raptor persecution can be avoided by just banning driven grouse shooting! Don’t we realise that the killers of grouse for fun, and their alleged predators, would carry on more or less same old, same old? This could so easily lead to grouse shooting being diversified by walk-up shooting, or even releasing hundreds of Red-legged Partridges onto the moors. I have witnessed the latter “solution” on a number of grouse moors in SW Scotland. I’m very disappointed to be so disappointed. The Revive manifesto is a joke, which I can’t see having anything more than a mildly positive effect. It might be a very small temporary reformation, but its acceptance by the various bodies involved could readily turn into a stalemate, hindering significant progress in future.

    1. Well said Iain. Whilst I proffer DGS is definitely the most egregious form of bird killing, it floats on a raft of other fun-killing activities that need little explanation here. One can produce learned reports, quote stats and all manner of good well-referenced stuff until they are blue in the face, but a complicated message is a diluted message; just ask Jeremy Corbyn about the last election…

      I want to see a campaign that has the guts to say killing things for fun is wrong, explicitly, no ifs, no buts and thus it should be banned, end of. By all means then discuss the negative consequences of medicated grit, snares, traps, flooding and muirburn etc. but without a clear emotive message I fear REVIVE will become a talking shop that politicians will happily engage with because they know that a long grass ‘solution’ can and most likely will be deployed to placate any ‘reform’ campaign. This is why I can no longer support REVIVE.

    2. I agree.

      I simply can’t see why walk up shoots would be any different to partridge shoots or pheasant shoots or driven grouse shoots. There’d still be the immense killing of predators as well as the slaughter of the poor grouse. As steb1 said in the last post predators are killed to prevent them from dispersing the game birds out of the boundary lines of the shooting estate and to reduce loss of grouse to predators. How would walk up shooting prevent that without predator control?

      Stephen is absolutely right about the need for a clear, simple campaign message. The outrage and emotional outbursts that readers of this blog express time and time again affirms the effectiveness and importance of a hard-hitting, easy to understand, emotive campaign with an obvious, easy to comprehend solution. By asking for reform, Revive has created a wonderful opportunity for the bloodsports enthusiasts to create confusion, delays and diversions. There’ll be denials of wrong doing, calls for more research, negotiations and renegotiations over – well there are so many issues to choose from – lead ammunition, hillside tracks, traps, licenses etc etc.

      Look at the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. This agreement took 23 years of negotiation and compromise with the shooting industry to come into force and that was simply to achieve a slightly quicker death rate and greater levels of unconsciousness before death for 80% of trap victims! 23 years for that!

      We all know how the shooting industry plays this game. If the demands of Revive are met, then the shooting industry will, almost certainly, try to go about business as usual. Then, by the time it becomes clear licensing and all the other demands haven’t worked and Revive and the RSPB call for a ban on driven grouse shooting, there’ll be no hen harriers left to protect!

      Revive shouldn’t be offering up opportunities to engage with the shooting industry’s self-preservation tactics. Let’s cut the industry off at its feet. Demand a bloodsports shooting ban.

      1. Hear, hear Lizzy.

        Despite all their flummery and public protestations against licensing, the DGS industry would welcome a licensing system as it would completely legitimise what they do and preserve it for decades to come. As Lizzy says, they are past masters at obfuscation, delay, diversion and are well-funded and well-connected, so the wish-list for licensing conditions would inevitably be watered down. What would a complex licensing system with crap enforcement gain? Just a have a wee peek at Werrity to see the shape of things to come.

        By calling for licensing and having a mealy-mouthed message, REVIVE (and the RSPB) are making a huge tactical error and playing right into the DGS mob’s blood-stained hands, and thereby are, inadvertently, doing a great disservice to getting DGS (and other shooting wildlife for fun activities) banned. It would undoubtedly be a very long battle but going for a outright ban is the only way. Mark Avery came to that conclusion some time ago in his book ‘Inglorious’ and I suspect (though Mark of someone else please correct me if I’m wrong here) that is why Mark is not a public supporter of REVIVE. The DGS industry et al cannot be bargained with, they cannot be persuaded and will not give an inch. Therefore i maintain that campaign energies and funding would be better spent going for a ban.

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