‘Everywhere we go there are dead animals’ – local residents detest grouse moor management

There’s a very interesting article in The Times today, debunking the picture often painted by the grouse shooting industry of moorland community harmony – a rural idyll where local residents are deliriously enthralled by the activities of the local grouse moor managers and thankful for the boost that grouse shooting brings to the local economy, without which the local community would apparently collapse. Oh, and it’s where unicorns live, too.

If the Campaign for the Protection of Moorland Communities (C4PMC) wasn’t so busy astroturfing for the grouse shooting industry, this story (below) is the one it should be telling, instead of spending thousands of pounds on Facebook to promote abusive and personal attacks on decent, hardworking conservationists who are simply seeking grouse moor reform (e.g. see here).

Today’s article in The Times comes on the back of last week’s news (here) that Police Scotland are investigating alleged wildlife crimes on the Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire (yes, that place again), including the suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier and the shooting of a(nother) short-eared owl. The estate has denied all responsibility, obvs.

Written by journalist Lucy Bannerman, it takes a slightly different angle and focuses on the impact on local residents of having to live in the shadow of an estate as notorious as Leadhills.

Bannerman writes:

The estate has a notorious reputation as an alleged wildlife crime hotspot, where local monitors claim that at least 50 protected birds of prey have vanished or been found dead or dying in traps or by poisoned bait. One villager claims that even her cat has been poisoned.

The brazen manner of the latest killing, of the short-eared owl, has enraged residents, who are so sick of finding poisoned carcasses on the grouse moors around their homes that they have another name for the area: Deadhills.

“It’s devastating to lose another bird”, Steph Spode, 35, a local mother of four, said. “When you live here, you look around and at first you think, wow, look at those mountains. After a little while, you start to realise there’s nothing here. No trees. No wildlife. I can’t hear animals. I can’t see birds. When I go hiking there’s dead animals everywhere. What’s going on?“‘

It’s no surprise that there are ‘dead animals everywhere’ – a report published just yesterday (here) by the League Against Cruel Sports, as part of the Revive Coalition for Grouse Moor Reform, indicates that up to a quarter of a million animals are killed on Scottish grouse moors every year, many in the most gruesome and barbaric way imaginable.

Here’s a video we made last year with Chris Packham about the miserable death of a hen harrier, a supposedly protected species, that was found caught in an illegally-set trap at Leadhills last year:

The residents of Leadhills are not the only moorland community to speak out. Increasingly we’ve been hearing from local residents across the uplands who are finding their voices and speaking out against the damage this industry brings to their door. First we heard from local communities in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here and here), then from a community in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (see here), and then from a local community in the North York Moors National Park (here).

And then there are those local communities who want to buy the moors and transform and restore them in to something for the whole community, not just for those who come to kill birds for a bit of a laugh.

The Langholm community is currently attempting to buy part of Langholm Moor in Dumfries & Galloway from the Duke of Buccleuch (e.g. see here) and now the Wanlockhead Community Trust has voted (see here) to buy another part of Buccleuch’s moorland at Wanlockhead, the neighbouring village to Leadhills.

If you read the Wanlockhead Community Trust feasibility study you’ll see there’s not much interest in maintaining the moors for grouse shooting.

Download the report here: Wanlockhead Community Trust Buyout Feasibility Study April 2020


If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on driven grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. Launched just a week ago by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 43,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 43,000 pre-written letters complaining about illegal raptor persecution and the environmental damage caused by intensive grouse moor management, are winging their way to politicians of all parties across the UK. If you want your local politician to receive one, Please join in HERE

Thank you


36 thoughts on “‘Everywhere we go there are dead animals’ – local residents detest grouse moor management”

  1. Great that the truth is actually getting out there into the public domain. The problem for many of these communities is that many of the residents are tenants of the very folk who own the grouse moors or owners very much in a minority in the village. For them it is very difficult to speak out without a visit from the landlord or his representative explaining exactly how the land lies or other intimidation. Some villages are very insular even though they may depend on the tourist’s money, I have a friend who not long ago visited a pub in a Nidderdale village and felt as if she must have two heads considering all the silent stares, needless to say she and her colleagues adjourned to a more friendly pub in the next village. I know of others who felt they were so intimidated they moved house. Folk who speak out regularly often feel the force of this, imagine living in such places, it takes real courage to speak out. The sweet shop owner in Pateley Bridge comes to mind, but he is not alone. I with colleagues used to be regularly followed on the East Nidderdale Moors in deliberate attempts to intimidate. Historically it has always been the keepers job to intimidate the trespasser, the bird watcher, walker or the over curious, even though it is now more difficult it still happens to those they think of as “the enemy.”
    However they cannot in this day and age prevent the truth getting out, however slow it has been and once out it is as Pandora’s box impossible to shut or contain.

    1. Keith Tordoff (owner of “The Oldest Sweet Shop in England” to which you refer) deserves great credit not only for vocally raising this issue (‘a stain on Nidderdale’) but also offering a £5,000 reward to help bring those responsible for the fatal poisoning of a springer spaniel to justice. Naturally, as a result, he’s received threatening letters and his business subjected to false reviews ….. see https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/crime/pateley-bridge-sweet-shop-owner-turns-detective-solve-mystery-poisoned-dogs-death-2936299

      1. Thanks John, I will be visiting the shop next time I am in Yorkshire, he deserves our custom as well as our support. I know the area well, [Ed: Thanks Paul, probably best not to post that in public domain??]

  2. Sent to my conservative mp and this was the rubbish I got back, and to be fair what I expected

    ​​​​​​Thank you for contacting me about the protection of birds of prey.

    My colleagues and I recognise the conservation and economic benefits that shooting sports bring to rural communities. A study in 2010 by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust showed that predator control resulted in significant increases in the breeding success of ground nesting birds such as curlew, golden plover and lapwing. I believe that individuals should be free to manage wildlife within the law, and that the Government should only intervene when there is good reason to do so.

    All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and there are strong penalties in place for offences committed against birds of prey and other wildlife, with most wildlife crimes carrying up to an unlimited fine and/or a six-month custodial sentence. To address concerns about illegal killing of birds of prey, senior Government and enforcement officers have identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority. The National Wildlife Crime Unit monitors and gathers intelligence on wildlife crime, including raptor persecution, and aids police forces in their investigations when required.

    Ministers have always been clear of the need to phase out rotational burning of protected blanket bog to conserve these vulnerable habitats. Real progress is being made in promoting sustainable alternatives and I am pleased to hear that legislation is being looked at which could help achieve this. Ministers have also been encouraging landowners to adopt sustainable options and continue to work with them constructively. The England Peat Strategy will be published later this year which will detail further how we can protect, restore, and reduce damage to our peatlands.

    While there are no current plans to carry out a review of the management of grouse moors, I recognise it is vital that wildlife and habitats are respected and protected, and that the law is observed. I am pleased that the Government will continue to work to ensure a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship between shooting and conservation.

    ​​​​​​After speaking to the Minister, it is clear that the Government is very concerned about hen harrier populations, which is why it took the lead on the Hen Harrier Action Plan. This sets out what will be done to increase hen harrier populations in England and includes measures to stop illegal persecution.

    ​​​​​​Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

    Yours sincerely,


    1. Broadly the same old shite you get from every Tory throughout the UK. I sent mine an adapted second letter as proposed by Mark Avery ( cut and paste in the main) he then said that the figures I challenged PACEC report figures were checked and accurate so I’ve let fly—- ” I do not recognise the “errors and evasions” in my original response as the statistics quoted have been verified by the Parliamentary Research Unit. ” the figures quoted in your original response are from a PACEC report paid for and completed on behalf of the shooting industry and whilst you may not recognise any errors there are many, who to put it bluntly, have examined this report, the sources it uses and have said it is a gross exaggeration of the figures and shooting is probably worth less than half this sum, besides which I was talking of grouse shooting which is valued at less than 3% of the total value of shooting. I can only suggest you get hold of a copy of the book “Inglorious” by Mark Avery to get a better understanding of all the ills grouse shooting. As somebody who until 2018 lived in the UK wildlife crime capital that is North Yorkshire. I have been heavily involved in monitoring raptors on grouse moors for over 30 years, especially Hen Harriers and you learn very quickly that driven grouse shooting is predicated on the removal of all grouse predators, legal and illegal to maintain the high numbers required for driven shooting. To put it quite simply it is a Victorian pastime that has nothing to do with proper hunting or wildlife management and the sooner it is gone the better. It seems of all the UK political parties only the Conservatives are completely oblivious to the ills of this so called “sport”.

      I’ve never voted Tory nor ever will.

      1. Re your last two sentences, Paul…

        It only seems that way. The selfservatives are well aware of the criminality involved, they just don’t give a toss. Not suprising, as they’ve been committing treason against the British public for the entirety of their existence.

        I wouldn’t vote tory (they don’t merit a capital letter) if they held a loaded purdey to my head. In fact, I wouldn’t break stride if I came across one hanging by its fingernails off a cliff!

        1. I would break stride, so as to stamp on his fingers ends! A sticker my sister had on the side of the pram, when her now grown up daughters with their owns kids, were little said it all. ” the only good tory is a lava-tory”

            1. There are certainly some very unpleasant Tory MPs, however I imagine many of the non-shooters are simply ignorant on these matters. It is only in recent years, largely thanks to the efforts of Chris, Ruth and Mark (along some further reading), I have realised that there are serious questions about how our countryside is managed. Previously, I had rather naively assumed it was in good hands.

              If they had spoken in the kind of terms the two of you used above, I’m sure I would have dismissed them as politically motivated without listening to their arguments. Surely it’s far more productive to stick to facts and educate people rather than throw insults.

  3. This is part of a long and complex story. The fieldsports lobby has always tried to peddle the lie that the vast majority of so called “country people” support their activities and only the ignorant townies who have no idea of how life works, object to the barbaric, destructive and often illegal activities of the fieldsports fanatics. This is a lie. Despite the Countryside Alliance repeating this lie ad nauseum, survey after survey, after poll, shows the objection to things like fox hunting, is nearly as great in rural areas as in urban areas. In fact, often rural people are more viscerally opposed to it, because they get to see it all in it’s horrible gory detail.

    As I say, it is all very complex. Lots of this whole false idea stems from the day when the landed gentry, not only ran sporting estates, but they quite literally owned everything. It wasn’t just usual for the landed gentry to own the tied cottages most lived in, but they often owned whole villages, everything, the pub, the local shop. So even though most people didn’t approve of what went on, they were forced to keep quiet otherwise they would lose their job, their house and everything. This is how the deferential attitude arose, forelock tugging. Of course there are enthusiastic people who went along with this, the gamekeepers, their families, the Badger baiters etc.

    But this type of sporting estate as always lorded it over people. Barring their access to land, killing their pets in snares and traps, invading their gardens with the hunt, and generally having an obnoxious overbearing attitude.

    With the modern variant of this type of estate and rural population they have even less support. Much less people are employed by these estates or are involved gamekeeping. Most own their houses, or their landlord is not the sporting estate. Most do not work for the estate. This fanatical forelock tugging demographic is quite small. Just guessing it will rarely be in excess of 25% and is likely much less, varying from place to place.

    The other year this survey/article, pretty much blew the doors off the lie that the rural populace all support these criminals breaking the law and killing wildlife as if they were above the law.

  4. Same problem here in the Yorkshire Dales and although I undoubtedly don’t speak for all residents many of us don’t just detest ‘grouse moor management’ we also detest those individuals, well known to us, who live in our midst and are responsible for the carnage both legal and illegal that blights our communities.

    I am very concerned that the primary purpose of the Yorkshire Dales and other National Parks, which is ‘to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage’ is being devastated by ‘grouse moor management’ and the associated damage to our uplands and persecution of our native wildlife.

    It is clear that grouse moor management and National Parks are fundamentally incompatible. Perhaps this is a cause where Wild Justice could seek a Judicial Review ?

  5. It would be very interesting to conduct psychological profiling on those who engage in shooting and fox hunting as a pastime.
    For most decent human beings the concept of killing or harming wild animals for pleasure is abhorrent.
    So why do those who shoot wild birds, hunt foxes , lay traps and snares designed to kill or cause horrific injuries, do what they do?
    Why are their moral and ethical values so different from the majority of society?
    Why do they display such little compassion?
    What pleasure do they get from causing so much suffering?

    Anthropologists have frequently shown that in hunter/gather societies there is reverence and respect for the animals killed. The killing is not done for pleasure but for survival.

    Those who engage in driven grouse shooting, do not simply kill one or two birds as a food source, and then come home.
    It’s all whole day of blasting as many birds as can be driven towards the guns.

    So we can not liken the grouse shooter, or fox hunter to the hunter in the hunter/gatherer societies.

    Nether is killing wildlife for fun any indication of being an “alpha male” as some would like to believe. The “alpha male” is marked by challenging someone of equal stature of the same species on equal terms, not by killing a defenceless animal with all the cards staked against them.

    It would also appears that those engage in this cruel behaviour towards wild animals, also appear to have bullying tendencies in the way the interact with other people who do not share their delight in causing suffering to wildlife.

    Are we in fact dealing with people with psychopathic tendencies?
    People who for some reason are natural bullies- whether that is abusing and bullying animals, or abusing and bullying their neighbours and communities?

    If it could be shown that these people suffer from some form of psychological deficiency which makes them into bullies, are they in fact “fit and proper” people to hold firearm licences, or even keep animals, which are totally dependent on the owners goodwill and compassion?

    Bullying is a form of control.
    Has wealth, land ownership, social status created a class of people who believe they are superior to everyone else? Which in turn has fostered some warped belief that they have the right to bully and control or impose their beliefs onto others who aren’t within their over privileged group?

    One trait of the bully is choosing a victim who they perceive as weaker than themselves, a victim who the bully does not believe will pose a threat to their dominance or control.
    The child abuser is a bully.
    The rapist is a bully.
    The animal abuser is a bully.

    We have spent years passing legislation to protect the vulnerable in society from bullies.
    We live in a society which is supposed to be governed by the rule of law- a just and fair society.

    There is no place in a civilised society for the bully- whatever disguise the bully may be wearing!!

  6. The very fact that this article has been prominently published in a Saturday edition of The Times is a sign of hope. Hope that the barbaric practices both legal and illegal, perpetrated by a minority, culturally addicted to killing things, will be exposed to much wider public audiences and eventually suffocated by the sheer weight of adverse public opinion. Perhaps some of our NGOs could use it as a template!

  7. I recently did a quick back of the envelope calculation of the increase in larger raptors such as Common buzzard and Goshawk etc. in the UK and Ireland.
    Since I started out in raptor conservation and research in the 1970’s, their numbers have increased by some 330,000 at least.
    Whichever way you look at it we are winning the battle.
    When you feel disheartened just remember how far we’ve come and how public opinion has turned against persecution of raptors.
    The problems with driven game shooting will be solved eventually by more effective legislation and enforcement.
    Great things can and do happen within the lifetime of one parliament.
    I am now more optimistic than ever that I will see the end of the current persecution within my lifetime.
    I would not have said that even 30 years ago.
    The ability of raptors to rapidly increase range and density even following total removal is amazing.
    Rest assured, we are winning.

    Keep up the pressure !

  8. I am also a “local resident” whose home is surrounded by sheep pasture with grouse moors within 5 miles in all directions (North Yorkshire in my case). In 14 years of living here I have seen only four kinds of raptor in this area: kestrel (was common but now gone), buzzard (occasional), tawny owl and little owl. I have never seen a red kite or a raven here. In 14 years I’ve seen two badgers (both dead), zero foxes, zero hares, zero hedgehogs, only one kind of bat (common pip) and last saw a stoat or weasel about five years ago. There are very few trees. I blame both grouse shooting and blanket sheep grazing.

    Anyone who thinks Yorkshire is God’s Own Country must be fairly oblivious to wildlife. Unfortunately I think this describes 95% of the people I know (most of whom live in the countryside) and I think this is our biggest problem. Shooters are posing as conservationists (e.g. GWCT) only because they think most of the population is too ignorant to notice that this is ridiculous, and they’re right.

    Schoolkids are taught about nature: my kid had done three school projects about the Amazon Rainforest by the age of 12, and can name a range of Amazonian plants and animals. But not a single lesson about British wildlife or the destruction of the British forest. On a school walk I went on, we saw a deer, but the teacher couldn’t tell the kids it was a roe deer, because the teacher didn’t even appear to be aware that there are different kinds, let alone know which kind it was.

  9. As no surprise Greed and money are the reason,has been this ways for so many years,and xxxxx xxxxx will still get away with killing of these beautiful birds and other innocent animals.l

  10. A lifelong, non shooting rural dweller here.
    These blood pursuits divide communities, especially where there is an employment monoculture eg gamekeepers. The landowner who owns just about everything locally (including the houses) selectively determines who may reside here and who may not.
    Communities are divided between the blood pursuit set and those who wish to see a quieter, cleaner, less environmentally destructive use of the land plus a more balanced population.

    The hills are denuded, no birds, small creatures are burned during muirburn, no rabbits, hares…nothing at all and very few humans apart from those brave enough to attempt walking, usually with a gamekeeper hard on their heels.

    Truthfully, I loathe this nightmare which was once beautiful countryside rich with wildlife. I detest the noise and intrusion of the shooting, the arrogant feudal nature of the blood set, the lead pollutants from the cartridges, the disruption to the very balance of Nature herself. The death, the sheer waste of it all.

    These estates are publically subsidised status symbols for the wealthy few. They have had their day and we must now fight hard to change the very mindset of these people before it is too late for some species.
    I despair with certain politicians so it is up to us, an ever growing army, to call a halt to all shooting then the long task of repairing many decades of damage to the environment and wildlife.

  11. Gutter press persecution of game keepers, the ted grouse is indigenous to the UK and the Langholm project ran by RSPB was a disaster for the hen harrier and grouse alike but packham & the packhamites won’t have this published. The foxes ate the harriers as there was nothing left to eat. The harriers had raped the place !

    1. Langholm was a “demonstration project”. And it did what everyone on both sides knew it would. i.e. it proved that predator control within the law does to not support the big bags of grouse desired by Owners and Agents. Quite starkly, this shows that all of the other Estates that consistently achieve big bags are only doing so because they undertake illegal predator control. It simply proved the hypothesis that DGS depends upon criminality.

    2. Hardly gutter press persecution of gamekeepers when even Insp Hagen from the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force was interviewed on Channel 4 News recently and stated- ‘All the shooting investigations we have ongoing at the moment involve gamekeepers on grouse moors‘.

      There are some good individual gamekeepers, who don’t operate illegally, working on some well managed moors, but until they start whistle-blowing on the criminality which is so embedded in so much grouse moor management, they will be tarred in the media with the same brush as their criminal counterparts. This is an issue the grouse shooting industry could address, but continually fails to act on, as recent reports which link the majority of illegal raptor persecution incidents to managed grouse moors clearly indicates.

      “The foxes ate the harriers as there was nothing left to eat. Harriers had raped the place!”- an amazing insightful comment into the complexities of moorland ecosystems, which must have the scientists, conservationists and ecologists scratching their heads wondering why despite years of study they hadn’t realised that simple infant school playground science had all the answers!!
      Such an educated comment also explains so fully why Hen Harrier persecution is so rife amongst some of those who manage grouse moors, and why there are those who still support such illegal killing- have these intelligent and knowledgeable individuals scientific insight the rest of society lacks??

    3. You quite obviously haven’t read the report, which despite what you say was published. I suggest you go back and do so before making an even bigger fool of yourself.

    4. Oh Dear Dale. Your’e reply is like farting in a lift – it is wrong on so many different levels.

      Those poor persecuted keepers! lol, You are seriously misinformed.

    5. And…pipping Dickie Towers into first place, is…

      Dale Golightly, come on down! This month’s award for epitomising (look it up, Dale) the half-witted mindset of the DGS shower awaits you.

    6. God, I hope this Fool doesn`t own a gun license… Should be mandatory to pass a simple test of at least average intelligence and awareness, rather than just hand them out to any fool without a conviction.

    1. There have been serious suggestions that licensed firearms have a tracker on them. Then a firearm can be linked to a registered owner, a location and a time.

  12. I “signed up” to have a “Save our skydancers” letter sent to my local politician (Maurice Corry). The email about persecution was sent and the MP’s reply correctly included that very same email.

    Trouble is that Maurice Corry’s reply started with:-

    “Thank you for contacting me about the Scottish Government’s decision to allow the delivery of abortion pills to the homes of women who are having an early medical abortion.”
    His reply then went on to the subject of Covid-19.

    Good to see that he right on the ball.

  13. The map being shown by Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations, RSPB Scotland, of raptor persecution no doubt only shows those poor raptors that are found dead or close to it. I would not be surprised if the actual number was twice, three times, if not more than that figure and that many dead raptors are quickly gotten rid of out of sight by those responsible.

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