‘Intensive grouse shooting on its last legs’ – opinion piece Yorkshire Times

To coincide with the opening of the grouse-shooting season this year, BASC, the British Association for Shooting (and conservation, ahem) paid for front page adverts in some prominent newspapers, promoting the so-called ‘benefits’ of driven grouse shooting. BASC staff members were quite pleased with themselves, self-congratulating on social media.

Duncan Thomas, BASC’s in-resident raptor persecution denier, proclaimed, ‘Absolutely superb coverage in Yorkshire Post this morning…..well chuffed’. Somebody needs to explain to Duncan the difference between paid advertising and media coverage. Sounds a bit like astroturfing, doesn’t it? It’s got a familiar stench to it.

Meanwhile, back in the world where actual real people have been able to view the evidence and draw their own conclusions, we had this response (here) from Graeme Bandeira, cartoonist at the Yorkshire Post and now a further damning opinion piece in the Yorkshire Times from features writer David Goff.

You can read the article in full, here.


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 11 days ago by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, over 56,000 people have signed up so far.

This means that over 56,000 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

19 thoughts on “‘Intensive grouse shooting on its last legs’ – opinion piece Yorkshire Times”

  1. From the article
    ‘Nick Weston [LACS] is happy to suggest a solution, ‘Non-lethal shooting would see an end to this cycle of killing protected raptors just to preserve bird stocks for the guns and move away from burning heather on fragile moorland. Had the shooting lobby made this move sooner, perhaps their jobs would be safer and they would be faring better at this time of national crisis.’’
    ‘Non-lethal shooting’, is he talking about clay pigeon shooting. I am confused.

    1. Maybe he’s talking about photography… at the end of the day, the person with the most shots that DON’T feature red grouse wins a prize….!?

  2. I love wildlife and my species of the month has to be Lochmaea Suturalis. What a great guy, so cuddly and cute.
    Does this chap also do the rounds in Scotland? If not, maybe we can do a swop for a few beavers!
    Mess with the natural balance of wildlife at your peril. The clock is tick tick tick ticking.

  3. If I was a DGS proponent I’d be bloody depressed after reading that superb article, really hit the nail on the head and very comprehensive. When you reduce natural vegetation to a virtual monoculture of one plant species to increase the numbers of one animal species then you simultaneously increase the opportunities of some others to reach ‘pest’ proportions, in this case the heather beetle. It’s inevitable. Grouse moors are just glorified farmland with all its problems, I wonder if anybody in the big house is mulling over the possibility of spraying to kill off heather beetle now, wouldn’t be surprised. Sorry to sound like a record on a broken gramophone, but a model estate in the north of England showcasing the transition from DGS to rewilding, ecotourism and other alternatives to shooting would be a really big help in killing DGS off. If there are any wealthy conservationists out there please take note.

  4. Doubtless someone will come up with a ludicrous report of Ruth, Chris and Mark in disguise having midnight scatterings of Lochmaea Suturalis on the DGMs!

  5. Regarding the E-mail Action. I sent a personal e-mail to my (Labour) MP about this, and got this very well written and researched response, (indeed it probably took most of its info from this blog):

    Thank you for your recent email in relation to the illegal killing of hen harriers and other birds of prey. I apologise for the earlier confusion with your email.

    I recognise that these iconic birds of prey are intensively persecuted and are in danger of being lost as a breeding species in England. Indeed, I am very concerned that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) believes that there are only a small number of breeding pairs left in England.

    I understand that there are many factors behind the falling harrier population, such as cold and wet weather over several breeding seasons; habitat changes; and low numbers of their prey. However, I also know that the RSPB has warned that the most significant factor is the illegal killing associated with grouse moors.

    As you are aware, many people, such as yourself are concerned about the impact that grouse shooting has on protected birds of prey, such as the hen harrier. I share these concerns and in my view, taking no action over driven grouse shooting is not an option.

    In January 2016, the Government published its plan to increase the hen harrier population. Measures in the plan include fieldwork to locate breeding attempts, tagging of nestlings, remote monitoring work to gain information about habitat use and threats, and satellite tagging and tracking. However, the RSPB withdrew its support for the plan, arguing that the plan’s voluntary approach has failed.

    It is clear that the action plan is not working in delivering an increased hen harrier population. I believe we need tougher penalties for the illegal killing of hen harriers, including removing the right to manage a grouse moor.

    I also share people’s concerns at the impact of grouse shooting on flood risk. I note, for example, research that shows that the burning of heather to improve grouse moors reduces the land’s retention of water. The Government needs to address the impact of grouse moor management on soil, drainage and hydration and we need more research on this issue.

    Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I can assure you I will continue to support efforts to protect hen harriers and I will press the current Government to ensure that raptor protection and the wider management of moorland are sustainable.

      1. Compare that letter, to the response from my Conservative MP:

        Thank you for contacting me about driven grouse shooting.

        Many people have strongly held views about this subject. I want to see a vibrant, working countryside enhanced by a diverse environment. Driven grouse shooting contributes to that goal, so I do not support a ban. We need to ensure that we get the balance right in this matter so I have written to the Minister at DEFRA to make him aware of your concerns and to seek confirmation of the government’s intentions.

        It is essential that our wildlife is properly protected, and anyone involved in game management must respect the country’s conservation laws, which are among the toughest in the world. That being said, shooting as a whole is worth about £2 billion a year to the economy, much of it in some of our remotest communities. It supports more than 70,000 full-time equivalent jobs, 1,520 relating directly to grouse shooting. Grouse shooting is also one of the main land uses in the uplands along with grazing and forestry.

        It is important to recognise that healthy, active peatland provides numerous environmental benefits and ecosystem services including natural cover for grouse. I am pleased that the Government is working with moor owners to further improve management practices and peat condition, such as through Blanket Bog Restoration Projects.

        It is also worth noting that all wild birds are protected from illegal killing by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Raptor persecution, including of hen harriers, is a national wildlife crime priority and there are strong penalties in place for offences committed against birds of prey.

        Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

    1. My MP must have read my comment, because today she has replied.

      This is from my MP, the Lib Dem Leadership candidate, Layla Moran (it seems we still have quite a lot of work to do…):

      Thank you for writing to me to share your concerns about driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of hen harriers.

      I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues share the strong concerns raised regarding the decline in the UK population of wild hen harriers. As we know, hen harriers are a protected species and as stated by the RSPB in 2016 there have been around only three nesting attempts. It’s therefore crucial that everything that can be done, is done to protect these birds.

      Under provisions in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the killing of hen harriers constitutes a wildlife crime. Despite this, the illegal killing of wild birds of prey continues. The Liberal Democrats are therefore glad that the National Wildlife Crime Unit, a specialist unit dedicated to tackling all wildlife crime, regards raptor predation as one of its top priorities. Thanks to Liberal Democrat pressure last year, the Government agreed to continue funding this Unit’s work, with over half a million pounds pledged over the next four years.

      The Liberal Democrats are not in favour of a complete ban on driven grouse shooting, and believe that where it is conducted within the law it can offer benefits to rural communities, such as job creation, supporting local economies and peatland environmental management when carried out in a manner that is sensitive to the environment. However, we would like to see the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, and the Government, do even more to promote best practice and step up efforts to stamp out illegal and bad practice.

      We want to see the rules surrounding the sport tightened up and will continue to monitor the developments and options surrounding it.

      Best wishes,

      1. Taking these 3 responses I get the impression:
        Tories – go away, we will not risk upsetting our donors
        Lid-Dems – whilst we appreciate the problem a lot of our constituencies are rural so don’t want to upset our potential voters
        Labour – It’s about time we looked into this, something’s obviously not right

  6. Just reading Lochmaea suturalis’s biology in Wikipedia. “They are able to fly up to a range of several miles after spring emergence. They will generally do this after fire, when the surrounding heather is of poor quality.” So muirburn could be spreading heather beetle – how sad!

    1. I wonder if some natural predator, which might otherwise reduce the numbers of the heather beetle, is absent or vastly reduced because of grouse moor management.

  7. Just musing on the water retention issue. Many folk have been affected by flooding which could have been minimised if the deep peat bogs had not been drained and dried out via burning. Wouldn’t it be good if the victims of said flooding could collectively sue the Moor licensees over the losses to their homes?

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