Grouse shooting debate on STV news programme

STV’s Scotland Tonight programme on Wednesday featured a debate on grouse shooting as part of the programme’s Listen Up debate series.

The debate featured Robbie Marsland, the Director of League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) and Mark Tennant, Chair of landowners’ lobby group Scottish Land & Estates.

This programme is only available to watch until 16 December (here, starts at 15.37 mins).

It’s hilarious, and well worth a watch.

Here’s the transcript, for posterity, but you really need to watch the video to experience the full Botham-esque effect!

Robbie Marsland: There is no place for a bloodsport like grouse shooting in modern Scotland. Every year hundreds of thousands of these iconic wild birds are shot for entertainment, yet polls show that seven in 10 people in Scotland are against grouse shooting. And it’s not only the grouse that suffer – around 200,000 foxes, stoats and mountain hares are killed each year just to ensure there are enough grouse to kill. The moors used to hunt grouse also create a circle of destruction that depletes biodiversity and harms the environment. These moors take up a huge part of Scotland’s land, yet the industry only contributes a pitiful £23 million to Scotland’s economy each year. It’s time for the Scottish government to end the war against wildlife going on in our Highlands, and stop grouse shooting once and for all. 

Presenter: And Robbie joins us to debate his arguments with Mark Tennant, chairman of the organisation Scottish Land and Estates. Thanks for joining us. Robbie, is grouse shooting not an important part of our rural heritage? 

Robbie Marsland: Well when I first came to look at this issue, I thought grouse shooting was sort of one of those central things in Scotland. I didn’t realise just how new it was. It’s only the last 150 years or so that the land was given up from using for sheep and was turned into this area set aside for intensively managing the land, so that there is an abundance of grouse, so that you can come along and shoot them. So if that’s a part of traditional Scotland then I don’t think it’s a part of traditional Scotland in the 21st Century. 

Presenter: Mark, this is not something that should be happening in the 21st Century, shooting for entertainment. 

Mark Tennant: Well, I mean Robbie comes up with these huge numbers of birds that are shot. I don’t know where he gets the numbers from. 

Presenter: OK Mark, what about the principle of shooting for entertainment, as Robbie describes it? 

Mark Tennant: You’re not shooting for entertainment. At the end of the day, every single one of these grouse, which by the way are not reared, let’s be absolutely clear, you cannot rear grouse. They actually end up in the food chain and are eaten. They are wild birds and I’m not convinced I know how you get them into the food chain unless you shoot them. But maybe Robbie’s got a better way. Maybe we can trap them, Robbie? 

Presenter: Robbie, what’s your response to that? These are wild birds that end up in the food chain. 

Robbie Marsland: I’d like to see the evidence of that. I’ve been working on this issue for some time now and there are no trading standards figures on the amount of grouse that do go into the food chain. So if Mark does have that information, I’d be really interested to see it. 

Mark Tennant: All I’d ask you Robbie is to come down to the restaurants in London. You’ll get them down here. You’ll get them in Germany, in France. 

Robbie Marsland: I know that some grouse certainly goes into high-end restaurants in London, absolutely. 

Mark Tennant: No they all end up in the food chain, they all end up there. 

Robbie Marsland: I’m not at all clear how many grouse are shot. The whole industry is sort of clouded in mystery. 

Presenter: Mark, what’s the attraction of grouse shooting? Why do people do it? I’d like to hear about that. 

Mark Tennant: People do it because man has been hunting wild animals since time immemorial. For food. And that’s what happens. It’s like fishing or anything else. You go out, you shoot birds, they go down and they get eaten and you eat some of them. 

Presenter: Robbie, let’s talk about the importance of the industry to the economy. Jobs and livelihoods depend on this, brings in £23 million or thereabouts to the Scottish economy. 

Robbie Marsland: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And £23 million sounds like a lot of money, but when you compare it to the size of the Scottish economy, I’m afraid it’s 0.02% of the scale of the economy. When it comes to jobs, I’m really really conscious that there is a fear that any changes will result in loss of jobs, and I think it’s our responsibility, the people who are starting to question why it is a good thing to kill all of these animals, that we do have solutions to that. That’s why the Revive Coalition, that the League Against Cruel Sports is a member of, has produced two reports, one called Back To Life, and the other A Better Way, and both of those reports detail that you can get more jobs. And more importantly, I spoke to the new owners of an estate called the Kildrummy Estate. They’re managing that estate for wildlife and for conservation and they stopped using it for killing grouse. They told me last week that they are bringing in several new jobs, they’re doing up the local hotel and producing new tourist accommodation, and all of that is of great benefit to the local community and jobs. 

Presenter: Mark, how important are the jobs to the local economies? 

Mark Tennant: The jobs are very important. It’s all very well to say that it’s 0.04% of the Scottish economy. Actually it’s a little bit less, it’s actually 28 million but let’s not quibble. The simple fact is that this is about 15% of the total take of the Edinburgh Festival every year. And all of it goes into the least populated and the poorest parts of our country. So the 0.04% really is a meaningless statistic. Like so many of the statistics that the League uses. 

Presenter: Very briefly, I’m going to ask you both about the licensing. Scottish government says it is going to bring in a licensing scheme to regulate the industry. What would that mean, how would that protect the birds of prey? Very briefly, Robbie. 

Robbie Marsland: Well, we don’t know yet. We are yet to see the terms of the licence. What we are asking for is that it’s a comprehensive licensing scheme that doesn’t just look at the number of raptors, and the increasing number of birds of prey which are being killed. But it looks at the way that heather is burned and the impact that has on Scotland’s ability to reach its climate change goals. And we are looking at the amount of medicated grit that is put out there. 

Presenter: Mark, I presume that you’re not welcoming this idea of licensing? 

Mark Tennant: I’m not sure what it achieves but the simple fact is it’s going to happen. 

Presenter: So lovely to hear from both of you. Thanks very much indeed for joining us this evening. And that’s all from Scotland Tonight. 

8 thoughts on “Grouse shooting debate on STV news programme”

  1. Whilst agreeing with the League against Cruel Sports, and their aims, I’m not a 100% sure that Robbie was the right man for this particular job. Didn’t quite seem clued up enough to me to argue the points raised. I appreciate all the excellent work the league do but perhaps they have too many irons in the fire to concentrate on this one particular subject.

    1. I concur, but for different reasons. The league’s aims and objectives reach well beyond anything that Holyrood is going to do in response to Werrity and the shooting lobby will argue that any proposed legislation is just a stalking horse and the ultimate objective is to ban all shooting, fishing, meat eating etc. Having a spokesman from an organisation that probably would want those objectives is making things easier for the shooting industry to make that case.

  2. Mark Tennant doesn’t know an easier way of getting Grouse in the food chain than utilising all the manpower and farce of DGS! Strange? Two keepers, one with a lamp (spotlight) and one with an anglers landing net can catch-up by hand 50 to 100 Grouse per night and direct-worm-dose them, and did so in the 80’s and 90’s. He needs to brush up on his subject matter.

  3. “And all of it goes into the least populated and the poorest parts of our country.”

    It’s been done over a huge area of Scotland for 150 years and the above statement describes perfectly just how useless an economic activity it is!

  4. “But maybe Robbie’s got a better way. Maybe we can trap them, Robbie? ”

    It’s frankly bizarre that Tennant appears to believe that it is some kind of necessity that these grouse get eaten. They make up such a trivial proportion of the food eaten in this country that the possibility that a few ‘high end restaurants” might be unable to source grouse would have absolutely no detectable impact on food poverty, child hunger, food prices or any other food-related issue that is important to society as a whole. Driven grouse shooting takes place for no other reason than the fact that certain people enjoy doing it (and, I suppose, enjoy the social cachet they imagine it confers). The fact that the grouse that get shot can be sold to a few restaurants is no doubt welcome income to the estate managers but if there was no market for them the shooting would carry on anyway – we know that from what happens with pheasants.

  5. ‘People do it because man has been hunting wild animals since time immemorial’ said Tennant. I am afraid Robbie missed a golden chance to show it for what it is. No way are the grouse ‘hunted’. They are driven towards a line of guns and blasted out of the sky. Cold-blooded murder more like!

  6. Mark Tennant said “every single one goes into the food chain” – someone needs to ask him to prove that when there are so many photographs which evidence of birds dumped and even some in stink pits. A shame that Robbie Markland wasn’t able to ask about toxic lead in the game that enters the human food chain.

    But, it’s publicity and that’s a good thing especially as it demonstrated avoidance of answering the question asked.

    Bring on more such televised ‘discussions’ ….

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