Rewilding of Scottish grouse moors features on BBC News at Six

Yesterday, the BBC’s News at Six included a five-minute feature on the rewilding of grouse moors in Scotland.

Contributors included Thomas MacDonnell of Wildland, Chief Executive of grouse moor lobby group Scottish Land & Estates Sarah-Jane Laing, and Magnus Davidson from the University of the Highlands & Islands.

It’s available on BBC iPlayer but only until 6.30pm this evening. You can watch it here (starts at 24.44 mins).

The enormous environmental costs of managing moors for driven grouse shooting were hardly covered at all – there was a bit in the introduction to the piece from Huw Edwards, and this sounded promising:

One of those crucial aspects [of national life in Scotland] is the future of the Scottish Highlands. Vast areas of the countryside are being bought by wealthy individuals keen to return the land to its natural state. They want to introduce the process of rewilding as it’s called, and to stop what they say is ecological degradation, deforestation and loss of biodiversity‘.

However, the piece itself was lacking. There was a little bit about the need to remove deer to allow vegetation regeneration but there was absolutely nothing on the impacts of muirburn, or on the serious organised crime that facilitates the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey such as golden eagles and hen harriers. Nothing on the use of hundreds of thousands of traps and snares to kill other birds and mammals to enable an excessively artificial number of red grouse to be put in front of the gun-toting bloodsports enthusiasts, or on the mass use of toxic veterinary drugs spread across the moors, or on the mass dumping of toxic lead ammunition across the moors, or on the vast public subsidies enjoyed by many of these private estates etc etc.

Instead, there was this from Sarah-Jane Laing (Scottish Land & Estates):

The idea that nothing else happens apart from grouse shooting on grouse moors is just not true. You know, what you see is a balanced approach to managing the landscape so that you can give the best possible chance for a wild bird to thrive and it’s only the surplus which are shot.

And country sports, yes, it’s a pleasure, in the same way that golf and hill walking and other things which happen in Scotland and are celebrated are, you know people come from all over the world because Scotland has the best grouse shooting globally and that’s something we should celebrate“.

None of this was challenged.

Here’s Iolo Williams’ response on Twitter last night:

It’s good that the issue of rewilding grouse moors is featuring on the BBC News at Six but it has to be far better informed than last night’s programme.

For readers new to the issue and wanting to learn more, I recommend visiting the website of REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform (here).

17 thoughts on “Rewilding of Scottish grouse moors features on BBC News at Six”

  1. Ever wonder what other employers other than game bird shooting gives employees “advice on the event of a police raid”

    Golfers and hillwalking don’t get this advice

  2. I watched this News item last night and was aghast at poor quality of the news reporting. The BBC is supposed to be unbiased and detailed in its reporting; they failed completely. The idea that grouse shooting is recreational is a joke, and nothing on the damage that is done “managed landscape” to the environment and associated ecosystems to provide a few birds for a selected few high rollers. There could be a realistic Panorama program that tells the truth and gets behind what really goes on. Would be very interesting watch and some very uncomfortable red faces of some well know people.

    1. As well as the core points about driven grouse shooting needing to be presented to the general public at very long last there’s a parallel issue of all the underhand stuff – dodgy front organisations, plants within conservation bodies, game shooting members of the police volunteering to become wildlife crime officers, the hiring of public relations agencies with questionable tactics, co-ordinated harassment of opponents and companies sympathetic to them, smears, politicians with links to grouse moors etc. So, so much for a bloody silly hobby. That news feature did sod all to illuminate anything did it?

    2. Andie..all of that has been done again and again in the past…to little or no effect..they just go quiet until they hope everyone has forgotten, while the killing on the estates carries on as usual. The public, who have been fed the Downton Abbey version of country life for generations are easy meat for the shooting propagandists. The information is all there [in the present day thanks to blogs like this] and has been through RSPB and scottish government reports, for decades. No politician has the bottle, when in power, to actually bring about the radical changes to the justice system and enforcement that are so obviously needed.

  3. Due to Covid Simon Reid has had to turn his travel reporting to the UK, his current 3 parter on Cumbria is up to his usual standard. The last one was about how the upstream land management affects the downstream flood risk, he just presented the facts etc. he also covered upland sheep and talked to farmers etc, the argument against any change of upland land use was just “its a way of life that’s been going on for over a hundreds years”. This type of reckoning needs to be challenged, although to be fair Simon Reid did present this in a sympathetic way, but did make the point of the benefits to flood risk, water quality etc that removing sheep of the fells would have.

    Slowly but surely the vandalism of our uplands, that has been ongoing for over a hundred years, is being exposed. And actions and ‘ways of life’ of the few that are costing millions downstream are being challenged.

    When I watched all these travel reporter, reporting from the far flung places of the world I always wish that they would turn their skills to the underlying issues on these islands.

    1. “Due to Covid Simon Reid has had to turn his travel reporting to the UK”

      I think you mean Simon Reeve, and the series is called ‘The Lakes with Simon Reeve’.

  4. I think recall that the BBC presenter delivering the piece said his father was a gamekeeper, was that the case and how could he not have even unconscious bias?

    1. Notice he didn’t actually read from the book which, if was as transparent as the Glen Garry 1837 record, would have demolished Ms Laing’s tripe.

  5. Yes it was woeful, it didn’t say much of anything and there had been a build up throughout the main feature about it too, but it was a total damp squib. What a bloody shame. There was the now almost obligatory ‘people must be part of rewilding’ bit from the wheeled on academic. Well people certainly were a big part of the loss of forest, soils and wildlife from the hills, the first and real Highland Clearance. Somehow the onus is on rewilders to cater for what some people want – as if this isn’t the usual way society works – rather than humanity’s collective responsibility fixing the ecological devastation it caused. If individuals and communities claim their rights in expressing wishes and views then they have to accept others’ rights to criticise them too, although the latter is practically taboo now.

    Yet somehow people are the victims and need special attention although it’s bears, wolves, lynx and elk that are completely gone. It’s not just sporting estates we’re up against unfortunately, there are others who if they have their way will see rewilding watered down in scale and quality to scraps fitting between glens filled with four bedroom ‘crofts’ serving as second homes, or ‘rewilding’ that consists of glorified livestock farming with public subsidy – this is the way it could be going in Wales.

    I maybe, and hope I am, just a pessimistic old fart, but my gut instinct is that wonderful opportunities for large scale eco-restoration that actually means something will be shredded by self interest and opportunism under the guise of ‘tradition’, ‘heritage’, ‘community’. I think we need to keep a serious eye on this and ensure that land reform isn’t a vehicle for gross exploitation of the land by a few to become gross exploitation by the many or at least somewhat more. This was the most significant thing that stood out to me about the feature – such a pity the Langholm buyout and its genuinely progressive plans weren’t shown, a truly green community even better than a truly green laird.

  6. Yesterday I switched off the Beeb news after beginning to hear the hogwash of tosh of this biased report. News? More of a puff piece on behalf the grouse morr owners. The beeb didn’t balance it out. It’s like rolling out Nigel Lawson as a balanced opinion to climate change (which the beeb has done in the past in the name of false balance).

    1. What did you expect? It was the BBC, who are shit scared of this Tory Government and will not do anything that leaves them open to criticism by them. In any case, the Tories have put their men in charge and they ensure that the party line is adhered to – hence goodbye to Kuennsberg and anyone else who has the temerity to ask awkward questions and put them on the spot. When Dacre gets the post he is after that will be the end of the BBC. Job done, and this wretched rabble can turn their full attention to dismembering what is left of the NHS

      1. Yeah the knives are definitely out for the BBC no question. There are quite a few dodgy right wing podcasters playing their man/woman of the people thing which inevitably involves slipping in the rubbishing of the BBC – funnily enough they never want reform it’s always termination. As we’ve got the growth of media with confirmed political bias like GBnews although the BBC is far from perfect it still represents RELATIVELY non partisan broadcasting. Many people including yours truly has quite serious frustrations with the BBC, but they come at least as much from the right as the left so there is some form of rough balance there. Of course some don’t want that at all and prefer the media the way it is in countries like the USA, far more malleable. Certainly not a good thing for a well informed electorate and therefore not for conservation either.

  7. And last week’s Landward had an equally nonsensical piece from a farmer on the Sea Eagle. These winged brutes are still going around in gangs, killing lambs just for the sake of it.

    At least that’s what he woud have people believe.

  8. What surprises me is that no one saw this coming. The Powers That be play the long game. They allow their opponents to shoot themselves out and, just as legislation is about to be considered, play their own cards which they have been preparing behind the scenmes – -for at least four years according to my own knowledge.
    PS – -rewilding is in a similar position.

  9. Well, going against the trend, I think the BBC broaching such a subject on a flagship news broadcast is quite a big step forward. Why it didn’t eviscerate so-called game shooting is open to debate (vested interests, maybe?) but it is now a subject which the national BBC News (not local) deemed it could no longer ignore. I doubt that Scottish Land & Estates think that having to explain their behaviour to the nation is altogether ‘a good thing’?

    The news item made the point that the trend was now against grouse shooting and deer stalking and toward re-wilding. The shooters are on the defensive. It appears to me that the BBC are much more ready to listen to a rich elite (perhaps a class they see as their peers?) who are moving against shooting toward a much deeper concern for the environment, whereas previously the BBC have managed to ignore any similar concerns from the hoi polloi.

    The first cracks in shooting industry PR are beginning to appear: a tide of public criticism from many directions. We need to drive forward, primarily following up all the points about upland management which Ruth has listed above:-) The BBC have already shown everyone that the deer stalking industry is artificially suppressing the regeneration of upland forests, which is against the interests of everyone concerned about climate change (and that means just about the rest of us). Draining and muirburn does the same…

    This all adds pressure on what the coalition Scottish Government do next… a pity the BBC did not include northern England in the debate.

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