Widespread concerns about gamebird-shooting during the current avian flu epidemic are repeated today in an article in the Press & Journal.
I argue that it’s irresponsible and selfish for grouse-shoots to take place when the full impact of this highly pathogenic virus on our wild bird populations is currently unknown, although we do know that it has killed tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of birds already, impacting on globally significant UK populations of some wild bird species.
In response, the Scottish Government is quoted: ‘…there have been no recorded cases of avian influenza in any grouse species, and there are no restrictions in place on grouse shooting’.
Hmm. And how much monitoring and surveillance has the Scottish Government undertaken to assess the extent of bird flu in red grouse? Given the authorities’ complete disinterest in the monitoring and surveillance of highly contagious Cryptosporidiosis, known to be present in high-density grouse populations on intensively-managed Scottish grouse moors and known to be affecting other species through cross-contamination, I’d say this Government response is poor. Especially when we know that many grouse moors are now infested with non-native pheasants and red-legged partridges which have been released for shooting (e.g. see here).
But don’t worry. Kenneth Stephen of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association told the P&J that the industry would “fully comply” with any restrictions imposed, “and it would be illegal not to”.
That’s reassuring, because gamekeepers are renowned for complying with the law, aren’t they?