Grouse shooting season ‘irresponsible’ amid bird flu epidemic

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?

8 thoughts on “Grouse shooting season ‘irresponsible’ amid bird flu epidemic”

  1. Well today is the day when all the big men of the world go out and blast hell out of the grouse it disgusts me that there society never changes , please everyone let’s put a stop to this and the pheasant and partridge massacre,

  2. The medicated grit tray regime will be starting up again soon enough, and their is a lot of variation in the best practice of this – from very fastidious to very careless. Woodpigeons and Black Headed Gulls poke about on some of these (particularly the ones placed on raised natural grassy mounds). Given that they haven’t the will to limit this, at the very least Defra should issue some rules backed up by inspections to mitigate some risk.

  3. As we used to say when I was a working scientist ‘absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence’. What you find depends how hard you look.

    1. And often what you find (how hard you look) depends upon what you have already decided you expect to see. That applies to all sides of the “scientific” debate.

  4. And how exactly is grouse shooting risky to bird flu?
    No birds are released so what more risk of bird flu is there, if you mean it’s from the guns travelling around then think again there is thousands of feet fall in our national parks countrywide from all corners of the country and abroad which could spread it. Are we going to ban all visitors as well? It seems to me that anything you can falsely promote then you will regardless of the truth.

    1. The whole point, Graeme, is that we simply don’t know because monitoring and surveillance is totally inadequate. However, we do know there are inherent risks, as already pointed out in the blog and also in the comments left by others. Red grouse don’t live in isolation on grouse moors and birds do have wings.

      Who’d have thought a few years ago that Cryptosporidiosis would be rampant amongst red grouse – this disease was formerly only recorded in poultry flocks. It’s a reflection of how red grouse are managed on intensively-driven grouse moors that this disease has been able to take hold.

      1. Cryptosporidiosis looks much like the genesis of avian flu. Anybody who doesn’t recognise the potential risk of transference just needs to look at the spread of Trichomonosis from pigeons and doves into finches and raptors. No doubt the shooting industry will continue with the denials, as per Mr Lott, because their agenda is different and the ywill no doubt throw their hands up in horror when it hits saying “Nobody could have seem this coming!” – even though you can if your mind is open.

        1. Excepting the (relatively) small fry who have booked with an Agent for one or two days here and there, the true grouse shooting toffs and heavyweight establishment figures will already have their invites and dates confirmed as they tour around one anothers moors later in August and through September. Nothing will stop them – not bird flu, not covid, not looming social & economic crisis, probably not even Russia popping a couple of nukes onto Kiev. And if they have to give a few invites to some upstart Tory MPs to keep them on side, then so be it. I mean who is going to decline an invite to shoot at Eastshittygunhopegillwickdale just because a few pleb animal rights nutters are whining?

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