Driven grouse shooting still exists but it is beleaguered. It’s good to think of how far we have come in just a few years. It is a worthless hobby and its proponents have no answers to the charges against it except to ignore them.
If driven grouse shooting hadn’t been invented c170 years ago then no-one would introduce it into our hills today – it is mass killing of wildlife, it depends on wildlife crime and the burning management which dominates the grouse moors is bad for protected habitats and for the climate. Who’d vote for that package (let alone medicated grit, lead ammunition, increased flood risk and the list goes on).
Ten years ago the media coverage of intensive grouse shooting around the Inglorious 12th would have been soft and supportive, now it highlights the controversies that are part of the very nature of grouse shooting. There is conflict in the uplands over grouse shooting and it can only be resolved in one way – with the end of intensive management for the hobby of grouse shooting.
The grouse shooting clique cannot cope with these issues:
- the scale of legal and illegal killing – it’s a hobby that is shooting birds for fun. There is no getting away from that although the pro-grouse shooting clique try to make out that they are managing the moors for Curlews and so that local communities can make some money. Not so, it’s a hobby where people pay to gun down wildlife, and it requires intensive predator control on top of the Red Grouse that are killed. It’s up to you how much you care about our wildlife being killed in such large numbers but it is very clear that the public mood is switching away from thinking that traditional wildlife slaughter is ‘a good thing’. This is why grouse shooting does not post images of shooting actually happening – they know it wouldn’t look good. Rows of dead birds, some injured and all for the private satisfaction of the shooters.
- burning the uplands is bad for the climate – the Committee on Climate Change call for rotational burning of heather etc on grouse moors never to start again – they want it ended before the next burning season. This is because the peat stores of the uplands are prejudiced by burning. So a hobby refuses to reform and declines to be part of the battle against climate change. It’s not quite a choice between a day’s shooting and the planet going up in flames but even if it were I can see no sign that the grouse moor clique would change their ways – it’s a tradition you know? Traditional grouse moor management is standing in the way of progress in so many ways, but thinking that you can ignore climate change is a pretty arrogant position for the hobby of shooting birds for fun.
- wildlife crime – there are people associated with grouse shooting, I think, who really do believe that there is little wildlife crime intimately associated with this hobby – but the number must be falling all the time. More of the grouse shooters, I believe, are perfectly aware of the scale of criminality but really don’t care. A hobby that wants to shoot more than half a million Red Grouse a year for fun isn’t too bothered about adding hundreds of protected eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards, hawks and kites to that list. And who cares if it’s a crime – they don’t often catch us and DEFRA are on our side too! But away from the grouse butts, the realisation of criminality simply grows and grows. What sort of a hobby depends on killing protected species? In all the coverage of a slowly increasing Hen Harrier population in England you will see no mention of the lack of other raptors (as well as the almost total lack of Hen Harriers still of course) on the moors. If your hobby were underpinned by criminality then you might think twice about whether it was going to last very long.
The mood has changed enormously and it is still changing. The English grouse moors cannot bear to mention Scotland where the same issues have led to a different parliament moving toward licensing of grouse shooting and muirburn. The same will eventually happen in England too.
The very nature of the hobby of grouse shooting is a public relations disaster – it’s a hobby about killing wildlife for fun and depends on environmentally damaging management and criminality to survive. All the money and all the ‘reports’ in the world can’t get you away from the essence of grouse shooting as we see it on the grouse moors of England. There’s an old, and somewhat in-your-face saying that applies here ‘You can’t polish sh*t and make it sparkle’. There’s been quite a lot of sh*t polishing going on this week but it when you look closely, it certainly doesn’t sparkle.