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Refreshingly honest appraisal of driven grouse shooting in The Times

In yesterday's Times, an article ran titled: 'Dismissing the role of grouse shooting is pure snobbery' written by the former Director of Communications of the GWCT, Andrew Gilruth.

If you haven't yet read it it is well worth a read.

"Driven grouse shooting is one of the world’s most successful conservation stories. For over a century it has funded the protection and maintenance of some of the rarest habitat on earth, heather moorland. As the grouse shooting season opens on Friday, don’t expect too many in the conservation industry to acknowledge this, because we now have a new phenomenon: conservation hypocrisy or, for want of a better word, snobbery.

This snobbery has become rife. Conservation organisations and our statutory environmental bodies now position their policies from the lofty assumption that they know best. Worse, they rarely listen to or respect the communities in which they wish to work or exert influence. This snobbery has resulted in the views of those who look after our moorlands being ignored because someone working in a windowless office in London feels they know better.

Unfortunately failure is not a concern to the conservation industry because it ensures it receives yet more funding. Despite these ever-widening streams of taxpayers’ cash, the RSPB tells us we have lost a pair of birds from our countryside every minute for the past 50 years. Obviously not from everywhere: in spring, driven grouse moors are still lifting with wildlife. Globally threatened species such as curlew and merlin thrive, as do golden plover, greenshank and many unique plant communities.

It’s not just about wildlife. Society expects our countryside to provide everything from food to clean air to recreation. The government listed these in its 25-year plan for the environment, and progress on how the uplands are meeting these targets has just been audited by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. The findings are fascinating. Some anticipated that driven grouse shooting might deliver more of these outcomes than upland agriculture, energy production and commercial forestry, but few were expecting it to deliver more than the conservation industry’s new darling — rewilding.

Some will find this type of emerging evidence difficult to accept. It challenges the current conservation industry’s group thinking. Others may suggest this does not matter, but surely it does now that we are in a “nature emergency”. In a crisis it makes sense to drop the snobbery. Who cares if the people that can help you are dressed in tweed? Nor should it matter to the conservation industry that driven grouse shooting achieves these results without needing vast sums of funding from the taxpayer."


This pragmatic appraisal of driven grouse shooting was refreshingly honest and certainly seemed to resonate with some of its readers.

One Scottish reader summed up the general public sentiment accurately when he said:

"Planting trees on Pennine moor destroys the carbon sink of the bog. I used to be anti-grouse moor until I came to live on one. I don’t shoot. Grouse moors are where the curlews, lapwings, skylarks and short eared owls live, while identical landscapes not under game management only have crows and seagulls.

The main threats to the ground nesting birds are dogs (especially pet retrievers) off the lead between February and end of July, fire caused by barbecues, and fire made worse by lack of management.

Public money could buy up all the shooting rights, but the moors would deteriorate in diversity without the continued investment in the activities of the gamekeepers, who have to deal with a range of careless, selfish and even psychopathic dog owners, and some dangerous people driving over nesting birds on quad bikes, whose first recourse is to shout, “I know where you live and I’m going to burn it down.”

At the moment we get our ground nesting bird conservation for free from the pockets of those who shoot grouse. The state could pay for this, but the majority of tax payers would always rather that public money was spent on something else, and if the public owned the moors the dog owning public would take it as a licence to let their spaniels devastate the nests of curlews and lapwings, as they do elsewhere. The bien pensants will say “We can educate these people as they do in Scandinavia”…


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