Should the sale of Red Grouse for human consumption carry a Health Warning?

Many following the recent coverage of the Hen Harrier debate on our televisions will no doubt have watched the clip featured by one of the news channels last night on a grouse moor in Yorkshire yesterday. The programme showed a TV journalist with a gamekeeper walking across a purple heather landscape while following a grouse shoot. Towards the end of the short coverage the gamekeeper opened a game bag and placed 3 dead grouse on the floor in front of the journalist which were still warm. The gamekeeper then commented along the lines, here we are could’t be more fresh or organic could they.

Crit feeder-8494

Tray filled with medicated grit to combat disease in red grouse. Would you take a chance with your health?

The point is the freshly shot birds might have been warm, but they are certainly not organic by any stretch of the imagination. Consider for one moment the fact these game birds had been shot using lead pellets, a highly toxic substance. We know for example that it was lead shot used by hunters in America that nearly caused the extinction of the Californian Condor. Using lead ammunition to shoot wildfowl here in the UK has been banned for some time because of fears the lead would contaminate the birds being shot and the water where waterfowl were shot.


Consumers should think before they eat.

Game birds like the Red Grouse are susceptible to disease, in particular when their numbers on grouse moors become artificially high. To combat this problem gamekeepers use medicated grit throughout the year which they place strategically in small trays throughout the moorland where Red Grouse are shot. The grouse then take up this treated grit orally to help digest the heather shoots in their gut. What is not clear, can the ingested medical element of the grit be passed on to unsuspecting consumers who then eat the meat? Are all the lead pellets used to kill the grouse removed from carcasses before the meat is contaminated by the lead? Are consumers informed about the medication eaten by the grouse before they buy? We would not take the chance no matter how small the risk, would you?

4 comments to Should the sale of Red Grouse for human consumption carry a Health Warning?

  • Anna Beswick

    The whole animal chain is being over medicated, except organic production. These birds cannot be classed as organic as they are wild and there is no control over their feed. The birds are bred to be shot for ‘sport’ this is the 21st century, it is about time this barbaric practice was ended. Raptors are also being killed to protect this industry.

    Any wild or bred birds shot should definitely carry a health warning.

  • Kevin moore

    As well as a health warning there should also be a large label on each grouse sold reminding the consumer that protected birds of prey and mammals have been slaughtered on England’s uplands in their thousands to enable each grouse to be shot and then eaten, or simply thrown away to rot.

    Then there should be a leaflet given to remind consumers of the damage caused by gamekeepers to moorland designated as SSSi’s and SPA’s(Special Protected Areas) to ensure iconic birds like the hen harrier and peregrine can no longer find suitable habitat in which to nest on any more. Such damage is particularly evident in the Forest of Bowland, where large swaths of once pristine heather where harriers once bred have been reduced to waist land. This is the hidden costs that grouse shooting has has brought to our uplands.

  • Trapit

    While agreeing that shot Red Grouse should probably not be described as organic,it is worth remembering that even organically reared animals are routinely wormed,and receive other medications as necessary from an animal welfare standpoint. Also medicated grit has a statutory withdrawal period as do all drugs where the end product is for human consumption. Regarding the consumption of shot game ,a person really would have to eat absolutely stupid amounts to notice any adverse reactions. The problem regarding Californian condors stemmed from deer being shot with deep penetrating and fragmenting lead bullets leaving a “trail” through the muscle. I am not aware of any problems on a similar scale with golden eagles in Scotland ,which do well in western deer forests. Finally I know many keen birders who enjoy roast pheasant or partridge,most of them seem rational but I do wonder sometimes.

    Editor’s Comment. We appreciate your update on this hot subject

  • Tommy

    I would like to make any people reading this aware that medicated grouse grit has a withdrawal Period of 28 days before they can be put in to the food chain. Just the same as any other farmed animal that has been treated for anything. Medicated grit can do no harm to humans at all after this period.