RSPB warns driven grouse shooting does not have a future without change

RSPB Media Release 

Hen Web

Illegal shooting and trapping of Hen Harriers has left just three active nests in England, driving the bird towards extinction as an English breeding species·  The RSPB is looking at how licensing of the grouse moor management industry must be implemented following the charity’s withdrawal from Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan

The RSPB is calling for a licensing scheme to improve standards in grouse moor management, compliance with the law and encouragement for existing good practice, which should become the norm for all moors in England

Europe’s biggest conservation charity is warning that reform is the only way grouse shooting can save itself in England. This follows the RSPB withdrawing support for Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan as it failed to deliver the urgent action and change in behaviour needed to prevent Britain’s rarest bird of prey being pushed closer to extinction as a breeding bird in England.

Jeff Knott, RSPB’s head of nature policy said: “Today, Friday 12 August 2016, is the start of the red grouse shooting season, a sport that is coming under close scrutiny as more and more people look at some of the practices that support intensive driven grouse moors in England and parts of Scotland.

 “The illegal killing of hen harriers has left just three nesting pairs in England, a country that could be home to over 300 pairs.

“This is starting to raise the question over whether there is a sustainable future for driven grouse shooting. The simple answer is that it doesn’t have a future unless it changes and adopts best practise. The illegal killing of birds of prey like the hen harrier must end, and sadly this tars the reputation of every grouse moor estate and every shooter.

“There are also serious concerns about the environmental damage caused by other management practices these moors increasingly rely on, such as the draining and vegetation burning of the natural landscape, and the large scale killing of mountain hares.”

The RSPB has concerns with the increasingly intensive and questionable management associated with driven grouse shooting including the killing of birds of prey, burning and drainage of wildlife rich peatlands, tracks and the use of veterinary medicines and killing of mountain hares to reduce the incidence of disease in grouse.

Jeff Knott added: “We have seen how licensing can work in countries like the United States of America, and believe lessons can be learnt and applied to England.

“It is in the interests of those good, law-abiding estates to stand up and embrace licensing as a means for driving up standards, building public trust and removing the bad apples. The longer the current denial and spin from the driven grouse moors and their representatives continues, the stronger public opposition to intensive grouse shooting will become, jeopardising the future of driven grouse shooting.”

The RSPB is calling for a licensing system for grouse moors. This system would recognise high standards where they exist and would allow a focus on driving up standards of landscape management, and predator control across the industry.  Breaches of the conditions would be subject to penalties, which could ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the license to run a shoot for a period of years.

6 comments to RSPB warns driven grouse shooting does not have a future without change

  • Albert Ross

    Very welcome. One could say “about bloody time!”
    IF the landowners cannot see the wisdom of this approach then they will only have themselves to blame if and when the practice is outlawed for ALL estates in order to control the few bad apples in their ranks.

  • Northern Diver

    Funny how the RSPB have only come out with this now that it’s more or less a foregone conclusion that Mark Avery’s petition to ban driven grouse shooting will reach 100,000 +.

    They have been pretty lukewarm about it at the executive level before now. Seems like they are peeping over the parapet now – after Mark and Chris Packham have born the brunt of most of the media attacks.
    Still I suppose better late than never. But I still can’t see how licensing can be policed effectively. Better an outright ban.
    Then let’s see if walked-up grouse shooting results in less intensive management and no raptor persecution. Also cut the subsidies for shooting estates. Why should the taxpayer subsidise rich people’s sport?


    Editor’s Comment.
    Walked up grouse shooting will make no difference, the incentive to kill protected birds of prey on grouse moors will still exist.

  • Albert Ross

    With respect Mr Editor, you are incorrect. Walking up Grouse or any other quarry is a whole different ball game to the organised battues of driven grouse.Walking up is impractical for more than say 3 guns per day. Indeed is would be somewhat self limiting due to the danger of getting shot by one’s companion. Whilst of course game targets will still be required in some numbers for an effective result there is not the incentive for a vast and constant supply of such targets ‘to order’!
    And without that incentive to produce quarry in unnatural numbers there should be little incentive to remove any perceived minor competition from raptors. It would simply not be cost effective and as we know, remove the money, remove the threat.

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    Albert. I think you are wrong on this one. If Driven Grouse Shooting is banned there will be an automatic reaction from the estates and their gamekeepers, and it will most likely be vengeful, taking out as many raptors as they can, not that this would matter here in the Forest of Bowland because that aim has already been achieved.

  • alan

    In Scotland they changed the law to include vicarious liability (i.e the landowner could also be prosecuted for wildlife crimes committed by keepers. Funnily enough since then, much as things aren’t perfect, there has been a quantum leap in attitudes.
    Between vicarious liability and licensing I think 90 to 95% of the crimes would go away.

    Editor’s Comment. Even if you were correct, this is England and the Tory’s have the whip hand. They have already discounted Vicarious Liability and they are unlikely to support a licensing scheme, mainly because of their sporting MP’s and financial backers many who shoot.

  • Albert Ross

    Terry, Vengeful it may be but it would not be because of Walked up Grouse. It would be spite pure and simple but only whilst funds remained to support unemployed employees of Driven Grouse Managers and I don’t see them lasting long do you?