A blunt but necessary stick?

When it comes to resolving conflicts, I’m more a fan of the carrot than the stick. That makes this blog very tricky as it recommends a stick, a big fat heavy one at that. I’ve thought long and hard before posting it.

Grouse shooting has never been my thing (it’s the working class gene in me) but quite a number of my friends and colleagues are active in, or benefit from, driven grouse shooting and although it remains a divisive pursuit in the Scottish Highlands and the English uplands, it also remains a legal pursuit. A call to ban it then, with a big blunt stick, is not something I would support without good reason. Like I say, I find this difficult.

The long and short of it is that despite years of protracted posturing between shooting interests – primarily those concerned with driven grouse – and conservation groups, despite case study research, despite attempts to reconcile the divergent interests of shooting red grouse and conserving birds of prey, the latter are still being killed and in particular, hen harriers.

The problem, if you perceive it as such, is that harriers eat grouse and grouse that can’t be shot by fee-paying clients, is money down the drain. There are other factors too, that seep into this contentious issue; factors that are common to our perception of many predator-prey relationships; factors that are to do with traditional class systems and the perceived rural-urban divide. It’s a complex issue.

Putting the context aside however (again not something I do lightly), there is simply too much evidence to deny that hen harriers are being shot and/or poisoned in areas where grouse shooting predominates. I cannot imagine any other conclusion that a fair-minded and logical individual can draw.

A call to ban driven grouse shooting then, is for some, the only way to stop harriers being killed and to allow them their rightful role in the ecology of our uplands. I haven’t always supported such a radical step but my patience, along with that of thousands of others, is waning. It seems that for anyone who wishes to see harriers prosper, a dead end has been reached.

BB-hharrier-13It should be stressed that this campaign isn’t of my making but it’s one that I’ve researched and considered and is one that I’m now prepared, albeit reluctantly, to back. It should also be stressed that not every grouse moor owner, nor those who work in grouse shooting, are persecuting birds of prey but it still happens and with too much regularity.

I don’t want rural economies to suffer but my gut tells me that enough is enough and that the killing must stop. Some things are just not right.

You can learn much more about this issue here. You can also make up your own mind whether or not to sign an e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.




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8 thoughts on “A blunt but necessary stick?

  1. Very considered – summarised I think by ‘enough is enough’? It is so galling that the landowners have the upper-class gene and, with the backing of the current wildlife-unfriendly Government, can at with impunity – and authorise (unofficially of course!) those that work for them. It would be nice to think that the human race could evolve altruistically and not be totally driven by money. Its a world wide issue – money and vested interests versus right & wrong……….

  2. Likewise Pete this is an issue I have been following now for longer than I care to remember. As you know my background with my family involved in estate life and mine in wildlife photography I have in many ways an unique insight into both worlds so to speak. Have to say I agree with a lot of what you say but a ban could be counter productive . I think the real change must come from the so called sporting estates themselves , it is high time the law abiding landowners and gamekeepers (in the real world the majority) wised up and get real with what is happening within and get to grips and rid the countryside of these paricites that are ruing there very excistance and the wildlife of course. Perhaps if this happend and likes of the rspb started to listen to others viewpoints and moved to a more middle ground , albeit not perfect but surely only the harriers and other wildlife would benifit and that can only be good for all parties.

    1. Thanks for your input Neil.

      I think to be fair, Mark Avery – the initiator of the campaign – isn’t realistically pursuing a ban but laying down a marker to demonstrate how desperate the issue has become. Like you ( and Simon below), I’m not convinced this is the best way forward but pretty much everything else has been tried. As you suggest, the ‘industry’ needs to wise up but the evidence of that to date, is weak. As for a compromise, that’s another can of worms altogether! I remain hopeful that the carrot approach will prevail.

  3. I beg to disagree most vigorously about a ban on grouse shooting, though I am not a grouse shooter myself.

    There is evidence elsewhere on the issue of grouse v hen harrier and I don’t intend to enter the scientific debate as I am hardly qualified to do so, but there has to be a balance in all things, including nature, and the absence of any predator for hen harriers should not mean that as their numbers recover, they must be immune from all control.

    I do fish and am most aggrieved about the behaviour of (some) canoeists in relation to anglers and the fact that by lack of any control measures on their part ( basically proper drying out of their kayaks/canoes and kit) they irresponsibly spread invasive creatures and disease around our waterways to the detriment of our riverine environments. Yet I make no plea to ban them and I do think the nature lobby needs to be a bit more grown up too.

  4. It makes me sad that killing animals is the show piece of the rich, imagine if people aspired to planting trees or taking pictures and that was the past time of the rich (please please as I would be in the money if guided wildlife photography trips is what prince william liked tod do when on holiday), what an amazing place we would live in!
    Added to the killing of birds of prey is the fact that 400000 hares a year are shot half of which are to control tick numbers (SNH figures from last year i think) to protect grouse. As far as I am aware the only scientific study on this has shown that for this method of control to be effective all animals including deer on the hill side need to be eradicated. All this slaughter just so a person and a gun can kill lots of birds on one day……..
    In theory i have no problem with a person going out killing a few wild birds then going home cooking them up and having a nice dram to finish the day off (i would not enjoy it but can see how some may). It is the killing of so much wildlife just to be able to kill so much more that seems completely un logical and un moral.
    Thanks pete for raising this. I did not know there was a move to ban grouse hunting, will be interesting to see what comes of it.

  5. Peter, very interesting points well made by you and the replies. Personally as a keen conservationist/photographer who used to go on the occasional driven pheasant shoot and was brought up shooting the odd rabbit etc, I have to say I can never see a ban being implemented regardless of which political party is in power. Rightly or wrongly money will always talk and if you target grouse shooting for specific reasons then the shooting fraternity will announce that ALL shooting is under threat and shooting per se is not the sport of just the wealthy elite. Equally should a few well known bad apples on grouse moors who regularly kill all wildlife they deem a threat be responsible for impacting an industry that is significant part of many local rural communities that have very few other income generating industries in those areas. Must be a danger of uniting groups who would normally feel very uncomfortable at the same table. That said I also know that a lot of the grouse moor clients have no idea whatsoever of the behaviour of some gamekeepers on moors they shoot and would be actually appalled. When you’re paying £200 a brace or moor for grouse, the cost is not the issue for the client and I think a campaign to actively promote and advertise those moors with best practice combined with equally negative coverage of those prosecuted (if they are but that’s a different argument!) would make a big difference. For example, an active campaign of publicising the offences by the Glenogil estate owned by the owner of a large Edinburgh based investment bank may cause people to question their investments which such an organisation, As I say money talks and nothing would focus the mind of the owners more than a few million being withdrawn from their hedge funds and accounts by concerned investors and social media allows that sort of instant but directed publicity. Most people I know who go on bigger shoots (e.g. 300-400 bird days on pheasants shoots etc) have zero desire to be associated with any product deemed unlawful/unethical etc. In an industry worth c. £2bn+ and with more than 500k jobs involved I think we have to turn the majority against the bad practice minority. I hear so much ranting and screaming about how “all shooting is a vicious wildlife destroying bloodspot done by port swilling privately educated friends of Cameron” that does so nothing but destroy any rational discussion as well as being factually incorrect on every count!! Hope all well up there and please get the 18th Sept out of the way as I can’t take much more TV coverage of it down here 🙂

  6. There is always more than one way to kill a pig.
    I have never understood what pleasure can be obtained by killing anything. Those that do are perfectly happy to terrorise, hurt, and kill some innocent creature simply to gratify their desire and display precisely the characteristics of paedophiles. The latter are unacceptable amongst decent people and if the similarity can be drawn to public attention then those who shoot and hunt to gain an ego boost may find themselves less welcome company and lose enthusiasm for this so-called ‘sport’.
    The shooter gets his pleasure from wildlife. He spots his target, pulls the trigger and gets a ten-second adrenalin rush — then has to find another target.
    I also get my pleasure from wildlife. I spot my ‘target’ and with patience and care teach it that I am benign and potentially useful. We become friends. I learn about that species and that one creature provides pleasure over and over again every time we meet.
    Of course, I cannot swank that I killed so many whatevers today and hold up a collection of corpses.
    He who kills to eat is understandable. He who kills for fun disgusts me.

  7. I think Neil has hit the nail on the head. If, as the official representatives of the shooting lobby claim, they abhor illegal killing then within that circle it will be well known who the irresponsible people are. A word in the right place could work wonders!
    However what is the significance of the evidence that the introduction of vicarious responsibility in Scotland has not resulted in any prosecution on those estates where illegal killing has taken place??

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