More damning evidence against grouse moor owners

Posted on the 24th July 2015

The body of evidence against the ‘management techniques’ employed by grouse moor owners continues to grow. The latest attack, this week, comes from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, with the launch of a damning new study into the extent of burning across upland areas in Britain. It concludes that moorland used for grouse shooting has seen an 11 per cent increase in burning activity year-on-year between 2001 and 2011.

Grouse moor owners drain and burn moorland in order to encourage the growth of heather, upon which their quarry – grouse – feed. Both of these practices have been widely criticised, because upland deep peat is the largest carbon store in the UK. Draining and burning leads to carbon loss and damages the ground’s ability to act as a carbon store. The uplands are also vital to water supplies and burning them leads to water discolouration and deterioration in quality.

Astoundingly, although moor owners have been put under pressure to block the drainage ditches, known as ‘grips’, burning precious peat bog is still permitted by government agencies, such as Natural England. Many of the schemes to ‘protect’ or enhance upland areas (which include the permitted burning) are paid for by taxpayers via EU subsidies.

The latest RSPB study looked in detail at 45,000 1-km squares of uplands across Scotland, England and Wales. It found that burning had occurred in 55 per cent of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 63 per cent of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Most worrying, however, is the year-on-year increase in the amount of burning taking place, at a time when there is considerable concern about the imminent effects of climate change.

A few weeks ago, the Committee on Climate Change released its 2015 progress report, which stated: ‘Wetland habitats, including the majority of upland areas with carbon-rich peat soils, are in poor condition. The damaging practice of burning peat to increase grouse yields continues, including on internationally-protected sites. The Government has set ambitious targets to improve the ecological condition of important habitats and halt the decline in England’s biodiversity. However it is far from certain that these goals will be met.’

Animal Aid’s research and detailed reports on the effect of grouse moor management have contributed significantly to the growing campaign against the destructive practices of wealthy moor owners. A key point to reiterate, however, is that the much of the damage to our vital ecological landscapes is being carried out primarily to support a bloodsport, indulged in by a wealthy and influential minority.

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