Growing backlash against the brutality and rural vandalism of grouse shoot owners

Posted on the 27th September 2009

A new Animal Aid report charts the growing backlash against grouse shooting, and attacks the Tory-led coalition government for the way in which it has ‘increased the flow of public money in the moor owners’ direction while stripping away controls that could moderate their reckless excesses’.

Calling the Shots 2014 updates Animal Aid’s in-depth report on the grouse shooting industry, published last October. The new dossier reveals that wealthy moorland shoot owners are receiving even more financial and regulatory encouragement to wreak havoc on sensitive moorland habitats.

Among the most significant and unexpected developments is that the normally tentative RSPB has demanded two radical policy initiatives. In response to the growing frustration of its grassroots supporters, it is backing calls for the introduction of a licensing scheme for grouse shoots – with such licences being revoked where there is persecution of birds of prey. It has also called for an end to burning on ecologically precious deep peatlands.

Other key developments since the publication of Animal Aid’s 2013 report include:

  • The amount of CAP Moorland Payment subsidies is to nearly double. Although intended for farmers, their representative bodies have expressed concern that much of the money could end up in the pockets of grouse moor owners.
  • At least 127 separate agreements have come to light under which Natural England has consented to burning taking place on legally protected blanket bog habitats. (Burning is undertaken to boost grouse numbers, because it encourages the growth of heather on which the grouse feed.)
  • Following the reported intervention of David Cameron, the cost of a gun licence has been frozen at £50 – a price unchanged since 2001. This is despite the police reporting that the cost of background checks on each applicant now runs to £196.
  • In April came the discovery of the bodies of 16 red kites and six buzzards within a two-square-mile area near Inverness in what is believed to be the largest mass poisoning of birds recorded.
  • In January 2014, Andrew Sells was appointed the new chairman of Natural England. Sells is a chartered accountant, venture capitalist, founder of a property company and generous Tory party donor.

Calling the Shots describes how moorland shoots, supported by taxpayer subsidies, are brutally killing and maiming huge numbers of wild animals and leaving vast swathes of precious peatland burnt dry and scarred with vehicle tracks. This is all so that unnaturally large populations of red grouse can be nurtured as live targets for ‘guns’, who can pay more than £3,000 for a single day’s bloody entertainment.

As well as the RSPB’s more radical engagement, other signs of a backlash include M&S being forced to remove grouse meat from its shelves following a boycott threat, and a series of protests against grouse moor interests for their illegal persecution of hen harriers. The hen harrier should be thriving on English moorlands but few breeding pairs remain. Joining the campaign against the moorland shoots is the influential Ethical Consumer Research Association, whose wide-ranging new report, Turn Your Back On Grouse, also singles out the persecution of the hen harrier as embodying the brutality and rural vandalism of the grouse-shooting elite.

Says Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid:

‘The millionaires who run the English and Scottish grouse moors have been able to count on the support of a succession of British governments. But this current Tory-led coalition has distinguished itself for the way in which it has increased the flow of public money in the moor owners’ direction while stripping away controls that could moderate their reckless excesses.


‘As pernicious as any of its specific initiatives is the puppy dog enthusiasm with which the government nourishes a bogus public image of grouse shooting as an activity that benefits animals, the environment and the wider economy. It does none of these things.’

Animal Aid’s campaign objectives:

  • End the use of public money to subsidise grouse shoots
  • Introduce state licensing for shoots and gamekeepers – the retention of such licences being dependent on adherence to wildlife protection laws

Notes to Editors

More information

For more information and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.

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