From August 12th until a couple of weeks before Christmas Britain’s wealthy elite will be let loose on its moorland uplands. Driven grouse shooting involves beaters going in front of the people with guns “beating” the heather so that the birds fly into the air where they are then shot at. Around half a million birds can be killed during the season. If that seems barbaric, even worse is the fact that in order to maintain this so called sport, all grouse predators are being destroyed on the uplands, and the moors themselves destroyed by burning the heather in the name of “management”.
Hen Harriers are an iconic bird of the uplands, however in 2014 there were only 4 nesting pairs in England. A couple of weeks ago there was an outcry in this country when it was discovered that Cecil the Lion had been shot and killed in Zimbabwe, but where is the outcry at the loss of Hen Harriers? Five adult birds have disappeared this year, and whilst the disappearance is reported euphemistically as “mysterious” the obvious answer is that they have been shot, poisoned or trapped by game keepers to protect the grouse for shooting.
In the same vein game keepers are now systematically ridding the uplands of mountain hare because they are said to carry a parasite which infects grouse. Literally mountains of mountain hare have been killed in Scotland and the practice is spreading South.
When concern is raised about grouse shooting and the practices which support it, the argument is put that it provides employment and income to areas which would otherwise have none. However the grouse shooting season is a few months and whilst the hospitality trade might benefit slightly during that period, assuming those that shoot do frequent the restaurants and pubs of local areas, that benefit would be spread much wider, both geographically and time wise, if people were coming to look at the wildlife rather than kill it.
Not only that but grouse shooting costs us in terms of higher water bills, because of the cost of clearing water polluted by higher particulates as a result of peat burning.
And then there is the cost to the atmosphere: Peat is a carbon sink and the High Peak is one of the biggest peat uplands in England and therefore one of the biggest carbon sinks in the UK. Management for grouse shooting consists of burning areas of heather on a cycle year by year. The effect of this is to release unwanted carbon directly into the atmosphere but more long term it has been shown to severely compromise the build up of future peat. It also obviously destroys the existing vegetation, much of which such as sphagnum moss is protected (and is one of the reasons for which subsidies from the EU to the landowners exist), and as stated effects water supplies. (http://www.wateratleeds.org/ember/)
Leading conservationist Mark Avery has launched a petition calling on parliament to ban grouse shooting . You can sign it here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104441.
You could also contact your MP to ask him or her to support a ban. Green Party policy is clear. The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all blood-sports. Our manifesto includes the commitment to ban driven grouse shooting.