“Burning heather is the same as getting your hair cut” claims grouse moor propagandist

Burning heather is the same as getting your hair cut“, according to Tim (Kim) Baynes of the Scottish Moorland Group.

Yes, I always look forward to visiting the hairdresser to have my hair doused with a fire accelerant and then lit with a blow torch.

Burnrps - Copy

The grouse-shooting industry’s latest outlandish claim comes as part of another PR damage limitation exercise, this time in a failed attempt to explain to the public why huge areas of grouse moor-dominated landscape are being set alight. You can read this latest propaganda piece here.

It’s true that burning can be a useful conservation tool in certain circumstances, on some habitat types and if used in moderation. However, the increasing intensity with which grouse moor managers burn sensitive upland moorland habitats is not a useful conservation tool. It’s actually far from it, despite the latest vacuous claims of the grouse shooting industry.

See here for the key findings of a recent study by scientists at Leeds University in to the effects of moorland burning on peatlands. Not many conservation benefits described here.

See here for the findings of a recent study by scientists from the RSPB in to the extent of moorland burning in the UK. Not many conservation benefits described here either. In fact burning was detected in 55% of Special Areas of Conservation and in 63% of Special Protection Areas. These sites are designated under EU legislation for their conservation value and yet many are in ‘unfavourable condition’ with burning identified as the primary cause.

And see here for Mark Avery’s view on how burning (combined with draining) is likely to be linked to increased flooding downstream.

Sign the petition calling for a ban on environmentally, economically and socially damaging driven grouse shooting HERE.

Photo of grouse moor ablaze, March 2016 (RPS).

32 Responses to ““Burning heather is the same as getting your hair cut” claims grouse moor propagandist”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    April 4, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Jesus. If I was going for a shitty analogy, mate, I’d have at least compared it to cutting your lawn. At least that sounds normal. You are comparing, vaguely, like for like in a way that people are familiar with. Inviting people to compare setting a moor on fire with a number two all over just is a complete disimile. It jolts you right out of the analogy. I suppose it is a good thing that the pro-scorched earth guys are so terminally dense, but still… If you are going to do something wrong, at least try and do it right.

  2. 2 Tony Warburton MBE
    April 4, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Dear Mr Baynes, Can you please explain to me whether heather occurred before gamekeepers appeared in Britain – or did it only occur where forest fires happened on an annual basis? Also, does heather only grow and bloom on moors that are ‘managed’ for Grouse killing?

  3. April 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Well, I always look forward to annihilating some wildlife when I get my hair cut, as well as the blowtorch aspect. So yes – exactly the same as getting a haircut, if you’re dead from the neck up, I’d say.

  4. April 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    sits back and waits for one of them to volunteer to have their head set on fire to demonstrate how harmless it is

  5. 6 JW4926
    April 4, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    As good as Monsanto’s Patrick Moore saying glyphosphate was safe to drink and then storming off when asked to on live interview.

  6. April 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Grouse moors unless left entirely alone are a sick sore on the face of the planet

  7. 8 Jack Snipe
    April 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    It helps to reflect now and again that to some extent the conservation bodies need to share the blame for condoning this practice in the past. I’ve spent almost two decades of my life arguing that heather burning was extremely destructive, ecologically and environmentally, and during that period was patronised by RSPB and many other ecologists who insisted that controlled burning was “essential” to maintain nature conservation value. How refreshing now to read a much more enlightened view on the RPS blog and in Mark Avery’s various musings, all backed by good quality scientific research. However I still detect more than a hint of restraint in some parts, including the RSPB at Executive level. Are they too proud to admit they didn’t quite get it right in the past, or are they running scared of the establishment and their own commitment not to be judgemental over legitimate bloodsports? A philosophical sea change is long overdue.

    • April 4, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      It was Duncan Orr-Ewing… a bit of an ineffective response. Not sure if it was pre-recorded and then spliced up…. Duncan was trying too hard to cover all the bases…. muir burning is bad…just get with the message Duncan..

  8. 10 Christopher Andrews
    April 4, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Tim Baynes and somebody from the RSPB were on Radio Scotland this morning. Was really disappointed the RSPB chap didn’t countenance much being said by Tim, if anything they were largely in agreement that it was good for some birds, but failed to elaborate that maintaining moors for driven shooting was bad for everything else. Tim also said burning to maintain the moorland for grouse is cultural and had occurred for ‘centuries’ (some effective pluralisation on Tims part) to maintain scotlands iconic and beautiful landscapes (in the eyes of the beholder clearly). All in all it felt like a missed opportunity to bring GoG to task live on air, and more confusingly there was plenty of references to GoG and RSPB working together to improve moorland habitats (seems unlikely).

    • 11 crypticmirror
      April 4, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      I do feel a bit sorry for the RSPB. It is an open secret they’ve really had the screws put to them by the Westminster Tory party, with threats against the royal charter and the charitable status, if they don’t toe the line to the letter and that the Tories are after a high profile scalp to make the others all fall into line; nobody wants to be the one that has an example made of them after all. I know every Tory government comes down hard on the authoritarian side, but the way this government has gone about it is just scary, anything and anyone who contradicts them or gets in their way is to be crushed or swept aside (that is why I call them Tories and not Conservatives, they don’t want to conserve anything) in the name of their ideology of Right-to-Rule. Charities like the RSPB are really hard up against it, and it will be hard for them to survive this regime’s reign of terror on dissenters. Honestly, the longer it goes on the more it becomes apparent that not voting Yes in the Scottish Independence referendum was a mistake.

    • April 4, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      Yes, the “maintaining scotland’s iconic..” blah..needs a robust reply. In Central Scotland Coal Bings [tips] were iconic, Glasgow’s slums were iconic..These things are in the eye of the beholder – he has come up with our biggest problem here, most scots uneducated in ecology or even basic agriculture and forestry history, are unaware that our purple heather clad hills are anything but natural. That the green hills/white ground had all their trees cut down hundreds of years ago and are basically an ecological desert. People dont want to hear those uncomfortable truths but cling to the “its aye been” philosophy while erosion and habitat degradation continues…A lot more education needed…but in the meantime the “stop killing our golden eagles” message will work just fine.

      • 13 crypticmirror
        April 4, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        It is the same with sheep keeping. Try explaining to people in Scotland and Wales that sheep farming was historically an instrument of oppression, dispossession, and feudal slavery and is not something to be proud of and they just look at you. We should not be proud of our sheep farms, nor of sheep farmers, but should be raging that this historical (and some would say ongoing) injustice has been somehow enshrined in our national character; or rather be told it is in our national character by the great and the good in positions of power. Sheep farming, slums, soldiering, grouse moors, and being loyal servants, these are not things we should be proud of nor should accept being told that they are what makes us.

  9. April 4, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Some great comments on Twitter in response to this post. Best so far from @arniefisher: “Any carbo for the weekend Sir?”

    • 17 crypticmirror
      April 4, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      I love how the article says that heather burning is like getting a hair cut because it is necessary for it to thrive. I wonder if this means that they think that hair only grows if you cut it? Because, well: http://www.snopes.com/oldwives/hairgrow.asp

      I also query why they think the grouse (called Willow Ptarmigan elsewhere in the world, red grouse is a mere subspecies of it) needs open moorland when its natural habitat elsewhere is open birch and pine woodland. It is almost like burned moors are not vital to its survival at all. Odd that.

      I do feel a song coming on though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_zaSKZks1A

      • April 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm

        yo, so true …..willow ptarmigan like open birch and pine woodland, in many cases this will be interspersed with bogs etc;trees supporting higher numbers of small passerines, various owls, harriers on the heather open bits, good sort of habitat for reversing Merlin declines etc . The pollen record is clear in Wales where I am that is how it was. it is now grass desert; the molinia came in about 100 years ago; probably linked to burning ?

        Well we could all vote leave but all the briefings I have seen are that the Tories are getting ready to stuff loads of money into their farming friends pockets or frankly there will be a massive recession in the uplands and that will be very good for wildlife. So that is an upside of UKIP madness but I am not in favour overall. I come back to the money now if this is not good moorland practice as defined by the agreements which we all know it is nt; why are they not being docked some of their tax payer support payments ?

  10. 19 against feudalism
    April 4, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Usually I have a sinking feeling, when a RPS post pops into my inbox, but this one had me laughing aloud and shaking my head at the same time. And the ‘management’ of our country land is in the hand of idiots like these?

    Perhaps there should be a breakaway Scottish branch of the RSPB, but without the R ( SSPB ), then they would be able to speak out against the land mismanagement that is practiced by the estates.

    I am in the middle of reading ‘Soil and Soul’ by Alastair McIntosh, if you want a look at land ownership and continuing feudalism in Scotland, I recommend this.

    • 20 Carrie
      April 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Just picked up a copy on Amazon – not one I’ve come across before but it looks good. Thanks for the recommend :)

  11. 21 Jim Clarke
    April 4, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Precisely my thought, Against Feudalism; the Royal Charter seems to be proving something of a liability. As with so much, movement on the issue seems unlikely in England but in Scotland perhaps worth some serious discussion?

  12. 22 Ealasaid
    April 4, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    This report took up most of page 5 in The National today unquestioned,with only the Gift of Grouse campaign being quoted.

    If you can put the other side of the debate better than I can then you can email letters@thenational.scot and get the alternative view out there tomorrow.

  13. April 5, 2016 at 6:54 am

    The most damaging environmental impacts of muirburn are completely overlooked when we reduce the argument to birds alone. Muirburn is TOTAL habitat destruction and many different groups of species suffer to a far greater extent than the birds (which don’t get burned to death). To simply talk about the relative numbers of a few bird species is playing straight into the hands of the grouse shooters who want to narrow down the argument.
    Hen Harrier is undoubtedly the flag ship for ornithologists… but what about everything else?

    • 24 Marian
      April 5, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Absolutely true, Circusmaxim – like snares, burning the moors, together with all its residents, is something that I cannot understand would occur to any sane mind.
      Arsonists get penalised quite heavily, I think. These people are nothing but that.

  14. 25 bruceb
    April 5, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    So by shooting hares they are protecting trees. Would said trees be fireproof?

  15. 26 Kiteman
    April 5, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Most haircuts don’t remove several layers of skin or change the way your [now poisonous] blood flows around your scalp…

  16. 27 Les Wallace
    April 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

    We need a ‘profit and loss’ account for grouse moors showing which species can do well on them and which species don’t. The species that can do well, well do they really and aren’t there better less compromising ways of conserving them (yup, certainly are). And of course the many, many, many other species that suffer from use of fire, virtual absence of tree cover and existence of near heather monoculture that actually turns hills purple…not good. The utter bollocks we get from this lot needs to be publicly dissembled.

  17. 28 S Chalmers
    April 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Just a flippant observation, but . . . it’s interesting he uses the word “iconic” later on in this nonsense. A word now so cliched, so ridiculously and embarrassingly overused, it increasingly serves as good evidence of a gap between brain and mouth.

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