Banning driven grouse shooting on the Scottish political agenda

Last night Scottish Environment Link hosted an event called ‘Environment Matters’, a national hustings event in the run up to the election in May.

It was recorded and is available to watch here.


Brilliantly chaired by Joyce McMillan (LINK President) it’s worth watching even if you have just a passing interest in general environmental issues. For us, we were particularly interested in the discussion on wildlife crime, raised as a topic by audience member Andy Myles (see 56 mins in), and specifically the response given by Scottish Green Party candidate Mark Ruskell (see 1:06 mins in).

The actual topic of banning driven grouse shooting wasn’t part of Andy Myles’ question; Andy’s question was whether the panel would be prepared to separate poaching from wildlife crime. But it was interesting (and pleasing) that in his response, Mark Ruskell immediately linked, perhaps subconsciously, the subject of wildlife crime to driven grouse shooting.

Mark Ruskell proved to be pretty well-informed, as well he should, given that one of his fellow electoral candidates (Andy Wightman) recently co-authored a report on the intensification of grouse moor management in Scotland (here) and another party colleague (Alison Johnstone) has repeatedly raised parliamentary questions about dodgy wildlife ‘management’ on grouse moors (e.g. here).

Here’s how Mark responded to Andy’s question:

I think there’s a wider issue there about the management of country estates and I think we’ve seen a lot of criticism of estates that are practicing driven grouse shooting, and we know what those environmental impacts are: the muirburn, the raptor persecution, the use of veterinary medicines spread over moorlands, the targeting of non-target species like hares as well, and I think we need to see a reform of country estates and the way they manage themselves. I think that if that can’t take place then the argument in favour of licensing will kick in, and you’ve obviously seen high profile calls and petitions for a banning of driven grouse shooting as well. I don’t think we’re quite there yet in terms of the evidence but I think there needs to be a willingness from the larger landowning interests to address the very serious environmental problems that they’re creating, and I think personally that probably lends to some form of licensing going forward“.

The bit where he said “I don’t think we’re quite there yet in terms of the evidence” [for banning driven grouse shooting] was a bit confusing, because he’d already stated that the environmental impacts were already well known. The evidence isn’t lacking at all; the question is how to deal with the evidence, i.e. wait for the landowners to get their acts together and act lawfully, or introduce licensing, or ban driven grouse shooting.

The first approach is a complete non-starter. The grouse shooting industry has had 62 years to stop illegally killing raptors and yet still it goes on. And judging by the industry’s recent fatuous responses about heather burning “It’s the same as getting your hair cut” – see here, and mountain hare massacres being “informed and balanced” – see here, then the only two options remaining are to introduce licensing or ban driven grouse shooting altogether.

So what does the electorate think? Well, according to a recent YouGov poll, 52% of polled Scottish voters agreed that driven grouse shooting should be banned (and only 19% opposed) – see newspaper article here and a more detailed report of the survey here.

And if you look at the groundswell of support from Scottish constituencies for Mark Avery’s latest e-petition to the Westminster Government to ban driven grouse shooting in England (here), then it’s pretty clear what many are thinking.

It’s great to see this issue rising up the political agenda, and it’s not going away.

Mark Avery’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting is less than one month old and this evening it has passed 19,000 signatures. If you want to add yours, please sign HERE


9 Responses to “Banning driven grouse shooting on the Scottish political agenda”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    April 14, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    I definitely would slice poaching off from wildlife crime, and further distinguish it with poaching for commercial gain and poaching for personal gain. The people who set river-wide nets to catch everything coming up and then sells the quarter of the catch that is commercially viable salmon onto dodgy restaurants is very different from the couple of schemey eejits that pot off one or two deer from the moor or who are grazing in the necropolis while lamping and shove them in their home freezer. The former need gaol time and asset seizure, but the latter need… Well, they need their guns checking but that is about it. Same for when they take a couple of trout without paying a fishing license. You know what they say:
    “Breac à linne, slat à coille is fiadh à fìreach – mèirle às nach do ghabh gàidheal riamh nàire.”

  2. 3 Les Wallace
    April 15, 2016 at 3:55 am

    This is the third petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting that Mark has started now and the support gets stronger each time, and this occasion Scottish response has been brilliant. Surely now we start thinking about having our own petition for the Scottish Parliament too. I initiated a petition way back in 2012 (on recycling) and they only have six weeks to run, so really important you work with Scottish Green Party, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Scottish branch of League Against Cruel Sports etc so that as soon as petition commences they can appeal directly to their members to support it. The SGP alone has 8,000 plus members a good email from it to them asking to sign, share, promote the petition could get a hell of a lot of signatures very quickly. Not impossible Greenpeace UK would publicise it they’ve recently highlighted Rewilding in Scotland. Letters could be crafted for every local newspaper in the country saying why grouse moors are bad for wildlife, rural economies, water quality, probably exacerbate flooding and are certainly inimical to the restoration work that would alleviate it – they don’t like trees on grouse moors (‘Beavers Not Muirburn!’). Angling clubs and press could be asked why grouse moors which reduce water quality, aquatic life, lower pH and increase sedimentation are having their interests put before those of anglers, why aren’t their reps speaking up on their behalf especially after Leeds Univerty’s EMBER report? The public love bird of prey displays and exhibits, any falconers out there prepared to promote a petition whilst they are out and about? From what I saw at the Denny Gala Day last year, could be very helpful indeed. The main thing is having a proposer who really knows the ins and outs of Grouse moors, Raptor Persecution, the economic case for and against them, the alternatives for the land and rural economies – somebody prepared to sit in front of MSPs and argue their case. About time the fight was taken to them, to get back at all the propaganda, condescension and outright lies as well as shot, snared, trapped, trampled, poisoned and maimed wildlife they’ve been foisting on us for decades. At least our plans for this would be clean and honest, unlike say a bunch of shits scheming together to bump off hen harriers from nature reserves to help their buddies in certain newspapers denigrate a major conservation organisation.

    • 4 Mike Watts
      April 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Absolutely, and well said Les, and why doesn’t someone with presence approach Greenpeace UK and ask them to take on the task?

      • 5 Les Wallace
        April 15, 2016 at 6:07 pm

        I tried a while ago to get Greenpeace UK to support the petition, they were very prompt and conscientious about getting back to me, but I got the impression they turned down supporting it as they seem to think it’s mainly an anti hunting, animal welfare issue. Did my best to get back to them and say that they were wrong. Consider the massive area of land affected and how badly it’s trashed surely by any standards grouse moors are a major environmental concern and when you realise that it’s for what, not for ripping out a valuable natural resource or development, but simply an incredibly stupid ‘sport’ then doesn’t that make tackling it even more important? Having said that as I type this for the past three hours approx the petition has been picking up new signatures at roughly 900 per hour!

        • April 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm

          Need to be sure we have the right strategy and ask for the correct thing to happen. Might be better to consider breaking the issues down and going for multiple petitions. A single petition over a complex issue could be undermined?

          Raptor persecution… video evidence, tougher sentences etc.
          Regulation of sporing shooting estates. Grouse only? Lead shot? Food standards?
          Land management… ban muirburn?

        • 7 Marco McGinty
          April 16, 2016 at 10:27 pm

          If what you suggest is correct, Les, then that’s an extraordinary stance that Greenpeace are taking. Greenpeace are opposed to commercial seal and whale hunting, so surely the commercial exploitation of grouse, and the environmental destruction of land used for grouse shooting (not to mention all of the illegal activities and climate change issues associated with it), such a campaign would be right up their street?

          On a more positive note, it is good to see that LACS has got behind Mark Avery’s petition.

          Circusmaxim, you also make some good points regarding the breakdown of an all-encompassing petition into single issue petitions. Perhaps by doing so, it would get some of these larger organisations Greenpeace, FoE, RSPB, etc.) to start backing the petitions and promoting them to their vast memberships.

          • 8 Les Wallace
            April 22, 2016 at 7:06 am

            It was in response to asking them if they’d support an earlier petition that they made a remark about hunting not being a major issue for Greenpeace, that too made me think about whaling and seal clubbing! FoE, Greenpeace and the UK Green Parties should all be emailing their members directly to get them to support this petition. I believe the area affected by muirburn is in the millions of acres! Vast swathe of the country that could be relatively healthy semi natural habitat burnt over for grouse shooting, surely a major ecological and environmental concern in anyone’s books. Yes really good point of CM’s to run various petitions, would love to see one stating how bad grouse moors are for watercourses and thereby fishing, there’s a genuine conflict between game fishing particularly and grouse moors.

  3. 9 I C T
    April 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Interesting Mark Avery blog today reporting on a YouGov poll conducted in Scotland in mid March. Responding to the question “should driven grouse shooting be banned”, 52% said it should be banned, whilst 19% supported driven grouse.

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