About eighteen months ago in October 2015 we wrote a blog about the use of medicated grit to dose red grouse with a parasitic wormer drug called Flubendazole.
We’d learned that this practice was largely unregulated (surprise!), that some grouse moor managers were using a super-strength drug that was 10 times, and sometimes 20 times, the strength permitted for use in the UK, and, most incredibly, that the Government’s statutory agency (Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)) responsible for monitoring meat to ensure harmful drugs are not entering the human food chain, had not ever tested a single red grouse for residues of Flubendazole because, they said, they didn’t know where to find dead red grouse (see here).
It was shocking stuff. When we pointed out to the so-called specialists at the VMD that dead red grouse could be found at the same processing facilities where the VMD was already testing other gamebirds for veterinary residues (duh), the VMD promised to start testing red grouse in 2016.
So, we waited until the end of the 2016 grouse shooting season and submitted an FoI to the VMD to ask them how many individual red grouse they’d tested in 2016 in England & Scotland, and from how many geographically separate grouse moors the birds had originated, and a few other things too.
The VMD’s response is staggering. Here it is:
So in 2016, the VMD managed to test four red grouse from England and two from Scotland. That’s it. And they apparently don’t have a record of where those six samples originated, which is very hard to believe. What would happen if the samples were found to contain illegal residues of this veterinary drug? Would the VMD just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Sorry, can’t take any action ‘cos we’re too incompetent to have recorded the site of origin’?
We wondered what proportion of the 2016 red grouse bag this ludicrously small sample size represented. Unfortunately we’ve been unable to find out how many red grouse were shot during the 2016 shooting season because there is no statutory requirement for the grouse shooting industry to record these data, let alone publish them. The GWCT apparently maintains a record of the national bag but who’s going to believe their figures, especially when their Director of Research is on record as saying information about grouse moor management should be “kept under the radar” in case the regulators start sniffing around?
What we did find, though, was an estimate of the number of red grouse shot in the UK in 2012/2013 (source: PACEC report 2014).
So let’s assume this estimate of 700,000 shot red grouse was applicable to the 2016 shooting season. Does the VMD believe that sampling six out of 700,000 is a good indicator of compliance?
So if you choose to eat red grouse, that so-called “natural” and “healthy” product (see here, here, here and here), bear in mind that not only has that meat probably not been tested for veterinary medicine residues and pesticides, but it also won’t have been tested for toxic lead either (because for some strange reason, gamebird meat is exempt from lead testing).
Ps. For anyone interested in the VMD’s wider sampling regime in 2016 (e.g. cattle, sheep etc), this spreadsheet is helpful: national-statutory-surveillance-scheme-for-veterinary-residues-in-animals-and-animal-products_2016