Grouse shooting industry’s histrionics over proposed estate licensing

Following on from Saturday’s news that the SNP’s National Council has voted to adopt an official policy of grouse moor licensing (see here), the grouse shooting industry has responded with a fine display of histrionics.

A quick look on social media shows the usual buffoons shrieking about potential job losses and how everyone should get together for a march/demonstration, which would probably result in about four quad bikes being parked on the new Queensferry Bridge for an hour or so.

BASC has issued a press statement claiming the SNP’s new policy would “harm rural Scotland“, The Sunday Times ran with an article yesterday with the headline, ‘SNP votes to curb fox hunting and grouse shooting‘, and an article in today’s Daily Mail headlined with ‘War on the Countryside‘. They’re good at amateur dramatics, this lot.

There’s also a comment piece in the Mail by Lord David Johnstone, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, who argues (as he has before) that there is no need for estate licensing and everything would be just fine if only we’d all work with the shooting industry because, he says, “this does deliver results“. No, Dave, it doesn’t deliver results, unless you consider the never-ending news of poisoned, shot, trapped & bludegeoned raptors a ‘result’.

What we’re really struggling to understand is why the grouse shooting industry is so certain that estate licensing would result in the loss of jobs. Why would it? Unless this is a tacit admission that the grouse shooting industry does in fact rely on the illegal killing of birds of prey in order for shooting estates to remain viable and so the loss of a shooting licence (and possible subsequent closure of an estate) would be inevitable?

If driven grouse shooting is lawful and sustainable, as the industry so often claims, what on earth is there to worry about? There’d be no loss of licences for lawful or sustainable practices, so why is this industry so fearful of the scrutiny and regulation that the rest of us accept as part of our daily lives? Not got something to hide, surely?

There are the usual claims that ‘activists’ will ‘set-up’ estates by planting poisoned or shot raptors on grouse moors in an attempt to implicate the landowner and/or gamekeepers. Lord Johnstone used this excuse way back in 2012 when objecting to the introduction of vicarious liability for raptor persecution offences (see here). Five years on, we’re not aware of a single case where this has been shown to have happened, but we’ve seen plenty of cases where gamekeepers have been caught committing criminal offences as part of their daily routine.

The grouse shooting industry needs to face facts. Estate licensing is on its way and the industry only has itself to blame. It’s been given hundreds of chances to reform, and has received repeated warnings from the Scottish Government that further action would be taken if the industry didn’t clean up its act.

And if/when estate licensing is shown not to work, the grouse shooting industry should know what to expect next.

47 Responses to “Grouse shooting industry’s histrionics over proposed estate licensing”

  1. 1 Ron99
    December 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    The ex-Gamekeeper who’s well known on social media, is urging people to go to charity run wildlife reserves (RSPB in other words), make a film and tell the world there isn’t any wildlife there because they aren’t on keepered ground. What that is supposed to achieve is anyone’s guess. It’s all a bit ‘my dad’s bigger than your dad’. Desperation.

    • 2 Merlin
      December 5, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      it makes you wonder how the BBC manage to film Springwatch on RSPB reserves and why so many of us keep going back to these reserves to watch the wildlife

    • 3 Marco McGinty
      December 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      It’s a tired old argument, nonsensical in the extreme, and would be easily demolished.

      I’ve asked many if these shooting types to post a list of species found on grouse moors, and I would counter it by providing a list from my nearest RSPB reserve, or my local patch, but to date, not one shooter/hunter or gamekeepers has taken up my challenge.

      I wonder why?

  2. 4 Iain Gibson
    December 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    It is increasingly weary that Countryside Alliance and their associates keep bleating on about how conservationists are “waging war on the countryside.” Since when did caring about the state and future of our natural heritage become classed as “war”? Whereas the people who accuse us of such are out there disturbing the peace and tranquillity with their shotguns, blasting away at anything with feathers or fur, laying poison baits and snares, attempting to eliminate predators, killing hundreds of mountain hares, and galloping in cavalry-style attacks with packs of hounds chasing an innocent fox, literally hounding it to death? Or seeking out nests of Hen Harriers and other protected birds of prey, in order to sneak up and shoot the female as she flies off? Or to shoot their defenceless chicks cowering in the nest? So just exactly who is “waging war on the countryside”?

  3. December 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I thought long and hard before posting this response, sorry it is anonymous, it was intended to go on your last blog. Licensing is not a done deal yet. but is most likely coming. Some of us with a view of what has been going on have been saying for years now that those involved in the illegal persecution need to stop it and divert their efforts into finding legal recourse if they have predation issues, but persecution is easy, it’s a lazy way to get bigger bags.
    Over the weekend I have watched with interest as some colleagues splutter their blame at the SNP, the RSPB, the Raptor Groups etc etc.
    These are just the loud. the ones you come across and mention on here from time to time. There are many more on the wee estates that never speak out or do so quietly to others who share the same views, we get dragged along as a part of the ‘gang’ we know who’s to blame : –
    Us, all of us.
    The organisations who rely on funding from the big players and who as a result are required to do their bidding.
    The keepers and underkeepers who know what is going on but won’t rock the boat because you will be an outcast and lose everything.
    The big shots who see themselves as the “proper” gamekeepers, removing all predators legal and otherwise from the whole area surrounding the moor and their neighbours estate too if necessary. Untouchables, they get away with it everytime, except all they have really done is drag us down with them.
    Our industry lacks the ability to make change, I mean real change. We might not all agree that lead ammunition needs to be removed but we should be looking at the affect this issue is having on our sport/business, it could well be that we could get shot game into supermarkets but until we address the issues of toxic ammunition this is not going to happen, everyone know that lead is toxic, everyone knows that shot is often left in the meat and it has been shown that even after you remove the visible shot there is enough lead shot remaining to often put the level well above what would be acceptable for other meat products, until then we can just keep sending it abroad or putting it in big freezers until the grouse market is in the same mess as the pheasant market.
    I believe that as a result of the issues related to raptor persecution we have been put under the microscope and we need to respond, that means stop sticking our heads in the sand and letting those empty vessels continue to make the loudest noise, there are loads of examples if you care to look on Facebook profiles of prominent Scottish Grouse Shooting mouth pieces, they believe it, their followers seem to believe it too, in reality this type of confrontation has been more damaging to us than even the persecution reports. The reason is that the issue was pushed from an almost unknown, under the radar issue and turned into a mainstream news item because we pretended it wasn’t happening whilst it was clear to the police, RSPB and those monitoring the birds when finding shot or poisoned birds exactly what is and what has been happening, We hear you talk on beat days, they’re proud of it and now you’re looking around to see who is going to get US ALL out of the sh*t you’ve caused and we haven’t been able or willing to sort out.

    • 7 Paul V Irving
      December 4, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      never a truer word. My advice start telling them they don’t speak for you and shopping them!

    • 8 SOG
      December 4, 2017 at 7:31 pm

      Thank you for this, one felt that (some) gamekeepers could care about wildlife and the landscape in the way that you do.

      It bothers me that lead shot has been used for so long in specific areas, like shooting butts, that there may remain high levels of lead in those thin, acid soils.

    • 9 Jo
      December 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Then please someone start dobbing them in ……. and thank you for an honest, open comment. i wish there were more like you willing to speak out ……

    • 10 J .Coogan
      December 4, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      Glad to hear all this SGA member but its all too little too late , things are moving apace . If your union and landowners were willing years ago to consider change then meaningful dialogue could have been possible but all we got was denial and aggression .Now we have you on the run and you start to bleat it “wisnae me honest” ,” just following orders”. I was born and live in the countryside (my grandfather was a tenant farmer) and I was obsessed by shooting but I grew up and had the sense to see how wrong the antics I saw around me were . Let me tell you making a conscious change and standing up for my beliefs was not easy , but I did it and your mob could have too , you were quite willing to go along with the criminality until you started to get caught , hell mend you. And by the way we haven’t stopped yet.

    • December 4, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      I have the utmost respect for you in speaking out as you have. Like others here, I would like you to go further and shop those responsible but I understand that’s far easier for us to say than it is for you to do. I suspect that it’s not simply a matter of the loss of your livelihood and a way of life but also about being branded a turncoat and pariah by your own community were you to do so. Whatever path you choose, you’ve done the right and honest thing by speaking out and I for one would hesitate in asking you to take things any further unless and until you are comfortable to do so. I’m just grateful that it’s not me with the ethical and moral dilemma.

    • 13 Doug Malpus
      December 4, 2017 at 9:10 pm

      Thank you SGA Member, for an insight from a person that seems to care about wildlife other than the gun fodder, for that is all that game is. If the meat cannot be sold then the demand has gone.

      It is very sad that people like yourself are intimidated into silence even though the criminals brag about their prowess as “proper gamekeepers”. One day you and I will see them gaoled, sacked and removed from their evil game. Criminals like that should also be unable to hold a firearms certificate for the remainder of their life.

      I do hope that you and others like you, can work vigorously towards the removal of the rogues in your business. If enough of you get together, you can do it.

      Predators have a place in our countryside, whereas overpopulation of grouse does not. Pheasants do not belong in the UK.

      Good luck,


    • 14 Chris
      December 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      This is a refreshing comment, and I’m glad you wrote it. I fully understand your wish for anonymity, sad that it has to be this way, but it does. And also good to see the positive response here. This is what we need, from all those concerned, which is ALL of us!! There needs to be sensible dialogue, between that what I believe to be the majority, of both sides to find a way of working together to find acceptable agreement, and to move forward.

      Licensing of game shoots will be a part of this, but I would also like to see those who insist an absolute ban to also think long and hard, and to accept that what they want is no more reasonable than the current situation. This, I believe, would go a long way to enabling a moderation of the attitude brought about by a feeling of a whole way of life being under attack.

    • December 4, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      Hats off to you ! A contribution from someone, with experience(s) like yourself, adds to the validity of the argument, and perhaps some recognition that not everyone on that side is a willing participant in the persecution of raptors.

    • 16 Chris Dobson
      December 5, 2017 at 12:52 am

      Thankyou SGA member, for your honesty & guts. That wasn’t easy

    • 17 Mairi L
      December 5, 2017 at 8:04 am

      Thank you for speaking out.

  4. 18 J .Coogan
    December 4, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Christ that didn’t take long! They really must be rattled , shows you how much power and influence they have however. They are obviously going to major on the “townies not understanding the countryside” and the “loss of rural jobs” crap. As you have already done we need to counter these myths at every turn.

  5. 19 Rob
    December 4, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    If estates are closed down due illegal activity who’s to blame?Its all well and good to blame the anti’s but you need to take a long hard look at yourselves and get your house in order and operate within the law like the rest of us have to

  6. 20 Paul V Irving
    December 4, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Its quite clear to all except the”industry ” itself that self regulation has been an abject failure. Largely because they themselves have been so arrogant or stupid as to continue in large part to ignore the law and have continued to kill by all means necessary protected predators. Some of the horrible ways they have used such as pole traps have been illegal forever in practical terms (1904) or are very very dangerous to all concerned and indiscriminate (poison). That what they all feared is now inevitable. Perhaps rather than shouting from the roof tops about how unfair it is ( because it isn’t) they might even now start to clean up their act.
    Licensing is going to need robust policing for it to be effective and WE need to ensure that and that there are draconian penalties for transgression. There might be nothing worse that a licensing system with lax controls.
    If estates obey the law they have little or nothing to fear but perhaps many of them already know that driven grouse shooting may be unsustainable within the law.
    Bring it on I say, watching them squirm and bleat is justice of sorts for all the harm they have done to our natural heritage they think they have a right to deprive us of.

  7. 21 Roderick Leslie
    December 4, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Wise words, and spot on SGA Member – this has been predictable for a long time, and as you rightly say the attitude of the noisy front for shooting has hastened the day.

    Lord Johnstone is, of course, correct – we already have tough laws. The problem is that noone sees the need to observe them, rightly confident that in the vastness of the Scottish Hills they will get away with it almost all the time.

    And bear in mind that there are lots of countryside people out there – like my forestry industry colleagues – who care not one jot about all this – but do worry about things like housing and services.

  8. 22 steve
    December 4, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    The same champions of the commercial shooting industry constantly harp on about how the rest of us don’t understand the ” ways of the countryside.” Particularly those activities outlined in Iain Gibson’s post above [ to save me repeating them]
    They’re right of course, we don’t and never will.

    • 23 Paul V Irving
      December 4, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      Sorry Steve, I think we understand them all too well but fail to see any pleasure in it, indeed the more you know the more abhorrent it all is.

      • December 4, 2017 at 6:20 pm

        Agree with Paul here…those of us who do understand the countryside and most importantly, those who live in the countryside need to make sure that the killers dont get away with their “us and them” rhetoric. There are many country dwellers, I include villagers along with many farmers and estate workers, who have always been against wanton killing of wildlife, hunting with dogs and the whole paraphernalia of shooting. In the past their voices have not been heard, often they have been too scared – as you can see in the excellent SGA MEMBER comment above.This move by the SNP can only help strengthen their position. I now expect to hear more countryside voices raised up against the cruel, destructive and feudally oppressive practices of scottish “sporting” estates.

  9. 25 Chris Batchelor
    December 4, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Amused to see he’s simply David in the Mail – obviously thinks using his title would give the wrong (although more accurate) impression.

  10. 26 Alan
    December 4, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    It’s a pity that BASC’s response is typical kneejerk stuff and not in the more nuanced tone we had (just about) started to see. They also say they believe “licensing would drive away investment in grouse moors”. Why would that be? It’s the same as the point about jobs. But I can’t help but smile at semantic muddle of ” “In recent years there has been a plethora of legislative measures, including vicarious liability, introduced to tackle raptor persecution. Published reports have shown that this is declining.” We can all be in favour of declining plethoras.

  11. 27 Mick
    December 4, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Yes there will be job losses because these clowns will continue to kill raptors and when they go to jail they will lose their jobs and rightfully so. They only like the law when it’s helping them, well it is helping them because they can’t help themselves, they have had the chance to clean up their act but they won’t so tough shit, it’s being cleaned up for you.

  12. December 4, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    AA , RAC & automobile industry claim ‘War on Cars as SNP vote for policy to licence cars amid fear for loss of jobs and the urban Scotland’.
    Oh wait.

    • 29 Paul V Irving
      December 4, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Anand and there was me thinking it was a war on TV watchers! Terrible things these licences. But we need to be aware as most licensing systems only work with the compliance of the licensed

      • 30 AlanTwo
        December 4, 2017 at 9:45 pm

        I’m delighted by the SNP’s decision, but I don’t think that a licensing system will ‘work’ in the sense of causing persecution to stop, miscreants going to jail or the worst estates losing their licenses to shoot game. My guess is that the regulations won’t be tough enough, the penalties severe enough or the monitoring assiduous enough to prevent bad practice.
        For me, the huge advance it represents is in demonstrating that public and political opinion can swing away from long-established but outdated and unpleasant activities and attitudes.
        No doubt the shooters’ response, once they’ve calmed down a bit, will be a determined and well-funded PR campaign. It seems to me that at least two things are needed to bring about real change.
        Firstly, we must absolutely ‘keep up the pressure’ – more research, more tagging, more public exposure of foul deeds, together with constant challenging of shooting lobby lies and distortions.
        But equally importantly, we have to develop and publicize a positive and optimistic vision for the future of the uplands without grouse shooting. We need to bring businesses and conservation bodies on board and highlight the opportunities for wildlife and employment that will open up.

        Anyone in need of a bit of inspiration and worried that relaxing the shackles of obsessive management can only bring disaster and ruin could do worse than read Charlie Burrell’s blog: http://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/blog/second-nature
        A few quotes:
        “by allowing nature to perform on its own, we can get better results than if we’d spent an enormous amount of time, energy and money closely managing it.”
        “I think it’s fair to say that our days of struggling to farm on our poor clay soil, and losing money year-on-year, are well and truly over.”
        “We’re the only place in Britain where turtle doves (the most likely bird species to go extinct within our shores by 2025) are actually rising. We have the biggest breeding UK population of rare purple emperor butterflies having had none for at least 50 years.”
        “It feels like we’re living in the middle of an ever-evolving miracle.”

  13. December 4, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    There has obviously been a huge amount of anger being directed at the shooting industry recently for their selfish and outdated treatment of OUR wild heritage. Much of the conversation on this blog centers, understandably, on the industrial persecution of raptors. However, I can’t help thinking that the general public will be far more easily swayed by the sheer brutality of the actual shooting. I am furious about the arrogant way that those calling themselves “country folk” continue to claim that they alone should dictate the ecology of our wilder areas. However, for me, this campaign will not be over until strict rules apply to all shoots that dictate clear protocols when a creature is shot. No further shooting should take place until the shooter, or a third party, has made certain that the target is dead. The whole business of shooting multiple live targets in the vain hope that most of them will be found is totally abhorrent. The result of such a law is obvious in that shooting would revert back to something more akin to hunting. Numbers of kills would be reduced and shooters would generally have to get of their fat arses and go and find their targets. It always amuses me when terms like “animal rights activist” is used as a term of abuse. One day history will look on them as those that stood up to the establishment.
    Please don’t bother coming on here claiming that all birds are found and quickly dispatched because it’s simply not true on big shoots. It’s impossible!

    • 32 SOG
      December 4, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      I was helping on a Wildlife trust reserve in the south of England, reducing the overgrowth of gorse onto species-rich grassland. A Red Kite flew over and circled around us. A little later we saw seven riding the uplift along the ridge we were on. A comment was made that they were probably attracted by dead pheasants, wounded at a nearby shoot, which travelled as far as the grassland before expiring. There were certainly remnants of pheasants to be seen.

      It’s not a natural countryside activity now.

    • 33 Iain Gibson
      December 5, 2017 at 2:54 am

      And don’t forget the thousands of birds that are hit but not killed or even ‘downed.’ Many of them must suffer ongoing pain and discomfort living their lives with various levels of damage short of disability. It’s barbaric, brutal and unnecessary in the modern world, all for the sake of satisfying some people’s sadistic blood lust. Do grouse shooters and other ‘wildfowlers’ have no consciences?

      • 34 Janjay
        December 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm

        No, they don’t. David Cameron happily boasts that he now has more time to pursue his ‘sport’ now that he is no longer destroying the country in other ways. It is acceptable in their little social bubbles and they give no thought to the pain they inflict.

  14. December 4, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Priceless response from a doomed, unsustainable industry !
    Yes, licensing will be the start of their decline since they cannot achieve the ludicrously high density of Grouse without total predator control.
    Licensing will cause a drop in the value of driven shoots since they will soon start to get caught out & will have to respect the requirements.
    Those who pay the high rates for driven shooting will not pay for less intensive forms of their recreation.
    Most of them are in any case unwilling & unable to do the walked – up alternative !
    Loss of agric subsidies would also hole them below the waterline.
    I look forward to the gradual [ or rapid ] decline of their industry which is simply a relic of another era which is subsidised by the rest of the population..
    Keepers [ or slaves ] as I prefer to call them might prove to be retrainable as managers of a diversified upland landscape but I suspect not.
    Oh dear !
    Hopefully some form of moorland scheme to support extensive agriculture/ venison production / woodland & scrub expansion / wildlife tourism will be implemented since it will surely get the backing of all those who want to see the end of the driven shooting & raptor extermination.
    Not to mention the damaging activities of burning, roadbuilding etc etc.
    There will be increased opportunities also for the required deer & fox management [ culling ] & other management duties that will be required in a new landscape – scale change of habitat where their populations will increase exponentially in a land without top predators.

    Keep up the pressure !

  15. 36 Jimmy
    December 4, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    This crowd have had decades to get their house in order – their own arrogance and stupidity has brought about this necessary change

  16. December 5, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Perhaps we should stop calling them Grouse Moors ! It only further promotes the exclusive importance of grouse over all other species.

    • 38 Chris Dobson
      December 5, 2017 at 12:59 am

      Would ”degraded moorland” do?

      • 39 Iain Gibson
        December 5, 2017 at 3:12 am

        That’s the current situation. Hopefully they would improve once the bad management practices have ended (although this will obviously require quality conservation restoration).

        • 40 Marco McGinty
          December 5, 2017 at 9:23 am

          You would think that the gamekeepers, the landowners, and others connected with the shooting industry, would still manage the land voluntarily, even if there was no shooting.

          Surely, with their dedication to wader populations, and their love for the “rich biodiversity” found in these uplands, they would continue to help these species?

          Or was all that talk about helping waders and other species throughout the years, just a lot of nonsense?

  17. 41 M Ryan
    December 5, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Following s Facebook link to this page also brought up an advertisement for Red Dot Telescopic Sights. Hmm! Have you been hacked?

    • 42 Alex Milne
      December 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      I’m not surprised. So many of the shooting community read this blog that advertising intended for them is a good idea for advertisers.

  18. 43 John Kent
    December 5, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I’m 100% behind the campaign to end the persecution of raptors and other wildlife that may feed on game birds but I’m also troubled by the attitude of some contributors that it is only the shooting community that is killing our wildlife.
    No body is mentioning the amount of wildlife killed and maimed indiscriminately each and every day by vehicles on our roads. It seems to be an unwritten rule that if a bird or animal is in the path of your vehicle then it is not your duty to try to avoid it. I drive thousands of miles on rural roads and have seen horrific injuries to deer and badgers etc which are then just left to die an agonising death.
    Nothing it seems must impede our desire to reach our destination as quickly as possible and any creature that dares to venture into the path of our vehicle is slaughtered without a second thought other than what damage may have been caused to the vehicle.
    Owls, Kites and Buzzards are also high on the list of road kills I come across and there must be literally countless small birds and mammals whose lives are cut short by traffic on a daily basis.
    I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that to a greater or lesser extent we are all guilty of killing our wildlife regardless of the tool we use, be it gun, poison, trap or vehicle.

    • 44 Dylanben
      December 5, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      Whilst you make a very good point, there is a significant difference – we’re not doing it deliberately for some form of perverse pleasure.

    • 45 Iain Gibson
      December 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      I can’t read your mind John Kent, so can’t pass any judgement on where you’re coming from, but I find that the argument “what about all the wildlife killed on the roads” is one frequently used “in defence” by the shooting community. I’m not disagreeing that people should drive more carefully, but as an argument against animal welfare philosophy it’s really a non sequitur.

      • 46 John Kent
        December 6, 2017 at 8:24 pm

        Iain, thank you for your response. My observations are not in any way an argument for the defence of shooting or the disregard of animal welfare, just me saying that very few of us are, wether to a greater or lesser extent, innocent of killing or maiming wildlife, intentionally or not.
        For these reasons alone I cannot bring myself to claim the moral high ground that some commentators do.
        Those that are breaking the law must be brought to justice and the introduction of licensing the grouse estates would be a major step in the right direction.

  19. 47 Macgee
    December 5, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The planting of evidence chestnut is often cited but never has actually made it to court as a defence.

    There can be very few occupations where employees are coached on dealing with police raids. Advice includes making no comment when questioned.

    Not the actions of an honest profession I suggest.

    Licensing will certainly help clean up this industry.

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