Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

< Back to '18th August 2021' briefing

August 17, 2021

A glorious defence

In advance of the Glorious Twelfth of August, the increasingly besieged supporters of grouse shooting set out their stall in defence of the significant environmental cost and loss of wildlife which their ‘sport’ demands. In addition to their claims of creating local employment and all the inward investment that grouse shooting brings to a local area, a new social impact is being claimed. A report, commissioned by the shooting industry, argues that grouse shooting brings social benefits as well because it encourages those who do the shooting to mix socially with those who cater for them. Glorious.

Ben Webster , The Times

Grouse shooting brings social benefits because it allows mixing between shooters and the people who cater for them, a report has suggested.

The paper defends the sport against calls for it to be banned, saying that it also has economic and environmental benefits. The report, funded by the shooting industry, has been released before the grouse season opens on Thursday, the Glorious Twelfth of August, although a cold, wet spring means many moors have few birds to shoot.

The researchers say that driven grouse shooting, in which beaters drive birds towards shooters, involves “a wide range of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, not just guns but also beaters, pickers up, drivers, flankers, caterers, supporters and others, facilitating contact between individuals from different class backgrounds and maximising the potential for social impacts”.

The report by Northampton University was commissioned by the Uplands Partnership, which includes the Moorland Association representing landowners, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers Association.

The three authors include Simon Denny, a retired professor and former army captain who is a keen shooter. They say that one of the main reasons people oppose grouse shooting may be because “it is associated with the rich enjoying themselves”, and insist that this is “a gross over-simplification”.

The report suggests that many people involved in grouse shooting are disadvantaged in the debate over the sport because unlike high-profile opponents such as Chris Packham, the author and broadcaster, they are often “not confident in using social media and communication media”.

The economic benefits of grouse shooting include supporting jobs in remote areas, with a survey of 15 estates in North Yorkshire, Northumberland, and Scotland showing that they had 80 gamekeepers and 175 other full-time staff.

One moor in the North York Moors National Park employs 50 beaters earning £50 a day, 20 times a year, while another ten people earn £100 picking up the dead birds. Grouse shooting also supports hotels and other businesses, with clients flying in on private jets, bringing wives and partners and spending “a vast amount of money”.

Management of grouse moors helps to control ticks, which pose a disease risk to humans and wildlife. Bracken, which can harbour ticks and smother sensitive habitats, is also reduced.

The report says that a detailed study has not been carried out into the economic impact of managing moors without shooting but its authors conclude: “It is unlikely that the alternative uses that are proposed by some groups for the moorlands would deliver the same positive economic impacts, at least for a number of generations.” They said that shooting was “an important part of a mosaic of income-generating activities that sustain upland communities”.

Mark Avery, a co-founder with Packham of Wild Justice, which wants driven grouse shooting to be banned, said that the report was “from an industry in denial”. He ridiculed the claim that the sport brought classes together, adding: “We’ll have a game of dominoes down the pub with the Duke of Westminster [a grouse moor owner] any time he likes.”

Report can be found here