Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Field Sports Scotland

Hunting and Field Sports in Scotland

The Grouse Debate

Over the last few months Grouse Managed moors have been the highlight of all the medias attention, if it is not the accusation of the persecution of raptors from the anti side it is how great the industry is for the conservation of wildlife and its habitats within he moors environment, the battle rages on. While the battle rages the people that are affected by the backlash are the workers and families of the estates that are and have been employed for generations. Due to relentless campaigning from anti hunting activists the Scottish Government are taking consultation on the possibility of licensing gaming estates.

All the Shooting organisations have hit out hard in defence of Grouse Moors and rightly so and with the recent  petition set up by BASC to lobby your local MP it all adds up to help the cause.

But Why The Debate in the First Place?

There is a perception which is increasingly being pushed by antis that managed grouse estate keepers are persistently and unrelentingly persecuting birds of prey and other species that threaten grouse production. The same antis also try and push the same idea that the activities of manged moors are harmful to the environment they maintain. These ideas could not be so far from the truth.

Gamekeeping is a time long tradition with many generations of the same family being part of it. It is not just an occupation or livelihood but a complete way of life where in many cases the whole family is involved in some way within the estate the keeper is employed, whether it is helping out of shoot days or looking after the day to day running of the lodges etc. Admittedly though there is a lot of pressure put on the keepers and their families to maintain a well managed and productive estate for their employers.

In the past and before legislation the management plan of Gamekeepers did include the management and cull of birds of prey as well as other species that are now protected such as Badgers and Otters, but, these times are far long gone and practices of the past are very much frowned upon in todays modern keepering society. Moorland management is a far more complex task these days with more than just pest control to deal with.

The truth of the matter is that Managed moors contribute a lot to the ecology and biodiversity of the countryside. If it were not for the safety and security as well as the maintenance of a well managed moor we would see nothing more than arid hill ground suitable only for the odd Pippet and for the grazing of deer and sheep. During the summer months starting from the early spring thousands of Waders such as Plovers and Oyster Catchers come inland to nest as well as the magnificent White Tailed Eagle ( Sea Eagle ). These birds benefit from heather burning which is proven to help regenerate feeding opening up  the ground allowing fresh grass to come through and bare earth to help with feeding as well as a pest control program on egg raiding animals such as foxes, stoats, weasels and rats. With the introduction of grouse on to a moor there is also a lot of emphasis on the prevention of disease such as Louping ill with the introduction of medicated grit that grouse use for digesting their food. All year round Grouse Moors are alive with wildlife, a happily bustling hill ground full of noise and excitement and a truly amazing place to be.

On the flip side I have seen first hand what Conservation groups have done to moorlands with their “self regeneration” policies and management “monitoring”. I have watched whole moors slowly decline in the amount of activity, specifically from bird life. Vast landscapes of open ground laid to waste on a desolate waste land that at one time was alive with wading and song birds alike.

Much of the problem around the debate is the class issue, the general conception by majority of the “ill informed” is that grouse shooting only benefits the “Toffs” but they can not be so far from the truth, Sporting Estates contribute greatly to the UK’s economy as well as the environment and ecology of the country.

I can spend all day explaining why and how much good grouse moorland estates are contributing to not just the environment but the economy.

The petition closed on the 21st but that does not mean that there will not be another chance to show your support in the future while the debate is on – going. It is time that all disciplines of the shooting and hunting community come together in support of ALL shooting causes and our sports are severely in jeopardy.