Grouse shooting: three positions

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I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t

Grouse shooting: three positions

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Following yesterday's blog, I thought it might be useful to expand on the three different perspectives regarding the future of grouse shooting.

Here are the quotes will appear in this autumn's issue of Nature's Home magazine.  They offer three different way forward.  I encourage you to read the full article when/if the magazine arrives on your doorstep.

Dr Mark Avery, Wildlife writer and organiser of the Hen Harrier Day event in the Peak District

Driven grouse shooting has been a peculiarly British pastime for only about 200 years and we’d be better off without it. Banning it would mean more wildlife, better water quality, more soil carbon and fewer floods. Grouse shooting is an intransigent industry and licensing would be costly and ineffective. It is time to ban driven grouse shooting; if you agree, please sign

James Robinson, Head of Nature Policy, RSPB

Important wildlife sites are being damaged or destroyed by the poor management of many driven grouse moors, and birds of prey continue to be disturbed and persecuted. Self regulation has failed, so the RSPB is asking for a robust licensing system. Those who breached conditions would have their licenses removed. Law-abiding grouse shoots would benefit from improved public confidence. You can follow RSPB policy at

Amanda Anderson, Director, the Moorland Association

Grouse moor managers work hard to protect our uplands. Careful burning is vital for biodiversity, and we are involved in innovative techniques to restore healthy deep peat. We are also committed to sustainable growth in harrier numbers as part of Defra’s Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan ( Many moors are designated as protected areas, so everything we do is under consent already. Further red tape could stifle our recent progress.

What do you think about these three perspectives?

It would be great to hear your views.

  • Winter Issue - sorry Bimo - it should be landing any day now.

  • Nothing in 'my migrants special' Autumn edition of Nature's voice?

    Good article by Simon Barnes on migration  'on a wing and a prayer'

    Is there another edition due out?

  • Thanks for this Ollie - there are so many unknowns about the brood management scheme, that it would be great to hear some answers!

  • DEFRA have already responded negatively to three e-petitions calling for action against the grouse shooting industry - one asking for a licensing system for grouse moors and gamekeepers (, one asking for the introduction of vicarious liability as an offence in England ( and of course Dr Avery's call for an outright ban on driven shoots.

    In the run-up to the general election, I don't think the government want to deal with this issue, as whatever they decide to do is going to leave one group or the other dissatisfied and therefore potentially cost them votes.  

    I recently sent the GWCT a series of questions about the Brood Management System that they are advocating and I understand they will publish the answers in a blogpost on their website.  

  • First read this as to understanding behavourial ecology of farmers and assume similar for 'isolated' gamekeepers then read this as to the grouse shooting fraternity 'wising up' to fact that change must occur

    Suspect that Avery would be bereft of a cause (and twitters followers) when shooting and harriers find their peace.

  • I'll try to get my typing and spelling right this time, and totally echo Naturalist's comments. Although I agree with redwolf's sentiments, as with James Robinson's proposals being unenforceable and unworkable, so are redwolf's. There have been well documented incidents that have got nowhere due to insufficient evidence. It needs some very, very clumsy gamekeeper/estate manager to get convicted of raptor persecution. If James can suggest who is going to gather evidence, and how they are going to make it sufficient for successful convictions, then I'd like to hear it. Laws already exist and are achieving nothing. Taking licenses away from those caught so far over the last decade will result in how many revoked licenses in hen harrier areas? Unless James and the RSPB can defend an answer to that, their position is untenable.  

  • Regarding  licensing: as a naive member of public I would be more convinced of its potential effectiveness if you spelled out, in detail, how you (RSPB) think the licensing system will be more robust and  the inspections be so much better,  with the extra money, though I note you say in your last blog it only “has the potential to fund better inspection and enforcement” .  To my eyes nothing is going to change with vast areas of moor to police day and night!  I cannot be alone in this failure to understand , so having worked out how it may be achieved you could include  the explanation  in to the magazine article.

  • Some of this debate is for the future-what matters right now is that individuals and groups associated with shooting and particularly grouse shooting have destroyed all perceived threats to their "sport". They continue to do this DESPITE it being a criminal offence. That is why raptor numbers are so depressed in areas like the Peak District. Unless something drastic happens then birds like hen harriers are going to be EXTINCT which is what the grouse farmers want -it solves their problem and removes the hassle.

    Anything less than a total ban is going to be abused and manipulated so that these people can continue in the way they always have. Do we really think that a licence will make any difference at all to a people who are already used to breaking the law? At the time of this debate 3 young tagged harriers have "disappeared"

    The persecutors need catching, arresting fining and yes jailing if thats what it takes. And i include land owners along side game keepers here -ignorance can be no defence if they are your employees. The police, conservation organizations, and the courts need to be much more aggressive and proactive when dealing with these people. Once that happens then the birds are in with a chance-and then we can discuss how the land should be managed in the future. Mark Avery has sounded the call we need to support him.

  • I'm pleased to see this on the website.

    As a member and volunteer I think it’s important for the membership to read the pros and cons of all the arguments on grouse shooting/H Harrier/Raptor protection. Then they can make an informed choice on whether or not to sign the petitions.

    Nature's voice has spoken  

  • Thanks for posted this on the website, as a member and volunteer I think it important the membership gets to to read the pros and cons of the arguements before making an informed choice about signing the petitions.

    Natures voice has now spoken.

  • Firstly I would like to say thank you for giving RSPB members (which I am one) the opportunity to hear different opinions on this very important subject. I am also pleased it will appear in the next issue of 'Natures Home'. My stance on Driven Grouse moor management is that only a complete ban on the 'sport' can save this valuable ecosystem. While current management is aimed at only one species, Red Grouse, it can never truly be a wild space. After many years of arrogance and self interest the landowners chance to put this right has passed, to save our highland wildlife a total ban is the only way forward.

  • The RSPB and I agree that the management regimes associated with driven grouse shooting are damaging wildlife habitats - the Moorland Association doesn't agree (although of course all three accounts were written before the Leeds University study was published last week which further documented the environmental harm from heather burning associated with grouse shoots).

    The Moorland Association says that all they do is consented already (clearly not the illegal bird of prey killing that is carried out to boost grouse bags) and that therefore they are already heavily regulated.  To some extent they are, but the current state of affairs shows that regulation isn't working.

    The Moorland Association is essentially a trade union for moorland managers - it is not keen on change. Their comments above, and their approach to the problems of the uplands over the last few decades, indicate that they are resistant to change.  There is little sign that the Moorland Association's members will budge an inch unless they are forced to do so by the public or government.

    There is too much wrong with grouse moor management for it to be tackled by a bit of a tightening of the system - that's why after many years and much thought I think we should simply ban this outmoded and unnecessary, and environmentally damaging, activity.  I hope that when RSPB members read the account in Nature's Home magazine they will add their names to the 18,000 signatures already calling on the next government to ban driven grouse shooting in England. We would never regret it.

  • When people make promises or well intention statements one must always ask oneself can they deliver on thoses promises and is it within their power to do so. Well intention as Amanda Anderson may be herself all the evidence points to the fact that there are apparently a significant number of people associated with grouse moors and upland areas intent on breaking the law when it come to birds of prey. So the conclsion must be that her statment is not a viable when it come to protecting birds of prey and that therefore much improved regulation is badly needed.

    Personally I would very much like to see the banning of driven grouse shooting and Mark Avery's perspective is my prefered one. However one has to be politically realistic as to what can be achived and therefore James Robinson's perspective is probably the more likely solution, of the two. although it would have significant policing and monitoring problems. For the time being I see no reason for not pursuing both objectives.    

  • Thanks for engaging in the debate - I am pleased that over the past few months, the focus has moved on from defining the problem to exploring the solution.   And, Bob - I understand your inability to comment on an unpublished plan! Thanks also for highlighting today's news from SNH.  I had heard that this was on the cards and am pleased that progress has been made.

  • Do we now have some movement in this area.

    SNH has made a good move here although I am a bit uncertain how you monitor general licences and how you restrict them.