What is wrong with Driven Grouse Shooting?

Driven grouse shooting is part of the ‘game’ shooting industry and is most recognisable by the phrase The Glorious Twelfth. This refers to the day each year on which the grouse shooting season starts. Along with many other animal welfare and conservation organisations, the League Against Cruel Sports believes there is nothing ‘glorious’ about game shooting.

The League Against Cruel Sports is opposed to shooting animals for sport, both because of our moral objection to killing for sport and because of the unnecessary suffering and collateral damage to wildlife and the environment that is caused by commercial game shooting. These problems are particularly notable in the driven grouse shooting industry.

'Game' Bird Suffering

According to statistics from the shooting industry itself, an estimated 700,000 grouse are shot every year in Britain for ‘sport’.

Grouse are frightened from their heather homes by a line of beaters shouting and stomping to drive them towards eagerly awaiting men with guns. Many grouse will not be killed outright, but will be shot and wounded before hurtling to the ground where they will lie maimed, suffering and terrified.

Wildlife Crime

Illegal raptor (bird of prey) persecution on grouse moors is relentless. We continue to see countless cases of raptor persecution so devastating that the hen harrier is on the brink of extinction as a breeding species in England with just three successful breeding pairs in 2016, none of which were on grouse moors.

Other bird of prey species, including owls, buzzards, golden eagles and peregrine falcons, have also borne the brunt of this illegal persecution. However, this relentless wildlife crime is not just limited to birds of prey. Badgers have had their setts dug out and even been targeted with poison.

Raptor Persecution UK has documented what it describes as the “relentless and illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK” associated with 'game' bird shooting, which shows clear evidence of systematic raptor persecution, particularly on grouse moors.

Grouse in an empty landscape

Trapping and Snaring

As well as the grouse that suffer at the hands of driven grouse shooting, millions of other animals are harmed and persecuted. In their bid to have as many grouse as possible shot for sport and profit, gamekeepers wage a war of persecution on animals that predate on them.

Wire snares and traps target animals such as foxes, stoats and corvids (such as magpies), but due to the indiscriminate nature of these devices, many protected and endangered species such as badgers and hares get caught in these traps.

Bone-breaking Fenn traps are set in their thousands across pheasant and grouse shooting estates to eradicate native stoats and weasels. Animals take up to two minutes to die in these contraptions, which are deemed “inhumane” by the government, and other species – including birds, cats, hedgehogs, pine martens and lambs – are routinely captured. Fenn traps are due to be banned soon, but the ‘game’ bird shooting industry has already developed a replacement.

This is the indiscriminate killing of animals to facilitate the killing of other animals for sport.

See our snaring campaign page for more information.

Mountain Hare Culling

Gamekeepers on grouse moors cull mountain hares due to unwarranted fears they carry a tick-borne virus which kills grouse chicks and is therefore seen as a threat to the grouse shooting industry.

The Hare Preservation Trust believes that anecdotal evidence of Mountain Hare culling levels strongly suggests that the European Habitats Directive is being broken in Scotland.

It is scandalous that it is allowed to continue simply for the interests of commercial 'game' bird shooting.

Environmental damage, climate change and flooding

Burning heather has been a longstanding practice on grouse moors to encourage the growth of heather for feeding and in which grouse can nest and hide from predators.

These intensive burning practices are responsible for serious environmental damage which occurs primarily on protected areas with 90 per cent  of English grouse moors being found on National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The EMBER (Effects of Moorland Burning on the Eco hydrology of River basins) study by the University of Leeds found that burning had impacts on peat hydrology, peat chemistry and physical properties, river water chemistry and river ecology.

Among the numerous important findings of the EMBER project, researchers found that burning causes peat near the surface to dry out and degrade, releasing stored pollutants, such as heavy metals into rivers, and carbon into the atmosphere.

Professor Joseph Holden, a co-author of the study said: “Altering the hydrology of peatlands so they become drier is known to cause significant losses of carbon from storage in the soil. This is of great concern, as peatlands are the largest natural store for carbon on the land surface of the UK and play a crucial role in climate change. They are the ‘Amazon of the UK’.”

Increasing risk of flooding in communities downstream from grouse moors has also been highlighted as an area of concern. The removal of surface vegetation increases run off so that in the most intense rainfall events flow peaks downstream are exacerbated.

Grouse among heather

Overstated economics of the shooting industry

Analysis of the ‘game’ bird shooting industry’s claims that the ‘sport’ brings huge benefits to the UK economy shows massive discrepancies. Their figures include clay shooting, claims that the industry provides large numbers of jobs are dubious, and large tax-payer subsidies to shooting estates are included as benefits.

Our paper ‘Shooting Animals for Sport: Worth Less’ is based on work done by economic experts from Sheffield Hallam University and Cormack Economics who were asked to review two shooting industry reports on the economics of sport shooting (PACEC 2006, 2014). Overall, they concluded that the reports are in essence advocacy statements, containing much information that is not testable, robust data, but opinion submitted by a sample with a stake in the outcomes.

When you then take into account the environmental damage caused by the industry and consider the economic value of activities that are displaced, in particular eco-tourism, driven grouse shooting is in our opinion a burden on the public purse.

Yorkshire Water and grouse shooting

Yorkshire Water is one of the largest landowners leasing moorland for grouse shooting, with the company actively allowing the practice on 13 different sections of moorland.

Wildlife is being eradicated by trap and gun, with an owl found gunned down on one piece of land. Heather is also being burnt causing damage to blanket bog habitat, contributing to flooding, polluting catchment water and meaning that protected birds – including hen harrier, dunlin and merlin – can no longer make the degraded moors their home.

Thousands of people have contacted Yorkshire Water since the League's campaign asking for an end to its grouse shooting leases began in August 2018. Campaigning actions have taken place in a dozen different towns and cities across Yorkshire and in London.

Take Action against driven grouse shooting

Let your MP know you want to see a ban on driven grouse shooting.

Share our Inglorious Menu infographic which shows what it costs to get one grouse onto a plate.

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Find Out More

Read our submission to the UK Parliament's Petition Committee Inquiry into Grouse Shooting.

Read Dr Mark Avery’s book ‘Inglorious’ on the case to ban driven grouse shooting.

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