Suspend the use of medicated grit on Scotland's moors

Press release

Wednesday 8 February 2024

For immediate release

Prominent animal welfare campaigners are today calling for an urgent investigation into the widespread use of unregulated medication on sensitive Scottish moors following the release of a worrying report into the practice.

The League Against Cruel Sports and Wild Justice say the report’s findings are so alarming that the Scottish Parliament needs to suspend the use of Flubendazole in grouse grit pending further investigation of how it is used and why it is allowed to be prescribed.

The organisations said the potential impact on the environment and human health – specifically human reproductive health - of the Flubendazole medication entering watercourses and the food chain means politicians must act without delay and suspend its use on grouse moors.

A copy of the report has been sent to Scottish Government and NatureScot officials, who have agreed to an urgent meeting to discuss its findings.

Robbie Marsland, director of League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “Medicated grit is used by the shooting industry in a bid to treat parasites that reduce the numbers of grouse to be shot for sport. Before we undertook this research, no one knew the extent, concentration or the prescription process behind this chemical which is known to be toxic to people and animals.

“It turns out that tonnes of medicated grit litter the Scottish landscape at levels of up to 2.5 times the recommended dose.  We found the chemical at times when it should have been withdrawn under statutory requirements, and we found it both in trays with drainage holes or directly strewn on the ground.

“We have also uncovered the fact that this chemical isn’t even licensed for use on Red Grouse in the UK.  It is prescribed using an emergency procedure that is supposed to be used on a case-by-case basis to ‘avoid unacceptable suffering’.

“With this new information, Ministers in Scotland need to urgently consider the potential dangers of medicated grit on the environment and in humans – especially on human health.

“An urgent and detailed review needs to be carried out into how such vast amounts of medicated grit are prescribed and used and, in the meantime, the Scottish Government should introduce a moratorium – a suspension - on the use of Flubendazole on grouse moors.”

Ruth Tingay, from Wild Justice, said: “Wild Justice was pleased to co-fund the development of a test to detect the presence of the veterinary drug Flubendazole on grit placed out on grouse moors.

“The use of communal grit trays has already been linked to the rapid spread of a highly contagious disease in Red Grouse (Respiratory Cryptosporidiosis), which leads to serious welfare and conservation concerns, especially the threat of cross-contamination to other red-listed species in the area.

“To date, the statutory agencies are not adequately monitoring either the use of the drug nor the environmental consequences of its use. The report’s findings also lead to an important ethical question about this dubious widespread drugging regime of wild birds, simply to provide an opportunity for those birds to be shot later by a privileged few.”

In 2018 and 2019 a survey of seven shooting estates in Scotland was carried out on behalf of the League, and during those surveys 7,283 grit stations were documented. Grit was found to have been strewn on the ground at just under half the number of stations found, when best practice states that it should be put in trays. The trays, however, also have drainage holes so grit ends up on the ground regardless.

By extrapolating the figures from this survey (10,000 hectares) and applying them to the million hectares of Scottish moors used for Red Grouse shooting, it would be fair to estimate the number of grit stations – either loose or in trays – on sensitive Scottish moorland at around 200,000.

To follow up on this survey, the League commissioned an independent laboratory investigation into the Flubendazole levels in grit from six of the estates. It is used as a wormer in farmed animals but it is not licensed for use on grouse in the UK unless in extreme circumstances in what is known as the cascade method. As well as entering the environment through direct contact with the ground or water, Flubendazole also enters the ecosystem via the bird’s faeces.

Additionally, during the League’s follow-up survey it was found that medicated grit was being used on some estates throughout the year, despite a statutory need to withdraw the use of Flubendazole 28 days before shooting begins due to the suspected impact it has on reproductive health in humans.

Testing discovered that the levels of Flubendazole present in the grit was up to 2.5 times the strength that is recommended to be prescribed to birds.

Robbie added: “Our survey and independent laboratory testing showed that there is no oversight nor regulation on the medicated grit strewn across the Scottish countryside, and levels are wildly higher than they should be. Coupled with how little is known about its impact on the environment – both land-based and aquatic flora and fauna – it is imperative legislators impose a moratorium on the use of Flubendazole until methods of use and prescription are thoroughly investigated.


Notes to editors

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 or email

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading animal charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act 2004 and the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021.

We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage wildlife reserves to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).

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