The debate

So tomorrow October the 31st see’s the future of driven grouse shooting being debated in the House of Commons by MPs. This is after months if not years of work by Mark Avery and others to get driven Grouse shooting banned because of several issues within the sport all of which merit going under the microscope. 

These points include

  • Burning of moorland & Peat
  • Draining of moorland & blanket bogs
  • Culling of various animals for one species to thrive
  • Use of national & international subsidies to support already affluent landowners
  • Illegal persecution of birds of prey

All of the above can be read up on from various websites via our links page and we recommend you look at both sides of the story but let me put out Raptor Aid view on this hot conservation potatoe.

We signed the petition to ban Grouse shooting first and foremost – now we are under no illusions the Conservative party and their landowning donors will see this or let a ban happen but at least it’s being highlighted that’s one reason why we signed it. The biggest reason we signed it though is because for years we have witnessed the illegal persecution of birds of prey in and around Grouse moors and it needs to stop!

Those of you new to this or having just picked it up since the more frequent news coverage many British birds of prey are shot, trapped, poisoned or disturbed on intensive grouse moors to protect Red Grouse numbers. The Red Grouse is a native game bird famed for its fast flights so has become the ultimate target in many shooters sights, a day’s shooting costs thousands of pounds on some moors. Grouse cannot be reared in captivity and then released so the moors must be managed to encourage and support Grouse populations, this is where moors are burnt to encourage Heather re growth for the Grouse to eat and shelter but also draining of moors for burning and access and predator control to sustain the high numbers of Grouse estate owners and paying guns demand. 

Predator control is allowed for certain species including corvids, stoats, weasels, foxes and rats but there is also a big illegal element with Hen harriers at the heart of it. 

Hen harriers are a species of British Raptor which makes its home on the moors of England (also Scotland/Wales/Ireland) that is if it wasn’t for illegal persecution especially in England. A government funded study showed that the English uplands should hold upwards of 300 pairs of breeding HH, 2016 saw just 3 breeding pairs! Sadly illegal persecution is the driving force for this sorry figure, it has been shown each year for as long as we have been following the issue that Hen harriers are being shot, trapped and disturbed during crucial parts of the breeding season.

How is this known? Bodies are found despite the difficult and vast terrain Grouse moors cover and with the advent and more frequent use of GPS tags on the birds showing the last known movements even without a corpse evidence is there on maps. Only this week one of the two HH satellite tagged with the support of the Hawk & Owl Trust has been found dead under suspicious circumstances and details passed on to the police, this bird will have been barely 5 months old.

It’s not just HH’s though, Golden Eagles in Scotland, Red Kites, Common Buzzard and Peregrine are all still targeted in the name of driven Grouse shooting. This particular issue has been rumbling on long before Raptor Aid was conceived and maybe the only way to stop the killing is remove to problem completely. After watching the recent review committee on the debate grill both parties, from conservationists and shooters/land managers it became clear the latter are not willing to accept the real issue of protected species being killed on a regular basis. 

Surely when you step back and think as an intelligent species some of us get pleasure from a sport that involves killing other species to protect a species to then be killed as a form of sport questions of moral and ethical values must be asked? 

Raptor Aid in the meantime will continue to support the protection of British birds of prey and share this with you with the hope that the tide will change. Don’t forget your voice counts!!