• Kev Thomas Writes

How Grouse Shooting Boosts Nature and the Rural Economy

Above: By John Ferneley (1782 - 1860)

In The Times of Thursday August 13 2020 there was an interesting piece under the Thunderer banner on the Comment page. It’s written by Adrian Blackmore who’s the director of shooting at the Countryside Alliance. He points out how the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc in many communities across Britain, and particularly so in those reliant on tourism. Businesses in rural upland areas such as the North Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District have all but been brought to their knees. And yet, and as he points out, a study by researchers from the University of Northampton has revealed a vital lifeline. A lifeline that despite the coronavirus onslaught is helping keep some of those communities afloat.

The researchers study examined the impact of integrated moorland management practices, including those benefiting grouse within upland communities. And interestingly it found what so many conservationists already understand. Quite simply, grouse shooting forms part of a ‘complex web’ made up of economic and social factors that allow certain moorland communities to not only survive, but actually thrive during these trying times.

There are many people, who through ignorance and little else, disparage grouse shooting and moorland management practices that’ve remained unchanged for hundreds of years. And yet, controlled heather burning encourages new heather shoots, and helps sustain a varied heather moorland habitat which benefits many rare species of ground nesting birds. Importantly too, it helps prevent out of control wild fires such as were experienced in the UK’s early summer. These fires destroyed vast tracts of vegetation, peatlands and wildlife habitats. It’s as well to remember the most serious of these uncontrolled fires in recent years have all taken place on moorland that is not (my italics) managed for grouse.

During the week of the Glorious Twelfth anti-shooting campaigners will argue this is all propaganda, and that the scientific studies showing the benefits of moorland management are all lies. They’ll argue too, that heather moors are best left to fend for themselves, and that the only people who benefit from grouse shooting are the “rich landowners”. This misguided assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a proven fact the social and economic benefits of moors being managed for grouse shooting spread deeply throughout upland communities. Certainly, far beyond the landowners and estate workers.

Aside from supporting the wages of gamekeepers, beaters, and publicans, estates managed for grouse shooting also rely on a host of local contractors, sporting agents, lawyers, gun builders, and other workers to facilitate the sport. One grouse moor owner estimated that only about 10% of the £800,000 he spends per annum goes on gamekeepers’ salaries, with the rest paying for the upkeep of the moor.

Blackmore quite correctly places emphasis on how under the spectre of Covid-19 and the ever-increasing anti-hunting activism, it’s never been more important for policymakers to stand up for grouse shooting and the UK’s moorland communities. Reading his column reminded me how all of us who love and understand the reasons for shooting need to lend our support to bodies like the Countryside Alliance, or they’ll be left fighting a lone battle.

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