Is it time to ban driven grouse shooting?

Q: Is discussion of a ban on driven grouse shooting simplistic?
A: Yes. Firstly, it ignores the wider conservation, employment and economic benefits of moorland managed for grouse; and secondly, it fails to address why there are so few hen harriers on the 50% of the suitable habitat not managed for grouse shooting.

Q: Do we know what happens when driven grouse shooting stops?
A: Yes. The consequences are nowhere better illustrated than in Wales. Their moors once supported the most productive grouse moors in the UK as well as abundant populations of other birds; today they are all but abandoned. A study of an old grouse moor recorded that in less than 20 years lapwing became extinct, golden plover declined from ten birds to just one, and curlew declined by 79 per cent.

Q: Why was grouse shooting all but abandoned in Wales?
A: Because of the loss of gamekeepers during the Second World War, a subsequent lack of reinvestment, disease, overgrazing (leading to a loss of heather habitat) and, from the moor owners’ perspective, a lack of support from conservation groups. As a consequence, not only have red grouse numbers crashed, but also, so have many birds which define the uplands like curlew, lapwing and black grouse.

Q: Do conservation groups work with grouse moors?
A: Yes. But more must be done. Today, over 75% of the entire Welsh black grouse population exists on the one remaining moor that has a gamekeeper.

Q: Is this all just about money?
A: It is for better not worse that red grouse shooting generates £100 million for the UK economy. The private investment made by moor owners (heather burning, legal predator control, etc) produces a positive contribution to biodiversity. We celebrate the fact that we have a thriving industry, supporting 4,000 jobs that maintain our heather hills.

Q: Are moor owners able to claim grants for shooting?
A: No. Payments to land owners (including RSPB, National Trust, etc) are made only for conservation work or other things they have been asked to do by Natural England and which have a public benefit.

Q: These Special Protection Areas (SPA) – why are there shoots on them?
A: It is as a result of traditional and sympathetic moorland management for grouse that we see many other important moorland birds on grouse moors – which have since received recognition for their importance to conservation by being designated as SPAs.

Q: Are the conservation benefits worth all the predator control effort?
A: Whilst the latest Breeding Bird Survey reports that golden plover has declined 8%, lapwing 41%, and curlew 45%, the Pennines remain a stronghold of these wader birds. We have calculated that where control of generalist predators by gamekeepers ceases, lapwing and golden plover numbers would drop by 81% and curlew by 47% after 10 years.

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