This year's Glorious Twelfth seemed to get more coverage than most.
You may, like me, have sat shaking your head at Simon Barnes’ article in The Times, titled ‘Some of our grouses are beginning to be heard’. The passage that stood out in particular was:
‘Those who manage moors for driven grouse-shooting have had it all their own way since the invention of the shotgun. Now it seems that opposition is gathering. It’s always been about the interests of the few and the wealthy prevailing over the rest of us’
Sadly, such misinformation is rife. Fortunately, we have the peer-reviewed research to put the record straight.
My response to Mr Barnes was published in The Times soon after, the key message of which was: ‘Properly conducted grouse shooting is a force for good in the English uplands ... its demise would be a disaster for the landscape, biodiversity and many small but locally important rural economies’.
We don’t have to speculate about the potential consequences of the demise of driven grouse shooting in our uplands. You only need to look to Wales to see what happens once it has gone.
Welsh moors once supported the most productive grouse moors in the UK as well as abundant populations of other birds. Today they are in serious decline. Studies on a former grouse moor in Berwyn show what can happen in just 20 years – lapwing became extinct, golden plover declined from ten birds to just one, and curlew declined by 79%.
All three species are now listed as a conservation concern, with lapwing red-listed by the British Trust for Ornithology.
Despite the conservation work undertaken by gamekeepers, those calling for an end to grouse shooting will continue to do so - and we will respond robustly.
We live in a nation whose population, media and government are increasingly urban. Is it any wonder that society is further disconnected from the countryside? It is more important than ever that we get the facts out to the public to stop misinformation spreading like wildfire.
Now is the time to be heard
There is plenty of good to say about game management and we have been active in getting the message out there.
✓ Our press team are briefing journalists to ensure the media get the facts about gamekeeping and conservation and are not swayed by emotive campaigning.
✓ Across the country, our scientists work tirelessly, monitoring bird densities, analysing habitats and doing everything possible to produce research in a way that no other organisation can.
✓ Policy staff are meeting politicians as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Game and Wildlife.
✓ This is an essential to take research from the fields to influence the halls of Westminster and Edinburgh.
Our advisory team is working with retailers including Marks & Spencer to ensure that their plans to stock not only grouse, but other gamebirds including pheasants, go ahead.
We are working with other organisations to get the message out there, but the role we play is vital. Our involvement is only possible because of three things – decades of valuable research, the determination of our staff and, most importantly, the support of members like you.
We are operating on a budget the fraction of those available to most conservation organisations. Sadly, responding to inaccurate campaigning from others increases the need to provide the hard facts about gamekeeping, putting pressure on our resources.
You can help us get the facts out to the people that matter
With your support, we can brief more politicians, inform more journalists and educate the public.
£67 allows our scientists to spend time undertaking research which shows the reality of the effect of game management in Britain.
£176 means we can continue to establish best practice on shooting conservation to manage the countryside as effectively as possible.
£480 pays for our experts to brief politicians and leading journalists on our peer-reviewed science; informing policy and the media.
The relationship between man and nature has allowed species to prosper through habitat management, predator control and environmental stewardship. This is not widely understood and deserves greater exposure to allow conservation to progress.
This debate underpins your sport and the portrayal of those who love the countryside and it is essential that it is fact, rather than emotion, that drives it forwards.
Please support our on-going research and get practical conservation back on the national agenda.
Chairman of Trustees,
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust