Grouse shooting season: What are the arguments for and against?

Monday marks the start of the four-month-long grouse shooting season.

The 16-week season – which starts on ‘The Glorious Twelfth’ of August – draws visitors from across the world to shoots, mainly in northern England and Scotland.

This year, the Labour Party has said it is calling for a review into the sport amid claims it causes substantial damage to the environment.

What is the grouse shooting season, and what do its supporters and opponents say?

The Glorious 12th
Milo the dog with a shooting party on the moors at the Rottal Estate in Glen Clova (Jane Barlow/PA)

What happens during the grouse hunting season?

During a shoot, wild grouse are driven into the open by a line of beaters and fly over a line of hunters who then shoot them.

Before a shooting season, grouse moorland has to be prepared, which can involve the burning of heather fields.

Grouse moors account for around 550,000 acres of land in England and Scotland.

Arguments for?

The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group said grouse shooting brings around £32 million to the Scottish economy and supports approximately 2,640 jobs.

Pro-hunting campaigners also argue that maintaining grouse moors creates habitat for other wildlife and reduces the risk of wildfire by managing the growth of heather.

Arguments against?

Environmental and animal welfare campaigners say driven grouse shooting, where the birds are driven towards the hunters by beaters, is cruel and want to see it banned.

They say predators such as foxes and stoats are killed to keep grouse numbers up, and have expressed concern over the disappearance of a number of birds of prey over grouse moors in recent months.

What does the industry say?

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation believes grouse-shooting season is vital for rural employment.

Regional director Duncan Thomas told the Daily Telegraph: “Grouse moors are bio-diverse and the shoots they support create vital employment in isolated rural areas supporting communities.”

Pro-hunting groups also say that the land maintenance required for hunting season is beneficial to the environment.

Mr Thomas added: “Effective heather management including burning and cutting creates amazing habitat and of course reduces the fuel load and risk of wildfire.”

The Glorious 12th
Members of a shooting party on a moor near Ripon, North Yorkshire, as the official start of the grouse shooting season gets under way (Owen Humphreys/PA)

What do animal rights and environmental campaigners say?

The RSPB believes the practice is dangerous for the environment, due to the destruction of habitat and the killing of birds of prey.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director for conservation, said: “The current obsession of chasing ever-increasing numbers of red grouse to be shot is a disaster for people and nature: birds of prey continue to be illegally killed while peatland habitats are being burnt, releasing tonnes of carbon into the air.”

Groups claim that the sport is cruel, not just to grouse, but to other animals that share the environment.

“We have argued that the grouse shooting industry has failed to clean up its act and have called for licensing of driven grouse shooting. Others want a ban. The status quo is clearly not an option which is why we support the proposed review to complement one already being consulted in Scotland.”

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