Labour demands review into grouse shooting as season begins on ‘Glorious Twelfth’

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

Labour has demanded a review into grouse shooting over concerns the sport causes "substantial" damage to the environment and wildlife.

Monday, August 12 - or “Glorious Twelfth” as it is known by game hunting enthusiasts - marks the start of the four month grouse shooting season.

However animal rights and environmental campaigners refer to the day as "Inglorious Twelfth", due to the sport's environmental impacts.

Labour says there is "extensive evidence" that the UK's 550,000 acres of grouse moor are damaged every year when land is drained and dried out to prepare it for shooting.

It says moors are often also burned to ready them for shooting, emitting further carbon emissions and increasing the likelihood of flooding.

But shooters travelling from across the UK, Europe and North America will be more concerned about this year's grouse numbers following a poor season last year.

In Scotland, many grouse moor owners will not be shooting at all this year, according to rural property consultants Galbraith.

Late, heavy snow followed by very dry and hot conditions in 2018 reduced the number of the game birds successfully breeding.

For the next four months, shooters will be targeting grouse. Credit: PA

Partner Robert Rattray said: “Those lucky enough to have a surplus of grouse will likely only be shooting a small number of days, mostly with family members and a core of regular clients.

“Grouse counts have shown better conditions prevailing in the east of Scotland than the west and in some areas there is a surplus which may enable some shoot days.

“The good news is that we are beginning the process of gradual restoration following last year’s wash-out.”

Environmental and animal welfare campaigner Chris Packham, told ITV News that grouse shooting is "underpinned by criminality", "hugely damaging to our environment" and he wants to see it banned.

The TV presenter said: "It's shameful that this practice continues unfortunately. It's underpinned by criminality and it's hugely damaging to our environment at a time we know full well that we have to be working to look after it a lot better than we are.

"A ban is going to be better than licencing or a review because a review will take a long time which means that more habitat damage will occur, more birds will be illegally and really we've had years and years of it and it's time to put an end to it."

And Labour says that despite the perceived environmental damage, the ten largest English grouse moors are paid more than £3 million in farm subsidies every year.

Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment and rural affairs secretary, said: "The costs of grouse shooting on our environment and wildlife needs to be to properly weighed up against the benefit of land owners profiting from shooting parties.

"For too long the Tories have bent the knee to land owners and it’s our environment and our people who pay the price.

"There are viable alternatives to grouse shooting such as simulated shooting and wildlife tourism. The time has come for a proper review into the practice."

Moorland groups meanwhile cite a positive social and economic impact of shooting tours, and say managed grouse moors support many other wildlife including mountain hares.

A shooting party on Alvie Estate near Aviemore Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

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

Following talk of a ban, which may damage employment, Mr Packham said: "No one wants to see people losing their jobs but if those jobs are underpinned by criminal behaviour, the willful destruction of Britain's wildlife then frankly, it's not going to be a tragic loss."

Daniel Dent, a third-generation game dealer whose business relies on the sale of Yorkshire grouse, told ITV News why the bird is so popular.

He said: "It's a completely natural flavour, is grouse, it's quite an acquired flavour but it's something that is in high demand.

"You could compare it to having a steak, it's very tasty and a very luxurious meat."

He added: "This is a very exciting day for all of us at home, I'm the third-generation of our family business and we look forward to it every year."

But the Scottish Greens say research shows almost any other use of the land would be more economically active and provide more jobs.

The party’s land reform spokesman Andy Wightman said: “There’s nothing glorious about the 12th of August or about the intensive and damaging killing, burning, road construction and artificial medication that is associated with driven grouse shooting.

“That these barren Victorian hunting grounds remain a playground for the privileged few is a stark reminder of the inequality that still persists over so much of Scotland’s countryside.”

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Government has "no plans to undertake a review".

"The Government continues to support a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship between shooting and conservation which respects and protects wildlife and habitats."