I’m long enough in the tooth now not to get too ‘rattled’ by the antics of those opposed to shooting as August 12th approaches. The opening day of grouse shooting, every year, prompts not just salvo’s of lead but also a barrage of verbosity from both sides of the shooting divide.
Yesterday saw the usual ripostes, both on the moors and off them. The Labour Party took the opportunity to ridicule themselves yet again by announcing that they wanted to seek a review of driven grouse shooting. Ignoring (or worse still … ignorant to) the facts. The sustainability and biodiversity of upland grouse moors have been reviewed ad-infinitum. There is already a wealth of scientific, ecological and economic evidence supporting the benefit of keepered grouse moors. Upland moors also happen to be a unique eco-system and we in the UK are privileged to own some 78% of the world’s quota. What rankles Labour, of course, is that the majority of that land is privately owned. If it were publicly owned, there wouldn’t have been a statement yesterday. Most Labour senior officials wouldn’t know a grouse from a seagull. They don’t care about the wildlife, only the massive misconception that anyone who picks up a gun is a ‘Tory toff’.
Out on the moors, there would have been the usual procession of 4×4’s full of tweed-clad ladies and gentleman out to enjoy a good days sport and put some game on the table of local hostelries. Many would have paid a small fortune to cover the wages and running costs of their hosts employees and equipment. Some grouse shooting invites can cost as much as a birding trip to Gambia with Chris Packham. Trundling along behind them would have been a rag-tag line of battered old vehicles. Most carrying supporters of the shoot (the beaters, the pickers-up, the dogs, the cooks, and the camera teams). Some, though, would be full of balaclava-clad animal rights activists with nothing better to do with their day than try to spoil someone else’s fun. For interfering with a fully legal activity such a grouse shoot is akin to walking backstage at Glastonbury when Mumford & Sons or Stormzy are on stage and shutting down the generator because you don’t like the noise.
I mentioned Packham. He put in a predictable appearance, helped and assisted by an unashamedly biased Channel 4 news team. BASC’s representative did his best in the face of adversity while Packham was allowed to spit nonsense such as “hundreds, if not thousands, possibly millions” of wild creatures are killed to protect grouse moors. It was the ‘millions’ bit I objected to. He made a moot point about the RSPB’s use of legitimate pest control on its reserves and that they keep an accurate tally of the culls. However, we on the wrong side of pest predation don’t feel any need or obligation to count the crows we’ve killed. We would rather count the birds we’ve kept alive, specifically the red-listed species shooters help protect. And often help protect on behalf of the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, their activities hidden behind signed ‘Non-Disclosure Agreements’. Our pseudo scientist then went on to a tirade about grouse moor owners being responsible for draining uplands and causing downstream flooding. Again, absolute nonsense which the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) were quick to point out today. The general public that watched Channel 4 News last night, of course, won’t bother to check the facts. The damage was done. The Messiah of Ecological Misinformation had struck again. Peddling lies, feeding divisive rhetoric and refusing to accept that DGS isn’t just about shooting game birds. For it is also about traditional rural life and local economies.
Next August will see the same antics played out by shootings opponents. The media will again relish the controversy in the absence of real news and pitch shooter against anti in a live debate. At least last night, BASC was allowed to put Ian Danby in the seat to try to counter the ‘fake news’. But not before Channel 4 had already rolled out a series of hand-grenades for him to avoid.
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, August 2019