Why I need your help to ban driven grouse shooting - by Chris Packham
I bet you’ve never been grouse shooting have you? Maybe you’ve never seen a red grouse either except in those amusing Christmas adverts for Famous Grouse whisky. But grouse shooting is still something that affects you and me, and not in a good way.
Red grouse live in the hills of Britain and eat heather. They are wild birds and they are residents. They are pretty tough to survive the winters nibbling heather at the tops of hills. I rather admire them. I like them. These really are famous grouse.
In the coming months, between the 12 August and 10 December, hundreds of thousands of red grouse will be shot for fun across those hills of Britain by grouse shooters, some of whom will pay thousands of pounds for a day’s shooting.
To produce very high densities of red grouse, our moors are burned and drained, native predators that eat red grouse, like foxes, stoats and crows, are killed, mountain hares are killed in their thousands because they carry ticks that affect grouse and, all too often, protected birds of prey, such as eagles and peregrine falcons, are killed because they take grouse too. I see more Peregrine Falcons in central London than I do when I’m in our upland National Parks – and that is just wrong. It’s awful! Our National Parks are wildlife crime scenes.
All this adds up to the fact intensive grouse shooting is a destructive business which is underpinned by wildlife crime and which wrecks the ecology of our hills. The grouse moors of the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and Durham Moors are given over almost entirely to grouse shooting – shooting famous grouse for fun – at the expense of other wildlife.
But people suffer too. Scientists have shown that intensive grouse moor management increases flood risk in the towns miles downstream, far from the moors, and that householders are paying more for home insurance. Grouse moor management affects water quality, and increases water treatment costs, so water companies spend more money on treating the water we drink or use to bathe. That management for the ‘sport’ of grouse shooting also reduces insect life in rivers and streams and increases greenhouse gas emissions. It’s pretty much an ecological disaster in my opinion, and that’s why I’m asking for your help.
For more information on Hen Harriers in England please visit http://www.raptorsalive.co.uk