Animal rights campaigners are making a big push on the Scottish government ahead of a report into the sport of grouseshooting. BBC TV’s Chris Packham and the RSPB are among those who want a ban. However, sources at Holyrood say that Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is sitting on the ‘Werritty report’ into grouseshooting until after the election.
The RSPB remains convinced the report will lead to a ban on grouseshooting. In its efforts to get that ban, RSPB Scotland announces it found a dead hen harrier with shot in it in Wanlockhead, southern Scotland, in June. Police investigated the incident and made no arrests. The RSPB also says two more hen harriers ‘disappeared’ in the autumn, though it has a history of announcing birds killed by gamekeepers and then they reappear a few weeks later when their satellite transmitters start working.
The Scottish landowners’ association Scottish Land & Estates says the hen harrier incidents are a matter of concern but describes the RSPB’s appeal as a “blatant attempt” to put pressure on the government ahead of the publication of the Werritty report A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, which has removed eight members over wildlife crime in the last seven years, says the lack of evidence in the appeal suggested it was an attempt to influence ministers.
Packham, who is currently promoting Veganuary, this week addressed a Revive event at Holyroodhouse to mark a year of the land reform-backed coalition that wants grouse shooting banned. He will be brandishing a new report by Revive claims that grouse moors cause significant ecological damage by burning heather, allowing heavy grazing by deer and sheep, and using intensive predator control.
The Revive report author, Helen Armstrong, a former SNH consultant, says that 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of upland Scotland, about 13% of the country’s land area, had been used in recent decades for driven grouse shooting. She advocates returning the land to mixed woodland for uses including ‘craft industries’.
Armstrong stops short of claiming that muirburn of heather, which encourages regrowth, burned the underlying peat. but she claims it ‘dries out’ that peat. She admits that grousemoor management supports ground-nesting birds such as curlew and golden plover. But she claims it prevents species from prospering, including wild cats, capercaillie and golden eagles. She does not explain why these other species are currently doing so badly in locations where they should thrive.
Armstrong also makes a call to cull Scotland’s red deer in order to promote trees, which may not have played well with some of Revive’s partner organisations including the League Against Cruel Sports and the animal rights group OneKind.
Responding to Revive’s latest anti-grouse moor lobbying report, a spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association says: “Revive use neutral words like ‘reform’ but their real aim is to ban grouse shooting in Scotland, empty the glens and put gamekeepers and families on the dole.
“Their wish-lists were effectively discredited in Scottish Government’s own commissioned report into grouse moor economics and alternative uses of moorland.
“We know what happens when grouse moors are abandoned. The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project report, published in October, highlighted net biodiversity gains when gamekeepers were employed. When grouse gamekeepers were lost on that moor, European protected open habitats degraded and red-listed and iconic birds crashed. Now Scotland, again, has a failing SPA for Hen Harriers, a silent moor with few jobs, little wildlife and millions of tax payer’s money blown that could have supported teacher posts in rural communities.
“South West Scotland has haemorrhaged rare wildlife since grouse moor management ended. If that is what people want, they don’t need a glossy report, they have 2 painful examples in real time.
“If Revive have the answers, why not invest the anti grouse shooting lobbying cash and go and live and work on land only suitable for rough grazing, to see if they can create and sustain 2500 jobs and associated environmental benefits in those communities.”