Grouse shooting industry finally being held to account in Scotland

  • Post last modified:March 22, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

The Scottish Parliament has now passed a Bill to license grouse shooting to tackle illegal wildlife persecution on grouse moors. The killing of Scotland’s birds of prey has been associated with grouse moor management for decades and campaigners hope that this legislation will tackle the ‘national disgrace’ of raptor persecution.

Grouse shooting: on notice

The passing of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill (by 85 votes in favour to 30 votes against) means that if a wildlife crime takes place on a grouse shooting moor it could lose its licence to operate. It also means that heather burning (known as muirburn) will also be licensed and restricted on peatlands which are considered a vital carbon resource.

Meanwhile, environmental and animal welfare campaigners are celebrating the Bill’s banning of snares: the animal traps which they deem as ‘cruel and indiscriminate’.

Ironically and tellingly, as the Guardian reported:

Hours before the vote it emerged that police were investigating the unexplained disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier, a bird of prey routinely targeted for persecution by gamekeepers, on grouse moors in the Angus Glens near Dundee.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the bird, called Shalimar, was the fourth hen harrier to go missing, along with a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle, in an area “notorious” for persecution. It had been tagged at the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate last year.

Cry more

Predictably, those who enjoy killing animals for fun – like grouse shooting – have hit back.

Ross Ewing, director of moorland at Scottish Land and Estates, told Insider:

Licensing of grouse shooting represents a seismic change for rural estates and their employees, including gamekeepers and shepherds.

The legislation goes far beyond the stated intention of deterring the persecution of raptors by introducing a broad range of relevant offences under which licences can be suspended or revoked – many of these offences bear no connection to land managed for grouse shooting.

Cry more, hey?

A “significant intervention” into grouse shooting

REVIVE is a coalition of like-minded organisations working for grouse moor reform in Scotland. Coalition partners include Common Weal, OneKind, Friends of the Earth Scotland, League Against Cruel Sports, and Raptor Persecution UK.

Max Wiszniewski, campaign manager for REVIVE, said:

This Bill marks a significant intervention into land management practices in Scotland and finally regulates a controversial industry that’s responsible for environmental destruction, that restricts economic opportunities for rural communities and that kills hundreds of thousands of animals so a few more grouse can be shot for sport.

While it doesn’t go far enough to end the ‘killing to kill’ on grouse moors, banning snares – the cruel and indiscriminate traps that are common on grouse moors – is an important win for animal welfare against an industry that was desperate to keep them.

The extra protection of peatlands is welcome but with three quarters of Scots against moorland burning for grouse shooting, the Parliament still has some catching up to do. Nevertheless, this legislation will hopefully go some way to tackling the persecution of Scotland’s birds of prey, something that our First, First Minister Donald Dewar called a ‘national disgrace’ in 1998.

Featured image via Fieldsports Channel – YouTube

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