The Glorious Twelfth this year, signalling the start of the grouse-shooting season, was overshadowed by a Labour party press release demanding a ‘review’ into driven shooting. Labour’s shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman left people in little doubt as to what she expected this review to conclude. ‘The costs of grouse shooting on our environment and wildlife need to be properly weighed up against the benefit of landowners profiting from shooting parties,’ she said. ‘For too long the Tories have bent the knee to landowners, and it’s our environment and our people who pay the price.’
Needless to say, this is all virtue-signalling nonsense. For a start, the shooting industry imposes no ‘costs’ on the environment. On the contrary, grouse moors cover about 550,000 acres of land in England and Scotland — an area larger than greater London — and are maintained by an army of gamekeepers. Heather moorland is the natural habitat of several species of ground-nesting birds, including black grouse, lapwing, curlew and golden plover, all of which benefit from the control of pests like foxes, crows, stoats and weasels.
The Labour press release quoted the RSPB as saying that hen harriers were on the edge of extinction, and linked this to grouse shooting. In fact, most of the surviving hen harriers are on land under active shoot management — Natural England reported that 21 of the 34 hen harriers that fledged in 2017 were nesting on grouse moors. The RSPB, by contrast, managed to fledge just one chick in 2015 on its land because it won’t adequately control for foxes. To get a sense of how catastrophic the impact on rare bird species would be if grouse moors were rewilded, you only have to look at what’s happened in Wales, where driven shooting has all but disappeared, helped along by the Welsh Labour party. Upland birds like red grouse, black grouse and curlew have been virtually wiped out.