A new coalition hopes to bring life back to Scotland’s ‘dead, burned and barren’ grouse moors

Screenshot from Revive's video that says "If grouse moors were allowed to revive, what would they look like?"
Glen Black

TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham helped launch a new coalition that hopes to bring life back to Scotland’s grouse moors. The Revive coalition of animal, land and social justice groups wants “grouse moor reform”. And its launch publication puts forward strong arguments, even in the face of powerful opposition.

Coalition

Revive was launched on 6 November in Edinburgh alongside its first publication, The Case for Reforming Scotland’s Driven Grouse Moors. The report, authored by conservationist Dr Ruth Tingay and Green MSP Andy Wightman, claims Scotland’s grouse moors:

are estimated to cover somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million hectares, amounting to 12% – 18% of the country’s landmass. That means that almost one fifth of Scotland is managed for grouse shooting.

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The negative impacts of this are wide-ranging, the report says. Not only on wildlife but on land and the economy too.

Revive is made up of five groups with different but complementary aims:

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  • Anti-bloodsports charity League Against Cruel Sports Scotland.
  • Animal welfare charity OneKind.
  • Social and economic equality think tank Common Weal.
  • Bird of prey campaigner Raptor Persecution UK.
  • Environmental justice charity Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Senior campaigner Max Wiszniewski says in an article by CommonSpace that the coalition “has been years in the planning”. And it’s now demanding “urgent radical reform of driven grouse moor management”.

As part of its campaign, Revive also released a video showing how different Scotland’s grouse moors would look if not managed for shooting:

Land and animals

The Case for Reforming Scotland’s Driven Grouse Moors exposes the driven grouse shooting industry on a number of fronts. It points out [pdf, p18] that peat moorland, which often lay beneath grouse moors, is an “internationally important” carbon store. And the burning of heather atop these moorlands to improve shooting conditions is:

in direct conflict with concerns about meeting global carbon emissions targets.

The report also points to devastating impacts on wildlife. It says that nearly 38,000 mountain hares were killed on grouse moors in 2017. This has left the total population at less than 1% of native levels.

Meanwhile, the effects of raptor persecution on grouse moors are at “population-scale“. Peregrines, golden eagles and hen harriers have all shown population declines in areas dominated by grouse shooting – even when overall national populations have grown.

It argues the scale of these acts should be seen on a par with wildlife trafficking, which the European Parliament recognised as ‘serious and organised crime’. This 2016 decision put wildlife trafficking alongside terrorism, human trafficking and arms smuggling.

Economic claims

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association quickly dismissed Revive’s claims. On 6 November, it called the coalition a “wrecking ball” that aims to “put thousands of Scotland’s rural workers and their families on the dole”. But The Case for Reforming Scotland’s Driven Grouse Moors points out that:

grouse-shooting contributes 2,640 full-time equivalent jobs and £30.1 million in wages. … This equates to an average salary of £11,401 which is below the level of the national minimum wage.

Wiszniewski says the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s statement is “typically hysterical”, bearing “no resemblance to reality”. The report suggests grouse shooting estates may be profiting from public subsidies. Furthermore, it notes that due to a scheme introduced by the Scottish government to encourage small business, many moor owners “pay no rates to the local authority”.

It’s worth noting this claim of jobs was a key argument against the hunting ban in England and Wales. During a 2004 parliamentary debate on the ban, Conservative MP James Gray said: “many people will lose their livelihoods” as a result of the ban. And in 2006 the Countryside Alliance said the ban might “ruin the livelihoods of thousands of people”. But a 2010 report by the Northern Ireland Assembly into the ban said “there had been a minimal loss of jobs” and that the “horse industry did not drop into decline since the ban”.

One struggle, one fight

Noted Scottish journalist Lesley Riddoch wrote that, with Revive:

there’s a chance for both ‘sides’ [environmental and social] to learn from one another and produce a truly holistic alternative to what Chris Packham calls the ‘dead, burned and barren hills of Scotland’.

As a result of putting the social and economic cost of wildlife crime at the forefront of its campaign, Revive creates a united front. But it does this without compromising on its message about animals. And with England’s campaigns against grouse shooting also moving from strength to strength, the grouse shooting industry’s time could be coming to an end.

Get Involved!

Sign Revive’s petition to “Revive #OurMoors”.

Watch Revive’s videos for more information.

Read more at The Canary about wildlife crime.

Featured image via Revive/Vimeo

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