Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) response to the thousands of people who have emailed them about their decision not to stock grouse this season is revealing. M&S say: “unfortunately, we have not been able to secure sufficient numbers of responsibly sourced and third party accredited red grouse so have made the decision to remove the product from sale”. There is a fundamental problem with this statement. The reason M&S have not been able to secure “responsibly sourced” grouse is that they have not produced a Code of Practice containing standards which estates and suppliers can meet.
The reason M&S has not produced a Code of Practice is that the RSPB has not agreed one and M&S seem to have decided that the RSPB is the arbiter of what is, and what is not, ‘responsible’.
The RSPB has made its distaste for many aspects of grouse moor management well known and is actively campaigning against driven grouse shooting. In failing to agree any standards by which estates can be accredited the RSPB is merely restating its view that grouse moor management is unacceptable and that it is therefore impossible to ‘responsibly source’ grouse.
M&S asking the RSPB to agree standards for grouse moor management is about as logical as asking turkeys to agree standards for Christmas.
Until three weeks before the glorious twelfth M&S was planning to expand the number of grouse it sourced based on a system of self audit, with separate verification that estates suppling grouse had no connection to wildlife or environmental crime. This was apparently sufficient to ensure that grouse was ‘responsibly sourced’ in 2013, why not in 2014?
If M&S wanted to introduce new standards and third party accreditation for 2014 estates and suppliers would have met those demands. If M&S want to do so in future they will meet that challenge. What they cannot do is meet standards that do not exist through accreditation that is not being carried out.
We are pleased that M&S plan to expand other game offerings this autumn, but believe that their decision to bow to pressure over grouse sales sets a dangerous precedent which could come back to haunt them. The RSPB has issues with other shooting practices from the use of lead shot and bullets, to the rearing and releasing of game birds such as pheasants and partridges. If the RSPB is to decide what game is to go on M&S’s shelves they might end up being quite empty.
If you have not yet written to M&S please do so as it is important for them to understand the depth of feeling surrounding this issue.