Countryside Alliance Head of Shooting Campaigns Liam Stokes writes: Grouse shooting is shooting on a grand, sweeping scale. The speed and agility of the birds, the breath-taking majesty of the landscapes, the centuries of countryside tradition. Maybe it’s unsurprising that when we talk about the benefits grouse shooting brings to countryside we speak in similarly grand, sweeping terms. 70% of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest are managed grouse moors. Landscape scale conservation means internationally threatened wader species are 3.5 times more likely to raise a chick to fledging on moors managed by gamekeepers. £100m invested annually in conservation by grouse shoots in England, Wales and Scotland. Tens of millions of pounds invested in remote rural communities every year by moorland managers and travelling grouse shooters.
But perhaps we risk getting lost in these numbers. Last Sunday gamekeepers and their families reminded us of the human face behind the statistics, as they marched through Edzell, in Angus. Escorted by pipes and drummers, these proud countrymen and women, children in tow, captured all that is great about grouse shooting. Real people, real families, exemplifying decades of accumulated countryside wisdom and skills. People whose livelihoods wouldn’t exist were it not for grouse, the people who shoot them and the people who eat them. These are the people who support the local schools, shops and services in the remote corners of our countryside. These are the people who undertake the countryside management that delivers those remarkable conservation successes.
It is the individual victories of every gamekeeper that combine to make up the triumph that is grouse shooting. I was recently out on the hill with a group of ramblers and a keeper. I barely said a word. Faced with an expert who has dedicated his professional life to the grouse moor he stewards, our visitors wanted nothing more than to chat about his personal successes: the tourists who cross the Atlantic to shoot his grouse and the numbers of curlew, merlin and wheatear he had encouraged to nest on his moor. A similar tale could, and should, be told on every moor across the country.
When we celebrate the start of the season, we’re celebrating the culmination of months of effort from the people who deliver all the benefits of which the shooting community is so justifiably proud. If you are out raising a gun, waving a flag or otherwise getting involved, then you are a part of their success. So here’s raising a glass to the Glorious Twelfth; for countryside, conservation and community.
Follow Liam on Twitter @LNJStokes and follow the Shooting Team on Twitter @CA_Shooting
Glorious 12th Mediawatch – The Spectator has published a piece by Matt Ridley. Read “How hunting and shooting help wildlife – and not just in Africa” where Ridley observes: “Grouse moors, like big-game hunting in Zimbabwe, boost biodiversity as well as creating good jobs.” The GWCT’s Andrew Gilruth took on Mark Avery, ex of the RSPB, on this morning’s Farming Today – listen here, from 7.55 minutes in.