Life must be easy if you are obsessed with banning grouse shooting. Nearly every problem in the world has one simple answer. Worried about global warming? Want to ‘rewild’ the uplands? Concerned about wildfires? Keen to increase biodiversity? And this week, of course, Want to stop flooding? It’s the same answer every time: ban grouse shooting. The fact that there are very few grouse moors, most of these issues have no link to them, and that the ‘solution’ would anyway have the exact opposite effect is not the point.
Grouse moors are the extreme example of the most fundamental truth of the animal rights and extreme environmentalist movements: motivation is all. The motivation for attacking grouse shooting comes almost entirely from the fact that its opponents hate the people who do it, or at least the people they think do it. With that motivation comes the utter certainty that any justification can be deployed for banning it regardless of logic or truth. There can also be no question of comparative impact or priorities. Grouse shooting can, apparently, be legitimately targeted out of any sort of proportion simply because that intense dislike of those involved puts in firmly at the top of the animal rights agenda.
If you are sceptical that this can really be true. That apparently sane people can be quite so warped compare and contrast the treatment of grouse shooting and monoculture commercial forestry. There is at least twice as much area of commercial forestry in upland Britain as there is of grouse moors. The impact of commercial forestry is profound and far reaching from the fundamental change in species as moorland and open hill is transformed into a closed canopy forest, to the acidification of watercourses and landscape scale social and cultural change. As with all land management the impact of forestry can be mitigated and must be weighed against the economic benefits, but my point is about the warped priorities of campaigners rather than the impact of forestry.
There are no campaigns to ban commercial forestry. No repetitive comment pieces about the impact of countless acres of Sitka Spruce on populations of ground nesting birds, or their part in harbouring unsustainable deer populations. No saboteurs trying to stop further chunks of the uplands disappearing under a green carpet of conifers. No news stories about the soil erosion, nutrient leaching and eutrophication that can result from clear felling conifer plantations. The reason these things do not happen is not because commercial forestry does not have a comparable, or indeed much greater, impact on the uplands than grouse shooting, but because campaigners are not motivated to attack foresters.
At an individual level it is difficult to counter campaigners driven by such deep seated hatred and prejudice. We can, however, expose that prejudice, as well as the dishonesty and bizarre priorities that go with it. We can also show with the help of organisations like the Moorland Association, the Moorlands Community Trust and the Heather Trust that their claims are overblown and in many cases just plain wrong. What we cannot, and will not, do is allow the unpleasant motivation of campaigners to destroy the ecology, economy and communities of our managed uplands.
Video: A message from the Campaign 4 Protection of Moorland Communities (C4PMC): Controlled Burning is essential not just for preventing wild fires but to protect the wildlife and communities that thrive on our moorlands. Listen to Andy the hill farmer, as he explains why