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Almost £100m is contributed to the UK economy annually through grouse shooting and it provides more than 2,500 full- time jobs, writes Tim Bonner. This article first appeared in the Daily Express on Wednesday 16th August, 2023.
The day is known to many as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’. The piece described grouse shooting as “a class-ridden hangover from another age and needs to be put out of its misery”.
It’s important to remember that many of PETA’s claims should be taken with a giant bucket of salt. This is an organisation so extreme that it campaigns against all meat eating and apparently wants to rebrand milk as ‘bovine mammary secretions’.
It thrives on shocking headlines and puerile campaigns hoping we, the public, take the bait. Remember, not so long ago, when they tried to rename Leicester’s ‘pork pie roundabout’ so as not to offend local vegans? You see my point.
The truth is somewhat different to anything PETA might understand and at the start of the season it is important to understand the real significance of the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ and what grouse shooting actually means for some of the UK’s most isolated and fragile rural communities.
Grouse are a native, wild bird found in the moorlands of Scotland, Northern England, as well as parts of Wales and Northern Ireland.
The development of moorland management to produce greater numbers of grouse has had a significant environmental, economic and social impact on much of upland Britain.
Heather moorland had only previously had value as low-grade grazing, mostly for sheep. However, there was a transformative discovery which established it was possible to produce surpluses of birds that could be harvested by shooting.
This was possible by simply rotationally burning heather to provide a mosaic which provided new growth to feed grouse and longer heather for them to nest in, whilst controlling the predators which prey on grouse.
These practices have significant additional benefits. Predator control, mainly of foxes and crows, helps create a perfect haven for a whole range of other species to thrive, not only grouse.
Ground nesting birds like the curlew, while increasingly rare in nearly every other habitat, are thriving on grouse moors.
Rotational controlled burning plays an important role in reducing the risk of damaging wildfires and the loss of carbon as a result of these. Large stands of rank and woody heather pose a major fire risk due to a significant build-up of fuel loads, which have seen devastating fires break out on unmanaged moors.
But it’s not just biodiversity and conservation that underpins the importance of grouse shooting.
Almost £100m is contributed to the UK economy annually through grouse shooting and it provides more than 2,500 full- time jobs.
It also supports a healthy seasonal flow of custom for a range of other businesses; including pubs, restaurants and hotels all of which benefit from the large number of visitors, a growing number international, who come to the uplands to take part in grouse shooting.
While it may not be appetising to the anti-meat crusaders at PETA who would undoubtedly have us all chomping down on mung bean salads, grouse provides a deliciously lean meat and it is in high demand among kitchens all over the country. Grouse that are shot on the 12th and up until the close of the season in December, depending on the sustainability of the harvest by each individual moor, are either taken home and eaten or dispatched to restaurants.
Clearly, some, like PETA, oppose grouse moor management because grouse shooting has become a cypher for wealth and privilege and the politics of who shoots grouse is apparently more important than the environmental, economic and social benefits that result.
The ensuing attacks on grouse shooting are repeated, but the evidence for moorland management only grows.