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Rod Liddle's latest grouse shooting rant is beyond the pale

Adrian Blackmore, the Countryside Alliance's Director of Shooting, responds to Rod Liddle's latest rant against grouse shooting in a letter to The Sunday Times.

Rod Liddle’s latest diatribe (‘Red Kites are glorious. Murdering them in aid of a shoot-‘em-up for spivs is grotesque’, Sunday Times, 20 August’) is unworthy of a National newspaper.

Whilst it is Mr Liddle’s prerogative to use rhetoric that is aggressive and unpleasant, and it is appreciated that the article is nothing more than an opinion piece designed to provoke reaction, he has a responsibility to be accurate. As it is, his distortion of facts, false claims, and unsubstantiated and misleading accusations, are unacceptable. He has either intentionally ignored or is woefully unaware of all the available science and evidence that is wholly supportive of grouse shooting and its associated management; management that has played such an important role in creating and maintaining our upland landscape, preserving and improving heather habitat and peatland, sustaining some of our rarest plants and wildlife, and promoting biodiversity. And for numerous upland communities, it can be the main economic driver for many individuals and businesses – something that Mr Liddle has dismissed as being ‘a myth’.

Mr Liddle refers to red grouse as ‘flapping, panicking idiots’. How sad. They are a species unique to the United Kingdom, and it is thanks to the management of their upland habitat by gamekeepers that in some years there is a sustainable surplus to allow shooting to take place; the income from which helps pay for that management. Should this cease, then there is a very real risk that red grouse will disappear, and that other threatened species of ground nesting bird that share this habitat to breed will decline in number. When it comes to protecting wildlife, Mr Liddle notes that moorland managers ‘cling to the curlew’ as ‘a case in point’. And why shouldn’t they? Widely regarded as being our bird species of highest conservation concern, with a population that has declined by 46 percent in the last 25 years, breeding curlews are raising four times as many chicks on the UK’s grouse moors, compared to similar unmanaged moorland sites. It is due to the conservation efforts on grouse moors in the North of England that curlews are now being reintroduced to the South of England in an attempt to re-establish a healthy breeding population in our lowlands, where previously it was thought they would face local extinction within the next eight years. 

A new report ‘Sustainable driven grouse shooting?’ published at the beginning of this month concluded that, based on the environmental, social and economic definitions used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, moorland managed for driven grouse shooting provides greater overall benefits than any alternative use. They are a biodiversity success story, with species of threatened ground-nesting bird breeding successfully, and in greater numbers, than elsewhere in the uplands. The report found that the advantages that grouse moor management brings to some of the most remote areas of the UK are vast, benefiting the agriculture sector, tourism, human health, and carbon sequestration and flood control through moorland management and restoration practices. From the point of view of economics, morality, the environment, biodiversity and land use, it is anything but ‘an absurdity’, as claimed by Mr Liddle. 

But then he is incorrect on so many fronts, including in his belief that Slimbridge is a reserve owned by the RSPB, when it is of course the Wetland Centre owned by the Wildlife and Wetland Trust. Perhaps it would be best if he stuck to writing about football, a subject about which he is by all accounts quite knowledgeable. 

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