New paper on sustainability of driven grouse shooting

Heather is bloom over the North York Moors National Park photographed at dawn and in summer near the

The unique heather mosaic created by gamekeepers on managed moorland creates habitat where a range of globally threatened species thrive - Credit: Danielrao/Getty

A new, independent, peer-reviewed research paper on the sustainability of driven grouse shooting has concluded that any alternative land uses would need to provide the same high biodiversity gains...

The University of Northampton was commissioned by the Uplands Partnership to produce a detailed report reviewing the evidence on whether driven grouse shooting was sustainable

The aim of the report is to present the current evidence-based knowledge relating to the economic, ecological and social sustainability of driven grouse shooting (DGS).  

The report is intended to enable policy makers, those involved in DGS, and other stakeholders to consider all aspects of sustainability before making policy or management decisions about DGS.  The document, which is wholly unbiased and peer-reviewed, makes for fascinating reading.

In 1.3 of the Aim section of the 240-page report, the logic of opposition to driven grouse shooting is discussed by the authors: "Why does driven grouse shooting stimulate such passionate opposition? We examine some of the claims made about integrated moorland management practices and their impact on wildlife and vegetation in the report, and suggest that the claims of those opposed to driven grouse shooting are not, perhaps, based on a full understanding of the evidence.
"We also wonder if some opponents of DGS might understand much of the relevant evidence but deny or ignore it. However, looking at the issue of killing a grouse dispassionately, it seems not entirely logical to single out DGS for such opposition in a country that seems happy for more than a billion animals to die each year so they can be consumed as food or used in products."

Among the environmental impact findings, it was stated that: “The maintenance of a mosaic of moorland vegetation as a result of grouse moor management delivers a uniquely diverse habitat and biodiversity. Those advocating alternative uses for grouse moors should demonstrate that their chosen option(s) deliver the same or higher levels of biodiversity.” 

Also noted in the findings on environmental impacts was this statement: "DGS management results in an increasingly rare assemblage of plants, animals and invertebrates being supported and enhanced to the benefit of the UK and Europe. This assemblage is different from alternative habitats and typically provides a net gain in diversity and abundance over similar but unmanaged moorland. Some species so not do so well in moorland managed for activities including DGS, but this is true of all choices made in ecosystem management. Compared with upland areas where grouse shooting does not take place, the biodiversity of ‘grouse moors’ seems to be at least as rich, if not richer."

The economic impact findings concluded that the alternative land uses proposed by some groups are unlikely to deliver the same positive impacts as driven grouse shooting, and stated: "The impacts of integrated moorland management, which includes DGS, on the agriculture sector through financial facilitation; on tourism through the creation of a unique, accessible, and attractive landscape; on human and animal health through exercise and tick and bracken control; and on carbon sequestration and flood control through moorland management and restoration practices are immense. Moreover, their long-term financial impact is clearly important not only for local communities, but for the wider UK population."

Three important overall conclusions were listed at the end: 
• that any decision by policy makers about the sustainability of DGS should be informed by a clear understanding of all the evidence  
• that integrated moorland management regimes practiced by landowners and tenants should be informed by evidence, and changes made where necessary 
• that those opposed to DGS, and those advocating alternative uses for grouse moors, should base their arguments on evidence

You can read the full report here