Showing posts with label grouse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grouse. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2015

Glorying in Blood-sports

The first day of the grouse shooting season, traditionally known as the "Glorious Twelfth" has just passed and the Scottish land-owners have launched a campaign to protect their privileges called ‘Gift of Grouse’. The 'sport' has an appalling record of crimes against wildlife, and its land management practices not only work directly against efforts to counter climate change, they cause immediate damage to communities downhill from shooting estates through increased flood risks.

The RSPB Scotland has again called for grouse moors to be licensed following the discovery of a dead hen harrier on a moor in south west Scotland. The young female bird, named Annie, had been fitted with a satellite transmitter as a chick.

Tom Quinn of the League Against Cruel Sports said people were giving the impression shooting game for the table was healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly, but that it was none of those things.
“Millions of other animals and birds are deliberately killed to protect the grouse shooting industry. The environment is being devastated by the burning of grouse moors, and millions of tonnes of lead shot are left to poison the countryside.” 

Ownership and use of much of the land in Scotland is positively medieval. Those neo-feudal landowners got their large estates by nefarious means and over many generations have systematically cleared the land for the venal pursuit of profit. Socialists would like to see the moors, hills, glens, shores and mountains rewilded and repopulated, a place where we are not shooting the life out of the birds, the deer and raping the landscape. We have no doubt that the loss of a few cap-doffing, servile gamekeepers and ghillies will be more than compensated by new employment resulting from proper agricultural use, leisure and tourism, and wildlife conservancy. Reforest the moors, re-introduce wolves and watch the country come back truly alive.

Scottish “grouse moors” cover an estimated area of approximately 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) making it one of Scotland’s most extensive land uses. Much of the land was taken from the working people so it could usually be handed over to sheep farming or grouse coursing. It was privatized from commonly held lands to the ownership of a few elites. Those people were squeezed into the unhealthy cities of Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh or onto ships to the New Worlds where they could take the lands of other peoples further down the chain.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Who Owns the Land

Burning the moors is allowed at certain times of the year to aid heather growth and is done to help increase numbers of red grouse on sporting estates.

The RSPB said its study, which used aerial photography and satellite images, showed conservation areas were being damaged. Burning was detected in 55% of Special Areas of Conservation and 63% of Special Protection Areas assessed in the study, said the conservation charity. Such sites are designated by the EU for their conservation importance, and governments are charged with protecting them from damage and ensuring they are restored. In Scotland and England, the study found a third of burning took place on deep peat soils, an important carbon store. These upland areas are also a vital water source, supplying around 70 per cent of drinking water and burning has been linked to poor water quality, requiring large sums of money to treat.

Dr David Douglas, senior conservation scientist at RSPB Scotland and lead author of the study, said: "Upland ecosystems are highly sensitive to burning practices.” 

Martin Harper, the charity’s director of conservation, said: “Many of our uplands are in poor condition, due to intensive land management practices. It’s very worrying that burning is increasing, given the damage it can cause and that it occurs in many of our conservation areas. Governments and statutory agencies across Britain need to take action to reduce burning in our uplands rather than allowing them to be increasingly damaged year on year.” 

The Committee on Climate Change’s 2015 progress report to parliament notes: “Wetland habitats, including the majority of upland areas with carbon-rich peat soils, are in poor condition. The damaging practice of burning peat to increase grouse yields continues, including on internationally protected sites.” They are home to a diverse range of wildlife and up to 8,000 years old. And, according to a damning analysis by an independent government advisory body, the UK’s upland peat bogs are facing a sustained threat from the shooting classes’ desire to bag grouse.

With clients paying more than £150 to bag only a single brace of grouse, estate owners know that delivering a plentiful supply of targets makes sound business sense. It also adds to their considerable net worth because the capital value of a grouse moor is based on its grouse population. The birds are valued at anything between £2,500 and £5,000 a brace.

“It probably is fair to say there has been more burning in recent years compared to the preceding decade, and a lot of that is to do with reinvestment in estates because new entrepreneurs are coming in,” said Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association. “A lot of the estates are getting back to their prewar potential. They’re possibly at their optimal level now [in terms of burning].”

According to the RSPB, some 76,000 hectares, or 27% of the UK’s blanket bog, have already lost peat-forming vegetation due to regular burning. In a briefing produced last year, the society claimed: “If we don’t restore upland peatlands, CO2 emissions from degraded peatlands are likely to increase by 30% for every 1C rise in average global temperature. Peatlands with healthy ecosystems are by contrast expected to be relatively robust to climate change.”


Pat Thompson, senior uplands policy officer at the RSPB, said it was time to rethink the burning of Britain’s countryside: “It is utterly perverse to me that we are degrading our uplands in a way that benefits the minority rather than society as a whole.” 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The country life

There has been a significant shift in the ownership of Scottish estates in recent years with a move from people buying them to enjoy their retirement, to wealthy individuals, often from overseas, who are attracted to the sports on offer. In the last year buyers spent around £54 million on shooting and fishing properties, with a large interest from Scandinavia. Experts even believe that Scots estates are becoming more attractive as prices for property in London rocket.

Although only five or six estates with sought-after grouse shooting or salmon fishing are sold each year, there has been no sign that the recent financial crisis has slowed the market. One estate renowned for its grouse shooting sold for almost £20 million this year, with two properties selling for between £8 and £10 million. The total worth of the estate market this year was up £10 million this year.

“The market for sporting estates is now dominated by high net worth individuals seeking good quality sport in beautiful surroundings, away from the incessant demands of business life. All of this can be found from deep within the grouse butt.” estate agents Savills, Evelyn Channing, of the company’s rural department, said.

Charles Dudgeon, head of the firm’s rural agency, said two thirds of viewers originated from Europe, and in particular from Scandinavia, with strong interest from Denmark. He said: “Acquiring a Scottish country estate is still a popular ‘trophy buy’, and with the recent significant property price growth in London, the Scottish Highlands have never looked better value for money. It is possible to buy 10,000 acres in the Highlands, with a Grade A listed nine-bedroom castle and 10 ancillary dwellings for the same price as a 3-bedroomed flat in Knightsbridge.”

Savills is currently marketing the 10,000-acre, £7.5 million Cluny estate near Kingussie in Inverness-shire, which has “walked-up” grouse shooting, stalking, pheasant shooting, salmon fishing and a seven-bedroomed castle. The estate is being sold by Alain Angelil, 70, an Egyptian-born telecoms tycoon who is based in Norway and bought the property in 2000. It includes a farming enterprise and 10 estate houses and cottages. Cluny Castle was the ancestral home of the MacPhersons of Cluny until the direct line died out in 1943. Dudgeon said the interest in Cluny and other estates had been “global”, with two thirds of viewers coming from Europe.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Killing nature for profits

Mountain hares are facing extinction in large parts of the Scottish Highlands because landowners are killing thousands of them every year in order to protect the grouse shooting industry, wildlife experts have warned. The distinctive mammals are being shot and snared by gamekeepers on grouse moors due to fears that ticks carried by hares spread a viral disease, which can be fatal to grouse. However, experts have poured doubt on claims that killing hares protects grouse.

“A preventable catastrophe has befallen the mountain hare,” said Dr Adam Watson, a veteran mountain ecologist. “This is a national scandal.” This was “due to deliberate efforts by estates to eradicate them,” he said. “Gamekeepers on several estates have told me that they were instructed to reduce hare numbers and to try to eradicate them.”

Watson condemned the government’s wildlife conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), for failing to protect mountain hares under European law. “SNH has known what has been happening for years and has done nothing about it,” he said. “In my view, this is supine behavior, pleasing to or subservient to powerful grouse-shooting interests, but wholly against the wider public interest.”

Tim Baynes of Scottish Land and Estates claims that even though thousands of hares are destroyed each year, this was ‘less than 10% of the population’. The most up-to-date UK population estimate appears to have been made in a 1995 publication. It’s also ludicrous for Baynes to be referring to a (fairly dodgy) population estimate from 1995 – that was 18 years ago.  Baynes also failed to mention was that the 25,000 culled only related to information provided by 90 estates; a further 102 estates (68 driven grouse estates and 34 walked-up grouse estates) did not provide any information to the survey, so the actual figure culled was likely to be considerably higher.

Alex Hogg of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association is also quoted in The Herald article, claiming that gamekeepers have ‘no alternative but to suppress the numbers of mountain hares on grouse moors because of the dangers of Louping Ill Virus, which can infect humans’. However, here is an article that suggests humans are “rarely” affected by the Louping Ill Virus. And here is an article about a scientific publication that suggests there is “no compelling evidence base” that culling mountain hares can stop the spread of Louping Ill Virus. A tick-borne disease that seems to be of more concern to humans is Lyme Disease. And what spreads Lyme Disease? Pheasants, amongst other species. Given Mr Hogg’s concern for human health, can we expect to see him advocating a moratorium on the release of 43 million pheasants, per year, into our countryside?

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