In Depth

Glorious Twelfth: Has grouse shooting had its day?

Campaigners call for an end to the sport, but industry says it generates £150m a year for rural communities


Campaigners have renewed calls for a ban on grouse shooting as the sport's supporters welcome the "Glorious Twelfth" - the first day of the season.

TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham said he will boycott any supermarket stocking the "toxic produce" and asked his considerable fan-base to do the same.

Grouse-shooting enthusiasts say it is a sport that brings unparalleled income to the areas where it takes place.

What is the Glorious Twelfth?

Every 12 August, men and women come from all over the world to the UK's grouse moors, paying around £150 each to shoot the birds. The season continues until December.

More than 1.7 million hectares of moorland are managed for the sport. The Moorland Association, which represents grouse-moor owners, told the Daily Telegraph the industry generates £150m annually for the rural economy and employs 2,500 people.

"Without the passion for grouse shooting as the driver, the linchpin that holds it all together would be lost," said the association.

What's the controversy?

Some campaigners dislike the idea of killing birds for sport while others worry specifically for the hen harrier, a bird of prey whose appetite for grouse has led some gamekeepers to shoot or poison it, leading it to the brink of extinction. A government action plan to save the species includes providing hen harriers with an alternative source of food and removing their eggs from grouse moors for hatching elsewhere.

The RSPB, which initially supported the scheme, says the only way forward is a licensing scheme for shoots. "Licensing is effectively a targeted ban that will stamp out illegal activity and drive up the environmental standards of shooting," it says.

What does the future hold?

Almost 75,000 people, including celebrated bird-watcher Bill Oddie, have signed an e-petition calling for an outright ban on grouse shooting. 

"At a time when wildlife is being abused all over the world, killing for fun is surely sacrilege," Oddie said.

Kevin McKenna in The Guardian says "all the signs are beginning to point in the direction of change on the moors", adding: "Perhaps, like many other old habits, this one has had its day."


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