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Scottish Moorland Group responds to LACS report

The Scottish Moorland Group has responded to a report on grouse moor management by the League Against Cruel Sport. In an open letter to Andy Wightman, one of the authors of the report, SMG director Tim Baynes has addressed the issues raised in the report.
Dear Mr Wightman,
I would like to make a number of detailed comments on this research.
The level of management activity for grouse shooting is generally stable at the moment – not increasing or intensifying overall.  It had gone into decline in the 1990’s and was revived in some places in the early 2000’s, but has settled down since then. For every moor which puts in new management effort , there is one which has had to reduce it, and there are large areas of desolate former grouse moor, for instance in the south west of Scotland, which show this only too well. Therefore the picture you paint of constant intensification is not a true one, indeed you do not give any evidence behind that assertion. 
There is another thread running through your report which also seeks to misrepresent the sector. Grouse shooting is not eligible for subsidies – it is only the farming business which is eligible, or payments for forestry  and conservation work. Moorland management is nearly always a multi-purpose land use and it has many synergies (which is why it is such an effective management technique); for instance sheep can be used to control tick as well as producing meat.  But the grouse shooting element receives no public subsidy.  
We will not be able to address all the points in your report in this reply, but to briefly cover some of the specifics:
Peatland and burning: There has been a huge amount of science published in the last two decades about this and there are clear benefits of well managed muirburn as well as the risks which you have only referred to.  This is all to be covered in the forthcoming review of the Muirburn Code and the recent SNH report sets out the context for that. 
Tracks and roads: These have become increasingly important for farming and land management, and are now covered by a prior approval requirement.  This gives a planning authority the opportunity to require planning consent where roading proposals are controversial, but enables more routine work to continue with minimal bureaucracy.  It seems to be a system which is working well in the public interest.
Ticks and fencing: The increase in sheep ticks in recent decades is an increasing factor in countryside management, with serious animal and human health (Lymes disease) implications. There are guidelines (Scotland’s Moorland Forum) for enabling access when stock or deer fences are constructed.  White hares thrive on grouse moors and there has been no evidence put forward of population declines cause by annual culling which is undertaken to control spread of tick, and grazing impacts.
Lead ammunition: You will be aware that the Lead Ammunition Group has not reported to DEFRA and there has been controversy over unofficial leaks from the process.  You will also be aware of the guidance issue by SNH earlier this year when this issue came up in Scotland:
  • FSA are the statutory advisors on food and have looked into the safety of game meat.
  • FSA guidance asks for reduction of consumption for those who eat large quantities of game meat and is in line with advice proffered for red meat and oily fish.
  • The FSA advice is based on a worse-case scenario that no effort is made to remove lead contaminated meat before cooking. A recent BASC/CA survey found that two thirds of members used at least one technique to minimise their exposure to lead (removing bruises, bullet tracks etc).
  • The latest advice from the Swedish National Food Agency on shotgun shot small game will be published soon, and this will state that removal of visibly affected meat (ie bruised) will eliminate any risk from lead in game meat.
  • Based on the FSA advice the risk to infrequent consumers (less than once a week) is minimal, and for frequent consumers effective game meat handling can eliminate the risk.
Disturbance: There has been no evidence put forward that use of gas guns to deter juvenile raven flocks has caused any problems for birds of prey as you have suggested.     
There are many other issues in the report which seem to be echoing points made by other anti-shooting commentators in the past with no new evidence. Other issues need to be better understood – particularly on Economics and Finance (there are many short term jobs in the shooting season) and there is some confusion on the “profitability”.  We would be happy to discuss any of these issues further with you, please let me know if you would like to arrange a meeting.
In the meantime, this is a link to the recently published report by SRUC/Perth College  “Grouse Shooting, Moorland Management and Local Communities”which has a considerable amount of newly researched economic information -
See also
Yours sincerely
Tim Baynes
Director Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
0131 653 5400

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