The multi-agency group behind the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project has published its final report. Starting in 2008 a team of five gamekeepers was employed to reverse decades of decline, with the result that many species of birds long absent from the area, recolonised the moor and heather coverage, denuded by years of grazing, was restored; however, despite diversionary feeding of Hen Harrier, several years of ideal breeding conditions and the absence of shooting during this period, red grouse numbers did not thrive, their population heavily impacted upon by other protected birds of prey and corvids post fledging. It is a popular myth fostered by those who oppose grouse shooting, that modern management methods are inimical both to the health and well-being of our upland areas. This report demonstrates the inaccuracy of that claim, whilst underlining the high cost of managing moorland in a way that promotes and increases biodiversity; a level of management which is only economically viable where driven grouse shooting is a possibility.
The solid foundation of scientific observation that underpins the Project team’s report stands in stark contrast to the dodgy science and emotion which characterises the position of those who seek to end grouse shooting. But it also highlights something else, which is the sheer unfairness that demands in this case grouse shooters to go the time and cost of rebutting accusations made against them with oftentimes only supposition as evidence. The shooting community is now so used to this that it induces a collective shrug of the shoulders, but isn’t about time that we tried to dish out some of the same? Say, by focusing on the League Against Cruel Sports death-trap deer sanctuary at Baronsdown on Exmoor and demanding that our politicians seek accountability from those who run it? Or the numerous environmental sinkholes managed by the RSPB, where predators run riot to the point where the charity dare not publish figures on bird numbers and which latterly led it to order 20000 traps from a New Zealand supplier?
Currently, the shooting bodies make a good fist of arguing their corner and pushing back against opponents who for the large part enjoy the ear of politicians and the sympathy of the media. What they do less well is working to undermine their opponents by highlighting the hypocrisies and cruelties that take place in their back yards. In this case we might learn from the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong, who said we should despise our enemy strategically, but take him seriously tactically.