Driven Grouse Shooting

I got an email this morning to say the petition to ban driven grouse shooting had been discussed in parliament. Here’s the debate if you are interested.
As with many debates, in parliament and elsewhere, one side argues from a position of looking at the worst of a situation and the other side argues using examples of best practice. From those polarised positions it’s always difficult to find a middle ground.

It’s a complex argument….most arguments are and I both despair at the stupidity of some MP’s, marvel at the depth of knowledge of others whilst simultaneously spotting both those riding their own hobby-horses and those who have probably been invited to a decent dinner or two to spout the right lines.

Prize for flowery rhetoric  goes to Rishi Shunak – Conservative MP for Richmond and who sits of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs committee he says…

“Whenever a ban is proposed, it is incumbent on us all to be certain about who that decision would impact on. To many, the image of the losers of a ban on grouse shooting seems clear: old men of a bygone age, sporting tweed jackets, expensive hobbies and outdated views. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real victims of a ban are not caricatures; they are ordinary working people in constituencies such as mine in North Yorkshire—the farmer’s wife who goes beating at the weekend so that her family can make ends meet through difficult times; the young man able to earn a living, in the community he loves, as an apprentice to a gamekeeper; the local publican welcoming shooting parties with cold ales and hot pies. Let us be absolutely clear: those who support a ban on grouse shooting should do so only if they are prepared to look those people in the eye and explain to them why their livelihoods are worth sacrificing.”

He’s obviously lost sight that the ban proposed is on driven grouse shoots but other than that – he’s right… those who go grouse ‘shooting’ would not really be the losers. The vast majority of people who can afford £3,000 for a day’s shooting are unlikely to lose out… they’ll just move on.
E J Churchill, based in Oxfordshire, for example offer shooting trips abroad they claim their “extensive resources and expertise in the game shooting world covers such places as Spain (partridges), South America (duck and dove), Turkey (wild boar and ibex), Iceland (Ptarmigan and Goose) and Africa (plains game)”. Here is their International Sporting Brochure.
Basically if you can’t shoot one thing in one place….there’s always something somewhere else.

So yes – ban driven grouse shooting and some of the trickle down money in the rural community would cease to trickle down just like it does in the rest of the country when those at the top making large amounts of money decide not to trickle it down…but when you can afford a 21st party for your daughter with dinner laid out beneath the Palladian colonnade,  fireworks erupting in time to angsty anthems like The Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ and living statues draped in togas filling the house’s lemon-coloured alcoves. Where they spent money on a marquee full of professional dancers on podiums for droves of naughty boys to ogle…you’d think they would have the means to be able to trickle money down into the local economy with or without driven grouse shooting.

Like the bigger picture of ‘austerity’ it is a choice… a way of keeping money in the hands of the very rich and a way of keeping that farmers wife grateful for the pittance a days beating will pay.

I know E J Churchill (the company name of Sir Dashwood and his wife) and their ilk are not typical of all shoots… my ex father-in-law was a member of a consortium who owned a bit of land which they held for shooting, they paid a part-time keeper and they managed the woodland and stocked it with pheasant…and they shot the pheasant and they all filled their freezers with pheasant and they ate the pheasant.
It was a hobby, that provided some local employment and some good free range meat.

Personally, I’m not against shooting things you can eat…as long as they are eaten.

When I lived in Suffolk I had a friend who used to supply us with a free goose at Christmas because they had links to a large shoot where most of the birds shot were just bulldozed into a hole to rot. There were too many for the local game auction and butchers to be able to sell.

I naively asked why the those partaking in the shoot who had paid their vast amounts of money didn’t take them home and the answer was that each gun is only allowed to take home a brace (two) birds. That is standard practice whatever the sort of birds shot… be they wildfowl, as was the case in this instance, or pheasant, or indeed – grouse.

Most shoots will restrict the number of birds shot in a day to, let’s say, 150 – 250 and the number of guns to 8 – 10. You can immediately see there are a lot of dead birds needing to find a home….maybe the beaters get a couple of birds too and that way their minimum wages* don’t feel so bad.
So at the end of your day’s shooting you accept your two (often plucked and oven ready) birds and off you trot…. so it’s seriously not a day about shooting food.

Whilst on the subject of food…. remember that local pub landlord selling beer and hot pies to the shooting party – I’m sure he exists but so does the £1000 elevensee bag and the sort of client interested in champagne and caviar at 11am isn’t going to be having a pie and a pint at lunch time.

I haven’t even started on the rights and wrongs of the environmental and ecological issues surrounding driven grouse moors… but that’s not my bag today… my bag is the same as in most debates that go through parliament at the moment. The Tories just put their support where the money is and then they also claim to be supporting the little people too… the farmers wife, the gamekeeper -the little people who depend on the largesse of the big people and this is most apparent in traditional rural constituencies where the feudal system isn’t quite dead and buried.

But trickle down economics isn’t working is it? It’s still only the very rich (or the very grateful) who know the taste of grouse.

*Commercial shoots will pay minumum wage but most small shoots pay much less for a day’s beating as people will go along to be a part of the day.


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