Grouse meat is being handed out at food banks and homeless shelters as part of charity Fareshare’s “Game Share” initiative, which encourages shooters to donate all or part of their bag to those going hungry.

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An initial batch of 1,300 birds, shot at the start of this year’s grouse season, was distributed to food banks and other charitable causes in September. The organisers now hope to expand the charity scheme to include shoots for pheasants and other game.

The meat is being distributed by Fareshare, a charity that ensures food that would otherwise go to waste is given to causes including school breakfast clubs, homeless shelters and women’s refuges.

Ian Gregory, campaign director of You Forgot the Birds campaign group, and one of the organisers of the Game Share initiative, said: “We are looking at ways of helping the general public to appreciate the many virtues of the game industry. One way of softening the image of any industry is by demonstrating its social responsibility. This is the objective of the Game Share initiative,” he explained.

“We want it to encourage a change in the culture of shooting, so that giving part or all of a day’s bag to charity is seen as a normal thing to do. It’s something that could be part of the charitable endeavours of landowners.”

Mr Gregrory also commented in the Daily Telegraph: “We believe the ethics of game rearing is far superior to what people consume from the supermarkets. Even free-range chickens can have a stocking density of 13 birds per square metre, whereas with gamebirds it is in square miles.”

But not everyone welcomed the initiative, with Guardian writer Philip Hoare describing it as “a latterday demonstration of noblesse oblige, which is barely a step away from feudalism”.