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RSPB takes pragmatic approach to grouse

The charity has acknowledged some of the benefits driven grouse shooting brings, but it still remains committed to a licensing system

BASC is urging policy-makers to work with the grouse-shooting community

While Chris Packham’s Wild Justice remains committed to a ban on driven grouse shooting, there are signs that the RSPB’s stance is becoming more conciliatory, even going as far as to acknowledge not only the economic importance of the sport but also its benefit to wildlife. There is, however, a catch. The charity remains totally committed to licensing. 

A recent blog by Imogen Taylor, RSPB policy officer, argues that licensing driven grouse shooting is essential: “Our uplands need to be places where nature can flourish with a rich diversity of wildlife and deliver vital services for nature, climate and people. If driven grouse shooting is to have any place in that future, licensing is the only way forward.” 

She goes on to say: “We [the RSPB] believe that the introduction of a licensing system is the most effective way to swiftly reduce the damaging impacts of grouse moor management while also delivering for those in the shooting community who support change.”

Ms Taylor acknowledges: “There are many voices advocating for a ban, stating the environmental benefits, but assessment of the economic and social impacts of future options for grouse moor management shows there would be an immediate effect on the local rural economy and an effect on some species that benefit from grouse moor management. Licensing is a pragmatic option, which should be able to command support from all reasonable voices in this debate. Through licensing, shooting could continue, more sustainable shoots would become the standard, and environmental outcomes would ultimately improve for everyone.”

If this all sounds very convincing, it’s not surprising. The RSPB is sufficiently pragmatic to realise that the chances of Parliament voting for an outright ban, even under a future Labour government, aren’t good. However, whether licensing is really the way forward is debatable, as adding a layer of bureaucracy is hardly likely to be a cure-all. BASC has long argued that policy-makers should work with the grouse-shooting community to produce supportive evidence-based uplands policy, a practical solution without the heavy hand of legislation.