18 May 2019
I was surprised to read the article by Ben Macdonald in last week’s Spectator urging Britain’s grouse moor owners to ‘rewild’ their estates. It argued that these Tory toffs had spent the past 100 years ‘destroying our natural heritage’, that the UK land under shoot management is an ‘economic desert’ that is ‘destroying both jobs and wildlife’ and that the ‘acts of desecration’ involved in the creation of grouse moors is a ‘debt’ that has ‘never been repaid’.
There was a big clue that Macdonald might not know what he’s talking about early on in the article. Berating the aristocracy for the ‘terrible mistake’ of transforming their hunting estates into merciless charnel houses, he writes: ‘They decided to turn red grouse into the equivalent of living clay pigeons — and shoot them, without skill, in their thousands.’
Without skill? Clearly, Macdonald has never tried to shoot one. They fly towards you at up to 70 miles per hour, usually at head height, and rarely in a straight line. Shooting one involves predicting where it’s going to be by the time the shot reaches it, which varies according to its speed and angle of approach. And given how quickly they are upon you, often in conditions of poor visibility, your window of opportunity is rarely longer than a few seconds. Not for nothing is the red grouse known as the ‘king’ of game birds.