Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

“The Glorious Twelfth” — A Tradition Under Scrutiny

The moors were eerily silent this morning, a stark departure from the cacophony of gunfire that might be expected to reverberate across the heather today. Not a single report echoed in the air, just an eerie silence that draped the landscape like a shroud. Even the normally noisy grouse seem to sense an awareness of their impending doom, skulking about in the heather, their usual “goback, goback, goback” silenced.

Ah, “The Glorious Twelfth,” an euphemistic label for a tradition that dances on the thin line between celebration and savagery.

A tradition that masquerades as sport, cloaking the wanton destruction of bird life in a disguise of heritage. A tradition that perpetuates the age-old fallacy of mankind’s superiority over the animal kingdom. A tradition that selfishly disregards the value of nature.

Ah, “The Glorious Twelfth,” what an ignoble tradition!

One can hardly overlook the irony that this so-called tradition persists in the modern world, clinging to existence like a parasite that had outstayed its welcome. It is a relic of cruelty, a vestige of the same dark impulses that had once sanctioned bear baiting, cockfighting and otter hunting as forms of amusement.

The news is that the grouse count is “fair” this year on the North York Moors, but poor elsewhere1‘Scribehound’. 2023. Scribehound.com <https://www.scribehound.com/shooting-talk/s/shooting-news/the-grouse-forecast?fbclid=IwAR0jpaP4q7eZfltQcx66Cj7ut-9TshrbDiuH1E16dNYbxuhQVRleTRYsbPs> [accessed 10 August 2023]‌. A smirk might grace the lips of an observer, a touch of schadenfreude at the setbacks faced by the purveyors of this “sport.”

Yet, on the Farming Today programme on Radio 4 yesterday, a representative of the Moorland Association attempted to rationalise the unjustifiable2‘Farming Today – 11/08/23 Grouse Shooting Season, the Kenyan Pig Farmer, Emily McGowan’s 2050 Vision – BBC Sounds’. 2023. BBC <https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001pfmx> [accessed 12 August 2023]. He spoke with a casual detachment, his words oozing with a practiced assurance:

“… we’ve had bird flu, which hasn’t impacted on grouse per se because you know, being a wild bird, they aren’t really impacted by that because they’re in such low densities that it’s it’d be very difficult for the disease. “

A derisive shake of the head seems the only fitting response. The raison d’être of the grouse industry lies in the maximisation of their numbers upon the moors. They exist in an unnatural abundance. Only a day earlier, news had broken of Avian Influenza in Red grouse in Scotland3‘Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Confirmed in Red Grouse in Scotland’. 2023. Raptor Persecution UK (Raptor Persecution UK) <https://raptorpersecutionuk.org/2023/08/10/highly-pathogenic-avian-influenza-confirmed-in-red-grouse-in-scotland/> [accessed 12 August 2023]. And we are supposed to believe that wild birds aren’t really impacted? Millions of seabirds have already died in the relentless grip of this avian pandemic, which seems unstoppable. Pull the other one!

In the face of such an ongoing epidemic, one that is pushing many of our bird populations to the brink, it is nothing short of irresponsibility to permit grouse-shooting to proceed. Prudence demands that it should be restricted as a precautionary measure until the true extent of this disease is known.



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