Integrated moorland management that includes driven grouse shooting delivers economic, social and environmental benefits, according to a report by the University of Northampton

Grouse shooting is the best form of moorland management, according to a new study produced by the University of Northampton on a commission by the Uplands Partnership. Led by independent chair James Crabbe, Emeritus Professor & Supernumerary Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford University, the research team assessed alternative uses of land on the uplands and found that integrated moorland management that includes driven grouse shooting (DGS) delivers against the three sustainability criteria – economic, social and environmental – defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“DGS management results in an increasingly rare assemblage of plants, animals and invertebrates being supported and enhanced to the benefit of the UK and Europe,” the report stated, with success stories include an abundance of mountain hares, otherwise threatened ground-nesting birds such as curlew and lapwing and even raptors such as merlin and hen harriers. Although sustainability is threatened by rising temperatures and disease, and some landowners could make a greater effort to improve biodiversity, the scientists agreed that “The biodiversity impacts of integrated moorland management, including DGS are sustainable and should be maintained”. Similarly, many uplands estates are rewetting peat bogs, contributing to the fight against climate change.

From an economics perspective, grouse shooting is “an important part of a mosaic of income-generating activities” that includes agriculture and tourism. But it’s the social function of driven grouse shooting that’s perhaps the most crucial. “Moorland management regimes that facilitate DGS enable people to take part in activities, both as part of DGS and separate to it, that result in positive impacts on their social and work lives and their physical and mental health and well-being.”

Alternative moorland management models would inevitably affect all three sustainability aspects and there’s no evidence that they would deliver the same level of benefits as the integrated system that includes driven grouse shooting. In particular, states the report, “the social impact of stopping DGS would be particularly high,” because involves a greater number of people from a wide array of social backgrounds.

“We’ve looked at all sides of an argument in an attempt to be as objective as possible, and to remove any emotional and political elements which driven grouse shooting has in the past engendered,” says Professor Crabbe. “We feel that the report will be very important in making sure that negative environmental, economic and social impacts will not be used in this important part of our land and our heritage.”

Watch the researchers present their findings

Read the report in full