The RSPB announces call for new regulation of gamebird shooting

Monday 12 October 2020

Red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) walking, Cairngorm National Park, Highlands, Scotland

The RSPB is calling for new regulation and better enforcement of existing laws for the most intensive forms of gamebird shooting in the UK, driven grouse shooting and the practice of releasing tens of millions of non-native pheasants and partridges into the countryside each year.

At its AGM today, (Saturday 10th) the RSPB’s Chair of Council, Kevin Cox, announced the results of the organisation’s review on gamebird shooting and associated land management, concluding that there is a need for urgent reform.

Long held concerns over the illegal killing of birds of prey, the use of poisonous lead ammunition, the burning of vegetation on peatlands (some of our most important carbon stores) and the release of 57 million gamebirds (non-native pheasants and red-legged partridges) into the countryside each year, prompted the move.

The review found that self-regulation by the shooting community had failed to address the environmental impacts anywhere near adequately and as a result the RSPB is taking a tougher stance on these most intense forms of shooting.

The RSPB’s director of conservation, Martin Harper said, “We are facing a climate and ecological emergency, and it’s down to all us, from individuals to big business, to play our part in addressing the causes and helping to revive our countryside.

“As a result of growing evidence and an increasing membership and public concern about the environmental harm of intensive forms of shooting, our trustees asked the RSPB to conduct a review of the two most intensive forms of gamebird shooting in the UK, namely “driven” grouse shooting, and large-scale rear and release of gamebirds, to make sure our policies were fit for purpose. This has involved updating our existing policy on “driven” grouse shooting, and developing an entirely new policy for large scale gamebird releases.

“Having examined the evidence, we believe that for driven grouse shooting the most effective way to deliver improvement is through the introduction of a system of licensing which sets minimum environmental standards for shoots.  Failure to comply with the license would result in losing the right to shoot. But change must come soon, if effective reform isn’t achieved within five years our trustees are clear that we will pursue a ban.”

For large scale rear and release of gamebirds the RSPB is taking a slightly different approach and will be seeking improved environmental standards, a reduction in the number of gamebirds released and better compliance with existing rules about reporting releases. The RSPB is committed to work with the shooting industry over the next 18 months to bring about this change. If substantial reform is not forthcoming in this period, then the RSPB we will press for tighter regulation of large-scale gamebird releases. 

“The RSPB has recognised for many years that some types of gamebird shooting can deliver benefits for nature, but the most intensive forms are damaging our environment. Many within the shooting industry also recognise that things aren’t right. We want to work with them and governments across the UK to end environmentally unsustainable gamebird shooting”, concluded Martin Harper.

The review took involved several strands of work and comprised extensive reviews of the available scientific literature on the effects of driven grouse shooting and high-density gamebird releases. The RSPB also consulted members, supporters, staff and volunteers as well as organisations and individuals with an interest and expertise in the subject and their views were taken into account as part of the review.

For more information and to read the full public statement visit

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