Moorland and birch woodland at Corrimony RSPB reserve, Scotland | The RSPB

Gamebird review: country positions

There are different shooting intensities and cultural practices across the UK and urgency for action varies across the four countries.

Upland heather moorland on grouse shooting estate, Scotland | The RSPB


The Scottish Government has led the way in trying to stamp out wildlife crime in the UK, especially against birds of prey. These measures have included the introduction of vicarious liability; a pesticide disposal scheme; increased wildlife crime penalties; and legal protection for mountain hares. 

Sadly, however, these improvements have not proved an adequate deterrent to wildlife crime and unsustainable management practices on driven grouse moors, and in our view a more significant change is now required.  

In 2016, we backed the Scottish Raptor Study Group in their petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for a state-regulated system of gamebird hunting.

This action and the following report on the fate of satellite tagged golden eagles led to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment commissioning the independent Grouse Moor Management Review Group (Werritty Review) in 2017. The formal Scottish Government repsonse to the Werritty Review is expected in November 2020.

In the meantime, we will work with the Scottish Government and support efforts to put in place an effective licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting, as well as implementing other important recommendations of the Weritty Review, such as licensing of muirburn. For us an effective licensing scheme must have strong sanctions, including the facility to remove the right to shoot from land where wildlife protection laws are breached. It must also be properly resourced, monitored and then enforced by public bodies.

Following the RSPB Gamebird Review, we will also have the additional backstop of pursuing a ban on driven grouse shooting if a licensing scheme  proves inadequate. We feel that 2025 is a realistic timescale to deliver substantive progress. In the meanwhile, we will continue to work towards a goal of sustainable grouse  shooting in Scotland.  


RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve, Wales | The RSPB


Credwn fod yn rhaid i saethu adar hela yng Nghymru sicrhau rheolaeth gynaliadwy ar adnoddau naturiol (SMNR) yn yr un modd ag yr ydym yn ei ddisgwyl gan ddulliau eraill o reoli tir, megis ffermio a chynhyrchu pren. Er bod llai o saethu adar hela yng Nghymru o'i gymharu â sawl rhan o Loegr a'r Alban, mae ei reolaeth wedi dwysáu.

Rydym yn galw ar Lywodraeth Cymru i ddod â'r defnydd o beledi a bwledi plwm gwenwynig i ben yng nghefn gwlad ac yn y gadwyn fwyd. Mae angen i ni weld adfer mawndir ar raddfa fawr ar frys, gan gynnwys gwaharddiad ar losgi ar fawn sy'n ddyfnach na 30cm, gan ei fod yn storfa fawr o nwyon tŷ gwydr. Rydym hefyd yn annog Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru (CNC) i sicrhau bod rheolaethau cyfreithiol cadarn ar waith ar gyfer unrhyw geisiadau i ddifa adar a mamaliaid brodorol. Byddwn yn parhau i weithio'n agos gyda Llywodraeth Cymru, CNC a'r pedwar llu heddlu Cymreig i roi terfyn ar ladd adar ysglyfaethus yn anghyfreithlon yng Nghymru. Credwn y dylai saethu gyredig grugieir coch gael ei drwyddedu. 

Ein gobaith yw y bydd perchnogion busnesau saethu a syndicetiau am ddangos yr arweiniad a fydd yn rhoi Cymru ar y blaen o ran codi safonau ar gyfer saethu cynaliadwy. Bydd RSPB Cymru yn parhau i weithio gyda pherchnogion a gweithredwyr busnesau saethu er mwyn sicrhau bod tir yn cael ei reoli'n dda ar gyfer byd natur, ar ein gwarchodfeydd natur ac mewn mannau eraill.

We believe that gamebird shooting in Wales must achieve the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) in the same way that we expect of other land-management, such as farming and timber production. Whilst the role of gamebird shooting in large areas of Wales is less relative to many parts of England and Scotland, where it is undertaken the management has become more intensive. 

Ware calling on Welsh Government to end the use of lead ammunition in the countryside and urge large-scale peatland restoration, including prohibition on burning on peat deeper than 30cm. We are also urging Natural Resources Wales to ensure that robust legal controls are in place for any control of native birds and mammals. We believe that driven grouse shooting should be subject to a licensing system. 

Our hope is that shoot owners and syndicates will want to show leadership that puts Wales at the forefront of raising standards for sustainable shooting. RSPB Cymru will continue to work with shoot owners and operators to achieve land managed well for nature, both on our nature reserves and elsewhere. 


Uplands at Haweswater RSPB reserve | The RSPB


The way we all look after our land is vital if we are to meet the challenges of the climate and ecological emergency. Gamebird shooting impacts large parts of England for example, upland grouse moors cover an area the size of Greater London and an estimated 48 million gamebirds are released on English lowland shooting estates each year. While some aspects of land management for shooting can be positive, we believe that many of the management practises are unsustainable. To address this, the RSPB believes that reform is urgently needed and, to achieve this, our work in England will be based on two key themes.   

Firstly, we will quickly develop a stronger political case for regulation of grouse shooting in England focusing on the key policy changes that we believe are necessary to move towards sustainable management of our hills and mountains. We will await with interest the Scottish Government's response to the conclusions of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group (Werritty Review). In England we will pursue an outright ban on driven grouse shooting if over the next five years it becomes clear that we are not making substantive progress on fundamental reform.

We will also continue to call for a ban on peatland burning in England, a ban on the use of lead ammunition, and maintain pressure to end the illegal persecution of birds of prey.   

Secondly, we will continue to work with shooting organisations and progressive members of the community to develop a plan that sets out standards for sustainable gamebird releasing in the lowlands and complies with existing legislation, we will also work with landowners to increase the number of gamebird shoots where the positive environmental benefits outweigh the negatives. 

Blanket bog and moorland at Aghatirourke RSPB reserve | The RSPB

Northern Ireland

Management for gamebirds can provide some positive benefits to declining species in NI, such as curlew and yellowhammer, but many practices are detrimental to the environment. We believe there should be environmental improvements to the way medium to large-scale releases of pheasant and red-legged partridge are managed, and that driven grouse-shooting should be subject to a licensing system.

We will be calling for an end to practices that are having an impact on our ability to address the climate and ecological emergency. These include a ban on lead shot and an end to burning on deep peat. We will be asking government to provide better support for peatland restoration and to ensure that robust legal controls are in place for any control of native birds and mammals.  Given that we have only one driven grouse shoot in NI, we will be carefully considering any call for licensing of this form of grouse shooting. We want to see environmental improvements made to the management of medium to large-scale releases of pheasants and red-legged partridge in NI. Over 50 million of these non-native species are released across the UK and are having a negative impact on our native wildlife.

We have been working with different types of land-owners across NI for many years. Our hope is that shoot owners and syndicates will want to put NI at the forefront of sustainable shooting. At RSPB NI, we want to work with shoot owners and operators, both on and off our nature reserves, to ensure land is well managed for people and the environment.