Gareth Dockerty

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth is head of uplands at BASC. Having joined the organisation in 2016, Gareth’s role focuses on ensuring decision makers, stakeholders and the public understand the benefits of shooting for upland habitats and rural communities.

Should there be a phrase used for the systematic attacks on grouse shooting? Gareth Dockerty considers the issue…

The 10th of December marks the end of the grouse season. Sadly, 2021 has probably seen more action away from our stunning moorlands than on them.

From record hen harrier numbers and legal challenges against both the new Defra burning regulations in England and brood management, to the media whirlwind of COP26, it has been an eventful few months.

The eventfulness extends to social media, where after only a brief scan of posts, you will find a coordinated approach attacking grouse moor management.


With COP26 in full swing last month, I was accused of “greenwashing” as the project I was championing was loosely connected to grouse shooting.

The term greenwashing has sprung up recently and means giving false or misleading environmental credentials to increase public appeal. I rebutted the suggestion and backed up the project’s credentials with clear facts.

However, it got me thinking. Is there a phrase that describes how the shooting community are treated by those with a bias against grouse shooting?

Grouse facts ignored

There are countless examples of facts being ignored to suit an anti-grouse agenda, we regularly hear false claims or data manipulation to ensure grouse shooting is seen in a negative capacity. These include;

Claim: Our peatlands were historically drained to benefit shooting.
Truth: Moors were drained under government agricultural grants.

Claim: Grouse moors are responsible for flooding hundreds of miles away.
Truth: Extreme weather causes flooding, and its reduction will be a whole catchment approach.

Claim: Prescribed burning is always damaging, it burns our peatlands and increases wildfires.
Truth: There is evidence that shows positives and negatives of prescribed burning (like all management techniques) It is an important tool as recognised by the new Defra regulations. It burns the rank vegetation on top and not the peat below, this also reduces the wildfire fuel load.

Claim: Hen harriers are on the brink of extinction, and brood management is making it worse.
Truth: Hen harriers in England had another record breeding year in 2021, they have undertaken a steep incline in numbers since brood management began. Although “Hen Harrier Day” is dedicated to the species, the two-hour film associated with is did not once mention the increase in hen harrier numbers.

How can we describe the systematic attacks on grouse shooting?

The anti-grouse propaganda we see, sets out a process of ignoring data and research, and even rewriting historical facts. It strips all the positives from grouse moor management.

The objective would seem to be that the use of the word “grouse” in any context becomes one loaded with a negative bias.

Perhaps this process should be offically recognised and called out as “grouse-detraction”? That is, a malicious distortion of the facts, associating grouse moor management with negativity.

We have a duty to ensure that sustainable grouse moors provide net gains for habitats, species and climate change. This includes supporting and providing verifyable data in partnership with other research and conservation organisations.

Conversely, grouse-detraction is a political process undertaken by those who seek to attack grouse shooting. Its intentions are not for the benefit of species, habitats or to tackle climate change.

Grouse-detraction seeks to prevent dialogue and partnerships, and muddy data for political gain. It is an obstacle to sustainable shooting and will ultimately damage our precious upland habitats.

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