I was disappointed this month to hear about Marks & Spencer’s putting a downer on the Glorious Twelfth when they made the decision not to sell grouse in their supermarkets despite having been working until very recently with game processors and the Countryside Alliance to expand the number of stores offering it this season.

Mark Avery, former conservation director of the RSPB, wrote to the retailer telling them ‘if you persist with selling grouse meat, it sends a clear signal that you actively want to support this industry and are siding with an industry that causes environmental damage and is intimately associated with wildlife crime.’

Each and every gamekeeper I know has no greater love than the countryside and I find it sad that their conservation efforts are going unrecognised. Shooting providers in the UK spend nearly £250 million a year on conservation work, which is eight times more than the RSPB who spent £29.6 million on its reserves in 2013.

One gentleman I know, even despite owls preying on his pheasant poults, encourages them to his land by putting up owl boxes.
Banning grouse shooting would lose thousands of pounds to the rural economy, leave many unemployed and no doubt leave the countryside in a worse state.

Marks and Spencer’s defended themselves saying: “We have not been able to secure sufficient numbers of responsibly sourced and third party accredited red grouse so will not be selling any this year.”

“We have been working with the RSPB and the Game Wildlife and Conservation Trust for some time to incorporate red grouse estate management into our industry-leading code of practice for our game suppliers.

“We have made good progress and we will continue with this work and hope to have red grouse back on our shelves in the future.”

It was certainly good news to hear this month that populations of the majority of the UK’s birds of prey are now at their highest ever levels and that a Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan has been agreed but for the meanwhile I am on Percy Pig strike and will continue to be until Marks get their act together.