Burnt for profits: Scottish countryside set ablaze by grouse shooters

Muirburn

Practice benefits grouse and profits - but little else, say charities

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18th March 2019 by Graham Martin 2 Comments

Huge swathes of Scotland’s uplands are being set ablaze to create profits for the shooting industry.

Campaigners say grouse moor managers are routinely indulging in a practice called muirburn, where massive patches of land are set in fire.

This creates a patchwork of habitats which favour red grouse, which are at the centre of the lucrative shooting industry.

However, it is hugely damaging to the wider environment, destroying precious habitats and contributing to carbon emissions.

Multi-charity campaign group Revive – which wants to see better regulation of the grouse shooting industry – has captured footage of an area of the cairngorms on fire.

They want action to end muirburn, saying it is a profit-driven practise which favours just one, economically valuable species, which is protected so it can be shot for entertainment.

Revive campaigner Max Wiszniewski said: “The footage that we captured is extremely disturbing showing vast swathes of heather upland on fire with flames and smoke billowing for miles, all for the single purpose of protecting grouse which will subsequently be shot for entertainment.

“I’m sure the public will be shocked to see the damage which is deliberately inflicted on our uplands to create a habitat suitable for one species to the detriment of our environment and wildlife.”  

Dr. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: “We’re growing increasingly concerned about the extent and intensity of burning on grouse moors, and particularly the effects of burning over deep peat. Where blanket bog is damaged by burning, impacts include a lowered water table and breakdown of the active peat-forming structure, resulting in the carbon store in the peat being released as climate change emissions.

“There is more carbon locked up in Scotland’s peaty soils than in all the trees and vegetation in the whole of the UK.  Urgent action is needed to reduce Scottish climate emissions and lock stored carbon into our environment. The Scottish Government must put in place plans to reverse the damaging environmental effects of moorland burning and protect our peatlands as the huge natural treasure they are.”

The footage also shows mountain hares fleeing for their lives as their habitat burns, illustrating the devastating impact this practice has on other wildlife.

Robbie Marsland, director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland said: “To witness wild animals running for their lives to escape such willful and deliberate environmental vandalism is extremely upsetting, made worse by the complete lack of justification for this action.

“As well as the iconic mountain hares, seen on the footage, there’s also the extensive risk to many other species including ground nesting birds and all for nothing more than to line the pockets of land owners looking to enrich their stocks of game birds for paying guns.”

The Revive coalition which includes OneKind, Friends of the Earth Scotland, League Against Cruel Sports and Raptor Persecution UK.

18th March 2019 by Lok Yue

A rather unbalanced piece, as is usual when class warrior ululations attempt to drown scientific proof. A recent moorland review by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) noted that much of the conservation benefit from burning depends on local site management and conditions. Furthermore, a recent article examining moorland sites in Scotland over 44 years concludes that without burning, biodiversity decreases and states “to maintain diversity, timely burning is recommended”. By the way, animals sensibly run away from fires and fires happen, by accident, informed or indeed nefarious design. Furthermore, fire is vital to some tree species which only reproduce post-fire. Such fires are quick and do not damage roots or soil and burning small areas removes the older growth allowing the plants to regenerate after the burn. New heather and grass shoots follow, and these, along with the flush of plants such as bilberry or blueberry, are key food for red grouse, deer, mountain hares and livestock.

21st March 2019 by Harry

What a wonderful balanced report, clearly outlining the opposing positions in a complex and multifaceted situation.You do your profession proud Mr Martin.