The grouse hunting season in the UK is officially due to start on Thursday, marking what game hunters call the ‘Glorious Twelfth’.
However, the practice faces questions about its impact on the environment, with the Scottish government having to put in place a licensing system to control grouse hunting.
Ministers spoke of lingering issues related to the illegal persecution of raptors on or around grouse moorland, as well as concerns about muirburn – burning heather moorland to provide new growth for game and livestock.
Protest group Extinction Rebellion protests against grouse shootings by placing a large ‘do not shoot’ message in the hills near Dundee Airport.
Grouse hunters say it brings millions to the economy each year, with around 2,640 jobs in Scotland supported by the industry.
At Roxburghe Estates in the Scottish Borders, head warden Drew Ainslie and assistant letter carrier Ed Brown traveled to Byrecleugh Moor on Wednesday to do their final estimates of adult bird numbers.
Mr Brown said: âAfter the last 18 months of disruption, the grouse season’s income will be a lifeline for small businesses, hotels and pubs in the area.
âSeasonal spending provides a much needed boost outside of the peak summer tourist season.
âLike many areas, our main filming schedule will begin in September.
âIt’s not unusual to have a slow start to the season, and the cold weather in April and May will have affected the early nesting birds. ”
Mr Ainslie said: ‘Well-managed heathlands provide habitat for at least 57 species of birds in Scotland, as well as mountain hares, reptiles and amphibians.
“The curlew, lapwing, meadow pipit, oystercatcher and golden plover, as well as a range of birds of prey, including golden eagles and northern harriers, all thrive in the moors of grouse.
âWe are proud of our conservation work throughout the year.
The grouse season runs for 16 weeks until December, attracting visitors from Europe and North America.
Extinction Rebellion announces that it will place its big âdon’t shootâ message near Dundee Airport on Thursday to protest the impact of grouse moorland on land and biodiversity.
The group says the airport is close to several large hunting grounds that the shooters will come to visit by plane.
The protest group claims the grouse moorland has left the Scottish hills “ugly, barren and virtually lifeless”.
Scottish Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: âThe management of grouse swamps is a complex issue, attracting strong views and public interest.
âThe majority of those in charge of land management already follow best practices and care deeply about the countryside and the land they manage.
Read more: Virgin Atlantic flights to Montego Bay and Barbados resume before long-haul flights restart
âHowever, I cannot ignore the fact that some of the practices associated with the management of grouse marshes, such as muirburn and the use of medicated gravel, have the potential to cause serious damage to the environment, if good procedures are not followed.
âI also cannot ignore the fact that despite our many attempts to solve this problem, every year birds of prey continue to be killed or disappear under suspicious circumstances on or around the grouse barrens.
âThis legislation is not designed to put an end to the shooting of grouse. Indeed, companies that comply with the law should have no problem with licensing.
“But, above all, where there is clear evidence that this is not happening, where agreed standards are not being met or there is evidence of illegal persecution of raptors, there will be a range of effective mechanisms and transparencies in place to allow us to address such behavior.
In November, Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon announced the Scottish government’s intention to introduce a licensing system for grouse shooting.
For more stories of where you live, visit InYourZone