At last year’s AGM, the Chair of the RSPB’s Council announced that we would be reviewing our policy on gamebird shooting.  Today, I provide details about how we shall run the review and how you can give us your views.

Background to the review

We are undertaking the review because there is growing public concern and mounting scientific evidence about the environmental impacts of the most intensive form of shooting especially driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native red grouse) and largescale release of non-native game birds, primarily pheasants and red-legged partridges, now in excess of 57 million birds annually.  

Impacts include the ongoing and systematic illegal persecution of birds of prey such as hen harriers; the ecological impact of high numbers of game birds released into the countryside which may increase the density of generalist predators; the mass culling of mountain hares in some parts of our uplands; the use of lead ammunition; the impact of burning peatlands and medicating wild animals for shooting.

Review process

There are three stages to our review. 

In this first phase we are seeking the views of members and those with an interest in gamebird shooting.  This will help us develop nature conservation principles for gamebird shooting and associated land management to be approved by our Council this summer.

The second phase involves completing scientific reviews of the evidence of impacts from the two most intensive forms of shooting (driven grouse and gamebird releases) to help assess these shooting styles against the conservation principles.

The final phase involves reviewing the RSPB’s existing policy on driven grouse shooting and developing a new position on gamebird releases.

We plan to announce the results of this review of our policy at the AGM in October.

How views can be shared

We are particularly keen to hear the views of members to assess the strength of feeling on this often-emotive subject.  

This is why we are asking a sample of members to take part in a survey to gauge views and opinions around aspects of gamebird shooting and associated land management.  This is done in a randomised way in order to get a broad spectrum of views. If you are one of those members then you will be receiving an email in the coming week with details about how to take part.

We also want to give all members a chance to express their views, should they wish to do so, through a more general consultation.  If you are a member you can give your views on the environmental impacts of gamebird shooting and possible solutions by visiting this webpage here.   

During this period, RSPB staff and volunteers will be invited to give their views. 

And finally, we are today inviting organisations with an interest in nature conservation, animal welfare, land management and gamebird shootings to submit their views through a separate but complementary consultation.  If you are interested in taking part in the stakeholder consultation please contact

We’re committed to conducting a rigorous review and so your views will be much appreciated.

While it may take some time before the process is complete, we shall of course communicate the results once the RSPB Council has reached a decision regarding our new policy.

One final point, while the review is being conducted, our current position remains the same - we will continue to call for the introduction of licencing of driven grouse shooting (a topic which remains particularly live in Scotland following the independent review of grouse moor management).

I look forward to hearing from you.


Photo credit: Louise Greenhorn's image of red grouse in heather ( 

  • Many thanks for all your comments.  If you have not done so already, and are a member, please do take part in the survey to which the blog refers.   

  • This is my second effort to get this to work...  The RSPB has a significant risk to its reputation if it does not EFFECTIVELY address this matter.  However a rational strategy must embrace upland land management practices and the deleterious impact that grouse mores and shooting estates have had and are continuing to have.  Upland forest and moor, bogs and soak-stores, are vital not only to upland fauna (birds perhaps especially) but also serve the vital role in watershed management to avoid flash-flooding events such as recent North Atlantic storms have caused.  Moreover these uplands are potentially very large carbon-sinks if restored to rational management There is clear evidence that these habitats are degraded, there is also clear evidence that they have a significant role in preventing run-off, that is now rapidly draining into water-courses ill capable of managing the flows (especially given failed planning restraints on flood-plain development).  Thus there are climate change implications that are a critical opportunity to raise the awareness of the impact that a few wealthy individuals are having upon a large population living in the down-slope flooding zones.  The case ofr stopping flagrant abuses of the protection given to vulnerable species such as hen harriers, larger owls and eagles is better presented within a framework that talks to restoration of habitat for future safety of communities, albeit the moral case for conservation and ecological restoration is unassailable it is not the core argument, or case study, that will bring general support and government response (which has been tardy for many years and thus is not partisan politics).

  • I am appalled that the RSPB even sees the need to conduct this survey.   The killing of any creature for "sport" should be banned without question.   This is without the other environmental issues raised by other members.    If the RSPB consider it appropriate to continue with these barbaric sports I will have to reconsider my membership of a hypocritical organisation.

  • I am appalled that the RSPB even sees the need to conduct this survey.   The killing of any creature for "sport" should be banned without question.   This is without the other environmental issues raised by other members.    If the RSPB consider it appropriate to continue with this barbaric sports I will have to reconsider my membership of a hypocritical organisation.

  • This will always be a controversial area. All previous attempts to work with those in the shooting fraternity have failed to stem the decline of birds of prey. They claim it is a minority of gamekeepers who are to blame but this is just a blind, if the shooting industry was serious they would help to stop the persecution not leave it to others. We just can't work with these people any more and must make a clean break with them and apply maximum effort to stop driven game shooting and bring in a ban on burning. It is ridiculous when the government wants to tackle minor domestic pollution form wood burning yet ignores major pollution and environmental damage from moorland burning. If farmers are banned from burning stubble why is this practice not also banned? I am not opposed to shooting, although I don't see the pleasure in it,but what is happening now is an industry not a sport and needs to be properly regulated.