Guest post | Sabbing the Un-glorious 12th

We’ve spent much of this week discussing the start of yet another six months of shooting grouse in the uplands (see eg Inglorious). In one of our articles we posted several images from Twitter that had been uploaded by sabs groups, who appeared to have had a very successful day on the moors (much to the evident surprise of the shooters).

The Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) have now posted a full series of images on their website alongside an overview of their support for the various local groups who (in some cases) made long journies to stop grouse being killed. The HSA overview begins, “On Wednesday the 12th August over 100 sabs descended on the Northern Peak District to disrupt the Glorious 12th, the traditional start of the grouse shooting season. Appropriate social distancing measures were observed to ensure we kept ourselves and local communities safe whilst doing everything we could to disrupt the shooters.

Contrast that considered, ethical – and legal – approach with the criminal killing spree the shooting industry’s hired hands went on during lockdown.

But what’s it like to sab a shoot? To walk up to armed men to stop them shooting the wild birds they’ve paid large sums of money to kill? One of the sabs in the Peaks that day has written an inspiring and inspirational guest post for us that answers just that…


Sabbing the Un-glorious 12th

We all hate the thought of the grouse shooting season starting, the cruelty, the way our walking country is taken over with this ‘sport’, the pomposity, the thousands of pounds spent by rich gents who want a day of killing easy targets, and all that money being earnt by even richer landowners and lords.

But what is it like to actually get out there and disrupt it? To be on the moors on the 12th August when it all starts? To be in the right place at the right time with your friends around you and to stand up and say no, we’re not letting this happen?

That’s what I was up to on August 12th this year and last, and for every year now until the law changes and people finally learn there is no need for this cruel industry, they can go paintballing instead.

It starts, as ever, with making sandwiches, going to bed too late with all the planning, and checking again we have packed the maps. Then up early, a bit different this year with covid-safe travel, up to the moors and meeting up with likeminded people. 

In a horrible mirror image, the shooters will be doing a very similar thing; meeting up, eating their breakfasts and putting on their shooting outfits, travelling together up to the moors to start the first drive of the day.

It’s not hard to know where they go. The shooting butts, like little lines of hides, are built all over grouse moors. It’s harder to know where they will be each day, but they are very obvious, not blending in at all well with the fell runners, walkers and picnickers as they drive up the rough tracks through the access land in their 4x4s. 

Photo copyright of guest poster

It’s not intuitive to run towards someone who has a gun, has quite possibly been drinking at breakfast, and who will certainly not be pleased to see you, but actually when they spot you, heading towards them, their reaction is usually a bit confused. So that’s your chance to take charge. “Break your guns”, we say, “stop shooting or you are in breach of your licence”.

Basically, some rich bloke who decided to take his team on a works day out on the driven grouse slopes is not likely to shoot you. Now he’s thinking ‘what’s going on, who are these people, why do they care about grouse so much, why did we pay a premium to go on the glorious 12th, can I get my money back, what happens now, is it time for lunch?’

You can make the whole thing a lot more confusing by having a nice polite chat, not what they are expecting. And all the while, no grouse are getting shot. 

It’s the ones who make money from this who are most angry. They’ve had a bad year, got some stick for birds of prey disappearing on their land, grouse numbers have been a bit low, they are constantly blamed for flooding further down the valley, and now the antis are here to get in the way. ‘How can we avoid refunding this party?’ 

So you end up with a kind of awkward hanging around. They don’t want to leave, because that means you have won, they don’t want to stay there and waste their time, and most of all, they don’t want to be followed and have their afternoon shoot disrupted too. So, they call the police.

The police head to the closest road. They mill about for a while asking to see driving licences. They don’t really want to go up onto the moor, but by this time we are all convoying off the moors, shooters, and beaters in their 4x4s, us lot traipsing behind.

Inevitably the police slow us down and the shooters get off for their lunch, which is pretty frustrating as we’ll not be able to stop their afternoon shoot, but after a bit of hanging around someone has spotted another party, and it all begins again. 

So, to sum that up, lots of waiting around, some awkwardness, a bit of tramping across the open moor, and a really good feeling that you have saved a lot of lives and hurt the pockets of those profiting from cruelty.

Who knows, you might have even sown the seeds of doubt in a few minds. “Maybe we will go paintballing next year…“.

Guest post, Aug 13th 2020.


  • If you’d like to have a polite chat with a few men with guns next year – or perhaps with men on horses trying to chase foxes this autumn and winter – there is probably a local sabs group near you. Please check out the Hunt Saboteurs Association for information. The homepage also has a donate button if you’d like to help out with, for example, travel costs.
  • Header image copyright Hunt Saboteurs Association