“I’ve been called a liar, accused of being in the pocket of anti-bloodsport campaigners and not understanding the countryside because I live by the sea. And apparently I have an agenda because I like birdwatching.” The Daily Mirror’s Environment Editor Nada Farhoud describing the reaction from pro-shoot lobbyists to an article she wrote looking at moorland burning last week.
As we and others predicted, shooting was bound to turn to the usual unfounded and personal attacks: she is a liar, townies don’t understand, she ‘just’ wants shooting banned, blah blah, blah. While Nada hasn’t gone into specific details it’s not difficult to speculate which other lines shooting’s attack dogs might have also crossed.
As Nada herself explains in her response, she is not actually anti-shooting (and nowhere in the original article does she suggest that she is) and grew up in a rough-shooting family. And she acknowledges that she “hadn’t given the practices behind the grouse shooting industry a close look until the alarm bells started ringing“.
And what were those alarm bells? The mere fact that over half a million grouse were blasted out of the air for a laugh? The countless numbers of wild animals destroyed in traps and snares? The illegal raptor persecution that has seen populations of birds of prey suppressed on grouse moors the length of the UK? The sort of stuff, in other words, that shooting’s lobbyists are desperate that the rest of the world doesn’t get to hear about…?
Not at all. Nada is an Environment Editor. Her focus was the global climate crisis, a very real and widely discussed threat to biodiversity right across the planet. Why on earth should grouse shooting feel so exceptional that it shouldn’t be inspected with the same critical lens that other environmentally destructive industries are now being scrutinised with? Vast amounts of carbon are stored in the uplands. Smoke from fires set by gamekeepers (and hundreds are set every year in our so-called ‘national parks’ alone, sometimes tying up hard-pressed emergency services ) drift for miles causing airborne pollution as well as releasing yet more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And all, remember, so that a few people can blast living targets out of the sky for entertainment.
There are no legitimate arguments left for the grouse shooting industry – especially when it comes to climate concerns. Inflated employment figures, cries of ‘fake news’, and ad hominem attacks are all that they have left – as Nada has found out.
And talking about ‘alarm bells ringing’, we can only hope that these attacks won’t be allowed to escalate into the criminal damage and intimidation now facing ‘Snared’ author and campaigner Bob Berzins… hopefully as a higher-profile figure with the weight of a national newspaper behind her, Nada will be better protected than many of the courageous individuals who dare to take on the grouse shooting industry.
‘Moors fires are a burning issue – they destroy our precious wildlife habitats’
Peatlands hold about 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, double the amount of all our forests, and help tackle climate change, writes Nada Farhoud
It has been a lively few days in my email inbox.
Last week I reported on a battle raging in North Yorkshire between gamekeepers burning heather to boost grouse populations and campaigners who say the practice is creating an ecological disaster.
Many people wrote praising the Mirror. There were others sticking the knife in.
The issue isn’t just confined to the North York Moors National Park. Readers told me how fires also take place in County Durham, the Peak District and also the Yorkshire Dales.
I’ve been called a liar, accused of being in the pocket of anti-bloodsport campaigners and not understanding the countryside because I live by the sea. And apparently I have an agenda because I like birdwatching.
Let’s clear up a few things.
I grew up in the farming county of Bedfordshire where my maternal grandfather worked on the land and regularly went shooting. My three uncles still do.
A brace of pheasants hanging in my grandad’s barn was a frequent sight and I was fed more rabbits than I can count as well as partridge, venison and other game. I’ve even tried grouse (once… not a fan). But I have always despised fox hunting, badger baiting and hare coursing.
I hadn’t given the practices behind the grouse shooting industry a close look until the alarm bells started ringing recently.
Scientists say UK peatlands hold about 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, double the amount of all the UK’s forests put together, and are vitally important in helping tackle climate change.
They warn the burning must stop to protect this vital natural tool and our precious wildlife that rely on it.
But when The Countryside Charity, RSPB, Friends of the Earth and The Wildlife Trust as well as the 53 other organisations that make up the Wildlife and Countryside Link – the largest environment and wildlife coalition – say the practice is severely damaging, surely it is time to listen. Oh, and don’t forget the Climate Change Committee who recommended an immediate ban in January last year.
Denying this clear science is potentially as damaging as saying the pandemic is fake news. If we don’t start taking major steps to protect the health of the planet, there will be no more grouse left to shoot.Nada Farhoud, Daily Mirror, 04 April 2021