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Grouse shooting for the supermarket; Times article by Oliver Moody

Grouse shooting for the supermarket; Times article by Oliver Moody

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Published by rob yorke
Red grouse sold in supermarket for the first time. The logistics, the secrecy, the 'wildly cyclical' populations, the lead shot in the teeth...

Uploaded by @blackgull from behind the paywall
Red grouse sold in supermarket for the first time. The logistics, the secrecy, the 'wildly cyclical' populations, the lead shot in the teeth...

Uploaded by @blackgull from behind the paywall

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Published by: rob yorke on Aug 13, 2013
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08/14/2013

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On your marks: the new season grouse ready to fly straight off shop shelves August 13 2013 On a secret

location in the moors of County Durham, the air is alive with the scents of heather and cordite rolling from gun barrels. This is the Glorious Twelfth, the first day of the grouse-shooting season, and the birds rise in startled coveys from the undergrowth and tumble out of the air around the butts. Grouse are notoriously tricky birds to shoot. They come whizzing and wheeling towards you as fast as 100mph and as low as 1ft off the ground. However, these are not just grouse. Within 24 hours, at least 30 brace will have been packed up in a van, plucked, dressed, chilled, wrapped in cellophane and stacked on the shelves of Marks & Spencer stores in London. It will be the first time grouse has ever been sold in a British supermarket. Adding to the logistical nightmare of rushing grouse from moor to fork overnight, it is impossible to plan for how many birds will be shot, Tom Harvey, the game buyer at M&S, said. “It’s been an awful lot of effort. It really depends on how good the guns are who are shooting. It’s a completely wild bird — it’s not something you can have any control over.” Grouse is still some way from becoming fare for the common man. The birds, which will be on sale this morning for £10 apiece, are only available in the Marble Arch and High Street Kensington branches of M&S. If they sell well, next year they will be rolled out to other stores around the country. As the public appetite for lean, flavoursome game meats grows, M&S is also adding another 40 outlets to the list that sell game such as partridge, venison, rabbit and pigeon. “We launched game into about 120 of our stores last year and had a very successful first season with it,” Mr Harvey said. “We’re seeing a big growing trend with customers really focusing on the provenance of their food and looking for things that are just a bit more interesting.” Back in the North Pennines, a convoy of Land Rovers is gathering outside the ancestral seat of the moor’s owners. Like some two thirds of Britain’s grouse moors, this estate has been passed down from generation to generation for more than a century, and the shooting party is a neat cross-section of the North East, from small children in tweeds to the owner of a paint shop in Newcastle. Nearby, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and monarch of Dubai, has spent millions of pounds on his own estate for the privilege of shooting one of the world’s toughest quarries. “The Arabs shoot with sheets of metal in between the butts,” said Adrian Blackmore, of the Countryside Alliance, who has joined our party for the day. “It wouldn’t do to have the ruler of Dubai shooting the ruler of Abu Dhabi, after all.” Britain is home to three quarters of the world’s heather moorland and the only place the red grouse has survived. Stretching from the Pennines in the south to the Highlands in the north, the grouse moors are also a critical habitat for rare birds such as lapwing, golden plover and curlew. Experts believe that this will be the third good year in a row for grouse. The populations are wildly cyclical, and the number shot across the country in a year can be anything from 20,000 to 250,000. After last year’s wet weather, the late onset of spring and a warm summer mean that the heather is only just coming into flower, and the new season’s chicks have had plenty to eat. Shooting is an essential way of keeping the natural equilibrium, according to Richard Townsend, managing director of Yorkshire Game, the company that supplies M&S as well as a number of leading restaurants in London, including Rules and The Ivy. Left unchecked, the highly territorial male grouse will fight to the death, and the birds can be decimated by outbreaks of disease, he said: “They only shoot the surplus numbers needed to keep the population manageable.” Not everybody is happy. Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said wildlife including otters, badgers and hen harriers was “persecuted” to maintain the grouse moors. “The shooting industry claims that they “protect’ the moorlands, creating a haven for wildlife. What a joke,” he said. “The grouse shooting season does nothing more than annihilate and harm wildlife.”

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