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Grouse shooting essential for the survival of Moorland Communities, new study finds

10th August 2020

University of Northampton researchers conduct wide-ranging survey into economic and social effects of the sport on moorland communities

Professor Simon Denny and Tracey Latham-Green of the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact at the University of Northampton have conducted a new study into the economic and social effects of integrated moorland management – including grouse shooting – on moorland communities.

The report ‘What Impacts does Integrated Moorland Management, including Grouse Shooting, have on Moorland Communities? A Comparative Study’, concluded that grouse shooting forms part of a ‘complex web’ of integrated moorland management practices, with significant economic and social benefits to the people who live in areas associated with these practices.

In all, moorland communities were found to benefit economically from grouse shooting both directly – through increased tourism to the regions and employment for gamekeepers and other estate staff – as well as indirectly, through estates’ investment in conservation and the facilitation of stewardship schemes which benefit local farmers.

The direct economic benefit is estimated to be £67.7million per annum. The indirect benefit to the country is thought to be as high as £2billion.

Survey respondents reported a higher than average level of job security, despite being interviewed in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Estate owners were also found to attach a great sense of importance to conservation, with 76% of estate owners stressing the importance of peat restoration and carbon sequestration. The researchers concluded that this dedication to conservation significantly improved tourism to moorland areas, as well as helping to protect communities against the potentially devastating effects of flooding and wildfires.

Grouse shooting was also found to have a pronounced effect on the social networks of moorland communities, with residents reporting a greater sense of community and a connection to the areas in which they lived.

Ms Latham Green explained:

“Areas of upland England managed for grouse shooting were found to have strong and vibrant communities, with upland, moorland residents expressing a stronger sense of belonging to the area they live in comparison with nationally available data…Statistically, residents in these areas were found to have lower levels of loneliness than the national average and those that took part in grouse shooting across a range of roles, not just as ‘shooting guns’, were found to have higher levels of wellbeing – measured using the short Warwick-Edinburgh mental well-being scale – than the national average.”

The study highlights how this sense of belonging can in turn have a significant impact on the entire UK economy, with loneliness costing an individual up to £6,000 over a ten-year period1.

Residents in areas where grouse shooting is practiced also reported higher than average levels of physical fitness, with 69% of survey respondents regularly completing 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise. The researchers report that a lack of physical exercise costs the UK £7.4 billion per year2.

“It is therefore important that these strong, rural communities are maintained and this study has found grouse moor management is part of an integrated system of activities in these areas, which the evidence suggests is vital to the sustainability and long term health and well-being of the communities concerned,” Ms Latham-Green concluded.

Overall, the authors of the study emphasised the importance of the economic impacts of grouse shooting if moorland communities were to “thrive and not simply survive”. They also expressed their pleasant surprise at the social impact of the sport in fostering deep-rooted connections within communities.

Their advice to policy makers is to carefully consider the social and economic impacts of any policy that would affect the ‘complex web’ of integrated moorland management, which includes grouse shooting, at the start of the policy formation process.

1 Mcdaid, D., Bauer, A. and Park, A.-L. (2017) Making the economic case for investing in actions to prevent andor tackle loneliness: a systematic review. Available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/business-and-consultancy/consulting/assets/documents/making-the-economiccase-for-investing-in-actions-to-prevent-and-or-tackle-loneliness-a-systematic-review.pdf (Accessed: 4 May 2018).

2 Public Health England (PHE) (2016) Health matters: getting every adult active every day. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-getting-every-adult-active-every-day/health-matters-getting-every-adultactive-every-day (Accessed: 10 June 2020).

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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