Glorious 12th: What Is It And Why Is Grouse Shooting So Controversial?

Everything you need to know.

On Saturday, shooting enthusiasts will take to the country for the first day of the grouse shooting season, also known as the Glorious Twelfth.

Here’s all you need to know about the controversial date.

What is the Glorious Twelfth?

August 12 marks the official start of the grouse shooting season and is known as the Glorious Twelfth by shooting enthusiasts.

Found in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, red grouse are shot until the end of the shooting season in December.

Driven grouse shooting refers to the way in which the grouse are driven towards hunters.

But opponents to the bloodsport don’t believe there is anything ‘glorious’ about it and have instead labelled the day the Inglorious Twelfth.

The start of the grouse shooting season begins on Saturday, known as the Glorious Twelfth
The start of the grouse shooting season begins on Saturday, known as the Glorious Twelfth
PA Archive/PA Images

How many birds are shot?

It is estimated that about 700,000 grouse are shot every year in Britain for ‘sport’.

Why is it so controversial?

There are many reasons why wildlife experts and groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports oppose grouse shooting.

One of the main controversies surrounds animal cruelty. Apart from the hundreds of thousands of birds shot every year, wildlife experts say other animals are trapped, killed, shot or poisoned in order to protect the game birds.

The League Against Cruel Sports has accused shooting estates of using snares to trap wildlife in a bid to protect the grouse they wish to shoot.

The League says snares are “cruel and indiscriminate” and lead to potentially hundreds of thousands of animals being caught each year.

Wild snares and traps can catch animals such as foxes, deer, stoats, deer and badgers.

The League has published a report looking into the alternatives of using snares, which includes shepherding, tree guards, disturbances such as lights of noises, guard animals, fencing and habitat management.

The League says: “Snares are predominantly used on land where ‘game-bird’ shooting takes place, for example in upland areas in England, snares are used on 27% of landholdings which host shooting, compared to 0.1% of landholdings which do not.”

Conservationists have also argued that burning heather can cause serious environmental damage.

The decline in Hen Harrier numbers is also cause for concern among conservationists.

“Despite full legal protection, hen harriers have long been a target for illegal killing because they can sometimes also eat red grouse,” RSPB’s England Director Chris Corrigan has said.

“Driven grouse shooting is an intensive form of shooting, which requires large numbers of birds so moorland managers are inevitably under pressure to maximise the numbers on an estate.”

The RSPB has called for shoots to be licensed.

Male Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica calling in the hills, Scotland
Male Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica calling in the hills, Scotland
Dgwildlife via Getty Images

What do supporters say?

Gamekeepers say that responsible grouse moor management can protect the environment.

The Countryside Alliance says grouse moor management plays a “key role in creating and maintaining our upland landscape”.

“Without grouse shooting, the landscape of many upland areas, and the communities they support, would be threatened,” the pro-hunting groups says.

Supporters also say that the income from grouse shooting provides employment for hundreds of rural people.

The Moorland Association says grouse moor management is responsible for more than 1,500 jobs.

“Of these, 700 are directly involved in grouse moor management, with a further 820 jobs in related services and industries,” the association says.

The Countryside Alliance says the lawful control of predators such as foxes, crows, stoats and weasels is “essential”.

What happens to the dead birds?

The dead birds from the shoots often end up in local pubs, restaurants and on butchers’ shelves.

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham (left) and Ian Botham have clashed in the past over the issue of driven grouse shooting
Wildlife presenter Chris Packham (left) and Ian Botham have clashed in the past over the issue of driven grouse shooting
PA Archive/PA Images

Which celebrities support and oppose the Glorious Twelfth?

BBC presenter and wildlife expert Chris Packham is one of the more vocal opponents to driven grouse shooting.

Packham came to blows with former England cricketer Ian Botham ahead of the Glorious Twelfth last year over the controversial ‘sport’.

Botham said the bloodsport helps wildlife to thrive, while Packham argued driven grouse shooting “is extraordinarily ecologically damaging”.

“To produce the vast numbers of grouse the shooters like to kill, today - the Inglorious Twelfth - means they have to burn the moors which scientific evidence has shown is exacerbating climate change,” Packham said.

“They have to drain the moors, which is causing flooding downstream - just ask the people in Hebden Bridge about that.

“But also it means the removal of all predators on the moors. Now, when it comes to foxes and stoats and crows, that’s legal, but unfortunately what we see.. is the removal of our birds of prey which is criminal and illegal activity.”

Botham hit back, saying: “The grouse moors is the most successful areas for breeding of ground birds because they are protected.”

The former professional cricketer added: “It’s only people like Chris who want to sabotage nature by banning success.”

Nature presenter and president of the League Against Cruel Sports Bill Oddie has also denounced driven grouse shooting.

“At a time when wildlife is being abused all over the world, killing for fun is surely sacrilege,” Oddie has said.


Thousands of people are expected join a march through central London to Downing Street on Saturday to coincide with the start of the grouse shooting season.

In addition to opposing the Glorious Twelfth, protesters will also be speaking out against the fifth year of badger culls and fox hunting.

The Make Badger Culling, Fox Hunting and Driven Grouse Shooting History march is backed by the Badger Trust, League Against Cruel Sports, International Federation of Animal Welfare, Born Free Foundation and Save Me.

Packham, who has been promoting the march on his social media channels, will lead the demonstration and speak at Downing Street.

Other speakers include actor and animal rights campaigner Peter Egan, Will Travers from Born Free Foundation, Dominic Dyer from the Badger Trust and Philippa King from the League Against Cruel Sports.

Speaking before the march Packham said: “A rapidly growing number of people have had enough cruelty and criminality in the UK countryside.

“We’ve had it with snares, lead shot, illegal persecution, we’ve had it with a lack of scientifically informed decisions and animals being ripped to pieces with dogs , we’ve had it with our dwindling wildlife being wasted by psychopaths who kill for pleasure.

“Killing wildlife for fun is a dying business - please come along and help drive another nail in its vile coffin.”


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