THE grouse shooting season gets under way as gamekeepers warn poor weather conditions earlier in the year have hit the birds’ breeding.
The season traditionally starts in mid-August on the day known as the “Glorious Twelfth”.
But as the annual event begins, industry leaders said around 40 per cent of shooting days in England were likely to be lost because late spring snow, frosts, low temperatures, heavy rain and even a severe hailstorm at the beginning of July in some areas have hit grouse numbers in the uplands.
The Moorland Association warned the loss of shooting would hit local communities which relied on income generated from the tradition, such as casual staff, restaurants and hotels.
The association’s chairman, Robert Benson, said reports indicated there would be little shooting in the Peak District and some Cumbrian moors, though parts of the North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales, South Pennines and North York Moors were faring better.
In Scotland, the Glorious Twelfth will mark the start of a new initiative being launched by the Scottish Moorland Group.
The Gift of Grouse will be a year-long campaign highlighting the contribution of the grouse shooting industry to the Scottish economy.
Those behind the initiative claim that tourism, employment and conservation all directly benefit from grouse shooting - an industry they say supports 2,640 full time jobs.
On a more local level, the Lammermuirs Moorland Group in the Lowlands is hoping to team up with restaurants and hotels to get more people to try game dishes such as fresh wild grouse.
Meanwhile, the Angus Glens Moorland Group said households in scattered glen villages in the western edge of the Angus region, which is reliant on hill farming and rural sports income, will benefit by nearly £1 million from grouse shooting and the hundreds of jobs it brings.
But the League Against Cruel Sports is urging restaurants not to serve grouse because of the “by-catch” of other wild animals it causes, caught in snares used to protect birds from predators, the shooting and snaring of mountain hares in the Scottish Highlands over disease concerns, and birds of prey illegally persecuted.
Tom Quinn, director of campaigns for the organisation, said: “The collateral damage caused by getting a grouse to the table leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.”
He said people were giving the impression shooting game for the table was healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly, but that it was none of those things.
“Millions of other animals and birds are deliberately killed to protect the grouse shooting industry. The environment is being devastated by the burning of grouse moors, and millions of tonnes of lead shot are left to poison the countryside.”
An appeal for information was launched on Tuesday after it emerged that a bird of prey found dead on a grouse moor was illegally shot.
The hen harrier was found on remote moorland near Daer Reservoir in South Lanarkshire at the end of April.