Queen Victoria kicked off the grouse-shooting craze. Now, Queen Elizabeth should reverse the damage, writes Guy Shrubsole.
The Monarchy is a strange institution that we would be most unlikely to include if we were designing a system of national governance from scratch but it exists and undeniably has the ability to influence broader society. A significant change in its management of the royal estates along the lines Guy suggests would undoubtedly be an exciting and influential move. To ensure its long-term survival Monarchy must strike a balance between maintaining traditions that help to confer its mystique - golden carriages, guards in red tunics and such like - and modernising itself in ways that keep it in step with public attitudes and sympathies. There can be little doubt that the virtually industrial approach to producing large numbers of grouse on Balmoral (or pheasants on other estates) simply so they can be blasted out of the sky in their hundreds is at odds with what an increasing proportion of the population see as an appropriate relationship with nature.
A lighter touch approach to hunting as envisaged by Guy Shrubsole in the article should also be something that shooting enthusiasts embrace if they wish to see their sport persist into the future. The Victorian/Edwardian emphasis on huge 'bags' is decidedly out of step with modern sensibilities, particularly when we consider the management practices necessary to achieve these bags at the expense of other wildlife.
The Royal Family have set the standards for public enjoyment of the outdoors over many years. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is a world class programme that provides outstanding opportunities to introduce young people to outdoor activity. On Balmoral the Royal Family’s attitude to public access has been exemplary and was a huge help in securing Scotland’s right to roam legislation. But, as regards deer management, they set probably the worst example of any Scottish estate. Repeated efforts by government led voluntary control schemes, over the last 20 years, have failed to reduce deer numbers on Balmoral to ecologically sensible levels. New legislation is urgently required and Balmoral should be the number one target for these new statutory powers.