Grouse season struggle

GLORIOUS 12TH PREVIEW PHOTOCALL , GROUSE SHOOTING Horseupcleugh, Berwickshire.   ESTATE OWNED BY Robbie Douglas Miller FORMERLY OF JENNERS.  ''''RED GROUSE PICTURED IN THE PURPLE HEATHER OF THE  Horseupcleugh ESTATE IN BERWICKSHIRE TODAY. ''   PHOTO PHIL WILKINSON / TSPL

GLORIOUS 12TH PREVIEW PHOTOCALL , GROUSE SHOOTING Horseupcleugh, Berwickshire. ESTATE OWNED BY Robbie Douglas Miller FORMERLY OF JENNERS. ''''RED GROUSE PICTURED IN THE PURPLE HEATHER OF THE Horseupcleugh ESTATE IN BERWICKSHIRE TODAY. '' PHOTO PHIL WILKINSON / TSPL

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It should be a highlight in the country sports calendar, but the start of the 2015 grouse season could be the most difficult in many years.

Borders moorland has seen some of the worst breeding conditions in living memory, and there are some predictions that, nationally, around 40 per cent of shooting days will be lost.

However, a group which celebrates work and community life in the Lammermuir Hills is getting ready to supply fresh wild game from the moors to chefs across the Lothians.

The Lammermuirs Moorrland Group hope to team up with restaurants and hotels in a bid to get more people to try game dishes like wild grouse.

It comprises staff across all the estates in the region and the participants aim to raise awareness of the contribution workers make to the life of their communities.

Getting over the health benefits, taste and affordability of the wild grouse harvest, and Scottish game, is one of their aims for this shooting season.

“Our group is about showing working life on the moors and, at this time of the year, all the estate workers are really busy round-the-clock getting ready for the grouse season,” said Helen Savage, coordinator.

“It is exhausting work and what we really wanted to get was more people eating the grouse because it is all part of a bigger cycle, here. The gamekeepers provide good heather habitat and nesting opportunities for the wild birds all year round. If there is a large enough surplus to harvest, it brings people into the communities to shoot. This helps the area and the businesses and the fresh food is then eaten. The money is invested in the moor and it goes on.

“The more people get a chance to try the game produced, and the more chefs cook with it, the better. It has real flavour, it is wild and organic and there is next to no food miles.

Meanwhile, animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the proposed end to tax exemptions for Scotland’s sporting estates.

Jennifer Dunn, senior public affairs officer for the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, said: “The League is very pleased that this could be the last year shooting estates receive such an unfair public subsidy.

“Removing this key financial incentive would make landowners re-evaluate the economic viability of shooting.

“This could result in thousands of game birds no longer being shot in the name of entertainment, and other animals no longer being killed needlessly.”