Like several others when I heard Marks and Spencer were starting to sell grouse in a select range of stores I took to my email. I'll be honest, I'm currently carnivorous and I support local food where I can so I have no truck with Britain's top retailer stocking grouse.
Having worked for a major M&S supplier for many years and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time inside Baker Street, I consider myself reasonably well-versed in their modus operandi and I know from personal experience that the standards they set within their supply chain are usually superior to that of most other retailers. They take ethical compliance seriously.
I view their involvement in the grouse 'supply chain' as a positive move. I'd genuinely like to see them build into a key part of the industry, if they do a strong ethical stance could bring big financial pressure to bear on grouse moors. Maybe where our voices fall on deaf ears the threat of losing the market M&S could open up might just prove to be a key factor in ensuring compliance with wildlife protection laws.
So my email was not to call for M&S to stop selling grouse but to engage with them to highlight the illegal persecution issue and put pressure on them to make a public statement about illegal persecution.
Here are a couple of extracts from their response:
We have the highest
standards of animal welfare and only source from suppliers we know and
trust. Our game range is sourced from well-managed estates across the UK
stretching from Nottinghamshire
to the Scottish borders, with the majority of product coming from
Yorkshire and Northumberland.
There are no breeding
pairs of hen harriers on the grouse moors we take from and there are
severe penalties for anyone that interferes with Hen Harriers - this is
actively enforced not just
for Hen Harriers but all species of raptors.
I'm just about to reply and I will be asking M&S as a first step to make it policy and make it public that any estate that has an employee convicted of an offence against raptors will be immediately removed as an approved supplier and stopped from supplying M&S in the future. I would encourage others to contact M&S (email: RetailCustomer.Services@marks-and-spencer.com) and make the same request. This should be an 'easy win' for them from a customer service perspective, a declaration that illegal persecution will not be tolerated in their supply chain and a clear signal to their suppliers of the consequences.
I'll also be pointing out some of the reasons why 'there are no breeding Hen Harriers on the grouse moors they take from' and providing one or two links to projects like Skydancer for bedtime reading for their technologist in this area.
Edit: I have also suggested that they get a committment from the moors supplying them that in the event of a breeding attempt by Hen Harriers that the moor will work with the RSPB and support the attempt using the diversionary feeding techniques currently being developed at Langholm.