TODAY, the sound of gunshot echoes through hills and glens. It is the Glorious Twelfth, when metaphorical bullets fly back and forth between those who support and oppose the shooting of grouse for “sport”.

Inverted commas aren’t used by those supporting the practice. They are proud, unapologetic, convinced that, in killing the birds, they keep alive the rural economy (to the tune of £23 million a year) while preserving moorland landscapes. This is necessary if the birds are to prosper and, since the birds must thrive for there to be a Glorious Twelfth, the industry sustains them. A cruel paradox, perhaps, but one with some logic.

A certain sophistry, say others. Deriding the idea of being kind to be cruel, they say killing for fun is always and forever a moral no-no. They accuse the industry of damaging moors by burning heather (to provide fresh shoots for the birds) and of persecuting other species to protect grouse for slaughter. As for the land, freed from the stranglehold of sporting estates, it could be used more productively, they say.

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And so the sound of rhetorical gunshot echoes through the nation’s opinion pages. But what of the birds themselves, these glorious creatures with their beautiful chestnut plumage? If only they could appreciate it’s the taking part that counts. Facing guns, they might feel, makes for a less than gladiatorial contest. To those about to die, we salute you.