Campaign group The League Against Cruel Sports has contacted 18 top restaurants across England and Wales, 10 of which hold Michelin stars, warning of the by-catch implications of the practice.
The group argues that there is hypocrisy in restaurants supporting safe and sustainable fishing while simultaneously endorsing game bird shooting.
While ‘by-catch’ normally refers to marine mammals or non-target fish caught in fishing nets, the League is arguing that large numbers of non-target animals such as badgers, cats and dogs are caught in snares - which are used to protect gamebirds from predators.
Tom Quinn, director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Over the last few years, restaurants have quite rightly started to pay attention to sustainability and by-catch when it comes to the fish they serve.
“But there are massive problems with by-catch when it comes to grouse, and we’re hoping that when they realise this, the restaurants will refuse to serve grouse dishes after August 12."
Of the 18 top restaurants in England and Wales contacted by the League Against Cruel Sports, 13 confirmed their support for sustainable ‘line caught’ fishing.
Research from The Marine Stewardship Council shows diners are increasingly concerned with seafood sustainability, and Quinn hopes that raising public awareness of the dangers of game-bird shooting would reduce demand for grouse on menus.
He said: “By-catch is a known term mainly because people became aware of the dolphins and other marine mammals being killed by the fishing industry. If people became aware of the huge numbers of foxes, badgers, hares, hen harriers, swans and other animals killed purely to put grouse on a dinner plate, we’re convinced they would care enough to stop eating it.”
Jack Knott, campaigns assistant at The Countryside Alliance, which runs the 'Game-to-Eat' programme, said grouse shooting was an important method of predator control which benefited a large number of other bird species.
"Grouse are a truly free-range, British and healthy source of food, and are celebrated by an increasing number of chefs, restaurants and people every year," he said.
"Moorland is an important breeding and feeding habitat for 57 bird species...and management for grouse shooting directly benefits all of these birds. Grouse moors typically have five times as many golden plover and lapwing and about twice as many curlews as other nearby moors without that management regime.
"The control of foxes, crows and stoats as practised on grouse moors has been proven to lead to three times better breeding success of lapwing, curlew and golden plover compared to moors without predator control."
This year’s grouse season is set to be plagued by a high prices and a short supply of birds as a result of bad weather conditions earlier in the year.
Many restaurants are predicted to be left struggling for suppliers, while Marks and Spencer has been forced to cancel plans to sell grouse this year, The Times reported earlier this week.