By Mimi Bekhechi

August 12 is fast approaching, and I'm getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I always do at this time of year, because I know that in a few short days, Scotland's picturesque moorlands will be turned into bloody killing fields. The "Glorious Twelfth", or the "Inglorious Twelfth", as it's often more appropriately referred to, marks the start of the annual red grouse shooting season, when so-called "sportspeople" gear up to kill about a half-million grouse.

If there were a group of people preparing to shoot dogs and cats for fun, we'd be screaming bloody murder – so how is this despicable blood bath still allowed to continue? After all, birds have the capacity to experience pain and suffering just as dogs and cats do.

In fact, anyone who's willing to pay up to £3,000 a day can participate in this display of human arrogance and insensitivity. No training or proof of experience is required – you don't even need to have visited the local paintball course – meaning, quite literally, that any Tom, Dick or Harry can pick up a shotgun and have a go at shooting defenceless animals, leaving many birds to experience lingering, painful deaths. And to add insult to injury, the public is forced to subsidise this cruel activity. The government recently announced that it intends to nearly double the amount paid out in Common Agricultural Policy subsidies to moorlands starting this year, and it's feared that much of this money will end up in the hands of grouse shooters. In addition, the price of a gun license has been frozen at £50 since 2001, despite the fact that it now costs the police approximately £200 to conduct the background checks required to ensure that shotguns are issued only to the kind of dangerous lunatics who like to kill birds and not humans.

Not only is killing grouse cruel to the birds themselves, a large number of native birds and mammals who are thought to interfere with grouse shooting are also trapped, poisoned or snared. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation – a contradiction in terms if ever there were one – admits that gamekeepers "control" (that is, kill) foxes, crows, weasels, stoats and other animals so that hunters will have more grouse to shoot. Similarly, many birds of prey, including hawks, falcons, owls and other legally protected raptors, are killed and have their nests destroyed to remove any competition for the cowardly shooters. Raptor Persecution Scotland highlights the case of 22 raptors who were deliberately massacred in one of the worst wildlife-poisoning cases that Scotland has ever seen. Last year, William Dick from Dumfries was convicted for shooting a buzzard, stamping on her head and then repeatedly striking her with a rock. And earlier this year, George Mutch from Kildrummy was prosecuted for killing a Goshawk by hitting her over the head with a stick. And then there is the case of the "sporting manager" from one prominent estate who was fined £3,000 for keeping enough carbofuran, a banned pesticide, to kill every bird of prey in Scotland six times over.

Unnaturally boosting the grouse population for the perverse purpose of then obliterating these animals later in the year is highly detrimental to the local environment. Because grouse thrive on young heather, shoot operators burn the peat land in order to encourage fresh vegetation. This practice releases hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year and creates an unbalanced landscape, with grouse populations flourishing while other wildlife dwindles. One despairing ornithologist described Britain's grouse moors as "grouse factories" on the BBC's Today programme. The Committee on Climate Change estimates that around 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year are emitted from peat, with the vast majority (260,000 tonnes) a result of burning on grouse moors.

In good condition, Scotland's spongy deep peat land habitats also provide clean drinking water and help hold back water that would otherwise flood low-lying areas. But large quantities of poisonous lead shot – which is toxic to many animals – are discharged on the ground from shotguns, further harming both the environment and humans. These environmental concerns have largely been overlooked so that shooters and estate managers can continue in their bloodthirsty ways.

Breeding sentient beings to turn them into living targets for the perverted pleasure of gunning them down is detestable. It's time that we said no more. No more massacring animals, no more destroying Scotland's moorlands and no more tolerance for a minority of sick individuals running amok across our beautiful country. Until then, 12 August will remain the first day of a long season of bloody murder, and there's absolutely nothing glorious about that.