Ethan Shone 12th August 2019
As shooters across the country are gearing up for the start of the grouse shooting season today, the so-called “Glorious 12th”, Labour has announced its support for a review into driven grouse shooting.
The review will focus on the environmental and economic impacts of driven grouse shooting, which involves a team of “beaters” flushing red grouse into the path of shooters and requires significant management of the local environment to be viable. It has been suggested that the pursuit could be replaced altogether with alternatives like virtual shooting, or wildlife tourism.
This comes as new analysis from Who Owns England has found that 61 English grouse moor estates received a total of more than £10m in subsidies last year. This is despite many of these estates being owned and operated by highly wealthy individuals, such as the Duke of Devonshire, retail tycoon Richard Bannister and Lord Barnard, who lives in a medieval castle.
Critics of grouse shooting have long linked the pursuit with the persecution of raptor birds, which would otherwise prey on the grouse and disrupt the shooting days. A recent government report found that significant number of satellite-tagged hen harriers have disappeared over grouse moors in recent years, and there have been a number of prosecutions of gamekeepers linked with raptor persecution incidents relating to grouse moors.
The management of grouse moors often involves the draining and drying out of moorland, as well as controlled burning. Both of these practices cause damage to plants and wildlife, and some have suggested that these practices exacerbate both flooding and wildfire in nearby areas.
For too long the Tories have bent the knee to landowners
Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, said: “The costs of grouse shooting on our environment and wildlife needs to be to properly weighed up against the benefit of landowners profiting from shooting parties.
“For too long the Tories have bent the knee to landowners and it’s our environment and our people who pay the price.”
The Overtake recently sent two of our team to the Peak District to report on the work done by Moorland Monitors to catalogue and record instances of wildlife being killed, and to find out more about the management of these environments for grouse shooting.
The demand for a review will be included in Labour’s Animal Welfare Manifesto, due to be released later this month.
It’s time we took back our countryside from the shooting industry
Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and a wildlife advocate at the Born Free Foundation, welcomes Labour’s proposal of review.
“For too long the Government have turned a blind eye to the industrial slaughter of game birds, which is doing so much to damage the environment, contributing to climate change and encourage wildlife crime.
“It’s time we took back our countryside from the shooting industry.”
We should also remember the vital importance of grouse shooting to fragile rural communities
Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said that grouse moors could “hold their heads high” in terms of their social, economic and environmental contribution, and questioned the Labour Party’s call for a review into grouse shooting.
She said: “Many Labour MPs who have come to visit the moors have discovered the enormous contribution gamekeepers and private investment makes to managing the moors with knock-on benefits to the local rural economy and social cohesion. Wildlife is bucking national trends of decline, hen harriers have had a record breeding season and work with Government to safeguard our peatlands to store carbon and combat climate change is in full swing.
“We should also remember the vital importance of grouse shooting to fragile rural communities. It creates jobs and helps sustain a wide range of rural businesses and we hope that this is something politicians of all persuasions recognise. We think that it would be much more constructive for many more MPs to visit moors before deciding that a review is necessary.”
Ethan Shone 12th August 2019