MPs on the Petitions Committee and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee heard from experts to give evidence on grouse shooting before they debate a petition in Parliament’s secondary chamber, Westminster Hall, on the 31st October. The oral evidence session and debate are in response to a petition, launched by Dr Mark Avery, calling for driven grouse shooting to be banned. Due to the petition reaching over 100,000 signatures it has been allocated parliamentary time for a debate. However, due to a surge in support for a counter-petition supporting grouse shooting the debate will not now be on banning driven grouse shooting, but on grouse shooting in general.
Both the Countryside Alliance and the Moorland Association submitted written evidence before the oral evidence session.
The evidence session lasted one hour, four experts gave evidence:
- Dr Mark Avery (petition creator)
- Jeff Knott, Head of Nature Policy, RSPB
- Amanda Anderson, Director, The Moorland Association
- Liam Stokes, Head of Shooting, The Countryside Alliance
During the evidence session the Countryside Alliance and Moorland Association pointed out the many economic, environmental and social benefits that grouse moor management brings to the uplands.
The first half of the evidence session consisted of Dr Mark Avery and Jeff Knott being questioned by Parliamentarians. Dr Avery was repeatedly not able to answer questions from the panel about why on a number of moors where grouse shooting stopped the population of grouse, hen harriers and other raptors declined.
During the debate Amanda Anderson said:
“Over £1 million is invested every week in wildlife management by Moorland managers. If grouse shooting were to be banned, this would be lost.
“I have seen many examples of grouse shooting having a significant ripple effect providing a number of economic and social benefits to isolated rural communities. It is important that this is taken into consideration”
Liam Stokes said:
“As well as having a number of economic and environmental benefits, the social benefits should not be underestimated. Grouse shooting plays a key role in bringing people together in remote rural communities combating rural isolation.”
Following the evidence session, Head of Shooting at the Countryside Alliance, Liam Stokes, commented:
“The evidence session provided the ideal opportunity to spell out the many benefits associated with grouse moor management and dispel some of the myths.
“No one is denying that there is hard work to be done to secure the future of the hen harrier, but the session made it very clear that licensing or banning grouse shooting is no part of the answer. Those looking to ban driven grouse shooting showed they have no idea what would replace it or what impact this would have on the uplands, their communities or their wildlife.
“The manufactured support that led to the petition to ban driven grouse shooting being signed by 100,000 people is not reflective of the true priorities of the British public. It was achieved through the support of animal rights organisations and with the help of Mark Avery’s friend Chris Packham, who used the platform provided to him by the BBC to actively promote the petition.”
Director of the Moorland Association, Amanda Anderson, said:
“I welcomed the opportunity to make clear the wide-ranging and complex regulations which custodians of grouse moors already observe.”
She added: “I simply didn’t recognise the picture of declining habitats which the RSPB and Dr Avery tried to present. The fact is that working in partnership with government and other stakeholders the custodians of grouse moors are regenerating peatlands and conserving heather moorland and the many species which thrive in these precious habitats.”