Countryside Alliance’s Director of Shooting Adrian Blackmore writes:

The drive for agricultural intensification has left heather moorland in poor condition throughout mainland Europe, with both Sweden and Denmark losing 60-70% and the Netherlands 95% of their total, since the 19th century. Only upland Britain has retained a substantial proportion of this globally threatened habitat, and this now accounts for 75% of all that remains worldwide. It is for this reason the 1992 Rio Convention on Biodiversity ratified the global importance of UK heather moorland, and it is our duty to protect it.

All the evidence suggests that grouse shooting and its associated management practices have been responsible for saving this valuable habitat. Recent figures produced by Natural England show that some 44,500 acres of heather moorland have been repaired and revegetated across the North of England, all on land managed for grouse shooting.  The moorland has also been ‘rewetted’ by the blocking of drains that were paid for by consecutive governments in the 1960s and 70s in order to improve the grazing for sheep and cattle. The guardianship of this rare habitat therefore comes at minimal cost to the taxpayer, yet brings enormous environmental, economic and social benefits.

Our grouse moors are far too important to be threatened by false facts and prejudices, but with the increasing power of social media the threats are real. The Countryside Alliance exists both to promote and defend grouse shooting and its associated management practices – in Parliament, in the media, and on the ground. During last year’s inquiry and debate into driven grouse shooting, which was triggered by a Parliamentary online petition calling for the sport to be banned, we coordinated work in Westminster and, working alongside other shooting organisations, ensured that the Government and MPs were fully briefed on the enormous contribution that grouse shooting makes to the economy and management of the uplands. Thanks to our supporters in Parliament, we were able to turn the debate into an opportunity to promote the value of shooting and grouse moor management.

We are now actively challenging calls for Bradford Council to ban grouse shooting and its associated management practices on Ilkley Moor, a moor that won the Purdey Award for conservation in 2015. This call is being led by a convicted animal rights campaigner, with the support of BBC presenter Chris Packham and other ‘public’ faces. The local MP, who is a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, has also given his support to the ban, and we have therefore written to invite him to visit Ilkley Moor so that he can meet constituents, and hear about the management that is carried out.

Whilst management practices can, and do change, over time, it is important that those seeking changes to the status quo are able to produce evidence of the net gains of their alternative solutions to grouse shooting, whatever those might be. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has stated that there are three dimensions to the core of mainstream sustainability; environmental, social and economic. Anyone proposing a change must therefore address all three of these before any changes can be made. So far, those calling for a ban, whether it was during the Westminster Hall debate, or in calls to Bradford Council, have failed to do so.

Grouse shooting is not about just landowners, employees, or individual interests – it is about whole communities. This is something that can be all too often overlooked, either intentionally or through ignorance, by that vocal minority that wish to see an end to it.

Adrian Blackmore
Director of Shooting
Follow the Campaign for Shooting @CA_Shooting