Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

The Countryside Alliance has long been warning about the resurgence of animal rights campaigning online, and the curlew of Ilkley Moor might be about to become the latest casualties of this. Despite the best efforts of the Countryside Alliance and the Bingley Moor Partnership (BMP), the Labour Group of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (BMDC) has voted to end the grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor, the last publicly owned grouse moor in the country. This result has ramifications for local people, wildlife, and for the politics of defending the countryside.

In the teeth of a coordinated animal rights campaign, spearheaded by the BBC’s Chris Packham and convicted animal rights campaigner Luke Steele, the Labour Group have voted against renewing the lease. The BMP has managed Ilkley Moor for a decade, putting tens of thousands of pounds into its management and conservation. The management of Ilkley Moor will now either cease, as is the worry of local residents we have heard from, or will now have to be paid for by the council taxpayer. Previous Labour Administrations have voted to renew management, but it seems this current crop of Labour councillors have taken a different view.

Local MP John Grogan perhaps summed up the naïve hopes of the Labour Councillors when he told local press that while he supported shooting on private land, he thought it was inappropriate on public land. Mr Grogan will now be learning a valuable lesson, one all MPs should learn; animal rights activists are never satisfied. Having secured the end of shooting on public land, the campaign that lobbied BMDC into this decision are now calling for an end to grouse shooting across Yorkshire.

Of course, any real conservationists would want to know how such a drastic change of management is going to impact the wildlife at Ilkley before calling for this change to be implemented more widely. But animal rights activists are not conservationists, they are ideologues. It is left to us to call for the BMDC to be held to account for their decision. Any true conservationist will join the Countryside Alliance in demanding that BMDC not only replicate every penny of investment that the BMP has been putting into Ilkley, but they also pay for effective wildlife monitoring as they implement this politically-motivated change. There are internationally-significant populations of curlew and other threatened species of ground nesting bird on Ilkley Moor, and the public deserves to know what happens to them.

The campaign against driven grouse shooting, faltering as it is, thinks the world would be a better place without the management BMP put into Ilkley. We know they are wrong, as we’ve seen at Langholm, at Otterburn and in the Berwyn Hills, but it seems some people have forgotten those lessons; ones they are about to learn again.

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow me at @CA_TimB