by Adrian Blackmore

Writing for the Yorkshire Post, our Director of Shooting Adrian Blackmore, made the economic and environmental case for grouse shooting, in response to Wild Justice.

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Heather moorland is rarer than tropical rainforest and globally threatened, with 75 percent of that remaining found in Britain. It is a habitat of international importance, and it is thanks to its management for grouse shooting that this unique landscape has been conserved, where elsewhere it has been lost to over grazing and encroaching bracken. It is our duty to protect it, and improvements to its management continue to be made on the basis of scientific evidence and principle, with stakeholders working together. Despite this, Wild Justice, co-founded by Chris Packham and Mark Avery, want driven grouse shooting to be banned.

Grouse shooting and the management that goes alongside it plays an essential role in maintaining and protecting our rare upland habitats. It is no coincidence that more than 60 percent of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest are managed grouse moors, and over 40 percent are also designated as Special Protection Areas (SPA) for rare birds and Special Areas of Conservation for rare vegetation under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. The income from driven grouse shooting helps offset the considerable costs that are privately invested in their management, and without the income from shooting that investment would cease. When this happens the consequences for wildlife are devastating, as was seen in the Berwyn SPA in North Wales. Welsh grouse moors were once some of the most successful in the UK, supporting an abundance of other wild birds, but when that management ceased they went into serious, and irreversible, decline. In just 20 years, golden plover declined by 90 percent, curlew by 79 percent, ring ouzel by 80 percent, and black grouse by 78 percent. Lapwing became locally extinct. Both curlew and lapwing are red-listed by the British Trust for Ornithology, and the curlew has been described by the RSPB as the UK’s species of highest conservation priority. These are facts that are backed up by scientific research; not sweeping, unfounded and all too often misleading claims by those that wish to see an end to grouse shooting, and as a result, an end to this crucial management of our uplands

And it is not just wildlife that would suffer. So too would the livelihoods of many of those that live in remote upland communities where grouse shooting plays a pivotal role in the local economy, providing a valuable source of jobs and income for local businesses, underpinning the social life of these communities, and helping to tackle rural isolation. Crucially, Mr Packham and Dr Avery have not even put forward a viable alternative vision for our uplands that takes regard of the environmental, economic and social dimensions; the core features of ‘sustainability’ that have been identified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Each one of those dimensions needs to be addressed by anyone looking at changing the status quo, with any alternative land use being at least as beneficial as that currently in place. To be calling for a ban without having first put forward a viable alternative is nothing short of irresponsible.

In 2016, a petition to ban driven grouse shooting was launched by Mark Avery. It was promoted by Chris Packham, and resulted in a debate on grouse shooting and its associated moorland management being held in Parliament. That debate was proceeded by a joint evidence session held by the Petitions Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee during which it was made abundantly clear that the available evidence did not support the deliberately misleading attacks that were being made on grouse shooting. The debate ended up being a clear rebuttal of anti-shooting prejudice and propaganda.

Since then, new evidence has only strengthened the case for grouse shooting and its considerable environmental, economic and social benefits. However, ignoring the science, Wild Justice has continued to make the same unsubstantiated claims, and launched a repeat petition last year. There will now be yet another debate in Parliament: ‘Ban Driven Grouse Shooting: Wilful blindness is no longer an option’, which will be taking place on Monday 21 June 2021.

It is essential that this ideologically driven campaign against grouse shooting, which is just part of a wider agenda to destroy the rural way of life, our rural communities, and much of our most treasured wildlife and landscapes, is challenged robustly. This is not a game; far too much is at risk environmentally, economically and socially.  This issue must be debated on the facts and peer reviewed science; not on accusations motivated by a wider anti-shooting agenda and driven by misplaced emotion and mere sentiment.

This article first appeared in the Yorkshire Post

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