by Countryside Alliance

In an open letter to The Times, Adrian Blackmore has responded to an opinion piece by Rod Liddle which was published in the Sunday Times on 24th April 2022.

Sir,

It is not the first time that Rod Liddle has been accused of being as untroubled by facts as by logic (‘Our Countryside’s withering under an influx of proles and an onslaught of toffs’, Sunday Times 24 April). I do not know whether he thinks he is being clever or funny, but his comments on grouse shooting are neither.

His claims reveal either a woeful ignorance, or a total disregard for reality, and are sadly nothing short of being a diatribe of rubbish.  Grouse moor management has played a key role in creating and maintaining an upland landscape of international importance. It preserves and improves heather habitat and peatland, sustains some of our rarest plants and wildlife, and promotes biodiversity.

It is no coincidence that 75% of Europe’s upland heather is found in the UK, and it is because of management for grouse shooting that more than 60 percent of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest are managed grouse moors, and over 40 percent have also been designated as Special Protection Areas for rare birds and Special Areas of Conservation for rare vegetation under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

The controlled burning of heather ensures that there is a mixture of older heather for protection and nesting, younger heather for feeding, and a fresh burn where regrowth is just starting. It creates many micro habitats to ensure that the widest possible range of biodiversity, from insects to reptiles, and mammals to birds, have the full range of habitats they require.

The lawful control of predators such as foxes, carrion crows, stoats and weasels benefits not just grouse, but also many other species of ground nesting birds, including red listed species of the highest conservation concern, such as black grouse, lapwing, skylark, curlew, grey partridge, and the UK’s smallest bird of prey, the merlin. Peer reviewed scientific research has shown that on moors managed for grouse shooting, ground nesting birds such as curlew and lapwing, are 3.5 times more likely to successfully raise chicks. Mr Liddle also appears to have overlooked the combined total of some 16.2 million people that flock to the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Parks each year, to relish the landscape and biodiversity that has been created as a result of grouse shooting.

Adrian Blackmore
Director of the Campaign for Shooting, Countryside Alliance

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