by Countryside Alliance

Rural campaigners have today launched a campaign to protect local moorlands from ‘extremist attacks’ after it was revealed animal rights campaigners were lobbying Yorkshire Water not to renew the shooting lease on Thornton Moor.

The review, which was announced by Yorkshire Water last week, will consider whether to continue allowing the shooting of grouse and partridge on moorland next to Ogden Water Nature Reserve when the lease ends later this year.

The Countryside Alliance, which has thousands of members across Yorkshire, accused the anti-shooting group ‘Wild Moors’ of running a ‘divisive campaign based on misinformation’.

Adrian Blackmore, Director of the Campaign or Shooting, said: “Luke Steele, a convicted animal rights extremist and head of Wild Moors, is behind the campaign to see an end to the shooting lease on Thornton Moor, and we have every reason to believe that this will be just the first of many attempts to stop shooting on land owned by Yorkshire Water. Our moorlands are under threat from attack based on misinformation and bias, and it is essential that any decisions are taken based on the considerable scientific research and evidence that is available. It is therefore vital that the rural community stands together to counter the attempts by Wild Moors and others to get Yorkshire Water not to renew the shooting lease on Thornton Moor.

He added: “Yorkshire Water must not be allowed to be influenced by this vocal minority, but rather allow shooting and its associated management to continue, having taken account of all available science and evidence which supports their continuation”.

The Countryside Alliance have set up an online e-lobby campaign that is open to members of the public, and which urges Yorkshire Water ‘not to be taken in by Wild Moors’ campaign of misinformation, and instead take note of all available science and evidence which fully supports the renewal of the shooting lease on Thornton Moor’.

The lobby states that: ‘Heather moorland is a habitat of international importance. It is our duty to protect it, and it is widely recognised that grouse shooting has been instrumental in doing so. It is no coincidence that 70% of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest are managed grouse moors, and over 40% are also designated as Special Protection Areas for rare birds and Special Areas of Conservation for rare vegetation, the highest designations under European wildlife directives.’

Responding to claims by Mr Steele that peat on the moor is being burned by gamekeepers, the Alliance said: ‘If left unmanaged, heather becomes a severe fire risk, and the devastation caused by wildfires is considerable, destroying wildlife and habitats, and exposing the underlying peat to the atmosphere causing the release of carbon dioxide. The careful management of heather is therefore essential to help preserve the carbon locked up in the underlying peat, and prevent the outbreak of wildfires, the majority of which, unsurprisingly, occur on moorland that is not managed for grouse shooting. The claim by Wild Moors that peat is being burned by gamekeepers is simply not true, as that is what they are trying to prevent.

It further adds: ‘The most recent scientific research, which has been ignored by Wild Moors, found that: the controlled ‘cool’ burning of heather, as carried out by gamekeepers, can have a positive effect on carbon capture; the loss of controlled burning in the USA led to declines in bird life and an increase in damaging wildfires; environmentally important sphagnum moss recovers quickly; and the greenhouse gas emissions from controlled burning are insignificant when compare to emissions from wildfires.’ 

The e-lobby, ‘Protect our moorlands from extremists attacks’ is now live and can be found here. The Alliance has also been in contact with both the Chief Executive and Head of Corporate Affairs of Yorkshire Water, as well as with relevant MPs over this issue. 

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