22/6/2021

MPs get to grips with driven grouse shooting – what happened in the debate

Grousedebate

5 minute read

By James Swyer, GWCT Head of Press & Publications

“What is not clear is that banning driven grouse shooting would be good for the environment: in fact, I think that, on balance, it would be harmful”, said Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich as he drew Monday’s Westminster Hall debate on the future of driven grouse shooting to a close. Across an hour and a half, members of Parliament shared their views on the Wild Justice petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

As previously highlighted, the debate is almost a direct copy of that debated at length in 2016 and this did not escape the attention of MPs, with one noting that “there is probably less support than there was four years ago”. Despite the similarity of the petitions, the focus was slightly different, with increased focus on two issues that have become even more important in the intervening years – wildfires and employment.

The economic forecast for life without driven grouse shooting painted by several members was incredibly bleak, with MPs from both England and Scotland citing reviews into the important financial role it plays in isolated and fragile communities.

Many of the criticisms of grouse shooting as played out on social media and within the petition were given a firm rebuttal, with members criticising the petition’s ‘blindness to the positive impacts’ and highlighting a lack of understanding in the petition’s premise.

Jonathan Djanogly stated that “it is unfortunate that the premise of the petition lacks the understanding—or perhaps the willingness to acknowledge—that grouse shooting is all about working with the environment” and Dave Doogan, the sole representative from Scotland, going further and saying that he found the petition’s title “a little troublesome, because it gives the sense that if I do not see things in exactly the same way as others see them, I am somehow wilfully blind. That is not a very appropriate start to such an important and nuanced debate.”

To open the debate, Kerry McCarthy read out sections of her discussion with one of the petitioners, Chris Packham, and stated “I don’t accept the conservation argument”, calling the benefits of grouse shooting ‘dubious’. In consideration of those who campaigned for a ban, she also said “the people who manage the moorlands have not been prepared to meet them halfway and to address some of the issues—for example, hen harrier persecution”, before the rising numbers of chicks was brought to her attention.

Greg Smith also challenged notion of moors being bad for biodiversity, noting that “far from being barren landscapes, they are wildlife havens.” He also stated that “if we want to prevent and reduce those [wildfire] emissions, controlled firebreaks are a necessary part of our toolkit”, challenging many of the arguments those opposed to grouse shooting hold dear.

The lack of a credible alternative on offer also drew reproach, with Tom Hunt pointing out that “I did not come across any evidence that said that an alternative use would promote better natural capital than the unique environment that we are dealing with here” and Greg Smith noting that “Those calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting need to set out a viable alternative—an alternative vision for our uplands.”

One area of consensus was the managed nature of our landscape. Those on both sides of the debate drew attention to this, noting that “humans have shaped our environment for generations”, that “almost all our landscapes are managed” and that “grouse moors are not natural landscapes”. While the final claim seems intended as a criticism, as David Simmonds noted “where we humans have created an ecosystem, we have a responsibility to manage it.”

When it came to the benefit of these landscapes to biodiversity, GWCT research came to the fore. Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, cited the GWCT Peatland Report and well as the vast array of birdlife on Spaunton Moor, as managed by working conservationist George Winn-Darley.

Wildlife crime was also highlighted by several participants, first by Kerry McCarthy, but also by Kevin Hollinrake, Dave Doogan and Olivia Blake.

“An act of environmental, ecological and economic vandalism”

This was not a description of driven grouse shooting, as the petitioners might have hoped, but rather what bringing forth a ban on the practice might be. Robert Goodwill, whose Scarborough and Whitby constituency is home to grouse moors, substantiated his claim by describing the fragile habitat moorland management sustains, local populations of red-listed birds such as merlin and the important role that controlled burning can have on wildfire prevention.

It was noticeable quite how many participants gave their unequivocal opposition to a ban. Of these, David Simmons claimed that “It seems clear to me that the proposed ban is likely to produce a net disadvantage to our environment and our biodiversity, and must therefore be opposed”, while Dave Doogan spoke of his experience north of the border and that “any demand for outright bans on established economic models, with the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents at risk, leaves me very concerned”.

Rebecca Pow, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, gave her assessment of the debate, highlighting that “the activity of grouse shooting does indeed bring jobs to the area … it also brings investment to some of the remotest areas of the country, particularly in the north of England.”

Her comments were echoed by Tom Hunt in closing, who noted that “what is very clear is that banning it would seem to provide very little gain for a great deal of pain, and from what I can see the pain would be in those isolated rural communities. The people paying the greatest cost would not be the richest; they would be the very people who, right now, we should be thinking about helping.”

The grouse debate in numbers

  • 111,965 – signed the petition to ban driven grouse shooting (0.2% of adult population)
  • 90 minutes – Petitions Committee debate in Westminster Hall (watch it in full here)
  • 13 MPs – spoke in the debate
  • 13,627 – words spoken at the debate (read the online Hansard here)

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Comments

Grouse moors debate

at 21:40 on 22/06/2021 by Claire Bellamy

I want to thank everyone who has dedicated there time to write down the facts about grouse moors, I have only been living in the Scottish Borders for five years. Until then I had never seen a mountain hare. Until I first visited a grouse moor, I couldn’t believe the array of wildlife, mountain hares moving in front of you and red listed birds in abundance. Amazing listening to the calls of lapwings, curlews and golden plover. Also the money that the grouse moors bring into the local community can not be ignored. Also the amount of people employed not just beat keepers it is a whole infrastructure of people from gardeners to cooks, house keepers cleaners, builders, painters. The list is never ending. Local employment for just one estate. I just want Mark Avery and wild justice to leave it to the experts and except these keepers of driven grouse shooting are custodian’s to our countryside.

Driven grouse shooting

at 18:26 on 22/06/2021 by Patrick McCanlis

A very interesting debate & there can be no doubt that managed heather moorlands have significantly greater numbers of the birds we , & surely the likes of Packham, love so much, namely the curlew & lapwing in particular. Allowing the landscape to just go wild would become a major fire hazard, we have lived in a managed countryside for a thousand years, & long may that continue without interference largely from those who have a political agenda.

Grouse Moors

at 13:12 on 22/06/2021 by Terry Armstrong

I'm sure Mr. Packham and his friends' hearts are in the right place, but, would they be willing to contribute toward the cost of keeping the grouse moors in the superb and varied condition it has taken 150 years for the generations of custodians and land workers to bring it to in the present day, if they got their wish to disband the systems now in place. .Do they not see that the whole infrastructure would collapse without the hard work and dedication of the people who are employed {and all of the folk who aren't} to keep the moors bursting with the diversity of wildlife that the proper management encourages? I don't see them offering an alternative. .

driven grouse moors

at 10:47 on 22/06/2021 by geoffrey van Cutsem

There can be no doubt from visual evidence or if necessary by formal counting that keepered moors have a far far greater amount of rare birds,such as Curlew,Golden plover,Dunlin,Ptarmigan,Black Grouse,Merlins etc and mountain hares or brown hares on them, due to lack of predation, as result of legal controls by keepers at no cost to the tax payer,than non keepered moors including those controlled by the R.S.P.B. .Further more small sized heather burns which ensure the long term future of healthy heather,will trap more carbon than non burnt moors where the rank heather will get to a stage where it breaks up and is prone to massive fires of a hot burn nature at huge cost to the tax payer and damage to wild life. Heather is a far more efficient means of carbon retention than forestry which takes years before the trees retain carbon compared to heather..

driven grouse moors

at 10:47 on 22/06/2021 by geoffrey van Cutsem

There can be no doubt from visual evidence or if necessary by formal counting that keepered moors have a far far greater amount of rare birds,such as Curlew,Golden plover,Dunlin,Ptarmigan,Black Grouse,Merlins etc and mountain hares or brown hares on them, due to lack of predation, as result of legal controls by keepers at no cost to the tax payer,than non keepered moors including those controlled by the R.S.P.B. .Further more small sized heather burns which ensure the long term future of healthy heather,will trap more carbon than non burnt moors where the rank heather will get to a stage where it breaks up and is prone to massive fires of a hot burn nature at huge cost to the tax payer and damage to wild life. Heather is a far more efficient means of carbon retention than forestry which takes years before the trees retain carbon compared to heather..

Heather Moors

at 10:38 on 22/06/2021 by P. S. Longbottom

Without driven grouse shooting, the quality of the ling heather would deteriorate and become general scrub. One of the delights of ling heather moor, apart from the purple hue in due season, is the abundance of the nectar which bees benefit from at a time when other sources are becoming scarce and there is a need to harvest winter stores. And best of all is the unique and epicurean Heather honey which commands prices which make beekeeping worthwhile for the professional, and a rich bonus to the amateur's friends and relations.

Grouse shooting debate The science prevails

at 9:44 on 22/06/2021 by Simon kibble

James good to read your notes on the debate from yesterday. I like many others watched the full debate and i have to say the Speakers did an excellent job in putting the message across in a manner which was very factual and robust. It will be interesting to see what is quoted by wild justice on the follow up in particular words of mark avery .. I would like to thank the trust for its work along with other organisations in getting the message across to all parties which in my eyes ( not blinded)brought about a very just outcome. All the "moor" important is to educate those that have been brainwashed by this ongoing campaign. Shame on them ! Our moors need us.

Grouse debate

at 7:31 on 22/06/2021 by Felix Appelbe

Many years of practical research by both GWCT and RSPB have proved that there are more red listed birds on moors that are keepered than those that not . In the debate where were the keepers who live and work on the moors every day rather than those in London ?

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