The Beginning of the end for grouse shooting

The League Against Cruel Sports and Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors (BBYM) led a rally in Bradford, the hometown for Yorkshire Water, calling for an end to driven grouse shooting. Organised to co-incide with the start of the grouse shooting season Norfolk Gardens, outside the town hall, was crowded with compassionate people calling for Yorkshire Water to “pull the plug on grouse shooting” on moors that it owns. 

Yorkshire Water rally, Bradford, 10th August

Yorkshire Water is the largest landowner in the country and leases 11 sections of moorland for grouse shooting, which has devastating consequences for animal welfare, the environment and local communities.  More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to end, and I would like to personally thank all those who came to the event.

Not only was I joined by our wonderful supporters, but I shared a platform with BBYM’s Luke Steele and the wonderful Emmerdale actor Nick Miles, who shared his story of moving to the Yorkshire Dales and witnessing the destruction of wildlife first-hand. I spoke about how 700,000 grouse are shot every season across the UK for ‘sport’, but that just one is too many.

The League is not the only one shining a light on the malpractice on Britain’s grouse moors. Last week, the Labour Party has renewed its calls for a review on grouse shooting. This move has been labelled an ‘attack’ by the shooting industry. Why use such words? A review is a perfectly reasonable request, so why feel so threatened unless you have something to hide?

Perhaps it has something to do with the widespread wildlife crime that underpins driven grouse shooting. The fact that Hen Harriers are being driven to extinction in England, with raptors disappearing almost exclusively over grouse moors.

It is a problem that is acknowledged as far up as Natural England, but what is being done about it? Given the widespread acknowledgement that grouse shooting is responsible for extensive bird of prey persecution, has it been banned? No. Instead, Natural England has issued licenses to carry out something that would normally be illegal: brood meddling. In simple terms, chicks are being relocated from the wild, to be reared in captivity and released elsewhere. Instead of dealing with the root cause of the killing/persecution of these majestic birds, they are being moved out of the firing line and away from grouse moors. There is a word for that. Appeasement.

It’s not just airborne predators that the shooting industry has set in its sights. Traps litter the land, maiming and killing all creatures great and small including foxes, badgers, hare, stoats, weasels and in some cases domestic pets. These animals are killed because they compete with grouse, are thought to inhibit their numbers or may predate on them. It’s the circle of life. It is a morbid irony that this is clearly unacceptable to the gamekeeper who needs those grouse alive…so he can charge armed customers to kill them for ‘fun’.

And who is paying for this wildlife destruction? You are. An investigation by Who Owns England uncovered that 61 estates covering a vast 380,517 acres raked in £10,983,718 in EU farming subsidies via the Common Agricultural Policy. This money is supposed to be used to support our farming industry and genuine conservation, so why is £10m of tax payer’s money being funnelled into estates used for blood sport?

Following the rally in Bradford, the League joined over 1,500 people in Derbyshire at Hen Harrier Day, organised by Wild Justice. Wild Justice is comprised of wildlife campaigners Ruth Tingay, Mark Avery and Chris Packham, all of whom are formidable advocates for wildlife. The League has worked with all of these individuals in the past, perhaps most notably when in 2016, together with Mark Avery, the League secured the first ever parliamentary debate on driven grouse shooting. It won’t be the last.

Nick Weston and Chris Packham at Hen Harrier Day 2019

Chris Packham has launched a petition to ban driven grouse shooting, please sign it

Hen Harrier Day was an inspiring event, as we witnessed speeches from all three co-directors of Wild Justice, Badger trust CEO Dominic Dyer, former Green Party Leader Natalie Bennet, representatives of RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the local rural crime team. All of which were unified in the belief that driven grouse shooting is a plague on our countryside.

Which brings me back to Yorkshire Water. With all of the above taken into consideration, why continue to prop up this animal abuse? Thousands of animals are being killed on Yorkshire Water land, and they have the power to stop it.

I say they stop it now.

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