Why we're asking Yorkshire Water to ban grouse shooting

Banning Driven Grouse Shooting has always been a campaign priority for the League. According to the shooting industry, 700,000 grouse are killed every year, all in the name of ‘sport’.

But it’s not just important to the League; people who live near shoots have to put up with death, destruction and the sounds of gunfire ringing across the valley’s every year. They want it to come to an end too. Which is why we have teamed up with local campaign group Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, who earlier this year successfully achieved a ban of grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor, the last council owned to lease grouse shooting.

I spoke to Luke Steele, spokesperson for the group, about why the campaign is so important.

Let's start with the obvious question: What is grouse shooting and why should it be banned?

Grouse shooting involves shooting large numbers of birds for sport, with moorland managed in a way which engineers the maximum number of birds attainable for the guns. Wild animals – including foxes, stoats, weasels, mountain hares and corvids – are trapped and shot in large numbers to stop them from consuming or disturbing red grouse.

Burning is also deployed as a widespread tool of grouse moor management to increase heather growth and subsequently game bird numbers. This causes damage to peatland habitat, depleting biodiversity, polluting water and contributing to flood risk in the valleys below moorland. The artificially dry conditions this creates has recently been attributed to providing conditions which allow wildfires to rapidly take hold.

What is Yorkshire Water’s involvement in grouse shooting?

Yorkshire Water leases 13 sections of moorland across North, South and West Yorkshire for grouse shooting to the detriment of wildlife, habitat and the economy of local communities.

Despite the company’s claims to provide the best environmental outcomes on its land, decomposing animals have been left to rot in jaw-like traps set to boost grouse numbers for shooting parties. Rare peatland habitat has also been damaged through burning – a practice undertaken to engineer unnaturally high red grouse numbers – the construction of shooting butts, and by vehicles conveying shooting parties across the moor

The League Against Cruel Sports and Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors are urging the company to become the environmental champion it espouses to be by dropping grouse shooting from its moors.

Campaigning against grouse shooting in Bradford

If I'm reading this and I’m a customer of Yorkshire Water, what does this mean for me?

As a customer of Yorkshire Water you are in a unique position to influence the company’s direction, including how its resources managed on behalf of those who use the utility businesses’ services are used. You can order postcards from the League to send to Yorkshire Water CEO Richard Flint, urging the company to maintain its upland estate for wildlife and habitat conservation, instead of harmful grouse shooting.

Can moorland be managed successfully without grouse shooting?

There are many landowners who prohibit grouse shooting on their moorland estates, having previously permitted it, and now successfully maintain the land using other methods. This includes the Sheffield Moors Partnership, Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park and Fylingdales Moor, which collectively host an array of wildlife including hen harrier, curlew, merlin, ring ouzel and owls.

The RSPB Dove Stone Reserve in Greater Manchester, which sits on the edge of the Peak District National Park, is home to many specialist birds including curlew, lapwing, golden plover, peregrine falcon and raven. Dovestone has made some remarkable achievements in increasing the breeding populations of red- and amber-listed waders through restoration of peat bogs. The reserve now hosts 50 pairs of dunlin – up from only 7 pairs in 2004, 110 pairs of golden plover – up from 59 pairs in 2004, and 36 pairs of curlew – up from 27 in 2010.

Every moorland-owning local authority and half of all utility companies in the North of England do not permit grouse shooting on their land, setting successful precedents for Yorkshire Water to follow.

Let's say I live below a Yorkshire Water grouse moor. What can I do?

If you suspect or witness wildlife persecution, damage to habitat or hold any other information relating to grouse shooting on Yorkshire Water moorland, please report it to our Crimewatch hotline.

Has there been any progress towards a grouse shooting ban?

Yorkshire Water has ordered removal of fox snares and a ‘stink pit’ – a heap of rotting carcasses of wild-animals, aimed at enticing opportunistic mammals in to their deaths – on sections of moorland it leases for grouse shooting across the region.

There is increasing pressure from the company to build on this commendable first step, by following the example of nearby Bradford Council, which ended grouse shooting on its land earlier this year. Over 7,000 people have contacted the company’s CEO since the start of the campaign, thousands of leaflets distributed across the county and forced the company to defend its position in the media.

Alright, I want to help stop grouse shooting on Yorkshire Water moors. What can I do?

• Add your name to our campaign petition, which sends an email to Yorkshire Water’s CEO every time signed.
• Send or distribute campaign postcards, which can be ordered from the League. E-mail campaign@league.org.uk
Join protests and outreach days, which are being held across Yorkshire throughout the summer.

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