Countryside unites to see off bid to ban driven grouse shooting
The government has dismissed calls for driven grouse shooting to be banned following a debate at Westminster Hall on October 31.
The debate, introduced by Steve Double MP and chaired by Phillip Davies MP, was triggered following the signing of a 123,077-strong e-petition raised by former RSPB conservation director Mark Avery earlier this year. Though not part of any legislative process, the debate provided the opportunity for those involved in and affected by driven grouse shooting to have their side of the argument heard. A range of issues including heather burning and the hen harrier action plan were discussed during the three-hour-long session.
MPS including Sir Nicholas Soames, Countryside Alliance chairman Simon Hart and Jim Shannon turned out in force for the debate, backed by evidence from leading rural bodies and from a wide range of stakeholders whose livelihoods are affected by driven grouse shooting. Of all MPS who spoke not one called for the sport to be banned.
During the debate the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, Dr Thérèse Coffey, said: "This is not a binary debate. The government wants to see a vibrant working countryside that is enhanced by a biodiverse environment. The uplands are a treasured asset prized by people for their tranquillity, quiet enjoyment, inspirational nature and recreation. They are also a vital source for goods and services, particularly food and drinking water, and make a major contribution to overall livestock production in the UK.
“Central to the provision of services and assets that the uplands provide is the active management of the land by farmers, landowners and land managers. Successful upland policy is dependent on upland communities, particularly farmers and land managers, whose rural businesses are fundamental to the rural economy and whose role in managing the land in the long term will ultimately determine the value of the environmental outcomes.”
Following the debate, a spokesman for the NGO said: “On behalf of our members throughout the uplands, we would like to thank sincerely all those many MPS who took the time and trouble to demolish the arguments of those who argued for a ban. Grouse shooting, quite literally, held the high ground in the debate, in both the weight of the evidence and the strength of the science that were put forward to support the practice of driven grouse shooting. It was a tour de force in the demonstration of a forensic dissection of a weak and ill-judged petition.”
Peter Glenser, the chairman of BASC, said: “BASC was delighted by the quality of the well-informed debate and very grateful to all those who ensured that MPS understood the truth. In particular, a number of other rural organisations worked tirelessly in the months leading up to the evidence hearing and this week’s debate and they should be congratulated for their efforts.
“We should make no bones about it; shooting, not just grouse shooting, was under attack in the build up to this debate. But it was inspiring to see the way those who live and work within in the countryside, and those with a passion for the countryside, united to fight off this attack.”
Liam Stokes, head of shooting campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “We’re pleased the government has acknowledged the value of grouse shooting and I know that all those involved in grouse shooting will be heartened by the overwhelming support from Parliamentarians.
“Where there are issues that need addressing in managing our uplands the answer is cooperation within upland communities to find solutions, not unjustified legislation imposed from Westminster. This campaign against grouse shooting has been unnecessarily divisive, driving wedges between groups that should be working together. We are all united in our desire to see an end to the illegal killing of raptors, and must speak with one voice saying that even one occurrence is too many. Everyone now needs to put this acrimony behind us and focus on working together to deliver the best possible outcomes for moorland species and communities.”
MPS defended the social, ecological and economic benefits of driven grouse shooting.