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Labour demands review into driven grouse shooting

Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, Sue Hayman MP, will today call for a review into ‘driven’ grouse shooting – which the next Labour government will launch, if the Conservatives refuse. Today (12 August), is known as the Glorious Twelfth – or the Inglorious Twelfth to animal rights and environmental campaigners – and marks the beginning of the four-month grouse shooting season.

The proposed review would consider viable alternatives to driven grouse shooting, including simulated shooting and wildlife tourism. It would also examine the economic and environmental impacts of driven grouse shooting, which is the most common mode of hunting grouse.

Labour is calling for the review in light of extensive evidence that driven grouse shooting causes substantial environmental damage:

·       Grouse moors cover 550,000 acres of the UK, an area equivalent to the size of Greater London.

·       Earlier this year, as happens annually, much of that land was drained and dried out to prepare it for grouse shooting, destroying huge swathes of plant life and killing many animals.

·       This process also exacerbates climate change by destroying plantlife and peat moors that would otherwise absorb and capture carbon dioxide emissions.

·       Moors are often also burned to ready them for shooting, increasing the likelihood of both wildfires and flooding, emitting further carbon emissions and dramatically reducing their capacity to capture carbon in the future. 

·       In preparation for driven grouse shooting, mountain hares and hen harriers are often illegally culled.

·       The RSPB describes hen harriers, which sometimes feed on grouse, as ‘the most intensively persecuted … of the UK’s birds of prey’, resulting in them being on ‘the edge of extinction in England.’

Despite such environmental damage, the ten largest English grouse moors are paid more than £3 million in farm subsidies every year.

Labour’s demand for a review will be included in the Party’s comprehensive Animal Welfare Manifesto, which will be launched at the end of August.

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, said:

“The costs of grouse shooting on our environment and wildlife needs to be to properly weighed up against the benefit of land owners profiting from shooting parties.

“For too long the Tories have bent the knee to land owners and it’s our environment and our people who pay the price.

“There are viable alternatives to grouse shooting such as simulated shooting and wildlife tourism. The time has come for a proper review into the practice.”


Notes to Editors

·       The UK has already had more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record. More than 100 firefighters battled wildfires over the Easter weekend across Illkley Moor and Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire. The total area burned by 23 April 2019 was 17,199 hectares, almost on a par with the highs of 2018 and 2011, but with eight months of the year left to go. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2200502-the-uk-has-already-had-more-wildfires-in-2019-than-any-year-on-record/

·       Driven shooting involves a row of people (beaters) walking and pushing the grouse in front of them over a line of guns concealed in grouse butts.

·       Large areas of blanket bog and dwarf shrub heath (including on specially-protected sites), are drained and dried, in many places intensively, to maximise the number of grouse available for shooting across parts of the English and Scottish uplands.

·       According to Who Owns England (Guy Shrubsole, 2019), grouse moors cover 550,000 acres, an area equivalent to the size of Greater London. This is the Who Owns England map of the owners of grouse moor estates in England: http://grousemoors.whoownsengland.org/

·       The RSPB describes hen harriers as ‘the most intensively persecuted … of the UK’s birds of prey’, having been ‘Harried to the edge of extinction in England.’ https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/hen-harrier/#gX55Cxfm7zv7kYpg.99

·       Grouse moor estates have received £3,229,407 in farm subsidies https://whoownsengland.org/2018/08/12/revealed-the-aristocrats-and-city-bankers-who-own-englands-grouse-moors/

·       Hunting parties range from £17,500 to £23,250

·       Natural England study suggesting widespread illegal killing of hen harriers on English grouse moorshttps://www.gov.uk/government/news/study-suggesting-widespread-illegal-killing-of-hen-harriers-on-english-grouse-moors-published

·       Culling by grouse moor managers is being blamed for the drastic decline of mountain hares on eastern Scottish moorlands to less than 1% of the level recorded more than 60 years ago https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/14/scotlands-mountain-hare-population-severe-decline

·       RSPB have said that grouse land management turns “wetlands with a high water table to a drier, heather-dominated environment”, making them less able to absorb water and more susceptible to wildfires. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/29/more-saddleworth-style-fires-likely-as-climate-changes-scientists-warn

·       Peat moors are the largest natural land store for carbon in the UK. When the peat is burned, it creates a positive feedback loop: it releases its carbon into the atmosphere as CO2; and in turn, degraded burned peatlands are less effective as a carbon sink. Climate change is both a cause and effect of the scale of the moorland fires.https://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/3597/grouse_moor_burning_causes_widespread_environmental_changes