A BAN on driven grouse shooting would see gamekeepers lost, making it a “lose-lose” scenario for conservation, livelihoods and visitors to uplands landscapes, the Moorland Association has claimed.
With one of the biggest celebrations of field sports in Britain due to get underway in Yorkshire on Friday - the CLA Game Fair at Harewood House - the Moorland Association’s director Amanda Anderson has defended the management of the uplands, amid calls for shooting to be outlawed.
More than 6,500 signatures have so far been added to an online petition calling for an outright ban of driven grouse shooting. It is led by former RSPB conservation director Dr Mark Avery who has claimed the sport relies on intensive habitat management which is damaging protected wildlife sites and increasing water pollution, flood risk and greenhouse gas emissions, with protected wildlife killed illegally in the process.
“The hen harrier, a ground-nesting buzzard-like bird, is particularly affected as it lives on moors and does eat red grouse,” Dr Avery wrote in a column for The Independent. “Scientists have calculated that there is enough habitat in the UK for there to be 2,600 pairs, and yet there are only 600-800.
“Golden eagles and peregrines are also known, from decent scientific studies, to be rare or absent from grouse-shooting areas of the country, to have low breeding success and to be persecuted too. Many of us look at the hills of northern England and south and east Scotland as an enormous extended wildlife crime scene.”
But with less than a fortnight until the red grouse shooting season opens on the Glorious Twelfth, Mrs Anderson said bird species had suffered where grouse shooting had ceased: “In the late 1990s, driven grouse shooting and habitat management stopped in the Berwyn Special Protection Area in North Wales which then saw serious declines in bird species. It’s a stark warning.
“Despite its conservation designations, lapwings became extinct, golden plover declined by 90 per cent, curlew by 79 per cent, black grouse by 78 per cent and ring ouzel by 80 per cent.
“The number of hen harriers, whose decline has frequently been blamed on moorland gamekeepers, fell by 49 per cent after the management for red grouse was abandoned and gamekeepers lost. The message is simple, lose moorland keepers and expect lose-lose for conservation, livelihoods and visitors.”
The RSPB’s most recent Birdcrime report showed illegal persecution of native birds was most prevalent in the North, with 82 incidences reported in 2013. However, this figure was down on a year earlier when there were 113 reported incidents and there has been a 39 per cent drop in reported incidents across the UK between 2009 and 2013.
Moorland Association members manage one million acres of protected uplands in England for grouse shooting, and Mrs Anderson said landowners and conservation agencies are working closer together than ever before.
“This is a very positive time marked by co-operation, cohesion and pioneering initiatives, benefiting not just the moors but wildlife and rural economies into the bargain. Government targets for setting these vulnerable areas on the road to recovery have been exceeded, the Uplands Alliance launched - bringing together all interested parties - and moorland management hailed for far-reaching peatland restoration action.”
The CLA Game Fair starts on Friday and finishes on Sunday. For full details and tickets, see www.gamefair.co.uk