Momentum against grouse shooting 'unstoppable' say campaigners, as petition hits 100,000

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Anti-shoot campaigners say momentum against grouse shooting is 'unstoppable' after a petition to ban the sport reached the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a Commons debate.

The petition has grown in prominence over the last few days as the official start of the grouse shooting season, known as the Glorious Twelfth, took place on Friday.

The petition states: "Grouse shooting for 'sport' depends on intensive habitat management which increases flood risk and greenhouse gas emissions, relies on killing foxes, stoats, mountain hares etc in large numbers and often leads to the deliberate illegal killing of protected birds of prey including hen harriers."

The League Against Cruel Sports said the momentum building up against the shoot was now "unstoppable".

Critics of grouse shooting say it damages bird of prey populations, but supporters, such as the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation (NYMMO), which brings together keepers from 12 North Yorkshire estates, say the managed moorland practices that go with shoots benefits both the moorland and wildlife - as well as supporting economic growth in rural areas.
Head of campaigns at League Against Cruel Sports, Mark McCormick, said: "The public recognises that the collateral damage from this minority 'sport' based on blasting live birds out of the sky is unacceptable.

"Raptors are being persecuted and hen harriers are facing extinction in England.

"Intensive management of the grouse moors are implicated in environmental damage, devastating floods and wildlife obliteration.

"It's high time a light was shone on the negative impacts of driven grouse shooting.

"We know that a Parliamentary debate isn't guaranteed, but the amount of public concern, the number of experts speaking against grouse shooting and the growing evidence of wildlife persecution surely means that a fair debate must be held as a matter of urgency."

Slideshow: Glorious Twelfth on the North York Moors as Ian Botham goes out to bat for shooting rights

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham has reiterated his call for a ban as the petition hit its target.

A day after being branded an extremist by cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, whose son runs a shoot in North Yorkshire, Mr Packham praised those who signed the petition and insisted "in the end you can't argue with the truth".

In an angry clash on the radio on Friday, Sir Ian attacked the TV presenter for not respecting BBC impartiality rules.

Packham said the shoots damage bird of prey populations while Sir Ian suggested the naturalist should not be allowed to publicly take sides because of his status as a BBC employee.

Packham said: "In the end you can't argue with science, you can't argue with evidence, you can't argue with the truth. And the truth is that people are fed up with this 'tradition', the injustice and the lies.

"One hundred thousand people just started to make the world a better place for wildlife and every single one of them will be remembered for that".

E-petition sponsor Mark Avery said: "I'm thrilled that people across the UK have responded to the call to get a debate in the Westminster parliament over the future of driven grouse shooting.

"Now we need our politicians to rise to the challenge and take this matter forward."