MPs will debate banning intensive grouse shooting after 111,000 people signed a petition demanding curbs.
Campaigners, including TV presenter Chris Packham, want the bloodsport axed, warning it harms the environment and wildlife.
The petition says: “It’s time to provide an opportunity to implement immediate, legislative and meaningful measures to address this abhorrently destructive practice.”
MPs will spend 90 minutes thrashing out the cases for and against a ban at Westminster Hall on Monday night after the petition hit the 100,000 threshold for triggering a parliamentary debate.
Wildlife activists hope the debate will pave the way for grouse shooting to be outlawed.
League Against Cruel Sports campaigns director Chris Luffingham said: “Polling indicates that a majority of the public are opposed to the killing of birds for sport, and questionable claims of its economic value simply can’t justify the ‘game’ bird suffering, wildlife destruction and environmental damage caused by grouse shooting.
“Driven grouse shooting depends on the industry creating artificially high numbers of grouse in order to be viable.
“This is achieved by the use of cruel traps and snares to kill predators and the intensive burning of heather which has caused serious environmental damage to protected areas.
“It’s time for grouse shooting to be banned and for an end to the suffering and death of hundreds of thousands of grouse every year.”
Monday’s debate will be opened by Conservative backbencher Tom Hunt, who previously worked for the pro-field sports campaign Countryside Alliance.
He told the Mirror: “I have never been grouse shooting myself, I don’t have any particular interest in it.
“It’s my responsibility as a member of the Petitions Committee to articulate the arguments made by those who have signed the petition, so I will be doing that.
“I will also be making some of the other arguments about some of the benefits of it for local economies, and I know there is a big debate about the environmental consequences – whether they are beneficial or not.”
Mr Hunt admitted anti-bloodsports campaigners might object to him leading the session.
But he added: “I’m not going to be going in there with an agenda, I won’t be looking to be overly-political.”
Shooting supporters pointed to the money pumped into rural economies, with enthusiasts paying thousands of pounds a day to blast birds out of the sky.
Countryside Alliance shooting director Adrian Blackmore said: “Shooting generates around £2billion to the UK economy each year and it is vital to supporting our rural communities, especially as we attempt to rebuild after the pandemic.
“Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in remote moorland communities where grouse shooting creates 1,500, direct, full-time equivalent jobs and supports a range of rural businesses.
“Opponents of grouse shooting are showing a total disregard for the impact their ideologically-driven crusade would have, not just on the livelihoods of so many in our uplands for whom it can be the main economic driver, but also on much of our most treasured wildlife and landscapes.”
British Association for Shooting and Conservation uplands officer Gareth Dockerty said: “Evidence shows that grouse shooting has clear economic, social and environmental benefits.
“Grouse moors support a vast range of wildlife, and up to five times more threatened wading birds are supported on moors managed by gamekeepers.
“The shooting community also helps to protect upland peatlands which form part of the UK’s largest carbon store by reducing devastating wildfire risks, while creating a landscape that attracts in excess of 30 million visitors each year.
“It supports our uplands and their communities and to take it away would be absolutely devastating.”
This article by Ben Glaze was first published by The Mirror on 20 June 2021. Lead Image: Campaigners want an end to grouse shooting (Image: Corbis via Getty Images).
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