MPs will debate whether to ban driven grouse shooting after a petition created by a leading conservationist passed the threshold of more than 100,000 signatures.
Mark Avery, a campaigner and former head of the RSPB, launched the petition in March with backing from broadcasters Chris Packham and Bill Oddie, and the League Against Cruel Sports, calling for grouse shooting to be banned because he said it often leads to the illegal killing of birds of prey, which eat red grouse.
“Grouse shooting is economically, ecologically and socially unnecessary. This is ‘canned hunting’,” said the petition, which had attracted more than 120,000 signatures by Wednesday. Driven shooting involves shooters in hides and beaters driving out the grouse, compared to ‘walked-up’ shooting, where shooters walk across the moor and flush out the the grouse themselves.
The shooting industry and conservationists clashed last month around the ‘glorious twelth’ – the traditional start of the shooting season – with Packham debating with Ian Botham of pro-shooting group You Forgot the Birds over a proposed ban.
The RSPB has also toughened its stance, after dropping out of a government initiative to save the hen harrier because it says landowners and shoots are failing to stop the birds being illegally poisoned and killed. While stopping short of calling for a blanket ban, it now says shooting estates should be licensed so that authorities have power to ban them if needed.
Avery said a ban would be a test of whether Theresa May delivered on her promise to work for more than just a privileged few. ‘I’m delighted that over 120,000 people have supported this petition and that it will be discussed in parliament. Grouse shooting is underpinned by wildlife crime. Birds of prey, that have been fully protected by law since the Winston Churchill government of 1954, are routinely, systematically and ruthlessly killed because they eat grouse,” he told the Guardian.
He added: “It’s a conflict between a sport for the rich and our wildlife. I don’t think a Conservative government will turn round and ban grouse shooting, which is, after all, the Tory party at play, but the government will look hypocritical if it doesn’t take proper measures to enforce the law. Theresa May said her government would work for all of us not just the privileged few – what her government does about crime on grouse moors will be a test of that.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said that it would robustly fight a ban.
Tim Russell, BASC director of conservation, said: “We welcome this debate because it provides an opportunity to correct some of the misinformation that has been spread by anti-shooting extremists. Grouse shooting makes a significant contribution to the economy, provides jobs and investment in some of the UK’s most remote areas and offers important benefits for wildlife and habitat conservation.”
In response to the petition, the environment department said: “When carried out according to the law, grouse shooting is a legitimate activity and in addition to its significant economic contribution, providing jobs and investment in some of our most remote areas, it can offer important benefits for wildlife and habitat conservation.”
This article was first published by The Guardian on 07 Sep 2016.
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