The written evidence to the inquiry into driven grouse shooting has started to be published – but there are, I am told, hundreds more examples to come.
I’ll be quoting from and commenting on some of them here over the next week or so – although my ability to get connected to the internet may be a bit variable as I will be travelling.
Here are some extracts from the written evidence of Alan Stewart an ex police officer, ex wildlife crime officer, ex member of the National Wildlife Crime Unit and ex shooter;
- ‘the volume of wildlife crime I saw that was clearly committed in the name of game management astonished me’
- ‘The crimes I encountered or dealt with ranged from the killing by various means of golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, peregrines, red kites, goshawks, buzzards, ravens, badgers and otters to the illegal shooting of deer to reduce the tick burden on grouse. On one driven grouse moor all the deer were shot at night in a spotlight and the carcasses left on the hill. On another driven grouse moor the native trees beside hill burns were cut down to prevent the roosting or nesting of any birds that might predate grouse. Intelligence consistently showed that the worst areas were east and south-west Scotland and the north of England, all areas of driven grouse moors. Considering I was once part of the ‘shooting scene’ and used to shoot game this has completely sickened me.’
- ‘The regular discoveries of poisonous baits or their victims present a real risk of serious injury or even death to anyone encountering and touching them. Most are found on driven grouse moors and sooner or later will lead to a fatality. In Scotland in the last five years at least eight satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘gone missing’ in areas of grouse moors. This, together with a considerable number of hen harriers that have also ‘gone missing’ in grouse moor areas in Scotland and the north of England, strongly indicates there is no let-up in criminality.’
- ‘Many landowners, sporting agents and gamekeepers on driven grouse moors … completely ignore the law’
- ‘ some of these estates running rings around the law’
Alan Stewart’s whole evidence is well worth reading and he says some valid and interesting things about the economics of ecotourism too. But this evidence from a former wildlife crime officer is utterly damning of driven grouse shooting and entirely consistent with my written evidence.
Reading this evidence should bring home to any MP seeking to speak in the debate on 31 October that wildlife crime is endemic to driven grouse shooting – and that profits from driven grouse shooting are fuelled by wildlife crime. This also ought to be clear to the Defra minister Therese Coffey, and she needs to address the scale and extent of wildlife crime in her remarks on 31 October – and she must indicate that she intends to act rather than to wash her hands of this serious situation.
I’m asking you to write to your MP this weekend and ask them to attend the Westminster Hall debate on 31 October and make the following points:
- wildlife crime is rife in the uplands. This has major conservation impacts on birds of prey (see my written evidence). Illegal killing of birds of prey is not caused by a few bad apples but is endemic to the activity of driven grouse shooting.
- intensive management of our hills for driven grouse shooting causes many other problems (increased flooding, increased water treatment costs, culls of Mountain Hares, damage to protected habitats, increased greenhouse gas emissions) which could be tackled by stronger regulation and government should consider that as a serious option for those issues
- but the government is not seriously addressing wildlife crime. The grouse shooting industry has shown no willingness or ability to tackle this issue despite decades of saying that it will. The status quo is not an option. Banning driven grouse shooting is the most effective way to end wildlife crime against birds of prey in our uplands and anything else will be weak and ineffective.
Please write to your MP and ask them to pass on your letter to Defra ahead of the debate if they are unable to attend and make these points themselves. Tell your MP that you will also write to them after the debate and that this is an issue about which you feel very strongly.