Gems from the written evidence 22 – Hugh Webster

This was a very well-written and well expressed piece of evidence. Here are some extracts:

  • I firmly believe that the law should be changed to specifically ban driven red grouse shooting. I am aware that some conservationists would settle for a licensing system as a compromise, but this tempting option fails to address the underlying incontrovertible fact that driven grouse shooting is fundamentally reliant on bird of prey persecution. It is an either or situation.
  • …the grouse industry is always keen to point to the curlews, lapwings and golden plovers that undeniably benefit from their land management, as if an unnatural abundance of a few species of wildfowl should offset an entire ecosystem laid to waste. Can you imagine a gamekeeper visiting the Serengeti and advising the park wardens there: “Very nice, but what you want to do is kill off all your predators, hunt down all the wild ungulates, chop down all your trees, dry out all your marshes and repeatedly burn the place – that way you could get a few more waders”? This is clearly preposterous, but it is exactly the nonsense one hears spouted when self-styled countrymen, eschewing ecological qualifications or expert opinion, insist that their “management” (killing and burning) is somehow essential to the wellbeing of the uplands. Instead of a self-sustaining, self-regulating, vibrant assemblage of wildlife in a diverse natural landscape we are forced to accommodate, nay even subsidise, the vandalism perpetrated on our flora and fauna by a tiny minority locked into an outdated Victorian mindset.
  • When confronted with the ecological facts proponents of grouse shooting sometimes put forward an alternative defence, that their sport is somehow vital to the rural economy and that a ban represents some sort of attack on rural values. This latter claim is insulting to the actual majority of us living in the countryside who take no part in a “sport” enjoyed by perhaps just 40,000 people per year – less than a third of the number who signed the petition calling for a ban. The economic argument is also poorly thought out, taking no account of the economic harm the sport does (e.g. flood damage), conflating the economic benefits of shooting as a whole with the small part represented by grouse shooting and pretending that in the wake of a ban no alternative revenue streams would exist. Unlike driven grouse shooting, wildlife tourism is genuinely big business (for just one example witness the millions of pounds pouring into Skye following sea eagle reintroductions there) and the tourism industry could become a major pillar of the oft-quoted northern powerhouse if managed appropriately.
  • You might as well argue that heroin dealing supports a small minority of the urban population and so should be legalised and supported by government subsidies. If something is fundamentally wrong, the fact that it makes a profit cannot be sufficient to morally defend it. We banned slavery. We banned tiger hunting. It’s time to ban driven grouse shooting. Past time in fact. In a fairer nation our national parks should not just be shooting grounds for a privileged few. They should be havens for nature, but the bizarre reality is that you have a better chance of seeing a peregrine falcon or a fox in central London than you do in the Peak District or the North York moors. It’s time to be bold. It’s time to be decisive. It’s time to turn the tide, to halt the damage and begin to help nature restore some of the wild beauty too long missing from our island. Ban driven grouse shooting.