On a busy day for environmental news Defra decided to publish their response to the Jane Griggs e-petition in favour of grosue shooting. Funny that.
This is what they wrote:
Grouse shooting is a legitimate activity that provides economic benefits, jobs and investment in some of our most remote areas and can offer important benefits for wildlife and habitat conservation.
The Government appreciates that many people have strongly held views on grouse shooting. The Government also recognises that shooting activities bring many benefits to the rural economy and the environment, in particular wildlife and habitat conservation. The Government therefore continues to support shooting, recognising it is vital that wildlife and habitats are respected and protected and we ensure a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship between shooting and conservation.
The Government recognises the international importance of the UK uplands. The UK has 75 percent of the world’s remaining heather moorland and about 13 percent of the world’s blanket bog (rain-fed peat bog that ‘blankets’ the landscape). Seventy percent of the UK’s drinking water is provided from upland catchments and tourism brings in an estimated £1.78 billion to England’s upland national parks.
With regard to grouse moorland management, grouse shooting is one of the main land uses in the uplands along with grazing and forestry. The Government recognises that healthy, active peat provides good habitat for grouse as well as numerous environmental benefits and ecosystem services. Natural England is working with landowners of grouse moors within Special Areas of Conservation to develop voluntary agreements, which include vegetation management principles for the various habitats on grouse moors. The Government encourages land managers to work closely with Natural England to put voluntary agreements in place for all the benefits they bring to moor owners and to the environment.
The Government is also working with moor owners and stakeholders to further improve management practices and peat condition, such as through the Blanket Bog Restoration Strategy.
With regard to birds of prey, like all wild birds they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The current legislation and guidance balances competing social, economic and environmental interests, while protecting the conservation status and welfare of the relevant bird of prey species. Some species of birds of prey need specific protection because their low numbers indicate that their populations are struggling.
It is taking longer than it should, but Defra is saying fewer and fewer daft things as time goes on. Unfortunately, there are plenty of daft things that cannot be unsaid.
This time around there is no mention of how well Defra is doing in combatting wildlife crime – probably because the e-petition seems quite keen on encouraging wildlife crime! Nor is there anything about ‘problem species’.
Maybe it is because today the PM said ‘‘Whether they are pets, livestock or wild fauna, animals deserve the proper protection of the law and under a Conservative government that is exactly what they will receive‘ that Defra says little about this subject. but I suspect it is because of the wording of the Griggs e-petition rather than because Defra realsies it needs to do better. But Defra does need to do better – much better.