Labour: It’s time to end grouse moor practices that harm the environment

Sue Hayman, the Shadow Environment Secretary has called for an end to rotational heather burning and an independent review into the economic, environmental and wildlife impacts of driven grouse shooting.

Driven grouse shooting uses intensive land and wildlife management to create a false environment in which grouse flourish. Natural habitats and ecosystems are managed in a way that leads to grouse numbers reaching up to 100 times the natural level.

This land management results in soil degradation, the release of carbon and problems with flooding and water quality in surrounding areas. The committee on climate change has estimated that 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year are emitted from upland peat in England, the majority of which (260,000 tonnes) is due to burning grouse moors. There are also reported downstream flooding risks associated with burning, gripping and drainage of moorland.

There are also concerns over animal welfare. One of the consequences of driven grouse shooting is the killing and trapping of birds of prey that are natural predators of grouse, including the hen harrier. The effects are so devastating that the hen harrier is on the brink of extinction as a breeding species in England with just three successful breeding pairs in 2016, none of which were on grouse moors. Regardless of the wildlife impacts of driven grouse shooting, the question still remains as to whether it is ever morally acceptable to kill animals for pleasure.

Well, that’s good! It’s been a time coming, but the Opposition is now in the game.

 

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19 Replies to “Labour: It’s time to end grouse moor practices that harm the environment”

  1. Also Greens
    https://sheffieldgreenparty.org.uk/2018/08/09/sheffield-greens-release-report-about-destruction-and-slaughter-on-the-moors/
    and more coverage of the Gove meeting
    https://www.thecanary.co/discovery/2018/08/13/the-environment-secretary-is-accused-of-cosying-up-to-wealthy-landowners/

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  2. Yes, good stuff from Ms Hayman, the science-based message only slightly diluted by the last sentence. I'm all for animal welfare but, as we are increasingly seeing, animal rights and conservation are very uneasy bedfellows.

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    1. Agree, Bob on you last point. Also why over-complicate an otherwise clear statement on the disbenefits of intensive grouse farming?

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      1. I think the fact that millions more people (and hence millions more potential voters) get exercised about animal cruelty issues than do about the details of grouse moor management might have something to do with it.

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        1. Yes Alan, you are probably right. But it just muddies the water and animal cruelty (which we are all against) is a different issue to the moral issue of "killing animals for pleasure" aka sport.

          I think conservationists will do best if they stick to science-based arguments and avoid invoking "animal rights", even when it appears to favour our cause. Personally, I would also avoid emotive phrases such as "ethnic cleansing" - mountain hare culls are very distressing but I'm not sure descriptions like that which have human overtones help.

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          1. Bob W - but you say (write) that Bob because you are very happy with your own view. But you have to realise that the way to build a movement for change is to be inclusive and co-opt people with slightly different or sometimes very different views to your cause.

            You say that conservationists will do best if they stick to science-based arguments because that is what makes you comfortable. I can tell you that there are practically no decisions that are made on science alone. None! Money, votes, a smile, popularity all come into play - and science is often used like a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than illumination (old joke, but still funny and true).

            You are describing the world in your image - rather than describing the world as it really is (which, though this might pain you, isn't very scientific in itself).

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          2. Three comments, Bob. At Rainham on Saturday Chris Packham made some really interesting points (imo). One was that, if we are to make real progress, we have to downplay the differences between all the numerous factions and organisations involved in wildlife conservation. We all have our pet causes, favoured strategies, habitats and species, but we should try to put our differences to one side whenever we can and stress what we have in common. Divisions based on details of approach will only weaken our ability to bring about change.
            Secondly, politicians are capable of acting on principle alone, but they are more likely to stick with a cause if they feel it makes them look good to the public and might win a few votes. I fully approve of Sue Hayman's approach of trying to assemble a broad church of supporters, not all of whom will agree on everything, but who can all identify with some of the things she's saying.
            Finally, I always worry about the use of terms like 'animal rights'. I don't know whether animals have rights (I'm not really sure humans have them either, except by decree). It's a philosophical minefield. But I have strong views about animal cruelty and abuse, and I rarely have to argue about defining them. It's usually the shooters that bang on about 'animal rights activists' and 'eco-zealots' and use them as terms of abuse.

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          3. Thanks for your reply Mark. I am happy with my own view. But I am also very worried that conservationists are being attacked both by animal rights people and by nasty elements in the shooting community. I don't see the way forward - in times of extremes, extremists tend to win and I do think we should not play their game.

            I take your point about how decisions are made. However, I think I have a pretty firm grasp on what the world is like: I read the foul attack on the RSPB in the Sunday Times on Sunday and I spent half an hour yesterday reading the Sun whilst waiting to have my hair cut - that's another country. And I know that when/if we leave the EU we are likely to lose the protections we currently rely on, and it seems to me that in some areas - burning blanket bog for example - the EU has based important decisions on science. I suggest we deserve a government that does likewise, but of course we will not get one.

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        2. Alan and Mark I get what you say, but we are talking about Labour getting a rare and clear message across about the environment. Why complicate things with an undefined moral statement at the end of it?
          For example, are we to assume from Hayman that walked up grouse shooting is bad for the environment?
          And then, the debate goes on and on at a tangent to the main plank of her argument – it’s a complete and unnecessary distraction.

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          1. Mark, politics is all about getting and holding on to power - I don't see much sign of values these days.

            Alan, I think the "pet causes" point is a red herring. We either value biodiversity and want to take science-based action to preserve and restore it, or we are more concerned about the lives of individual animals. "Animal rights" and conservation don't fit. The Ruddy Duck saga was a classic example - not many wildlife celebs put their heads above the parapet to help Mark when that was a hot topic.

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        3. Alan and Mark I get what you say, but we are talking about Labour getting a rare and clear message across about the environment. Why complicate things with an undefined moral statement at the end of it?
          For example, are we to assume from Hayman that walked up grouse shooting is bad for the environment? And then, the debate goes on and on at a tangent to the main plank of her argument – it’s a complete and unnecessary distraction.

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          1. Mark, re politics is about values:
            Yes, but it’s also about the art of the possible. Excellent messages like this need to be neatly packaged. Otherwise, in this case, you can imagine some unsympathetic interviewer seizing on that last sentence and diverting the debate away from Hayman’s main environmental points. Result: half the air time wasted on unprepared ethical arguments.

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  3. It looks like at long last Labour are starting to pick up on this issue as an important one for many Labour voters.This is great.

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  4. So let's hope in Labour's manifesto for the next general election (bring it on) this is going to be a MAJOR feature. Don't remember conservation/the state of our wildlife was mentioned at all in the last one!

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    1. Rosemary - I don't think your memory is playing tricks with you. Whether this will play a part in Labour's manifesto depends on lots of things - but this is a good sign (as was Barry Gardiner appearing at the Rainham Hen Harrier rally).

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  5. Mark: i'm a brick short of a load re your last remark. If you've got a few valuable seconds to spare please explain.
    Thanks
    murray

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