Countryside Alliance clash with Defra policy on grouse hand-outs

The Countryside Alliance is giving Chris Packham a little rest and is turning its nastiness towards Tony Juniper, Michael Gove’s proposed new Chair of the hapless Natural England (who will appear before the Efra committee on Tuesday).

According to the Sunday Telegraph, campaigners representing ‘farming, countryside communities and businesses‘, (though only the Countryside Alliance is quoted and they represent no-one very much), think Tony is out of touch with the countryside and in particular with various activities which seem only to number grouse shooting. By the way, Tony Juniper is a fisherman and so does a tiny bit of wildlife-killing of his own but not even that will get him an easy ride from the bitterness of the Countryside Alliance.

What has got Tim Bonner’s goat appears to be this passage from Tony’s book, What Nature does for Britain (reviewed here) where he says

One lever society has for influencing how the land is managed is the vast amount of money paid from our taxes to upland shooting estates… the sport of a privileged few will continue to be subsidised not only through our taxes but also through the water bills of the many, who pay for the colour to be removed.

Tim Bonner, in his own charming way, seems to think that he has nailed Tony when he says that grouse shooting isn’t subsidised directly – but then neither did Tony! There is no argument that grouse moors get huge amounts of public subsidy for running a few sheep over their land now and again even though their main economic activity is grouse shooting. And there should be no doubt that the externalities of grouse shooting (higher flood risk, water treatment costs etc etc) should be taken into account when looking at whether the grouse shooting industry is a net drain to the economy.

Of course, Bonner knows that he can rely of the mindless unscientific indolent support of Defra on these matters who, in answer to Les Wallace’s successful parliamentary petition, said that there was no need for an independent look at this issue because there is already a highly flawed non-independent stab in the dark at the answer (see Monday’s blog on this issue).

However, Bonner might want to revisit what George Eustice, the long-term, and sometimes quite good, Defra Farming Minister, said at the Oxford Farming Conference that, post-Brexit, this government would end the system of subsidies for ‘slipper farmers receiving money for running grouse shoots and other activities without actually farming‘ (Ben Webster, The Times 5 January 2017).  So the government seems to be with Tony on that point.

Here are some more quotes about grouse shooting from Tony’s book – nothing wrong with them either.

Tony Juniper appears in front of the Efra Committee on Tuesday afternoon at 2:45 in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.


10 Replies to “Countryside Alliance clash with Defra policy on grouse hand-outs”

  1. When it comes to matters of the environment I suspect that I would always side with Tony Juniper rather that the execrable Tim (nasty but dim) Bonner. I hope for the sake of nature that Tony really wants the NE job and passes the test on Monday with flying colours.

    1. Paul,

      “When it comes to matters of the environment” I’d side with Saddam f&%*ing Hussain rather than Tim Bonner!

  2. Are there any reasonable or responsible people who would pay the slightest attention to a. Tim Bonner and b. The Countryside Alliance? It has long been known among rural communities that the CA only represent hunting and shooting plus their associated vested interests, certainly they do not represent anywhere close to 1% of rural folk.

  3. I’ve been wondering when that would come out – it hasn’t featured much in the various ups and downs of the debate. I’ve thought all along that simply removing farming subsidies would be far more effective than licensing. Even under CAP the minimalist sheep farming over much of the uplands could well have fallen below the (generous) threshold for CAP, but after Brexit there is completely clean playing field – and if there are upland subsidies ecosystem services will clearly come first.

    What is interesting is that I suspect Government is currently well ahead of the conservation lobby in its understanding of the implications of natural capital & ecosystem services. Tony is clearly switched on to the arguments but reading his books I still tend to feel he’s approaching the issues as a supplicant rather than a white knight riding to solve a whole host of problems facing Government.

  4. I was led to believe rightly or wrongly I’m not sure that grouse moors that were SSSIs got money, big money even when like Westminster tenants were paid to take all the sheep off permanently. Was this true?

  5. One can only wish Tony Juniper the best of luck on Tuesday. Looks as though he will be plunged in at the deep end right from the start.
    What a very nasty intervention by the Countryside Alliance to try to rubbish Tony before he has even got the job.
    I don’t know who comprises the Defra committee but hopefully it does not include Ms Coffey, a driven grouse shooting supporter.

  6. A correction: Many, probably most, freshwater fishermen these days do not kill fish, but practice catch and release. It is not 100% mortality free and being caught is undoubtedly mightily unpleasant for the fish, but it leaves most fish to continue their life and from the fisherman’s viewpoint, hopefully be caught again! I do it but have no idea if Tony does, but he may well do.

  7. To add to Alistair Gammell’s angler comment…us river fishermen would also like a stop to the flooding episodes and degradation of water quality by the present “management” of our uplands, including “managed” grouse moors…Tony Juniper will be aware of those issues, Im sure.

  8. My local authority Havant borough council think that their continued missuse and missmangement of sinah common hayling island an area of SSSI can be redesignated as development land.what does this say to other custodians. Their incompedance
    has proporgated this scenario

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