Grouse shooting under fire amid call for review

Members of a shooting party on a moor near Ripon North Yorkshire as the Glorious 12th the official start of the grouse shooting season gets underway

Grouse shooting is responsible for 3,000 jobs across Britain Credit Owen Humphreys PA

Labour has called for a formal review into driven grouse shooting to examine its environmental and economic impacts, as well as possible alternatives such as simulated shoots and wildlife tourism.

To prepare the land for shooting, it is drained and dried out, destroying swathes of plant life and while mountain hares and predators such as hen harriers were often illegally culled, Labour said.

However, gamekeepers and grouse shooters have warned that the plans could inadvertently put livelihoods at risk and cause significant damage to rural landscape.

"Labour's call for a review appears to be a response to a campaign from celebrities and extreme animal rights campaigners", said the British Association for Shooting & Conservation, saying that numerous details from Labour were incorrect.

Labour's comments are likely to anger landowners, who say shooting creates employment opportunities and helps protect the environment.

Moors were often burned, increasing the likelihood of both wildfires and flooding while increasing carbon emissions and dramatically reducing their future capacity to absorb carbon.

"The costs of grouse shooting on our environment and wildlife needs to be to properly weighed up against the benefit of land owners profiting from shooting parties", said Sue Hayman, Labour's environment spokeswoman.

Large areas of upland Scotland are used for driven grouse shooting with the land being managed to maximise the number of red grouse available for shooting.

Yesterday marked the "Glorious Twelfth", the start of the 16-week period when hunters can shoot grouse on 550,000 acres of English and Scottish moors.

But in Scotland, many grouse moor owners will not be shooting at all this year, according to rural property consultants Galbraith.

The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group said grouse shooting brings around £32 million to the Scottish economy and supports approximately 2,640 jobs.

The government said protecting the moorland environment was a "priority", as was the protection of the hen harrier, which it said was protected by law.

Labour has stated that "the time has come for a proper review into the practice" of grouse shooting in the UK.

"Effective heather management including burning and cutting creates wonderful habitat and of course reduces the fuel load and risk of wildfire".

Ministers were said to be working closely with landowners and farmers to sign voluntary agreements over managing their land.

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