22nd October 2016
The Director of the Moorland Association, Amanda Anderson, gave evidence to a joint session of the House of Commons Petitions and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committees on 18 October. The meeting had been called to enable MPs to be better informed on grouse moor management, prior to a debate called for 31 October to discuss a petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting, and a counter-petition supporting it.
The MPs first put questions to Dr Mark Avery, the originator of an e-petition calling for an outright ban on driven grouse shooting, and the RSPB’s Head of Nature Policy, Jeff Knott who advocates licensing of grouse shoots. After them it was Amanda’s turn, sitting alongside Liam Stokes, Head of Shooting at the Countryside Alliance.
The session, which ran for double its alloted time, can be viewed again here. Parliament TV – Grouse shooting.
Amanda and Liam drew attention to the already considerable range of regulations which grouse moor managers observed. Most grouse moors had some level of landscape and / or conservation designation, so permission was required for almost any activity.
They emphasised the positive environmental, social and economic impacts of grouse moor management, and rejected suggestions that legislation or increased regulation was needed in order for conservation improvements to continue. Amanda detailed the work done by grouse moor custodians to fix peatlands and conserve heather uplands, and said that the existing regulatory framework was more than adequate – as was demonstrated by the enormous amount of work being done on every grouse moor to build on good practice and conserve both the environment and wildlife.
As an example, she outlined the detailed consents required to burn heather, its use to speed up peatland restoration and the significant benefits that burning brought, including the much-reduced risk of wildfires. She also described the ending 5-year Defra study into the effects of burning versus mowing and no management on carbon budgets, water colour and run-off, and urgently called for it to be extended with funding for a further five years.
Both Liam Stokes and Amanda acknowledged that there was no place for the illegal killing of raptors. As far as hen harriers were concerned, Amanda called for the Action Plan, introduced in January 2016, to be given time to work, and for the Brood Management Scheme to go ahead. She opposed the introduction of vicarious liability for wildlife law infringements, and argued that improved training, supervision and contracts of employment were the answer.
Speaking after the session, Amanda commented: “I was grateful for the opportunity to speak directly to MPs and answer their questions.
“These are complex issues and I’m afraid that calling for a ban or licensing isn’t the answer. It was disappointing that the RSPB spokesperson and Dr Avery appeared unwilling to acknowledge the conservation improvements made by grouse moor custodians and their continuing commitment to good practice and to the precious habitats and wildlife they conserve.
“Neither was able to give a credible vision of what would happen to heather moorland if driven grouse shooting were to end.
“The simple fact is that driven grouse shooting supports the conservation of these unique habitats across one million acres, provides livelihoods and boosts local businesses. If the motivation for this investment is removed through unnecessary legislation how will these benefits be replaced?”