According to a very welcome press-release from Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors (BBYM), the grassroots organisation campaigning to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire’s moors, Wakefield Council has joined the battle to save the county’s peat moors from being damaged for grouse shooting.
There are numerous ways to achieve the end of grouse shooting. Changing public acceptance of the mass slaughter of wildlife by shooters is one (using ‘Inglorious 12th’ to mark the start of the killing season for example). Calling out the seemingly endless wildlife crime that underpins grouse shooting is another. And denying the shooters the land or the ‘right’ habitat to practice their sordid hobby is another.
This is why a ban on burning is so important. If you want to farm Red Grouse in artificially high numbers for the gun you need to need to provide a mosaic of different habitats. Moorlands aren’t naturally divided into squares where the heather grows at different heights, but that’s what shooting wants, so gamekeepers are instructed to burn the land. But of course setting fire to moorland isn’t remotely environmentally-friendly: it releases carbon locked up in the peat and sends dense smoke high into the air. Plus gamekeepers have a tendency to lose control of the fires (at least that’s what the frequency of serious fire incidents over the years would suggest).
In April this year many local councils temporarily banned moorland burning on more than 30 major tracts of land in northern England, while three large landowners (including the National Trust) announced that their tenants would no longer be allowed to burn heather routinely at all. This largely came about when (again) gamekeepers lost control of fires, this time tying up huge numbers of fire officers precisely while the rest of us were in lockdown trying to avoid a respiratory disease that was spreading rapidly through the population. the protected Marsden Moor was especially badly damaged as this video taken just afterwards demonstrated. Serious incidents like these actually led to the West Yorks Fire and Rescue Service to ask for a ban on burning on Twitter.
Perhaps this year’s stupid and selfish behaviour was the last (burning) straw for local councils that have to pay for things like fire services and environmental protection. Maybe they’re just fed up seeing their supposedly flagship ‘national park’ treated like a shooting gallery. Whatever the reasons, congratulations to BBYM who have been working extremely hard to get a ban like this implemented. Grouse estates will of course now bang on about Curlews. the swamping of moorland by trees, and the end of the world as they know it. The rest of us will merely point out that – in fact – while BBYM and many others have been pushing hard for a ban like this, it’s the grouse shooting industry that has done the most damage to the grouse shooting industry itself.
Not losing control of your fires in times of a national crisis might keep some of public (and some local councils onside), but then again massacring grouse for ‘sport’, trapping vast numbers of native wildlife, and routinely slaughtering birds of prey is so very nineteenth-century, don’t you know…
Wakefield Council has joined the battle to save the county’s peat moors from being damaged for grouse shooting.
The local authority has called on the government to urgently deliver a ban on moorland burning, an ecologically-destructive practice that involves shoot operators setting fire to heather to engineer habitat for grouse, which are shot for sport.
The plea comes just weeks ahead of the grouse shooting season opening on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ of August, although burning does not start again until October. Campaigners believe any future burning can be stopped by government intervention, with Defra having already committed to legislation.
Cllr Jack Hemingway, Cabinet Member for Climate Change at Wakefield Council said:
“Wakefield Council supports a ban on the burning of peatland on grouse moors.
“We believe it is the right thing to do from a moral and environmental standpoint. Clearly this practice is damaging for the moorland environment and also has a negative impact on flood risk for communities down river here in Wakefield.
“With the clock counting down to the next burning season in October, we strongly urge the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to commit to delivering on this Government’s promise to ban grouse moor burning to ensure our local communities, wildlife and the environment are protected from any further harm.”
Almost three quarters of peatlands in England are damaged or degraded, Natural England has revealed, with burning being a key driver.
During the last burning season, from October to April, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors compiled more than 550 reports of peat moorlands being burnt across the county.This is despite assurances given by grouse moors to the government that the practice would be halted, with 11 moors that had pledged to stop being discovered continuing.
Subsequently, the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on environmental action, recommended the practice be banned to protect peatlands from further damage.
Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, said:
“It’s past time to put an end to the burning of rare peatlands for grouse shooting — a practice which degrades fragile ecosystems, releases climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere and worsens flooding in communities downstream from grouse moors.
“We strongly welcome the support of Wakefield Council for a ban on grouse moor burning and urge the Government to make good on its promise to end the environmentally-damaging practice.”