There are a number of ways to end the scandal and disgrace that is industrialised grouse shooting, from books like Dr Mark Avery’s ‘Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands‘, Hen Harrier Day, blogs like Raptor Persecution UK that focus on wildlife crime, and targeting landowners that allow wealthy shooters to use birds as live targets on a day out in the uplands.
The latter is the approach that Wild Moors (formerly known as Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors) has been taking – and it is beginning to pay off in spades! Luke Steele and the Wild Moors team (working with the League Against Cruel Sports) have been focussing in particular on Yorkshire Water, one of England’s largest landowners, who lease out upland moors to grouse shooting tenants. Over the last couple of years, Wild Moors have been asking why would a corporation that says it has the environment at the very heart of its concerns want to be associated with an industry that is underpinned by wildlife crime, regularly sets fire to threatened habitats causing degradation of carbon-storing peatlands, and causes flooding downstream.
Now, to its credit, Yorkshire Water has weighed up the facts and decided that there is a better future for moorlands than killing birds. In a statement, they have said that its grouse shooting leases on Baitings, Turley Holes & Higher House Moor, near Mytholmroyd, and Lane Head, near Holme, had not been renewed after expiring earlier this year.
Yorkshire Water will also be launching a consultation later this year to invite the public’s views on its plans for nature-friendly moorland management. This is expected to consider planting native broadleaf trees on the lower slopes of the moors and restoring peat bogs to provide homes for wildlife, lock carbon into the ground and prevent flooding in surrounding valleys by slowing the flow of run-off water.
As Luke Steele, executive director of Wild Moors says, ““The world is fast moving in a direction where restoring land for nature, carbon capture and people is at the forefront of solving climate change and biodiversity loss. Today, no cutting-edge landowner would dream of allowing grouse shooting and Yorkshire Water is making waves by earmarking its moors for regeneration.
“We look forward to working with Yorkshire Water on its plans for nature-friendly moorland management.”
There is perhaps an inevitability that moorland owners will move in this direction anyway. Three major land agents have already concluded that the future of moorland use would be better focussed on natural services, carbon storage and offsetting than scraping around for small profits from a hobby that is so out of step with public sentiment. Besides which, climate change appears to be forcing moorland owner’s hands anyway: for the third year in a row gamekeepers have failed to raise the unnatural numbers of Red Grouse clients want to shoot, with frosts and early rains knocking back productivity. With climate change bringing more extremes of hot and cold weather ‘factory farming’ Red Grouse will continue to be disrupted – and therefore unprofitable – for years to come.
Nevertheless, this is a strong position for Yorkshire Water to take and of course we commend them for it.
Corporations moving away from collecting blood money to investing in carbon storage may not have been the way that many of us envisaged grouse shooting ending, but few of us will object to a future that sees the guns fall silent and precious moorlands and their very special wildlife protected – even if someone, somewhere is still making money from it…