soamesBASC believes the driven grouse debate has united the countryside behind shooting after submissions made by MPs highlighted its benefits to the rural economy and conservation.

Many of those who spoke at the three-hour debate in Westminster Hall on Monday paid tribute to the work of those who manage the uplands for grouse shooting and acknowledged that it provides a lifeline to isolated rural communities. Grouse shooting is worth £100 million to the UK economy and supports the equivalent of 2,500 full-time jobs.

In the closing stages of the debate, minister for rural affairs Dr Therese Coffey reaffirmed the government’s manifesto commitment that it has no intention to ban driven grouse shooting. She further sated that there was no plan to introduce licensing of grouse moors.

A number of MPs drew on evidence contained within BASC’s white paper on grouse shooting, which had been highlighted in the parliamentary briefing paper produced ahead of the House of Commons debate. BASC had also set up a website which allowed its members to lobby their MPs to seek their views on grouse shooting.

BASC chairman Peter Glenser said: “BASC was delighted by the quality of the well-informed debate and very grateful to all those who ensured that MPs understood the truth. In particular, a number of other rural organisations worked tirelessly in the months leading up to the evidence hearing and this week’s debate and they should be congratulated for their efforts.

“The debate may have fallen out of an online petition by extremists but, in the end, it allowed those with a passion for shooting to very publicly dispel the myths behind their propaganda.

“We should make no bones about it; shooting, not just grouse shooting, was under attack in the build up to this debate. But it was inspiring to see the way those who live and work within in the countryside, and those with a passion for the countryside, united to fight off this attack.

“I expect the shooting community will now leave behind the celebrity sideshow and get back on with the work it does best, which is to support shooting, invest time and money in conservation and work for the sustainability of rural communities.”

A full transcript of the Westminster Hall debate is available here.

Key submissions are carried below:

Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con):

“I pay tribute to the work of the gamekeepers in the uplands, whose contribution to the environment and to natural biodiversity in the hills we ignore at our peril.

“Driven grouse shooting plays a major part in sustaining communities on the edge of and in the middle of the moors—something that cannot lightly be dismissed.

“Properly conducted grouse shooting is a force for good in the uplands. It would be a disaster for the landscape, biodiversity and many small but locally important rural economies were driven grouse shooting to be banned.”

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP):

“In a debate of this kind, it is easy to get caught up in the web woven by those who refuse to see that the sport brings about any good. I remind the House again that shooting is worth £2 billion to the UK economy and supports the equivalent of 74,000 jobs.

“In England, grouse shooting creates 42,500 work days a year. Research has also shown that associated spin-offs from grouse shooting in the north of England are worth in excess of £15 million a year.

“That is an enormous shot in the arm for the rural economy, which cannot be ignored and which benefits a wide range of rural businesses. In these uncertain times, grouse shooting is a sector that is proving its popularity, and its importance to its participants. It is estimated that shooters spend £2.5 billion each year on goods and services overall, and that shoot providers spend about £250 million each year on conservation.”

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con):

“Today, I want to challenge the untruths being promoted by those who wish to ban grouse shooting — people who outside this place knowingly promote cod science in what I regard as a shameful attempt to set community against community and neighbour against neighbour.

“What is unreasonable is for people such as Mr Packham and Mr Avery to disguise their dislike of grouse shooting as part of some wider concern for the environment. That is the lie that needs to be exposed today. These two gentleman are known for their hostility to the farming community and land management. As one farming friend described them to me: ‘These two men are not participants in the countryside. They are simply voyeurs.”’

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con):

“I thought I needed to go and visit (the estate) to see how justified the petition is, and to consider what influence the management of the estate has upon the mitigation of flood risk. I have to tell you that what I saw horrified me. Actually, I felt quite sick, and not because I saw anything repugnant — quite the opposite.

“I quickly realised that the petition and much of the information peddled around the Calder valley about the estate are, in many cases, simply untrue and based more on ideology than on fact and reason. The nonsense that people are led to believe could not be further from the truth, and it is time to put some of those things straight.”

Garry Doolan

Garry Doolan is BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs. He has more than 20 years experience of journalism and the media. He joined the organisation in 2016 and is a keen shooter and beater, with his springer spaniel Quincy.

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