Grouse Shooting

Jonathan Djanogly Excerpts
Monday 21st June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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The hon. Member says that the numbers are going up, but they are going up from a very small base. As I say, the figures are nowhere near where they should be.

However, the fact is that raptor persecution is illegal and should not be happening, but it is happening on the grouse moors. Regardless of what the numbers are, the death of even one hen harrier is illegal and it should not be part of grouse moor management. That is the point that we should not lose sight of. It is not just a conservation measure to protect these birds; it is illegal to kill them.

Protecting this habitat could allow it to act as a valuable carbon sinks, offer flood protection and so on. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) might have something more to say about its role in flood protection. When I went to those areas after the floods of 2015-16, and when I have spoken to people after the more recent floods in those areas, I found real concern about the impact that the management of the moorlands is having.

As Chris Packham says, a healthy upland habitat should be covered with trees, blanket bog and deep layers of sphagnum moss that act like a great sponge, with deep peat storing all the water. However, the management of grouse moors directly militates against this, with the burning of the heather, the illegal raptor persecution that I have mentioned and the extermination of mountain hares. Chris Packham also spoke about weasels and stoats being caught up in spring traps, crows caught in cage traps, foxes caught in snares and endangered protected species also accidentally being caught up, and about the use of medicated grit and the leeching of toxins from lead shot into the groundwater. The bottom line is that all these measures to protect the grouse are not in the interests of conservation; it is just so that the grouse can then be shot.

Just as I do not accept the conservation argument, I do not accept the economic argument either. As Chris Packham says, the Government have never quantified this matter. The lack of data and the lack of transparency mean that we cannot say with any degree of accuracy how much money is going where, who is benefiting and who is not benefiting.

Chris Packham says that in Scotland a bit more information has been released. Nevertheless, if Scotland was thought to be the size of Ben Nevis, the economic benefit from grouse shooting there would be the size of a small banjo. That seems to be the official interpretation. I do not know why banjos have been brought into it; I do not know the difference between a small banjo and a large banjo. He is saying that, given that the area of land given over to grouse shooting in Scotland is between 12% and 18% of the total land, something far more worthwhile than the equivalent of a small banjo, in terms of economic benefits from that area, could be produced.

Jonathan Djanogly Portrait Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)
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Will the hon. Lady give way?

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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I hope the hon. Gentleman is going to explain why the banjo comes into it.

Jonathan Djanogly Portrait Mr Djanogly
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I am not sure about banjos, but the premise that the hon. Lady gave before was that grouse management is there for shooting birds. I would say that that is not the case. Shooting is part of the environmental process that is going on. People who engage in grouse shooting involve themselves in environmental management. Just to kill all the grouse would mean, very simply, that there would be no grouse next year. The process has to be managed for the environment.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
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I do not accept that. If we look at the way the moors are managed, we see that it is to create the largest possible number of grouse, it is to avoid anything that might be a threat to the grouse, including natural predators, and it is destroying a lot of other wildlife at the same time. All that is not so that people can stalk through the undergrowth with their gun, in the way that we might think of the country sport of shooting. It is so that busloads of people can come in, stand there and just shoot, shoot, shoot—it is very much a numbers game. I would not say that has anything to do with conservation.

The birds would not be there in those numbers if they were not being artificially managed, in the same way that we get the imported pheasants and partridges when it comes to that form of shooting; they are there to be shot. As I have said, the way that is managed is related to that intensity and the sheer number of birds that people want to produce, rather than it being about any concern for conserving the natural habitat. As I said, we just do not have the numbers. I do not know whether the Minister will come up with numbers to tell us who is benefiting from this and what contribution it makes.

--- Later in debate ---
Jonathan Djanogly Portrait Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)
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Thank you, Ms McDonagh. I declare my interests as they appear in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as a game shooter and as a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

This has been a good-tempered and interesting debate, but it is unfortunate that the premise of the petition lacks the understanding—or perhaps the willingness to acknowledge—that grouse shooting is all about working with the environment. Specifically and directly on the moors, where the game birds live and breed, grouse are not imported. They are natural to their moors, and great respect must be given to maintaining that environment. That is why they are magnificent parts of the country to visit. The environmental care of grouse shooting is very strong, and it seems that to argue otherwise is more about being anti-shooting than pro-environment.

The problem with the premise of the argument of the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) is that I think she said something about rich people maximising the number of birds to be killed for profit. Actually, very few grouse shoots are run at a profit. They are run by people who are passionate about their sport and about managing the environment. It is about peat, other species, local jobs and preparing the ground for walkers and tourists. It is simply untrue to say that this is just about shooting game. It is about preserving for future generations some of the finest environments in the UK by effectively managing them.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (in the Chair)
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Thank you for making this a bit easier to chair, Mr Djanogly. I think I am right in suggesting that the next speakers can have nine minutes each, leaving one minute for the summing up. I call Dave Doogan of the Scottish National party.