Nature conservation organisations are urging England to match or exceed Scotland’s recent strides in protecting wildlife and the environment by regulating the grouse shooting industry.

Wild Moors, a prominent upland nature restoration organisation, is calling upon the Secretary of State for the Environment, Steve Barclay MP, to take “urgent action” against illegal attacks on birds of prey, wildlife trapping and the detrimental burning of delicate peatlands by grouse moors in England’s uplands.

The plea coincides with the Scottish parliament’s recent decision to approve the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill. This significant legislation marks a turning point in the protection of the UK’s uplands, especially concerning the licensing of grouse shooting and intensive grouse moor management practices in Scotland.

Luke Steele, Executive Director of Wild Moors, said: “Scotland has set a clear precedent with its new laws, making it explicit that the illegal killing of birds of prey and environmentally damaging practices on grouse moors will not be tolerated. However, these harmful acts are not confined to Scotland and it’s crucial for England to swiftly follow suit.

“Throughout the UK, our cherished upland landscapes must be managed sustainably and responsible to provide immense benefits for nature, the climate and people.”

The Scottish legislation aims to regulate activities on grouse moors, particularly targeting the most intensive practices such as illegal bird of prey persecution, wildlife trapping and peatland burning. These measures seek to bolster the protection of upland wildlife, including iconic species of birds of prey, and safeguard critical habitats, such as carbon-rich peatlands.

A central aspect of the legislation involves the licensing of grouse moors. Those implicated in wildlife crime or environmental harm risk having their licence suspended, ultimately leading to closure if necessary. However, these problems are not unique to grouse moors in Scotland, with the lack of licensing in England leaving upland wildlife and the environment inadequately protected.

Additionally, Scotland has implemented a comprehensive ban on fox snares, following in the footsteps of Wales, which enacted its ban in 2023. These bans mark a significant advancement for protecting wildlife and eliminating the risk of non-target species, like badgers, hares and deer, becoming ensnared in these indiscriminate traps. England now stands alone as the only part of Great Britain where snares are legal.

Luke Steele added: “The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have all thrown their support behind the call for grouse moor licensing in England. With a general election on its way, this backing from various political parties suggests a potential shift in wildlife and environmental protection in the English uplands could be on the horizon.”