Labour has called for grouse moors to be licensed to help end a wave of wildlife crime in northern England’s uplands.

It follows the release of undercover footage by Wild Moors, taken in May, showing a goshawk being illegally trapped and killed on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire. Birds of prey are often targeted by gamekeepers to stop them predating on game birds, leaving more available to be shot for sport.

Wild Moors is supporting Labour’s proposal, which will give the authorities greater powers to tackle wildlife persecution and environmental damage on grouse moors.

In particular, grouse moors would be required to obtain an operational license which would, at minimum, have conditions attached mandating the shoot follows wildlife and environmental protection codes of practice and laws. Where there is evidence suggesting that a shoot has failed to follow those conditions the licence can be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, told the Guardian:

“The government has failed to cut wildlife crime and a decade of austerity has left these birds vulnerable to poaching, with fewer police preventing poaching and fewer officers able to catch those responsible.

“We need a new approach to protecting and restoring the numbers of these iconic species, with a review into how grouse moors operate and proper licensing put in place.

The illegal persecution of birds of prey on moorland managed for grouse shooting continues to be a serious issue more than sixty years after laws were passed making the practice illegal.

Despite the game shooting industry pledging in January to exercise better self-regulation, a salvo of persecution incidents associated with grouse moors have been reported over the spring and summer by police forces across Northern England.

This includes five dead buzzards—four of which had been shot—discovered hidden in a hole on Bransdale Moor in April, a poisoned buzzard in Nidderdale in March, and a buzzard found shot on Saddleworth Moor in May.
Scotland has committed to introducing mandatory licensing of grouse moors within the next five years after facing a similar wave of wildlife crime, although it is anticipated that ministers could move sooner. Environment Minister Rosanna Cunningham has confirmed that a timeline will be unveiled this Autumn.

Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, said:

“For many grouse moors it would seem that the illegal killing of birds of prey remains a price worth paying to produce large numbers of game birds for shooting. But crime should not pay and grouse shoots implicated in wildlife persecution should not be allowed to continue operating.

We strongly welcome the support of Labour for grouse moor licensing. Now is the time to significantly reform the country’s ecologically-restrictive, outdated grouse moors to restore the full suite of wildlife and habitats to our uplands.

– ENDS –

  • Wild Moors campaigns to free up moorland for conservation from exploitation for grouse shooting. By working with society, companies and government to create change, we secure effective protection for wildlife, habitats and local communities.
  • Killing a bird of prey is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, although it has been illegal to target or kill a bird of prey for over sixty five years since the passing of the Protection of Birds Act 1954.

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