Government sets out plans to reform animal welfare on grouse moors

Animal welfare is to be reformed on northern England’s grouse moors under a raft of new policies announced by the Government today.

Campaigners for grouse moor reform have today welcomed the publication of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which includes a package of measures to strengthen the protection of wildlife in the uplands.

Under the plan the population of threatened mountain hares which inhabits the Peak District will be given full protection under law and legislation surrounding bird of prey persecution and the snaring of foxes and other animals will be reviewed.

Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, said:

“England’s grouse moors are woefully under-regulated so we strongly welcome the new policies announced today, which would give stronger protections to wild animals across the uplands.

Grouse moors continue to be implicated in a wave of wildlife crime which has seen birds of prey being illegally shot, poisoned and trapped to maintain large populations of game birds for the guns. Existing legislation fails to give the police and regulators the robust powers needed to get a grip on the problem.”

The illegal persecution of birds of prey on moorland managed for grouse shooting remains a serious problem more than sixty years are laws were passed to give species protection. The National Wildlife Crime Unit has briefed law enforcement agencies that “intelligence continues to indicate a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management”.

In one incident captured on camera last May, a masked man was filmed by Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors trapping and killing a rare goshawk on the Queen’s grouse moor in the North York Moors. Other incidents have included two buzzards having been lured in with a captive owl and shot in the Yorkshire Dales and a buzzard found shot on Saddleworth Moor.

Law enforcement officials often find it near-impossible to investigate and secure prosecutions for bird of prey persecution due to the isolated locations where wildlife is targeted, an absence of witnesses and the sophisticated nature of how these crimes are committed.

Scotland has committed to introducing mandatory licensing of grouse moors after facing a similar wave of wildlife crime.

Luke Steele adds:

“Ultimately grouse moor licensing is needed to ensure those moors where birds of prey are illegally killed can be closed down. The review of wildlife crime laws announced today is an acknowledgement that the status quo is neither acceptable nor working and we look forward to working with Defra on an effective solution.”

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Notes for editors:

  • Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s 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.