At the end of last month, parliament debated driven grouse shooting in response to an online petition that attracted more than 120,000 signatures.
The ePetitions procedure allows citizens to set up petitions that must be considered for debate if they receive more than 100,000 signatures. It seems reasonable to expect that when a debate is approved, the member of parliament chosen to introduce the petition will at least maintain neutrality in putting the points of the petition. Stephen Double MP certainly did not respect this, and in introducing the petition made it quite clear that he disagreed with it.
Voters in the High Peak were strongly represented in those who signed and though our MP Andrew Bingham spoke more than once in the debate he did not raise any of the concerns of his constituents.
Charlotte Farrell, a High Peak Green Party member, wrote to Mr Bingham before the debate expressing concern not only about the cruel nature of the sport and the threat it represented to predator birds such as hen harriers that are often killed by gamekeepers because they prey on grouse, but also about grouse moor management practices that lessen moorland capacity to absorb carbon and water, adding to the dangers of climate change and flooding. Mr Bingham's reply ignored most of these concerns - as did his contribution to the debate in parliament.
Here Charlotte writes of her feelings on watching the full debate.
On 31 October Parliament debated the issue of driven grouse shooting prompted by an e-petition calling for a ban of the “sport”. The call for a ban was made because the grouse moors have over decades been managed solely to produce more grouse for the “sport”; heather and consequently peat is burned to provide a better breeding ground for the grouse and its natural predators are exterminated. These predators are predominantly the raptors such as peregrine falcon and hen harrier.
The management also has detrimental effects on the hydrology of the area, more needs to be spent on water purification because of the run off from burning and the lack of vegetation which causes the run off contributes to flooding. The peat is a massive carbon store and so its burning releases carbon into the atmosphere at a time when we need as much carbon storage capacity as possible.
However, to call it a debate would be a misnomer: it boiled down to around 13 Tories and 2 DUP members all extolling the “sport” and the alleged benefits it brings to conservation and eco-diversity and the economic benefits it brings to rural areas. There was a very great deal of hyperbole and hypocrisy. It was touching to see the concern these MPs held for the rural poor and the communities in which they live which somehow belies all the cuts being made to rural services.
All the important issues surrounding the petition were largely ignored or scoffed at by the MPs debating the topic, the illegal killing of raptors barely got a mention, gamekeepers were called “custodians of the countryside”. The notorious Walshall estate which Natural England tried to prosecute for its mismanagement of the moors was held up as an example of good practice.
Climate change ranked very low and beneath the right of people to go out and shoot grouse, and destroy the natural environment whilst at it.The pro-grouse shooters all tried to sound so reasonable and balanced suggesting that the sides should all work together and listen to one and other, yet when the SNP MP Richard Arkless raised the introduction vicarious liability in respect of gamekeepers illegal persecution of raptors he was told that this was not the right way forward.
Andrew Bingham made a speech which was laughable in its ignorance. Like those before him he extolled the economic benefits of the sport and the benefits it brings to the High Peak. He said he had been shown a video of 5 hen harriers on the moors North of Sheffield. Of course I very much hope that was true but suspect he could have been shown anything and would not know the difference between a Hen Harrier and any other raptor.