Sunday 20 June 2021

Subject: Wild Justice 64 - please contact your Westminster MP this Week


Good evening!  It looks like being a rainy weekend in many parts of the UK, and you won't want to spend the whole weekend watching football on TV will you?  In these newsletters we usually tell you about what we have been doing but in this newsletter, as we do sometimes, we are asking for your help to put pressure on decision makers to act.
On Monday, there will be a parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall on the subject of driven grouse shooting. These debates are open to all backbench Westminster MPs of all UK constituencies, so if you live in the UK your MP may be able to attend and speak.  Whether or not they do, you may wish to tell them your views on this subject. To find the email address of your MP - click here.
As well as backbench MPs, there will be speeches by shadow and government ministers on the subject. Opposition parties can challenge the government and we can all judge from the government ministerial response whether we are happy with what the government plans to do.  The debates are not followed by a vote and, in a way, these are talking shops, but they set the tone on important subjects and put the government on the spot.  Also, many Westminster Hall debates, including this one, are triggered by parliamentary petitions which reach 100,000 signatures and so they are used to highlight issues on which the public wants to see more action. 
Many of you have already contributed to this debate because you signed a parliamentary petition, initiated by Wild Justice, back in the summer of 2019!  That is the petition being debated all these months later.  The long delay is due to the 2019 general election and then of course the coronavirus pandemic. Can you remember 2019? Back then we could gather together in large numbers, there was still debate over whether Brexit would happen (and how) and Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party - it seems a long time ago.
Also, last year, in 2020, many of you signed an e-action on this general subject that went to MPs, MSPs and members of the Senedd in Wales highlighting the problems associated with driven grouse shooting such as damaging burning of vegetation and illegal killing of protected wildlife - this is another opportunity to state your views on these issues to decision makers.
If you've already been involved on this issue, thank you for getting it into the Westminster parliament again - your voice, added to tens of thousands of others has already made a difference.  If you'd like to do more, then we set out some suggestions below depending on where in the UK you live.  If you're not moved to contact your MP this time then have a good weekend and you may want to watch the debate live on the Parliament YouTube Channel. on Monday starting at 4:30pm.
Points you could make to your MP
1. In general: - you are, of course, free to make any points to your MP that you wish, about this and any other issue - take the opportunity please. Please be polite.  Please only contact your MP.  You should give your name and address so that the MP knows that you are a constituent of theirs.  It's a good idea to keep a copy of your email so that you can compare any response, which might come weeks later, with what you send this weekend. It's a good idea to ask clear questions and check whether you get clear answers from your MP. But any expression of interest in any subject will be noted by MPs, and that includes people with views diametrically opposed to your own - they may be writing to your MP this weekend too - do you want your MP only to read their views?
2. If you live in Wales or Northern Ireland: intensive grouse shooting is a much commoner land use in Scotland and England than it is in Wales and Northern Ireland. And, of course, environmental matters like this are a devolved matter for your own parliament. So your Westminster MP might not be very aware of the issues or much inclined to pay attention to them. However, they are your Westminster MP and you are fully entitled to make any points you wish to them. But if you want to go for a walk in the rain or fall asleep in front of football on the TV we completely understand.  There will be other issues where we will ask for your help in future.  If you do want to contact your MP - skip to point 5 below for some suggestions.
3. If you live in Scotland: intensive grouse shooting is a live issue in Scotland and the Scottish government has said that it will act to license grouse shooting, heather burning and to restrict the mass killing of Mountain Hares. Statements from Scottish ministers over the last few years on raptor persecution have been very strong compared with the wilful blindness of DEFRA ministers.  You could ask your Westminster MP, particularly if they are an SNP Westminster MP, to make the point, or ask a colleague attending the debate to make the point, that Scotland is taking far more action than the UK government is taking in England.  That would be very helpful.  See point 5 below for more points to make.
4. If you live in England: intensive grouse shooting is a live issue in England and DEFRA has been woefully slow and feeble in tackling the problems associated with it, compared, for example, to the much greater action in Scotland.  For more details of points to make on grouse shooting, see point 5 below but ... this is also an opportunity to tell your MP that you support the #stateofnature petition (sign here, please, if you haven't already) which has received very nearly 200,000 signatures and that you want much stronger action than DEFRA has promised so far for a legally binding nature recovery target.
5. Wherever you live:  the problems of intensive grouse moor management, for the hobby of grouse shooting, include the following: 
  • about half a million Red Grouse are shot in a typical year - few of them are eaten - it's just shooting for fun
  • a grouse moor is as unnatural as a car park or a field of wheat and yet they dominate much of our uplands - they are a block to a wilder, more natural, and more beautiful landscape
  • our upland National Parks have been de-wilded by grouse moor management - it's time to let nature have them back
  • intensive grouse shooting is underpinned by wildlife crime - particularly the illegal killing of birds of prey such as Hen Harriers, Peregrine Falcons and Red Kites
  • thousands and thousands of foxes, stoats, crows and other predators are killed, legally, to make sure as many Red Grouse as possible survive to be shot at 
  • lead ammunition is still used on grouse moors and should be banned
  • heather burning damages protected habitats, increases greenhouse gas emissions, increases flood risk and increases water treatment costs - DEFRA proposals to address these problems are so weak that Wild Justice has started a legal challenge of DEFRA's proposed measures
  • the densities of Red Grouse are so unnaturally high on grouse moors that diseases are becoming commoner - the grouse are dosed with powerful medicines to help them get through to the opening of the shooting season and the checks on food contamination simply aren't up to scratch
DEFRA has been slow to act on any of these issues - as the petition states, it has been wilfully blind, in contrast to the action taken north of the border.  DEFRA has never made a clear, unequivocal statement on the scale of illegal raptor persectution on grouse moors, nor made a clear statement condemning grouse shooting as the source of that criminal behaviour. This debate is an opportunity to set the record straight.
DEFRA has a range of options at its fingertips to deal with the raft of issues that Scotland is already tackling.  DEFRA has dragged its feet on dealing with lead ammunition, raptor persecution and heather burning.  Its recently announced measures to limit heather burning are so poor that Wild Justice has started legal action on this subject.  You may wish to suggest that licensing of grouse shooting would be the best way to tackle all these issues at once or you might wish to say that only a ban on driven grouse shooting will adress the whole range of environmental problems caused by this crazy land use.
Phew!  Thank you. Even a very short email to your MP will make a difference to their awareness of the issue and will be a voice for change.
We'll give you our views on the debate some time next week, and we'll have another ask of you then too, particularly if you live in Wales.
We wouldn't want you to think we have been idle though. See this critique we published on our blog of Natural England's totally inadequate assessment of the biological factors that will affect any reintroduction of Hen Harriers in southern England (we think Natural England should throw away their current assessment and do it properly). Following last week's newsletter and our news of two potential legal challenges of DEFRA - on gamebird releases and heather burning - letters have been whizzing back and forwards and we have been discussing progress with our lawyers (we're waiting for more responses from DEFRA).  We're setting up some filming that will happen over the next few days and in July ahead of the Inglorious 12th, and we've been talking to several journalists writing pieces on grouse shooting.  And we have been progressing our plans for a website refresh and working with our accountant on our company accounts.
That's all for now - we'll be back next week.
Wild Justice (Directors: Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay).

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