There was recently a Westminster Hall debate about driven grouse shooting, which many constituents contacted me about. We have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way and the previous Labour Government had a proud record on animal welfare. For example, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 embedded in statute, for the first time, clear standards relating to the welfare of animals.
Many of those who were in touch with me expressed concern about the impact that grouse shooting has on protected birds of prey, such as the hen harrier, as well as on the environment more generally.
During the 2015 general election, I stood on a manifesto which included a commitment to deal with the wildlife crime associated with shooting. I am concerned that birds of prey are intensively persecuted, and that iconic birds such as the hen harrier are in danger of being lost as a breeding species in England.
I believe that more must be done to protect these birds and to reduce the suffering of animals on shooting estates and we need an independent review on how to end the illegal persecution of birds of prey. This is especially needed since the RSPB claimed that the Government's plan to increase the hen harrier population had failed. The RSPB points in particular to the role of the illegal killing of hen harriers to prevent them preying on grouse.
I also share people's concerns at the impact of grouse shooting on flood risk. Research that shows that the burning of heather to improve grouse moors reduces the land's retention of water. The clearing of land for grouse shooting was also identified as one of the sources of the flooding we saw over Christmas 2015. This land clearing has little public benefit and I believe the Government needs to take a stronger stance on it.
If you would like to sign the UK Parliament petition to ban driven grouse shooting, which the League Against Cruel Sports is supporting, click here.