DEFRA have said that they are not subsiding grouse shooting in the way suggested in a Guardian article published today: " Grouse shooting estates shored up by millions in subsidies." The article followed an investigation by Friends of the Earth that claimed that over £4 million was going to the 30 estates where grouse shooting takes place.

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In response, a DEFRA spokesman told the Countryside Alliance that they were surprised at the content and said it did not reflect the department’s policy towards payments to landowners.

The reality is that only agricultural land is eligible for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments as determined by Defra’s Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which administers the Scheme in England. The RPA guidelines make it clear that moorland used primarily for shooting purposes is not eligible for BPS payments, and there is also an ‘active farmer’ test for claimants along with a range of other criteria to prove that the land is in agricultural use. The primary land use on many moors managed for grouse shooting is low intensity grazing, often leased to a tenant farmer, and it is the farming side of the business which benefits from these payments, not grouse shooting.

Grouse moor management benefits conservation

In addition to BPS payments, some grouse moors also receive grants through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which provide funding to farmers and land managers to farm in a way that supports biodiversity, enhances the landscape, and improves the quality of water, air and soil. The very fact that many moorlands used for grouse shooting are eligible for these schemes is recognition that grouse moor management benefits conservation and habitat.

Countryside Alliance Head of Shooting Liam Stokes said:

DEFRA may be surprised that anyone is trying to suggest that they are subsidising grouse shooting, but divisive, class-war rhetoric has been an unfortunate feature of the latest campaign against moorland management. This attempt to suggest that government subsidies are being used to pay for grouse shooting makes for sensational headlines, but doesn’t reflect the truth on the ground.

“Subsidies in the uplands are used to support agricultural and conservation activities, just as they are in the lowlands. These attempts to politicise the debate over how we manage our moorlands are deeply unhelpful, our solutions need to be driven by evidence and based in cooperation between landowners, conservationists and the shooting community.”

MPs will be debating a ban on grouse shooting on Monday 31st October 2016. You can sign the petition to support grouse shooting here.