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Countryside Alliance clash with Defra policy on grouse hand-outs

The Countryside Alliance is giving Chris Packham a little rest and is turning its nastiness towards Tony Juniper, Michael Gove’s proposed new Chair of the hapless Natural England (who will appear before the Efra committee on Tuesday).

According to the Sunday Telegraph, campaigners representing ‘farming, countryside communities and businesses‘, (though only the Countryside Alliance is quoted and they represent no-one very much), think Tony is out of touch with the countryside and in particular with various activities which seem only to number grouse shooting. By the way, Tony Juniper is a fisherman and so does a tiny bit of wildlife-killing of his own but not even that will get him an easy ride from the bitterness of the Countryside Alliance.

What has got Tim Bonner’s goat appears to be this passage from Tony’s book, What Nature does for Britain (reviewed here) where he says

One lever society has for influencing how the land is managed is the vast amount of money paid from our taxes to upland shooting estates… the sport of a privileged few will continue to be subsidised not only through our taxes but also through the water bills of the many, who pay for the colour to be removed.

Tim Bonner, in his own charming way, seems to think that he has nailed Tony when he says that grouse shooting isn’t subsidised directly – but then neither did Tony! There is no argument that grouse moors get huge amounts of public subsidy for running a few sheep over their land now and again even though their main economic activity is grouse shooting. And there should be no doubt that the externalities of grouse shooting (higher flood risk, water treatment costs etc etc) should be taken into account when looking at whether the grouse shooting industry is a net drain to the economy.

Of course, Bonner knows that he can rely of the mindless unscientific indolent support of Defra on these matters who, in answer to Les Wallace’s successful parliamentary petition, said that there was no need for an independent look at this issue because there is already a highly flawed non-independent stab in the dark at the answer (see Monday’s blog on this issue).

However, Bonner might want to revisit what George Eustice, the long-term, and sometimes quite good, Defra Farming Minister, said at the Oxford Farming Conference that, post-Brexit, this government would end the system of subsidies for ‘slipper farmers receiving money for running grouse shoots and other activities without actually farming‘ (Ben Webster, The Times 5 January 2017).  So the government seems to be with Tony on that point.

Here are some more quotes about grouse shooting from Tony’s book – nothing wrong with them either.

Tony Juniper appears in front of the Efra Committee on Tuesday afternoon at 2:45 in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.

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