I have received a large volume of correspondence regarding grouse shooting, both in favour and against.
Shooting is an integral part of rural life, underpinning the social and economic fabric of the countryside. In addition to its significant economic contribution, providing jobs and investment in some of our most remote areas, the sport delivers important benefits for wildlife and habitat conservation. I support, and will continue to support shooting sports and the rights of all those who wish to use firearms safely and in accordance with the law.
Proper game management can make an important contribution to biodiversity by providing cover for wildlife, through the creation and care of habitats such as woodland, grouse moors, beetle banks and hedgerows.
The vast majority of the grouse moors that are sites of special scientific interest are now in favourable or recovering condition, whereas only around half were in that state in 2006. I would applaud the growing awareness this reflects among moorland managers of the importance and sensitivity of upland biodiversity.
I am aware of concerns over the illegal persecution of raptors and I would encourage anyone with information about it to report what they know to the authorities. I applaud the strong line that the British Association for Shooting and Conservation takes on this matter, and would urge that it continue.