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Stop Turning the Wilderness into a Bloody Killing Ground in the Name of 'Sport' - Elisa Allen

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Some people pay up to £14,000 to attend a shooting ‘party’. Because many have no experience or training in shooting, nearly half of the birds never die outright, but instead have to endure a mutilated and lingering painful death.

In terms of the number of animals killed, no sport in the UK has had a more devastating impact than the game bird shooting industry. During the hunting season, the hunter kills over 5,000 grouse a day. If a dog or cat is shot for fun, we don’t call it sport, we call it abuse. And that is precisely the case when it is done to birds, who feel pain and fear as much as other animals.

It’s worth remembering that what the grouse wants from life is a chance to live it. They are charming birds with their own thoughts, feelings, and families. In fact, they are devoted parents. The female builds the nest, but the parents share the responsibility of feeding the chicks. When left to live in peace, male grouse make their presence known to hens by beating drums with their wings and engaging in elaborate courtship dances that are modeled in North American and Alpine folk dances. But during hunting season, human “throwers” will deliberately drive them out of their homes and drive them straight into the fire.

Moorish grouse.

And grouse aren’t the only ones to be slaughtered in this blood sport. To increase grouse numbers, landowners kill natural predators such as harriers, golden eagles and other birds of prey and destroy nests. Thousands of foxes, crows and stoats are also killed each year. In a barbaric attempt to catch a predator, a gamekeeper sets a trap, a barbaric device capable of inflicting serious injury on any animal, including dogs and cats.

Terms such as “game control” are used in the industry as an offensive attempt to justify killing other animals to boost the ptarmigan population. Wild hares in particular are targeted because they carry a tick-borne virus that can kill ptarmigan chicks. A report from the Royal Society for the Conservation of Birds indicates that the biggest threat to the endangered chicken harrier is “illegal killings linked to the management of wastelands for runaway grouse shooting”. All this to ensure that those who pay to go hunting get their money’s worth and satisfy their bloodlust.

To add insult to injury, grouse hunting is also exacerbating climate catastrophe. Grouse feed on the young shoots of heather. So vast areas of heather are burned to speed up the growth of these shoots and artificially increase the number of ptarmigans to kill. This exposes carbon-rich peat and degrades this huge natural carbon sink. As a result, hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, damaging ecosystems and accelerating global warming. These regions can be vast. In the 540-square-mile North York Moors National Park, a whopping 85% of the land is reserved for grouse hunting. No entertainment destroys delicate ecosystems and smothers the planet, not to mention atrocities.

In addition, almost all hunters use poisonous and contaminated lead bullets. A hunting group may fire up to 1,700 shells in a single day. This shot is favored by the shooting community for its ballistic properties, but can poison other animals. Ammunition can also contaminate waterways, vegetation and soil, posing risks to humans as well.

Fortunately, times are changing. In a major change, Yorkshire Water, which owns acres of moorland in the county, has already decided not to renew shooting leases on two moorlands, and he has eight more under review.

This is a welcome move, but more needs to be done. Hunting has no place in civilized society. Entertainment based on cruelty to animals is outdated, and their ban has been long overdue.

Elisa Allen is Vice President of UK Programs and Operations for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).