Euro ban to hit wildlife

Red grouse, by Les Cornthwaite
Red grouse, by Les Cornthwaite

GROUSE-shooting bosses fear an EU ban on a herbicide they say was introduced to protect spinach will devastate local moorland habitats.

The Moorland Association say the ban on the herbicide Asulam will change the face of Britain’s countryside, destroying land management worth around £100 million a year and threaten the centuries-old shooting tradition.

The latest Brussels’ legislation means this is the last summer land in Lancashire can be sprayed with Asulam, leaving large amounts of countryside vulnerable to massive bracken infestation.

The MA’s season is due to start next week on August 13.

Jeremy Duckworth, of Bleasdale estate, in the Forest of Bowland, slammed the ruling calling it “European bureaucracy gone mad.”

He said without the Government-approved chemical, countryside and rural livelihoods would be put at serious risk.

He said: “Asulam has been safely used for the control of Bracken for 35 years. It should not be banned because the EEC is now questioning its use on spinach.

“Rare wildlife and habitats, including red list endangered species, will face extinction once bracken swamps their breeding ground.

“The impact on grouse management, jobs and ultimately how moorland looks will be dire. Protection of heather moorland in Lancashire is paramount. We’ve already been hit by some of the wettest weather on record, bad news in itself for breeding birds.

“Game can’t be shot on Sunday, which means the glorious twelfth gives way to the thirteenth this year, and you can’t help thinking there’s an unlucky resonance.”

Mr Duckworth added that last year may have been the last good season for unique wild red grouse.

Asulam was the only effective bracken control chemical, but the EU’s European Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health has stopped its use after fears over its use in aerial spraying of spinach, according to the Moorland Association.

The MA said it cares for 850,000 acres of ‘precious heather moorland.’

MA vice chairman George Winn-Darley, said: “Without Asulam, we would have already lost 50 per cent of it.

“Grouse breeding will be badly hit, along with the shooting industry, which is worth over £67 million in England alone, and supports over 1,500 jobs. MA members spend vast sums of money managing the moorland habitat. So much is at risk.”