THE Government has publicly backed grouse shooting in response to an online petition looking to ban the sport.

Set up by wildlife campaign group Wild Justice, the petition called stated that intensive grouse shooting was bad for people, the environment and wildlife.

However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) responded to say that it considered grouse shooting “a legitimate activity, providing benefits for wildlife and habitat conservation and investment in remote areas”.

A spokesman continued to say that, whilst it appreciated that many people held strong views on the issue of driven shooting, the Government considered shooting to bring many benefits to the rural economy which could, in many cases, be beneficial for wildlife and habitat conservation.

Defra did raise concerns, however, over the increase in instances of poisoning and killing of birds of prey, such as the peregrine falcon, red kite and buzzard, and said it would work with stakeholder groups such as the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group to eradicate these crimes.

Caroline Bedell, executive director of conservation at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said: “The Government’s commitment to grouse shooting is terrific news for the shooting community.

“The response sends out a clear message to those hard working and dedicated landowners, gamekeepers and shoot managers that the Government recognises the benefits provided by active land management.

“Whilst this current Government has made its decisions based on sound science and knowledge, the next Government may find it harder to ignore the continuous lobbying from celebrity and clickbait conservationists.”