Podcast uploaded: Luke Steele | Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors

“We give communities the tools and empowerment needed to turn opposition to grouse shooting into results.”

Earlier this month I met up with Luke Steele, spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors.

Ban Bloodsport’s say on their website at stoptheshoot.com that their mission is “to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire’s moors, to free the way for these spaces to be managed in a way where their full potential can be reached. Through solid research, pro-active educational initiatives, investigations and legal advocacy. By educating the public and policy-makers about wildlife and the environment, we motivate them to support upland conservation.”

When the group was first launched I thought, “Well, here’s a group that does exactly what it says on the tin”. I was less sure about how they would go about it though. The grouse shooting industry is well-funded, after all, it has an army of lobbyists, and the phrase the ‘glorious 12th’ – the day the guns start blowing Red Grouse out of the moorland skies – is so ‘normalised’ most media platforms use it without even thinking about what it actually means (and more shame them for that).

Well, it turns out it’s not simple, but not incredibly difficult either…according to Luke anyway. It’s all about working with local communities and local businesses – especially local businesses like Yorkshire Water and NG Bailey who actually own the moorland that the shooters operate from and who are now questioning just what grouse shooting does for them and their reputations…

First, though, who is Luke Steele anyway?http://player.lush.com/channels/times/radio/luke-steele-ban-bloodsports-yorkshires-moors

Interviewing Luke Steele tomorrow

I’m off to Lush’s London Studio offices in Beak Street, Soho tomorrow to interview Luke Steele, spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors(BBYM).

To quote from BBYM’s website:

Campaigning to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire’s moors.

We believe Yorkshire’s moors are the jewel in our region’s crown and must be preserved in a way beneficial to wildlife, education, its users and the local economy. They are a unique environment for taking leisure among nature which provides investment for the region.

Our vision seeks a regional resource that promotes biodiversity and teaches younger generations the importance of nature conservation. An asset which helps grow the local economy. A healthy ecosystem which is able to meet the challenges climate change is placing on the region, including by mitigating the flood risk which threatens businesses and livelihoods.

Our mission is to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire’s moors, to free the way for these spaces to be managed in a way where their full potential can be reached. Through solid research, pro-active educational initiatives, investigations and legal advocacy. By educating the public and policy-makers about wildlife and the environment, we motivate them to support upland conservation.

Image copyright Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors

Luke himself is a very interesting (and controversial – google him and you’ll find out why) man. I first met him at a League Against Cruel Sports event some years ago. Clean-cut and dressed head to toe in tweed (unlike most of us t-shirted and denimed League supporters), I was convinced he had to be connected with a shooting estate or represented gamekeepers.

Not so, of course. And while he (like most of us t-shirted etc etc) has his detractors (stand up for something, someone will want to shoot you down) he has honed his skills over the last few years and become an extremely effective campaigner.

I last saw him in full flight last August, when I was invited to record a podcast at a joint BBYM/League Against Cruel Sports event in Hebden Bridge.

As I wrote in the introduction of that podcast (Protesting Grouse Shooting on Yorkshire’s Moors):

Hebden Bridge protest, photo copyright Charlie Moores

Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors and the League Against Cruel Sports held a joint protest in the Calder Valley market town of Hebden Bridge to urge Yorkshire Water to stop leasing moorland for the controversial ‘sport’ of grouse shooting.

[I] met with the speakers at the Hebden Bridge event to discuss why the event was targeting the utility company and the impact of grouse shooting on the local area and its wildlife. In the following interview you will hear from Luke Steele, of Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors; Ros, a local naturalist and campaigner; Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports; and Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor at Born Free Foundation.

Have a listen. Everything we said in that podcast is still entirely relevant of course…

Back to tomorrow and meeting up with Luke.

We’ve arranged to meet on the back of BBYM sending out a press-release announcing that grouse shooting would end on Denton Moor (near Harrogate, North Yorkshire). The landowner, engineering firm NG Bailey, is set to launch a review into the future of grouse shooting on Denton Moor as “part of a wider drive to increase environmental conservation within the grounds of its headquarters near Ilkley“.

I have a number of questions for Luke. N G Bailey is looking at its shooting lease because of a number of wildlife crimes on the moor, which they have condemned as “totally unacceptable” and “not reflective of the company’s values or ethical practices”. Does a ‘review’ necessarily mean the end of grouse shooting, though, or just the awarding of the shooting lease to different tenants? What might N G Bailey do with the land instead? What is the long-term future for Yorkshire’s blighted, scarred landscapes, and will the literally thousands and thousands of traps hidden away in gullies, walls, and alongside streams ever be removed – for good?

It may be that Luke doesn’t have the answers to all of that – the future is always difficult to predict and ‘greenwashing’ is all too common (unless you were in the meeting when the decision was taken, how can anyone be sure what the genuine reasons behind losing the money that shooting brings in might be).

Whether Luke can answer those questions won’t take away for a moment that there is huge pressure on companies to change the way land is used in Yorkshire, or that Luke Steele is one of the key figures in seeing that change take place.

I’m looking forward to catching up with him, and – assuming all goes well – hope to have the podcast uo on Lush Player by the end of the week.