Animal welfare: New grouse moor-owning minister 'like putting abattoir owner in charge of animal sanctuary'
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Environmentalists have criticised the new government minister in charge of animal welfare for his ownership of a grouse moor, which has been likened to "putting an abattoir owner in charge of an animal sanctuary".
Last week, Robbie Douglas-Miller was made a baron, as well as a Parliamentary under secretary of state for DEFRA - the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He was this week handed the animal health and welfare, and biosecurity ministerial portfolios.
However, the Guardian reports Douglas-Miller owns a grouse moor - a moorland managed for hunting the gamebirds - in Scotland, and joined fellow grouse moor owners in September in asking the Scottish government to weaken new laws introducing licences for shooting grouse - in an effort to address persecution of birds of prey.
Raptor persecution is a serious wildlife issue in the UK, with the RSPB reporting many of the UK's protected birds of prey were still victims of illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning - with the deaths disproportionately linked to land used for gamebird shooting.
Douglas-Miller has also previously argued in favour of relaxing rules on shooting wild birds that hunt salmon, and is on a fishery board which applied for a licence to cull seals - and last year gained a licence to kill wild cormorants and sawbill ducks. According to The Guardian, he has also historically restricted public walking access from crossing his 4,000-acre estate.
A number of environmentalists have raised concerns about Douglas-Miller's appointment. Wildlife conservationist Dr Ruth Tingay, who authors the Raptor Persecution UK blog, told NationalWorld that the appointment of an unelected individual to DEFRA's ministerial team was "very strange".
Wildlife was often "routinely and systematically killed" on grouse moors, for the purposes of maintaining red grouse which are also then shot, "for so-called sport," she said. "In the midst of a biodiversity crisis, it's not clear what his experience will add to DEFRA's policy on animal welfare. His appointment is akin to putting an abattoir owner in charge of an animal sanctuary".
In a post on X - formerly known as Twitter - Green MP Caroline Lucas wrote: "Just the person for the job of new Environment Minister - an unelected landowner who has restricted public nature access and backed bird culls." She added, with presumptive sarcasm, that he was "someone I’d definitely trust to prioritise animal protection, nature access [and] environmental restoration".
In a statement, a Defra spokesperson told NationalWorld: “The minister is fully committed to the government’s world-leading reforms on animal welfare, conservation and nature recovery.”
They did not respond to queries on why he was chosen for the portfolio.