Earlier this month the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Michael Gove MP, announced that Tony Juniper had been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate to take up the post of Chair of Natural England, the Government’s advisor for the natural environment in England (see here).
This was a surprising but welcome announcement given Tony Juniper’s long-standing environmental credentials and Natural England’s long-standing environmental incompetence.
[Tony Juniper CBE, photo by Getty]
Not everyone’s happy with this nomination though. According to an article in the Sunday Telegraph, the Countryside Alliance has accused Tony Juniper of being “prejudiced against the countryside” and that his views on grouse shooting make him ‘unsuitable to run Natural England’.
Here’s the Sunday Telegraph article in full:
Natural England chief ‘biased’ against country sports
Campaigner who has been critical of grouse shooting ‘wrong for watchdog role’, says Countryside Alliance.
By Patrick Sawer
The next head of the country’s nature watchdog has been accused of being “prejudiced against the countryside” ahead of his appointment.
Tony Juniper, a veteran environmental campaigner and former Green Party candidate, is to be made chairman of Natural England by Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary.
But campaigners representing farming, countryside communities and businesses have said he is the wrong person for the job, claiming his views on country sports such as grouse shooting show he does not understand the importance of rural activities.
Mr Juniper has previously criticised grouse shooting, claiming landowners who run the sport enjoy the benefits of huge taxpayer subsidies. In his 2015 book, What Nature Does for Britain, he wrote: “One lever society has for influencing how the land is managed is the vast amount of money paid from our taxes to upland shooting estates….the sport of a privileged few will continue to be subsidised”.
The Countryside Alliance says Mr Juniper’s views make him unsuitable to run Natural England, which helps to protect England’s nature and landscapes and is the Government’s adviser for the natural environment. Tim Bonner, the chief executive, said: “Mr Juniper is simply wrong to claim that there is any subsidy for shooting. In response to an anti-shooting petition on parliament’s website in November 2017, Defra responded that ‘neither subsidies nor agri-environment payments are paid to farmers to support shooting activities”.
“His comments also reveal a worrying undercurrent of prejudice and completely misunderstand the importance of grouse shooting to many upland communities. It is extemely worrying that the nominee could have written this just four years ago”.
Mr Bonner added: “Grouse shooting alone supports 1,520 full-time jobs and is worth £97.7 million”.
The Alliance hit out ahead of a hearing on Tuesday of the environment, food and rural affairs committee, where Mr Juniper will be questioned about his suitability for the role.
In 2010 Mr Juniper stood as prospective parliamentary candidate for the Green Party on a manifesto that pledged to extend the ban on hunting with dogs to other blood sports.
Defra said he had not declared any significant political activity in the past five years. A spokesman said: “Tony Juniper has a wide range of experience of working with WWF, the Prince of Wales, Friends of the Earth and many others, and the environment, food and rural affairs and environmental audit committees will soon have the opportunity to carry out further scrutiny on his suitability for the post”.
A spokesman for Mr Juniper said he would comment ahead of the hearing.
The pre-appointment hearing will take place today at 2.45pm and can be watched live here.
UPDATE 27 February 2019: Questions on grouse shooting for Tony Juniper but not on hen harrier persecution (here)