A WHARFEDALE MP's call for a national grouse shooting ban has sparked a mass online debate.

Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) issued a statement on Tuesday, July 31 which, by the following day, had been seen by more than 60,000 people.

Posting on his Facebook page, he said: "Grouse shooting season starts on August 12 and I am calling for a ban on the practice.

"As well as being a cruel blood sport, grouse shooting increases the risk of flooding and wild fires.

"It is a Victorian sport that has no place in modern society."

His full statement - which mentions that Otley remains at risk from flooding - goes on to say that while landowners make money from allowing grouse shoots, 'animals and local communities are disproportionally paying the costs, which can include flooding and wildfires'.

It goes on to state that the management of grouse moors, which includes draining and burning growth, leaves the land in a a state that 'reduces its capacity to hold water and has been repeatedly found to increase flooding'.

Mr Sobel said: "As a consistent supporter of environmental sustainability and protected animal species, I fully support a national ban on grouse shooting.

"These are unsustainable practices that lead to devastating effects on people and wildlife."

There was a fierce reaction to the suggestion on the Otley - Our Town Facebook page, however.

Many of the 358 comments there claimed Mr Sobel should be focusing on 'real' issues.

Rachel Cheetham, referring to the photo of the MP on Otley Bridge that was released with his statement, said: "How ironic this photo is!

"Traffic in the background is a real problem in Otley, not grouse shooting!"

Adrian Buttree said: "How about why are houses being built in the flood plain? Why is there little or no effort to tackle the town's traffic issues?

"Two issues that are real and pressing."

More of the 783 comments on Mr Sobel's own Facebook page were supportive, though there were still plenty of critics including Andrew Lawson. He said: "There are no grouse moors in his constituency so why does he feel the need to poke his nose in other people's business?"

Sam Furlong added: "Unless you’re a vegan I’m not sure how you can call it cruel as all shot birds are eaten."

Luke Steele, however, defended the MP's position. He said: "Leeds North West has been negatively impacted by grouse shooting - particularly the flooding which has come as a consequence of Wharfedale grouse moors being burnt for game bird numbers."

Chris Westwood added: "What happens to the environment is everyone's business."

*Grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor ended earlier this year following a decision by Bradford Council.