CAMPAIGNERS opposing the start of grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor are holding a protest ramble on the famous hills and plan to play cricket in front of the guns.

Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor (BBIM) is a coalition of regional campaigners and is lobbying Bradford Council to ban grouse shooting on the publicly-owned moor in the interests of wildlife and leisure.

BBIM spokesman Luke Steele said: "Grouse shooting is inherently cruel and causes much damage to our world-famous Ilkley Moor.

"Not only are birds shot out of the sky, but hawks, including hen harriers, are deterred from nesting in the area because of intensive management for shooting.

"Leisure is disrupted too, with the safety of moor users placed in jeopardy.

"We call on Bradford Council to uphold Ilkley Moor in the interests of wildlife conservation and leisure.

"Our protest this weekend will be peaceful and we shall be heard."

On Saturday morning around 40 protesters will give leaflets to visitors to the Cow and Calf Rocks and then make their way up onto the moor above.

"When shoots are taking place it is mass slaughter and just shouldn't be taking place.

"We aim to disrupt it by having picnics and even by playing cricket close to the guns," Mr Steel said.

But Amanda Anderson, the director of the Moorland Association, said careful management of grouse moors encouraged their ecology and natural beauty.

"We take great pride in the flora and fauna that are doing well under the careful management of our members; the black grouse, ring ouzel, merlin, lapwing, golden plover and curlew are just a few amber or red listed birds that have refuges on driven grouse moors.

Mrs Anderson stressed that access to affected areas of Ilkley Moor would only be hindered temporarily while shooting took place and that marshals would be on hand to advise walkers.

"Safety is always of paramount concern," she said.

A spokesman for the Council said it knew of the protest by BBIM.

"The group is calling for an end to the current agreement between Bradford Council and the Bingley Moor Partnership which allows the latter to shoot grouse on a small area of the moor.

"The ten-year agreement with Bingley Moor Partnership was signed in 2008 and reviewed last year.

"Leasing the moor for grouse shooting generates £10,000 per year for the council, which helps the council manage the moor. Grouse shooting presents no danger to other users of the moor.

"The Council received a petition from the group in June and discussed the matter at Full Council on July 15.

"The petition was then referred to the Environment and Waste Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee which will consider it in October."