Edward Bromet doesn’t like the phrase ‘bloodsport’.

“It is grouse shooting,” he said. “You don’t need to give it another name to make it sound worse. It has gone on since Victorian times and it will go on in the future.”

As chairman of The Moorland Association, which looks after 750,000 acres of land used for shooting grouse, he has become used to criticism from the anti-shooting fraternity that killing animals for fun has no place in the 21st century. The new grouse season starts tomorrow, the 'Glorious Twelfth' of August.

He freely admitted that it can be “extraordinarily enjoyable” if expensive pastime but makes another claim – that without the people who organise shoots, moors as we know them would no longer exist.

“If you drive up Wharfedale, all you see is beautiful bright purple on the hills and it wouldn’t be like that if it wasn’t for grouse shooting,” he said. “Heather moorland in this country is protected and conserved by those in the shooting industry.

“It is such a fragile habitat that if there was no shooting, there would be no birds. The moor would be dominated by vermin and foxes. Once they die off, the whole thing crashes in on itself.”

Earlier this year The Bingley Moor Partnership, of which Mr Bromet is a partner, was granted the shooting rights on the Bradford Council-owned, Ilkley Moor.

The partnership already owns Burley and Bingley Moors, where shooting has taken place in recent years.

But in 1997 shooting was banned on Ilkley Moor because of a “political swing” in the make-up of the Council. This led to a “deep misunderstanding” of the link between shooting and countryside management, said Mr Bromet.

“The reason the lease has now been granted is so that shooting people can go and carry out conservation work at our own expense on Ilkley Moor, so it can be preserved and managed much better,” he said.

It might be hard for some to stomach but gamekeepers need to be employed and traps need to be used to keep the right balance, he said.

And he pointed to the fact that The Bingley Moor Partnership, which has been in existence since 1947, pays for the gamekeepers out of its own pocket.

The there is the knock-on benefits to the local economy of shooting parties paying £1,000 per person per day to shoot, booking into hotels in the area and spending their money.

“When there are sufficient numbers to be shot, we will start the year by selling one or two days of shooting to people who are prepared to pay,” he said. “One looks forward to the opportunity when it arises.”

Once on the moor, members of the shoot are semi-concealed in firing positions known as “butts” built of stone or peat, while a line of beaters, employed for the day, drives grouse across the moor towards them.

“They maybe take two birds home and the rest are sold. All grouse are eaten and they are extraordinarily good,” said Mr Bromet, although a spokesman for The League Against Cruel Sports claims that “very few” game birds actually make it to the dinner table.

However, while an estimated 480,000 shooters take to moors in the UK today, the grouse population on Ilkley Moor is still not large enough.

There needs to be more than 60 birds per square kilometre if moorland is to be economically viable for shooting using beaters.

This means that while others join shooting parties today, gamekeepers on Ilkley Moor will be busy making sure grouse numbers flourish, a difficult task considering grouse are the most delicate of the game birds, which are highly vulnerable to parasites and poor weather.

Numbers in the area were decimated in 2006 as fire raged and many birds were killed by a parasitic worm that hides in the heather. But, said Mr Bromet, because of the gamekeepers’ conservation efforts, shooting could possibly take place in the next couple of years.

He said: “Considerable work has been put in by our gamekeepers throughout the year but, despite the investment that is going on, there are still not sufficient numbers. The work they have done, however particularly benefits the ground-nesting birds.

“Grouse eat young heather shoots and the chicks live on insects and conceal themselves from predators in the heather. Provided the heather moorland is conserved, bird numbers will thrive.”

Critics of the country pursuit say the argument that shooting birds preserves birds is “bizarre” and have defended their rights not to be blasted out of the sky.

But fears have also been raised for the safety of walkers on Ilkley Moor when grouse shooting starts.

Bradford’s Green Party councillors, Kevin Warnes and Martin Love, have expressed concerns about shooting grouse, grilling Council leader Kris Hopkins at a meeting last month.

Councillor Warnes said: “Although it looks bizarre that we are shooting birds for their own health, I can understand it. But it is not a cut and dried issue and we have been trying to get out heads around this for the past few months and have asked a lot of questions of the Council.”

Many of these have fallen on deaf ears, said Coun Warnes, who accuses his colleagues of not looking at all the options.

He said: “In a headlong rush to get some financial injection, they have not consulted the public, they have not thought through public safety issues and they have not taken the time to find out what animal rights issues are concerned.

“In the 21st century, should we be using any animal for sport? The people who will be paying the money for the grouse shooting will, at the end of the day, justify it as moorland management but they are doing it because they enjoy the sport of shooting birds.

“We have got rid of cock fighting and bear baiting; I wonder what reaction we would get if we had bullfighting in Centenary Square?”

League Against Cruel Sports chairman John Cooper said: “It is utterly ridiculous to label an industry which depends on the mass slaughter of wildlife for entertainment purposes as glorious. Barbaric and immoral would be far more appropriate under these circumstances.

“The apologists for this barbaric ‘sport’ will attempt to spin the lie that shooting is all about healthy, organic food. This is far from the truth with very few game birds actually making their way on to the dinner table.”