The curious criminal: The Talented Mr.Steele
For all his faults, of which – as we’ll see later on – there are many, Luke Steele has been relentless in his crusade of trying to get grouse shooting banned.
The man is industrious, involved in (as far as it is possible to establish) multiple organisations and campaign groups including Stop the Shoot, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors and Moorland Monitors, all of which are committed to campaigning to get grouse shooting banned, regardless of the impact this would have on the environment, the local economy and communities, and ignoring the wildfire risk.
As his website www.luke-steele.com proudly claims, Steele has regularly been quoted in the media on a range of moorland related matters, be it wildfires or shooting leases. He is also a savvy user of social media, using Facebook groups like ‘Ilkley Young Labour’, to promote his causes such as the banning of shooting on Ilkley Moor.
His profile has been boosted further by the publicity platform given to him by Lush Player, run by that delightful British cosmetics brand, Lush, who famously launched a grotesque campaign against the police in 2018 by decorating their stores with fake police tape.
On the surface, it is understandable how Steele, with his chiselled comic book supervillain face, has galvanised a support base of campaigners, seemingly made up of energised teenagers who idolise Steele as some sort of cult leader whatever it is he is saying.
‘Ban Bloodsport march’ (credit, stoptheshoot)
It all looks like jolly good fun for the vast majority of his supporters, going for a march along a moor. Indeed, one of those young members pictured carrying the “Ban bloodsports” sign has his skateboard under the other arm. Perhaps unaware the moorland tracks were inappropriate surfaces for skateboarding down – for why else would someone choose to lug a skateboard up a moor? It would be interesting to know how many of those pictured if asked could tell the difference between a red grouse and rooster, although we probably already know the answer to that.
It is not just children who he has managed to galvanise. Judging by this recent photo at one of his protests, Steele enjoys the further support from middle aged brightly coloured anorak enthusiasts, who are overwhelmingly female. It could be a scene from the Talented Mr Ripley.
‘A recent demonstration at Moscar Moor’
But the problem with Luke Steele is that whilst it may be a game to some of his supporters, his actions threaten to put people’s livelihoods, and indeed their lives, at risk. The recent wildfires in Australia serve as stark reminder of the untold damage that can be caused by banning controlled burning, not to mention the impact of fire on Saddleworth last year, which released over half a million tonnes of CO2 into the air, the equivalent of 100,000 cars’ yearly emissions.
If Steele really did care about protecting animals as he purports, isn’t it interesting how rarely you ever hear him – or many other activists – complain about the halal meat trade, battery chickens or indeed, more currently, any of the wet markets of Wuhan. No, Steele choose to focus his attention, and plenty of other people’s well-intended donated funds, in pursuing a ban on grouse shooting – perhaps because it is seen as a soft target for a radical socialist seeking to enforce his dogma.
But it is worse than that still. I wonder how many of the supporters who follow Steele online or go to his events actually know that beneath his roguish smile there is a hardened criminal guilty of repeat offences, including intimidation of persons and interference with a contractual relationship, which led to him ultimately being given a prison sentence of 18months..
One of his victims from Harlan Laboratories, where one of the offences took place, is on record as saying all his neighbours on the street he lived on were sent notes claiming he was a rapist. Another said that the activists would find out names of scientists who worked at the laboratory and list them on websites as paedophiles.
Even as recently as March this year Steele was back in court, this time in a case against an abattoir in Kent, which had been broken into in order to illegally place hidden cameras. The judge concluded that Steel had hired his accomplice, a fellow activist called Ed Shephard, because he would ‘bend the rules’ and dismissed the case. The judge also raised questions about the date stamps on the video evidence submitted, describing it as ‘amateurish’.
Although Mark Avery from Wild Justice and Jeff Knott from the RSPB are happy to appear alongside him, Luke Steele deserves to be considered a credible authority on moorland management no more than the average gamekeeper should be considered credible flamenco dancing judge. This is why it is so important that people realise who Luke Steele really is; not least the parents of the children he takes on his marches with him and those that trust him with their donations.