Exmoor National Park Authority has firmly rejected calls from the League Against Cruel Sports to curtail game shooting on the moor.
Chief Executive of the animal welfare group Joe Duckworth has written to the Park Authority chairman John Dyke to express "dismay" at the growth of commercial pheasant shooting on Exmoor – just a week before the start of the pheasant shooting season on October 1.
But the move backfired when the National Park hit back with statistics showing the value of game shooting to the fragile moorland economy.
A spokeswoman said: "I don't think people on Exmoor would thank us for trying to do anything to reduce the amount of game shooting, even if we could.
"It earns a great deal of money for Exmoor – £22m a year in 2006 when a survey was carried out and a good deal more now – and brings visitors here at a time of year when there are very few tourists. The people who come to shoot spend a great deal of money."
The League complains in its letter that health and safety is compromised with birds driven over roads to the guns and that the night shooting of foxes and other animals by gamekeepers is "an accident waiting to happen."
Mr Duckworth also alleges that the release of thousands of pheasants into the woods on shooting estates "changes the composition and character of the woods."
But the National Park authority, which carried out a detailed report into game shooting on the moor in 2006, robustly defended the sport as "good for Exmoor."
David Gervers, South West director at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), also defended the sport in the Westcountry.
He said: "Shooting is good for the environment and the countryside and is recognised as such by many leading conservation bodies and agencies.
"Cover crops, for example, benefit a host of farmland song birds as well as pheasants. Shooting also provides £270 million for the South West economy every year and is a sustainable activity."
Exmoor is one of the top spots in England for pheasant shooting with wealthy guns travelling from all over the world and spending money in local hotels and shops, as well as on their shooting.
LACS, which campaigned hard to win a ban on hunting with dogs, has switched attention to game shooting since the hunt ban came into force in 2005.
It claims in its letter to Exmoor National Park that access to moorland is affected by shooting with walkers "discouraged" from woodland. "Few visitors want to encounter groups of armed, often untrained, men while walking in the countryside," LACS claims.
It objects too on the grounds of animal welfare and "visual impact."
But the 2006 report, The Role of Game Shooting on Exmoor, found the sport contributes millions to the local economy and provides vital jobs.
It said: "This is a remarkable figure given that shooting is not generally intended for profit but is structured so that the provision of shooting – an unusual economic activity – is paid for by its participants (half of Exmoor Shoots aim simply to break even)."
The report went on: "The creation of jobs sustained by shooting is substantial for a remote rural area like Exmoor... there are 100 paid gamekeepers (70 full-time jobs) employed on Exmoor shoots and... 1,600 direct jobs ... are supported by the provision of shooting activities"