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In his first public speech, Richard Ali, the new chief executive of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), made a call for shooting groups to work closely to challenge ignorance about shooting sports.

At the annual general meeting of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), held last week at JCB’s headquarters in Staffordshire, Mr Ali told an audience of more than 300 that there should be greater co-operation between like-minded bodies.

“It should be self-evident that united we stand, divided we fall,” he said, adding that his door will always be open to the NGO.

Geoff Garrod, NGO vice chairman, responded warmly, saying: “We look forward to working with you and attacking the enemy as one.”

Mr Ali also spoke about the threat to lead shot, making BASC’s stance on the matter clear.

He said: “No evidence, no change,” adding that the shooting community must demand evidence-based decision-making from our regulators.

But he added: “If we expect regulators to be evidence-based, then we ourselves also have a duty to be driven by evidence and have the highest standards. Indeed, membership bodies like BASC and the NGO are uniquely placed to provide the Government with evidence and promote high standards.”

Mr Ali issued a warning to those who do not comply with current nontoxic legislation: “It’s not clever, it’s not big and their actions could end up costing everyone in this room and far beyond very dear indeed.”

Mr Ali praised the work of gamekeepers, saying: “Take shooting’s positive impacts on biodiversity, conservation and landscape… and here I am going to ask you to think about your own place of work — the woods, the hedges, the fields, the streams, the rivers that you see each and every day. We in this room all know that managing land for game, waterfowl, deer and wildlife mean that the shooting community is one of the largest forces for good in protecting the habitat and the wildlife it supports,” adding that shooters spend £250million and 2.7million days annually on conservation work.

At the AGM, Miriam Bentley, a trustee of the NGO’s Educational Trust, reported that, thanks to school days and events, the message that gamekeeping was a force for good had reached 20,000 children last year.

Mrs Bentley outlined the trust’s plan to establish a focus group of teachers and an “Adopt a School” project, which will see estates partnered with schools.

Other speakers included the NGO political consultant Charles Nodder, who spoke about the Government’s U-turn on research into buzzard predation.

He explained that applications are currently in for control of the birds, and that the NGO is waiting to hear whether any licences would be granted.

Mr Nodder also spoke about the NGO’s work in ensuring that the Government adopted a “best-practice” approach to snaring, rather than a change in the law.