With 10 years and more than 10,000 members (4,250 of those are keepers) under its belt, the National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) celebrated at its Annual General Meeting last week at the Staffordshire County Showground. More than 100 members gathered to congratulate Ken Butler, the retiring chairman, on his tireless work over the past six years, and to welcome the new chairman Lindsay Waddell to the position. In his final speech, Ken gave an overview of the vital work the NGO has carried out since the organisation began, while urging keepers to do more.

He said: ?All the shooting organisations signed up to the Shoot Assurance Scheme at The CLA Game Fair last year. The scheme gives a kite mark to shoots that they are run competently with the best interest of game and conservation in mind. Keepers need to urge their bosses to sign up to the scheme, otherwise what could follow could be a lot worse.?

The NGO?s political adviser Charles Nodder spoke about the political issues surrounding keepering and what the future has in store. He said: ?The last year has been one of either neutral or positive movements. In the next year, cage traps and snares will be under review and we think the release of non-native species will come under scrutiny. The Government has also let out a contract to a company who will be investigating the use of lead shot. ?In the past 12 months, people have naturally been very worried about bird flu.

The outbreaks we?ve had have fortunately been outside the shooting season; had they not been, they could have had a severe impact on our activities. I get the impression that bird flu isn?t at the forefront of people?s minds at the moment, and it should be. The Bernard Matthews outbreak was obviously in a contained flock. If a serious outbreak occurred in a wild flock, it automatically triggers an area- wide ban on all shooting. If there is one message you leave here with, it is keep bio-security tight.?

Robert Gray, campaigns director for the Countryside Alliance made some interesting points in a well-received speech. He said: ?We must all do more to educate the next generation of voters as to what really happens in the countryside. We must stand together to change people?s minds. As a relatively small organisation, the NGO punches greatly above its weight and is a well-respected organisation that has the vital knowledge on the ground that we need.?

Teresa Dent, chief executive of the Game Conservancy Trust, also spoke. Her principal message was that shooters, ?Should not defend shooting sports, but promote shooting sports.?