The big debate at this year?s CLA Game Fair saw politicians call for greater self-regulation from the shooting industry.

The well-attended debate was held in the Game Fair Theatre and simultaneously broadcast on Game Fair Radio.

Chaired by BASC?s chief executive, John Swift, the three panellists, Conservative MP Jim Paice, Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Öpik and CLA President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, answered questions posed by the audience regarding shooting?s long-term future in the UK.

?Government regulation should be the last resort, not the first,? commented Mr Paice.

He added that common sense regulation should not be ?party political? and that if the shooting industry is to flourish in the future, action must be taken now to stave off critics.

Mr Öpik agreed: ?I am wary that political expedience could threaten the whole sector.?

Audience member Hugh Thomas, from Exmoor, asked the panel whether the shooting industry is being sufficiently robust about finding an alternative to lead shot.

Mr Paice commented that the industry has to be guided by science: ?In my opinion, there is no short-term threat, but the industry needs to do all it can to develop an alternative to lead shot. We cannot defend the indefensible.?

Mr Öpik believed there was not a case for banning lead shot until an alternative has been found: ?However, we need to be hands-on and not wait until we are forced to find an alternative, like the petrol industry.?

Audience member Barney Stratton, from Wiltshire, then asked the panel for their opinion on raised laying cages used for rearing game birds.

Mr Paice criticised BASC?s call for a ban on the cages.

?I oppose the use of these controversial cages, but BASC has got this one wrong. How can it believe in self-regulation and then call for a blanket ban on cages? It undermines its stance on other divisive topics.?

He added: ?We have already seen a ban on spectacle use introduced in the UK. If we are not careful, the industry will be so henpecked that it will collapse. Far better to put our own house in order rather than having someone else do it for us.?

Mr Öpik disagreed and called BASC?s proposed ban ?predictive.?

He added: ?It is quite apparent these cages will be banned in the not so distant future, so I support BASC?s stance. The problem lies with the uneven playing field, as the cages are widely used in Europe.?

BASC?s John Swift concluded the debate by calling on the shooting industry to take a stronger stance on controversial issues that could affect the level of future government intervention. ?We need a holistic approach to these issues,? he said.

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