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Gamebird code is now workable

It’s the second half of July and, as is usually the case when the birds go to wood, it’s raining. I do, however, have a few reasons to be cheerful.

It appears that the gamebird code, which was agreed in principle by the DEFRA Gamebird Working Group, then changed at the last minute without any consultation of the members before being withdrawn by the new Government, is back.

The difference this time is that it’s workable. I don’t want to sound too political, but having Jim Paice MP in charge of DEFRA and Richard Benyon MP as rural affairs minister must have made some difference. Both have farming connections and understand the important role gameshooting plays in rural Britain.

One of the problems of the old code was a ban on mixing flocks in the breeding season — not very practical if you want a change of blood, or to buy in hens, as I do. It appears that we will now be able to mix flocks providing it has been established that they are disease-free. I would like to think we all did that anyway.

Raised cages are not something I use, but again I feel that the banning of barren cages is a positive move for shooting in general.

The inspection clause has been altered. Inspection of birds at least twice a day in the rearing season and at least once a day at other times of the year is the least any of us can and should do. In fact, I think that would be the bare minimum. Mine, and those of my neighbours, are checked at least double that and with good reason. There will be nothing to do nine times out of 10 when checking, but on the tenth time you might notice something not quite right with the birds themselves or that a heater has gone out or a drinker is overflowing. Much as an artist can be looking out of the window and still be working, time spent leaning on a pen section is never wasted. This, of course, applies only to the man in charge!

There was also a little concern raised by the wording relating to release pens. Originally, it said that pens should be sited in an area where consideration was given to an avoidance of subsequent harm by predators and traffic. This probably won’t surprise you, but you’re not going to be able to hide your pens from predators. They’ll find them no matter where they are.

Harm from traffic is also common sense — no-one wants to see their hard work flattened. Pheasant poults seem to have a death wish and we should all do everything that we can to keep them off the roads.

The trouble with this part the code was the possibility of a misinterpretation of the wording by those opposed to releasing and gameshooting in general. The new wording should be more straightforward.

It’s still raining and I’m off out to check on my birds, because it’s what I’ve always done and not because of any DEFRA code.

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