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How we can prevent further licensing restrictions

Lindsay Waddell says the shooting community needs to hold the lawmakers to account to prevent further licensing restrictions


Changes to general licences without consultation cause a multitude of problems for shoots

The job title of civil servant should indicate some form of service to a population but events over the last few years suggest a change to the role’s meaning. The services these people carry out on our behalf are varied but critical to those whose livelihoods depend upon the work they do being done in accordance with certain guidelines and rules. If nothing else, civil servants should show consideration for those affected by the decisions they make.

Around 20 years ago, general licences were changed without consultation and shooting was banned on land adjacent to notified sites. There were changes to burning regulations and to seasons for control of certain species. The list goes on and on and the changes were aimed at those of us who wish to pursue shooting as a form of sport or management for agriculture.

For many, those days in the field are not about shooting a quantity of birds or animals but more about the contact with like-minded people with the bag being divided up and taken home to eat – which, for many, is the whole point of shooting in the first place.

Poorly timed decisions

The latest decision surrounding GL43 – in a long line of very poorly timed decisions, especially regarding any consideration for the people impacted – is an absolute howler. Had it affected another sector, I dare say it would have resulted in the resignation of those responsible.

The decision to license the release of birds next to notified sites is appalling. It either demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of releasing or it was done deliberately to have the maximum impact on those associated with sport in the countryside. Birds would have been paid for, in part or in full, and in many cases, staff are employed.

It should be noted that many of the shoots affected are not what would be considered commercial. Many are self-help, part-time shoots that have been running for many years. This will cost some living in the countryside their jobs, housing, and an upheaval that simply should not be tolerated. It if had occured on the Continent there would have been major civil unrest.

There is a general shift in the attitude of those who make decisions affecting our sport. The change from consulting to dictating is concerning to say the least, that they can do what they want, when they want. Whether it is lack of knowledge, bias, political pressure, legal or social media pressure, it is difficult to say. Whatever the reason, the impact is the same; a general degradation of our ability to carry on doing what is good for our health and wellbeing, as well as having a direct impact on employment and the financial services in the countryside.

I really do hope our respective organisations take a stand this time, as enough is enough. If – and I stress, if – a licence is granted to remove a gull from a notified site, there may well be a requirement to use a licensed shotgun to avoid ‘disturbance’, and yet an authorised person could go and shoot several rabbits on the same land using a standard shotgun with impunity.

There is no logic other than being over-onerous in regards to conditions, or simply being ignorant. The result, if we do not start to question the decisions being made by civil servants, is that we are in danger of becoming another endangered species.