Over the past three weeks I have been representing BASC members at the political party conferences. These are strange events, but our work there is vital. BASC has been fighting shooting’s corner and I am pleased that, together with the Angling Trust, we have heard supportive words about shooting and angling from the three main parties in the UK. In particular, the campaign by shooting organisations to remind people to use the right ammunition at the right time and in the right place went down well in Glasgow, Brighton and Manchester.
The contribution we all make to the countryside, the economy and to conservation is well recognised. Working with politicians of all parties to secure the future of shooting is one of BASC’s main missions. Politicians, ultimately, make policy, and policy becomes law, which, as we all know, governs what we do.
One key factor in making our argument has been the availability of independent figures that show how much shooting contributes to the economy and to conservation. The last study was carried out in 2006 and we will be updating it soon, so we have the information we need to give to politicians and opinion formers ahead of a number of key votes, not least the general election in 2015.
BASC is managing the project and meeting the majority of the cost, but it brings together a wide range of organisations and shooting interests. We have widened the scope of the survey to include the social benefits of shooting, widely appreciated in rural communities, and will include more information on target-shooting sports. The 2006 figures showed shooting generated £1.6bn for the economy a year. This figure will have increased over the past seven years.
It is also vital that this study has strong scientific credentials. The numbers we use to promote shooting must be robust and reliable. They must be based on, and be able to be used as, sound evidence in all arenas from the newspapers to Number 10 Downing Street.
BASC is clear that government policies must be based on sound evidence. Opinions and prejudice make bad law. But we need clear processes that guide how evidence is assessed and, if necessary, determine how policies, plans and regulations are made. We have delivered that message to the politicians. We expect them to test opinions with evidence and to follow proper process.
No evidence, no change
There is a critical process under way that could affect how shooting is conducted in the future. It is a hard, scientific look at one of the most basic components of shooting: the type of ammunition we use. BASC’s position is clear: no sound evidence, no change. Anyone wishing to stop or curtail the use of lead ammunition must build their argument on hard, indisputable scientific evidence.
The work of assessing a wide body of available scientific evidence is under way and is being carried out by the Lead Ammunition Group (LAG). The LAG was set up by DEFRA to bring together all the available science on lead ammunition, to sift through it and work out what is valid and what is not and to report back.
The LAG’s membership is drawn from a broad range of experts. The objectivity of the group is critical. It must be allowed to complete its assessment of the science free from undue influence and work to a clear set of rules and a well-defined process. It will make risk assessments based on the evidence. Again, BASC’s position is clear: sound evidence and clearly defined processes are the foundations of good policy.
At the party conferences we stressed the importance of solid evidence and due process; of better regulation. We have seen before how the unscrupulous few are prepared to try and derail the process by splashing stories across the newspapers when the facts do not fit their agenda. On something as important as lead ammunition, this is neither acceptable nor honourable and we will expose underhand lobbying and undue influence. Our arguments will be based on facts and we expect everyone to follow due and proper process. The group’s work and the process that will be followed can be viewed on the website www.