‘Backdoor ban’ on shooting in Wales
Gamebird releasing could be banned at the stroke of a pen by an anti-shooting Welsh government, warns BASC’s Conor O’Gorman.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has recommended to the Welsh government that the release of red-legged partridges and pheasants should be subject to a licensing regime from 2025 onwards. However, in a consultation outcome document published on its website, NRW admitted that it did not review the 42,597 responses it says it received to last summer’s 12-week public consultation on the draft proposals.
Instead, NRW analysed the responses “using a random sample approach”, where two of their staff members reviewed “a sample of 1,000 randomly selected responses for each question or set of questions” due to the “very large number of responses”.
Furthermore, no breakdown was given on the proportion of yes/no answers received to the consultation question on whether pheasants and red-legged partridges should be added to the release ban list, because the consultation “was not a vote”. Had the majority of responses been in agreement with the proposals then I think we would be hearing all about it.
BASC’s ‘Act Now’ campaign galvanised the shooting community to respond in unprecedented numbers to the consultation. This time we beat the antis at their own game, and to now be told that only a tiny fraction of those responses were actually reviewed or taken into account is a hard pill to swallow. However, that is not the endof the matter. The fight goes on and legal action is being considered.
Dr Marnie Lovejoy, BASC’s head of evidence and environmental law, explained: “The justifications contained in the consultation outcome documentation are evasive and the recommendations do not constitute a fair and thorough assessment of the evidence that we and many others submitted.
“BASC’s legal arguments against the licensing proposals, such as the lack of an appeals mechanism, have not yet been adequately addressed. Furthermore, NRW relied on internal expert opinion and then refused to reveal the identity of these so-called experts in response to our freedom of information requests.
“For these reasons we are seeking legal advice with a view to challenging any attempt by the Welsh government to limit gamebird releasing.” Perhaps some readers might be thinking at this point – what’s the big deal with licensing the release of pheasants and red-legged partridges? The problem is that thekey recommendation is to place pheasants and red-legged partridges on a list of species that may not be lawfully released anywhere in Wales. This ‘release ban list’ includes the likes of grey squirrel and mink.
Some might say that we are over-reacting – they are promising that after pheasants and redlegs are added to the release ban list, then a general licence will be issued so that they could be released subject to terms and conditions, such as abiding by GWCT gamebird release guidelines.
Putting to one side our opposition to the principle of general licences for gamebird releasing, the problem is that we are dealing with a Welsh government that is no friend to shooting. This is a government that
has already banned pheasant shooting on public land in Wales. A government that also refused Covid recovery grants to small businesses connected with game shooting.
If that is not enough to give cause for concern, then consider that the politician who will be responsible for issuing or removing the general licence at the stroke of a pen is Julie James, the Welsh climate change minister, who recently said on the floor of the Senedd that she did not think “killing for sport or for leisure is anything that any civilised society should support”.
So, make no mistake – this is a ‘backdoor ban’ on shooting in the making and we need to make a stand in Wales and fight this tooth and nail. And for that to succeed we may again need another ‘Act Now’ call to action and ask for your support with this.