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Defra restriction will cripple rural England, says BASC

Defra has critically underestimated the number of shoots which will be impacted by its decision to restrict gamebird release in areas of England, according to BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation.

BASC understands that MPs and senior government figures have been told that approximately 40 shoots will be impacted by this change. However, we instead put the figure many times higher and predict that hundreds of jobs and businesses will be negatively impacted.

Defra’s decision makes it illegal to release gamebirds in certain designated areas (Special Protected Areas and associated 500-meter buffer zones) without being first granted an individual licence.

In North Yorkshire alone, we understand that more than 100 shoots will be affected by the change, with the figure for the East of England thought to be as high as several hundred.

The main gamebird releasing period is fast approaching and BASC has accused Defra of throwing hundreds of shoots into chaos. Natural England, the body responsible for licensing, has yet to publish information on the licensing conditions.

BASC is calling for an urgent rethink from Defra on a decision that will financially cripple hundreds of businesses, cost jobs and undo decades of conservation work, if shoots are forced to permanently close.

Caroline Bedell, BASC’s executive director of conservation, said: “Defra has significantly underestimated the impact of a decision we believe it has taken without justification or sound evidence.

“We need to be clear here that Defra has taken an action that will force some shoots to close. The impact on jobs, business and fragile rural communities should not be underestimated.

“Defra has not listened to the shooting community on this matter. Shooting is at the heart of rural Britain and Defra has ignored the people who live, work and manage our countryside.

“Running a shoot is a year-round activity. Significant money, time and resources have already been spent in the run-up to releasing birds this year. Forcing hundreds of shoots to apply for an individual licence at the eleventh hour is a recipe for chaos.

“Having shoots apply through a system that has not been tested, offers no certainty whether they will even be granted a licence – with a failure to do so at this point having potential consequences for animal welfare – puts jobs on the line and conservation projects at grave risk.”

BASC has written to the Defra Minister responsible for licensing, Trudy Harrison MP, to outline our concerns. Within this letter we details that we are considering a legal challenge to Defra’s actions.

If you or your shoot has been impacted by the change to GL43, please contact your local BASC regional office urgently. Click here to find contact details for the BASC team in your area.