Labour animal welfare activists have drawn up a series of proposals including numerous anti-shooting restrictions that rural groups have described as “silly” and “bizarre”
A new series of animal welfare proposals, commissioned and “welcomed” by the Labour Party, has called for the licensing of shooting estates, a four-fold rise in the price of shotgun certificates and an end to snare use.
The proposals, presented during the Labour Party conference, seek to “end cruel practices on shooting estates” by outlawing battery cages for breeding pheasants, further restricting shooting seasons and “no longer allowing drainage of land to facilitate grouse shooting”.
Landowners will also have “obligations to restore land to its natural environment”, the badger cull will be halted, airguns will be prohibited to anyone under the age of 21, the price of a shotgun certificate will rise to £200 and possession of firearms will be limited to “farms and clubs with proper security measures”.
The proposals were written by Dr Nick Palmer, former Labour MP and former director of policy for Cruelty Free International (CFI), and Michelle Thew, former Labour candidate and current CEO of CFI. The consultation document was created with input from a number of organisations, including the League Against Cruel Sports, the RSPCA and Animal Aid.
The authors approached Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and then shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy earlier this year and agreed to prepare the draft, which Dr Palmer says “has been welcomed by Rachael Maskell, the [current] shadow environment secretary”.
“An attack on shooting sports”
BASC chairman Peter Glenser described the report as “effectively an attack on shooting sports”. Christopher Graffius, BASC’s acting chief executive, commented: “We are deeply, deeply concerned with the way Labour is going and that is why we need to work with them.
“As an all-Party organisation, we have a good working relationship with Labour and are seeking to meet MPs and the authors of this proposal at the earliest opportunity to discuss the content and clarify the misinformation within it.
“Clearly, the document has been put together without consultation with shooting organisations or other groups who are representative of the countryside. BASC would urge those in the shooting community to ensure their views are made known to the Labour party on this matter.”
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) added: “The birds you watch in your garden might be both surprised and disappointed to hear that this document titled ‘Comprehensive Animal Protection Reform’ seeks to improve the protection of cats without mentioning the estimated 55million birds they kill every year.” It called the section on shooting “bizarre”, noting that “moor owners are already busy reversing ill-conceived Government policy in the 1960s and 1970s to drain moors to increase moorland productivity for grazing livestock.
“It has some good bits too. There is the welcome recognition that modern snares are trapping not killing devices. Less welcome is the proposal to ban them, because there is no functional replacement that match its advantages – this is why some key conservation projects such as the one on Langholm Moor (funded by Buccleuch Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, the GWCT and the RSPB) used them.”
Unlikely to be taken seriously
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said it is unlikely the proposals will be taken seriously: “These are proposals written by two Labour animal welfare activists on the advice of a string of organisations that campaign against shooting. It is hardly a surprise that they call for changes that would be a disaster for the countryside and wildlife management. Agreed Labour Party policy, on the other hand, supports shooting, so it is hard to see these silly ideas progressing far. They are indeed exactly the sort of ill-founded fringe idiocy that Labour will need to steer clear of if it is ever to recover from its present state.”
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “Labour’s ‘Comprehensive animal protection reform’ document is a piece of political posturing which has been thinly disguised as animal welfare policy. The document contains a long list of animal rights idiocy which shows how out of touch with the countryside and animal welfare the party has become.
“With former Shadow DEFRA Secretary Maria Eagle observing that much of her party ‘treats the countryside with polite indifference’ it is hard to see how this document could help bridge the gap the party knows exists between Labour and the countryside. On looking at the list of those consulted on the paper, it is clear that Labour hasn’t spoken to those who actually care for the countryside and the vast majority of the wild and domestic animals in it, which is indefensible.
“It is especially puzzling as every single countryside organisation is happy, ready and willing to communicate with the party. Labour should be listening to the real concerns and thoughts of those actively managing the countryside and wake up to the idea that their priorities and concerns are not based on animal rights ideology. In short, the proposal shows that the Labour party is working to ensure it is unelectable across large parts of the country.”