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Legal battle over lead, good start for grouse chicks and bird flu – this week in fieldsports

We're bringing you all the latest fieldsports news that you might have missed this week from the world of fieldsports

EU legal wrangle over lead

The development has some significance for the UK, particularly NI

A legal fight has broken out over the proposed EU lead ammunition restrictions.

FACE, the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, requested a dossier of information that was held by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, the agency repeatedly delayed releasing the information. When the information was finally released, the consultation had already closed and FACE was
unable to use the full data in its response.

The federation then appealed to the European Ombudsman, which found “maladministration in how the EFSA had dealt with the complainant’s access request and, specifically, its failure to comply with the time limits set out in the EU legislation on public access to documents”.

BASC’s Dr Conor O’Gorman explained the significance for the UK.

“This development is directly relevant to Northern Ireland (NI) because under the NI protocol, decisions taken by the EU in relation to lead ammunition could take effect in NI,” he said.

“Secondly, with regard to lead ammunition restrictions for England, Wales and Scotland currently being consulted on under UK REACH regulations, this underlines the need for due process to be followed utilising existing peer-reviewed research.”


A good start for grouse chicks

Grouse chicks are experiencing fine conditions as hatches get under way

Grouse chicks are experiencing fine conditions as hatches get under way. Cool but sunny weather, with a smattering of showers, greeted the first chicks of the year in Perthshire, raising hopes that the poor hatches of previous years will not be repeated and that moors will have a shootable surplus this year.

Excessively cold or wet weather can lead to high mortality due to the chilling of chicks. However, excessively dry weather, which causes water stress and limits insect numbers, can also be a major challenge for the young birds.

Forecasts suggest that a period of warm weather will cover the vital first few weeks after hatching, with occasional occluded fronts bringing rain showers.

While the chicks look set to enjoy a good start, there is still a long way to go until the grouse counts are undertaken in July. It is only at this stage that a picture of the number of grouse on an estate and across the country becomes available.


Guilty: lorry driver who killed gundog handler

A lorry driver has been convicted for causing the death of a leading gundog trainer. Michael Wilson, 28, of Craigavon, Northern Ireland, was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving after a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Witnesses described Wilson, whose tachograph showed serious irregularities, was tailgating and driving erratically on the A75, which connects the Cairnryan ferry terminal to the M74.

The court heard that Wilson fell asleep at the wheel of the articulated lorry he was driving. The lorry crossed into the wrong lane of the A75 and crashed head on into a pickup driven by Alan Neill, towing a trailer with the dogs inside. Wilson was described by police as being so tired that, after the collision,he twice fell asleep in the police car.

Mr Neill had won multiple field trials with his pointers. Shooting Times understands he was on his way to count grouse when the accident occurred in July 2018. Two of the 12 dogs were also killed and two were injured. One was recovered after a multi-day search by members of the local shooting and farming communities. Wilson’s bail was revoked and he will be sentenced on 23 June.


Bird flu still affecting season

Cases of bird flu continue to crop up in France, affecting the supply of eggs and chicks to British shoots

Avian influenza continues in France, though at a slower rate. The devastating outbreak, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds, has massively disrupted the supply of gamebird chicks and eggs to the UK market. Defra confirmed that a 90-day disease-free period would be required before imports could resume, dashing hopes that birds would arrive in time for the season.

However, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has launched a campaign to have this period reduced to 30 days and for the regulations to be updated (News, 1 June).

Throughout the outbreak, Shooting Times has monitored the figures published by the French agriculture ministry, with particular focus on cases in the departments of Vendée and Loire-Atlantique, where gamebird production is centred. Outbreaks appear to have stopped in the latter.

However, a steady drip of new cases has been occurring in Vendée, which will reset the clock on any countdown to a resumption of exports.


Hunting smartens up Snaffles’s grave

The grave of ‘Snaffles’ has been renovated with funding from the art and hunting worlds. Charles ‘Snaffles’ Johnson Payne is renowned for his painting and drawing of horses. A keen rider to hounds, he was a leading artist of hunting and other equestrian scenes and is well known for his appreciation and understanding of other fieldsports.

The neglected grave in Fonthill Gifford near Salisbury was repaired with donations from fine-art dealer Rosenstiels, Hounds magazine and the Countryside Alliance.


Do you know a keen young keeper?

The deadline for the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust’s two annual awards is looming. The Lady Scott Award, first presented in 2010, is given to a partner, spouse, family member or friend of a gamekeeper. The GWT Young Gamekeeper of the Year award is presented to young family members who give so much support, helping with a range of tasks. John Tipping scooped the award in 2021 (right).

Nominations should be emailed to the GWT at [email protected] or posted to Keeper’s Cottage, Tanfield Lodge, West Tanfield, North Yorkshire, HG4 5LE by 21 June.