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Parliamentary woodcock debate cites GWCT research

MPs discussed the shortening of the woodcock shooting season, but the decision on any legislation will be made “on the basis of science” writes Mike Swan

woodcock shooting

Most Guns already show voluntary restraint on woodcock until 1 December

On Monday, 27 February, the woodcock shooting season was debated in Parliament as a result of a petition from Wild Justice that garnered over 100,000 signatures. The petition called for a statutory change so that the season would start on 1 December, citing the fact that the GWCT, and other shooting organisations, had already called for a voluntary delay.

Commenting on this during the debate, North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin said: “If both sides agree that woodcock are special and should not really be shot until mid-November or the beginning of December, why do we need to legislate? We need to legislate when things are going wrong, not when they are going right.”

The debate was opened by Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North. He admitted his ignorance about woodcock at the start but said he had consulted widely on both sides of the debate, and quoted the GWCT’s research a number of times.

He nevertheless concluded in favour of shortening the season and “allowing them to repopulate as quickly as possible. Then, when the bird is moved off the red list, we can have an open conversation about whether to change the shooting season back.”

Responding to this aspect of the debate, Welsh woodcock enthusiast Tom Roderick said: “That’s all very well, but if shooting pressure is not the issue, shortening the season is not going to bring numbers back up. And even if it does, fat chance we get the season extended again; when did we last get anything back?”

At the end of the debate, Trudy Harrison, the under secretary of state for Defra, spoke of her appreciation for the valuable role of GWCT research and guidance in relation to woodcock and their conservation, concluding that the decision on whether the Government should legislate will be made “on the basis of science”, but that habitat improvement was much more urgent.