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Shooting groups warn of potential dangers of wildlife laws

Shooting & countryside organisations have given a cautious welcome to plans designed to consolidate the UK?s many pieces of wildlife legislation into a single statute (News, August 22).

The Law Commission says the legislation on wildlife crime is ?out of date, confused and often contradictory? and is encouraging members of the public to take part in its consultation on the subject.

Many groups, including BASC and the National Gamekeepers Organisation, had been part of discussions with the Commission prior to the publication of the consultation document.

BASC?s director of conservation, Tim Russell, said: ?The devil is going to be in the detail. We would welcome anything that does away with complicated wildlife law and improves the legal regime for shooting, but we want to make sure that what replaces it is fit for purpose and good for people who shoot.?

BASC?s director of communication, Christopher Graffius, told Shooting Times that a more flexible and responsive wildlife law could work well for shooting, but that shooters must ensure their voice is heard and be aware of the potential dangers.

He said: ?Currently, for example, shooting seasons can be varied by primary legislation, but the proposals would allow them to be varied by order. This is a good thing for shooters, so long as we don?t have an anti-shooting government that wants to limit shooting by shortening the seasons.?

Head of political affairs at the Countryside Alliance, James Legge, said his organization had long argued for proper wildlife management legislation.

He said: ?There is no doubt that current wildlife law is complex and that a review is overdue. We agree that a more coherent, flexible and transparent law covering wildlife would be a great improvement and welcome the concept of a single overarching piece of legislation.?

?However, it is essential that any new legal framework recognises the reality of land management and the need not simply to protect but actually to manage our wildlife.?

He also spoke of his frustration at the ?unnecessary? exclusion from the review of the Hunting Act: ?A new wildlife management law based on principle and evidence should allow for the proper, humane management of all wild animals and would logically render activity or species-specific laws redundant.?

The Country Land & Business Association?s director of policy and advice, Christopher Price, told Shooting Times that it was ?overwhelmingly a good thing? to consolidate arcane wildlife laws into a single piece of legislation.

He said: ?The Law Commission is proposing that we adopt the EU model, which is to cement the law surrounding shooting firmly within the law surrounding broader wildlife management; that is something shooters should welcome.?

The consultation also mentions the creation of an offence of ?vicarious liability?, where a landowner is liable to the same extent as his employee for a wildlife offence.

Mr Price said: ?This has largely come about because of pressure from certain groups which place excessive emphasis on allegations of raptor persecution.?

?We have some difficulty in seeing why it is perceived as necessary and we?re pleased that the Commission doesn?t make any clear recommendation on the issue.?

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