Rural Wales takes aim at ‘bizarre’ NRW shoot ban
COUNTRY enthusiasts are poised to mount a legal challenge to a decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to ban shooting in public forests.
It follows widespread fears in the rural community that country sports in general are under attack from the urban majority.
Traditional hunting with hounds has already fallen by the wayside and now anglers are being urged to petition the Welsh Government amid fears their sport will be next.
Fuelling rural anger is the 11thhour intervention from environment minister Hannah Blythyn in NRW’s shooting review.
The British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is now taking legal advice amid concerns the decision could threaten the future of game shooting in the UK.
Steve Griffiths, BASC Wales director, said: “A decision clearly taken against evidence to the contrary and costing public money should be challengable in law. BASC intends to explore every avenue to seek redress”
A review of shooting on the Welsh Government’s woodland estate con- ● Pest control in public forests will be allowed to continue and NRW will consider requests to drive birds from its woodland estate – provided it is not in connection with shooting. sidered 250 pieces of evidence and concluded the sport should continue as shooting contributes to the country’s sustainable management and well-being goals.
However NRW’s board decided the rearing and shooting of pheasants on NRW land will end from March 2019.
Three leaseholders will be affected. One had asked for a one-year extension to relocate his business.
The move follows comments from Ms Blythyn when she made it clear the Welsh Government does not support the sport on ethical grounds.
NRW advisory papers, prepared for last week’s meeting, accepted the minister had a right to direct the board’s final decision but warned of the potential for “reputation damage” if the board ignored its own scientific evidence.
Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance director for Wales, said: “It is my firm belief that NRW has been pushed into making a decision that it is not at all comfortable with. The board’s reputation now lies in tatters.”
Wildlife groups hailed the decision as a “landmark move” and a victory for animals and the wider environment.
Bethan Collins, of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), commended NRW and thanked Ms Blythyn for her involvement.
With Animal Aid, LACS campaigned for three years to end pheasant shooting on public land. It prompted the NRW review by gathering a 12,500-signature petition.
A counter petition has now been launched on the change.org website by a group calling itself Game Shooting/Management United. It has so far collected 3,725 signatures.
Among its backers is Harry LeggeBourke of the Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell, who urged anglers to add their opposition. River angling in Wales is facing its own draconian curbs next year which many fear will decimate the sport. “Now they have hit shooting, next it will be fishing,” warned Mr Legge-Bourke.
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) labelled the NRW as “bizarre”.
Sue Evans, GWCT director Wales, said: “Those working to conserve the Welsh countryside may feel frustrated that wildlife and jobs are being sacrificed to appease those opposed to shooting.”
With shooting worth £75m annually to the Welsh economy, supporting around 2,400 full-time jobs, supporters feel the decision has serious implications for rural employment.
In reality, most shooting in Wales takes place on private land and an Act of Parliament would be required to curtail the sport.
Even so, BASC fears due processes had been subverted and one minister’s views had allowed “extremism to triumph over evidence”.
BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “This isn’t actually an issue just about shooting, this is about a failure to have due regard for the consultation and evidence-gathering process. The implications stretch way beyond just shooting.”
Madeleine Havard, NRW’s acting chair, insisted ongoing wildlife declines, and the need to conserve rare animals and habitats, had underpinned the board’s decision.
● Shooting groups claim NRW succumbed to political pressure and some well-orchestrated campaigning