SHOOTING IN WALES
More and more people are signing petitions to pressure the Welsh Assembly into anti-shooting measures, but, as Helena Venables points out, most of these probably don’t even live in Wales
It’s good to hear that recent anti-shooting petitions at the National Assembly for Wales have been responded to robustly by the Countryside Alliance (CA) with Rachel Evans, the CA’s director for Wales working hard to quash accusations behind the anti’s ill-considered views.
One of the two petitions concerns the banning of Larsen traps. The petition sought the support of animal rights activists from outside of Wales; its wording is disingenuous, may well be libellous, and has encouraged 1,904 people from as far afield as California, France, Switzerland and Israel to call on the Welsh Assembly members to ban the traps, about which the antis clearly know very little. The CA has scrutinised the petition and out of the 1,904 signatures only 38.7% of them reside in Wales, the majority of these coming from the urban constituencies of Cardiff and Newport.
At the first scrutiny session, Assembly members openly stated that they know nothing of Larsen traps and a sensible suggestion was put forward by Rhun Ap Iorwerth, Anglesey’s Plaid Cymru Assembly member and supported by the chair David Rowlands AM for UKIP, which asked for the Countryside Alliance and gamekeepers to provide evidence.
The CA has ensured that the petition has reached the ears of fellow rural organisations and is seeking a united front to expose the misleading statements the petition is presenting to the Assembly. Papers provided to the committee by the CA’s internal research service have stated that the RSPB is “not opposed to legal, site-specific control of magpies by the legal use of Larsen or other cage traps as long as the general licence conditions are strictly adhered to”.
Meanwhile, a second petition with over 12,000 signatures, headed up by campaign group Animal Aid, has been handed in to the petitions committee at the National Assembly for Wales. This petition calls on Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to ban shooting on land it owns or manages in a last-minute attempt to defeat evidence and fact.
The petition was started in August 2016 and has prompted animal rights activists from around the world to sign a petition calling for a ban on shooting on NRW land. Clearly, no research has been done as that cannot legally be put into practice as NRW has no powers to end dozens of shooting rights owned by members of the public.
It is rather amusing that having been so defeated by evidence, the animal rights activists’ only course of response to the call for evidence was to present the same anti-shooting petition that had already been sent to NRW last year.
The CA’s next step is to ask why these petitions hold such influence over Welsh policymakers, when no one is being held accountable for the information they present, the credibility of the signatures or where the signatories come from.
The Countryside Alliance is also working on firearms licensing and is calling for change within Dyfed Powys firearms licensing department after meeting Dafydd Llywelyn, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dyfed Powys, following an increasing number of member complaints and high levels of dissatisfaction.
Rachel Evans, the CA’s director for Wales, has dealt with an increasing number of calls from members in the past 18 months, but following an initial meeting held between the CA and the head of the firearms department in October 2017, there has been no communication since.
Rachel Evans commented: “The lack of progress made within the department has left the Countryside Alliance with no other option but to approach the PCC to register our concerns. One member has contacted the licensing department on a fortnightly basis for over 12 months only to be continuously told their file would be seen to next. This appears to be the running theme and it needs to be raised at the highest level. A few members have mentioned feeling intimidated by the process, they are nervous about questioning their application or renewal delay in fear of being put at the bottom of the pile. This attitude and approach to work is unacceptable and unprofessional.”
The CA has suggested the following procedures are put in place:
An improved structure of communication with certificate holders who will be notified by letter at agreed stages of their query. Currently, members are not receiving any information on the current status of their query, resulting in an increased number of calls to the firearms department taking up precious resources;
A detailed account of the number of outstanding queries ranging from three months to in excess of 18 months and a monthly progress report to be forwarded to the PCC.
Rachel Evans added: “It was an extremely honest and open meeting with Dafydd Llywelyn and I am confident that the commissioner will strive to improve the service to help the department get back on track.”
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said: “Dyfed Powys is a rural force and deals with a large number of firearms licence applications, but it is disappointing to hear of the concerns raised. I am committed to ensuring improvements are made and additional resources have been agreed.”
Earlier this year, BASC also met with Dafydd Llywelyn to discuss reducing licensing delays and will meet every six months in a bid to help Dyfed Powys improve its service.
A petition calling for a ban on shooting on NRW land was clearly based on little research as it cannot legally be put into practice