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

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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

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