Shooting under fire
In a shocking announcement, the Welsh government has turned its back on commercial game shooting, reports Helena Venables, a move that will surely alienate voters in rural areas
In an incomprehensible move, the Welsh Labour government announced in July that it does not support commercial shooting. The extraordinary statement by Hannah Blythyn, the Welsh environment minister, was made in a letter to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in response to the latter’s decision to allow shooting to continue to take place on NRW land for pest control, pheasant and wildfowling. This decision follows a comprehensive public consultation and review.
In the letter, Ms Blythyn who, along with her colleagues, clearly has no concept of the economic and conservation benefits shooting brings to Wales, states that the Welsh government “does not support commercial pheasant shooting or the breeding of game birds,” citing “ethical issues”.
Such is the arrogance of Welsh Labour that they actually asked NRW to ignore the findings of the consultation and review. Yes, really. However, in a meeting on 13 July, the NRW board decided to accept the recommendations of the review regardless of Ms Blythyn’s letter, which was not based on any science, evidence, logic or reason.
Over 250 pieces of qualifying evidence were received and reviewed during the consultation and review, resulting in the primary recommendation that shooting could sustainably continue on NRW land. The review also proved that shooting contributes to the delivery of Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) and the delivery of the wellbeing goals of the Future Generations Wales Act, both of which NRW are tasked to work towards.
Commenting on the Welsh Labour statement, Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance’s director for Wales, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the minister has been so poorly advised. We have met with the minister and we are confident that this letter does not reflect her true views on this issue. We have requested an urgent meeting to discuss why this letter was written and who advised her to do so, as she is in grave danger of alienating huge swathes of rural Wales.”
Ms Evans added: “Our thanks go to the NRW board, who have stood up for the integrity of their review. We have serious concerns about the baseless recommendations relating to rearing and releasing of game birds and we will be challenging these positions as we move forward. We can all agree that NRW’s credibility simply would not recover if the findings of a review were to be entirely thrown out on the whim of an opinion handed to them by a minister. The statement that the Welsh government does not support commercial pheasant shooting will send a chill down the spine of the hundreds of thousands of people who shoot or whose livelihoods depend on game shooting, not just in Wales, but across the UK, where people will be wondering if this is now Labour party policy. There are very serious questions to ask, and the CA will be asking them.”
In my view, the comments are a travesty and show a complete disregard for the Welsh countryside and the people who live in it, as well as for Welsh biodiversity and conservation.
Interestingly, in March this year, the Countryside Alliance sent a clear warning to the Labour party that engaging with an animal rights agenda would only further alienate voters in rural constituencies that it must win to form a Westminster government in the future.
The warning, in Labour Country, a report supported by the Countryside Alliance and independently researched and written by the Fabian Society, a left-leaning think tank, states that Labour must reconnect with the politics and culture of the countryside if it is to have any chance of winning the next general election.
Baroness Ann Mallalieu, Labour peer and president of the Countryside Alliance noted: “There is no doubt that there can be no future Labour government without improved support in the countryside, but this can only be achieved if the party gets serious about making a credible policy offer to the countryside.
“For too long, Labour have conflated rural issues with animal issues, to the detriment of Labour’s vote in the countryside. This report lays out how Labour can correct this trend and challenge the Conservative party’s rural dominance, by speaking to the genuine concerns of people in
Pheasant shooting on NRW-managed land has come under fire