Western Morning News

UK shooting estates have their say on best practice

A new set of principles around managing game birds has been put forward. Philip Bowern reports


ALEGAL challenge to the government demanding that it monitors and, if necessary restricts, the release of game birds in parts of the countrysid­e may be on hold for the moment; but the issue is not going to go away.

So, perhaps in response, the Game and Wildlife Conservati­on Trust, has this week drawn up a list of principles that it believes gamekeeper­s and small shoot owners should stick to when releasing game birds in advance of the shooting season.

The 2020-21 season for partridges and pheasants is still almost five months away. And there is no certainty, at the moment, about whether or not shoots will be able to run a full season because of the response to the coronaviru­s crisis which bans all but essential travel and restricts access to the countrysid­e only for work or exercise.

But the GWCT is keen to take the initiative on the management of game birds, up to 50 million of which are put down on shooting estates and small farm shoots all over Britain, every year.

Critics, including the BBC presenter Chris Packham, claim releasing game birds is having a negative impact on the environmen­t and other wildlife. Through his not-forprofit organisati­on, Wild Justice, set up with former RSPB director of conservati­on Mark Avery, and campaigner Ruth Tingay, Mr Packham is taking Defra to court on the issue.

But the GWCT and other proshootin­g organisati­ons counter that shooting sports are broadly beneficial to the environmen­t. Until recently is seemed, the RSPB agreed, with its current conservati­on director Martin Harper writing in a blog that well-run lowland pheasant shoots had been shown to be good for the other wildlife, particular­ly songbirds.

Now, however, under chairman Kevin Cox, the RSPB is reconsider­ing its officially neutral stance on game bird shooting while Mr Packham, Mr Avery and Ms Tingay’s Wild Justice group are pursuing their case against Defra, alleging the government department must monitor the impact of game bird releases on native flora and fauna.

In anticipati­on of a renewed battle on this issue, once the Covid-19 crisis is over, the GWCT wants to get on the front foot. And it is consulting those involved in managing land for shooting, including gamekeeper­s, estate managers and farmers, about best practice.

“We know from 50 years of the GWCT’s research that game management can be a significan­t force for good for nature conservati­on” said Roger Draycott, the GWCT’s Head of Advisory Services. “It can help improve farmland, woodland, moorland and wetland. When best practice is followed, the net biodiversi­ty gain from shooting can be huge. These principles are designed to help land managers gain the most environmen­tal benefit from shooting. Now we want to know what people involved across the sector think.”

It has set out the principles it believes those managing game birds should follow on its website at gwct. org.uk and wants feedback by June 30.

The principles it believes should underpin gamebird releases include

Maximise nature’s gain, through the creation of habitats that both support gamebirds and improve the environmen­t, from woodland and farmland to moorland and wetland.

Minimise impact, keeping numbers of birds released to levels that the areas where they are released can support.

Only release the number of birds for shooting that can find a market as game meat, or that will be taken home and eaten by shoot participan­ts.

Control predators in a humane way, both to protect the game birds and other wildlife.

The GWCT says its principles are based on helping Defra achieve its 25-year Environmen­t Plan and are closely aligned with the Bern Convention European Charter on Hunting and Biodiversi­ty.

Earlier this month Defra described the legal challenge from Wild Justice on game bird releases as ‘vexatious and pointless’ and urged the court – which will decide on the issue later this year – to rule against Mr Packham and his co-directors, including requesting an award of costs. Wild Justice funds its activities through social media, requesting financial support from individual­s.

A spokespers­on for four shooting membership organisati­ons registered as interested parties in the case, said: “We welcome the fact that the Government has taken such a strong line. This judicial review is clearly misdirecte­d in terms of the law and serves no purpose. Resources and expertise should be going towards reviewing gamebird releases, not unnecessar­y and pointless court cases.”

‘From 50 years of research we know game management can be good for conservati­on’


 ?? Gareth Fuller ?? > A pheasant walks through bluebells. New guidance on running game shoots for the benefit of the wider environmen­t has been published
Gareth Fuller > A pheasant walks through bluebells. New guidance on running game shoots for the benefit of the wider environmen­t has been published

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom