Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has launched a public consultation about whether shooting on its land should be allowed to continue. The consultation is the culmination of months of deliberation by NRW as well as a Call for Evidence in 2017. The League Against Cruel Sports is calling for an end to shooting on NRW land and we want as many of our supporters as possible to respond to the consultation, which closes on 25 April 2018. You can find all the details here.

The League is working jointly with Animal Aid and PETA UK on this issue.

The NRW’s proposals are:

  • Continue to use firearms to manage the damage caused by wild animals on the land it manages where this is essential for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources
  • Consider all applications for permission to enter onto its land to control wild animals affecting their neighbours land
  • Consider leasing land for pheasant rearing and shooting and wildfowling where it doesn’t negatively impact on the sustainable management of the areas

While the League welcomes the consultation as an opportunity to highlight the many problems with the shooting industry, it is disappointing that animal welfare barely features, despite the consultation paper’s introduction saying that ‘The review is being undertaken … following concerns from stakeholders about animal welfare of pheasants on our land. It seems odd to have a consultation on the impact of birds being shot without considering the fact that being shot is not really good for their welfare. These birds - hundreds of thousands of them - are factory farmed then released purely so they can be shot. Many will suffer and die before they even get to the killing grounds, while huge numbers will be shot from the skies then then be dumped unceremoniously in a ditch by an industry focussed purely on profit.

Animal welfare is central to any discussion on shooting, yet Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has missed an opportunity to make animal welfare central to the consultation paper and process, despite significant and ongoing concerns expressed by the League and others about the welfare of game birds as well as the conduct of hunts in Wales. There is no legal requirement on game bird breeders to follow the Code of Practice on game bird welfare and there are no regular welfare inspections of game bird rearing facilities carried out by animal health inspectors, so NRW simply cannot guarantee that the birds used in shoots on land it owns have been reared humanely. Animal Aid have conducted two undercover investigations on NRW land used for shooting. On both visits, they found practices that had led to the game birds suffering. In June 2017, for example, an Animal Aid investigator saw an estimated 35-40 young pheasants, dead on the ground inside a release pen.  

Thousands of non-native, factory-farmed pheasants are released onto NRW land each year, which has an overall negative impact on the natural environment. Released game birds compete with indigenous woodland species for resources, affecting threatened wildlife such as songbirds and butterflies. Toxic lead shot additionally pollutes waterways and causes increased levels of sickness, death and reproductive failure in birds of prey, such as red kites.

The League also opposes the plans to continue granting access to hunts to carry out so-called fox control on land neighbouring NRW land. The poor conduct record of some hunts in Wales, for example allowing hounds to be out of control and to stray onto public highways, needs to be given due consideration in the decision to continue to allow them access to public land which exists to be enjoyed safely by all.

Wildlife tourism or clay pigeon / target shooting are being presented to NRW as viable options to bring increased economic and social benefits to the national forestry estate and surrounding communities, with clay pigeon and target shooting already accounting for a significant proportion of the overall shooting industry.  On the other hand, the licences issued to pheasant shoots to operate on NRW land generate just £6,000 per year for the public purse.

It’s time for an end to the shooting of game birds on NRW land, so make sure NRW know your views by 25 April 2018: naturalresources.wales/ShootingReviewConsultation?lang=en