‘Game’ bird shooting could be set to continue on public land in Wales after Natural Resources Wales (NRW) voted to allow licences to be renewed – despite being advised by the Welsh government to ban it.

NRW, a government-sponsored body which manages natural resources in Wales, voted to allow shooting to continue during a meeting last Thursday, following a public consultation. But the Welsh government have now called for a meeting to clarify exactly what the decision means. 

The decision is in direct contradiction of a recommendation from Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn who stated that leases for pheasant shoots on public land should not be renewed, citing public opinion and animal welfare concerns.

Animal welfare groups Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports, who have campaigned for an end to shooting on public land in Wales, have demanded answers as to what the decision really means – and why the quango appear to have deliberately gone against recommendations by the Welsh government.

Fiona Pereira, Animal Aid Campaign Manager, said:

“We are delighted that the Minister opposes game bird shooting on public land and that she is aware of the level of public opposition to it. NRW’s responsibility is to manage public land on behalf of the people of Wales – and the vast majority of people don’t want to see that land used for animal cruelty. 

“Not only does shooting cause huge amounts of pain and suffering to animals but it also damages the environment. There is no excuse for continuing with this harmful activity and we sincerely hope that NRW respects the Minister’s wishes and brings an end to shooting on Welsh public land once and for all.”

Bethan Collins, Senior Public Affairs Officer in Wales for the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“NRW voted to allow shooting to continue which is utterly shocking and a sad day for the Welsh people as they have had blatant animal cruelty forced upon them by an unelected body.

“The Welsh government want shooting banned on public land, the Welsh public want shooting banned on public land – so what right does NRW have to ignore the majority opinion? This decision flies in the face of democracy, common sense and decency.

“We welcome the Minister’s intervention because we need clarity on what is actually happening. Are leases going to continue once they run out? Has shooting been banned or not? This is too big an issue for there to be confusion about what’s happening, we need clarity around what the decision actually was – it’s that simple.”

Public opinion

The League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid commissioned YouGov earlier this year to undertake polling timed to coincide with the Natural Resources Wales consultation and designed to establish the Welsh public’s views on shooting. The polling established that: 

  • 74 per cent of people in Wales thought that shooting birds should be made illegal
  • 76 per cent of people oppose the shooting of ‘game’ birds for sport on publicly owned land in Wales after learning how chicks are bred for sport shooting
  • 82 per cent of respondents oppose the use of cages for breeding ‘game’ birds

What’s wrong with ‘game’ bird shooting?

Millions of birds (pheasant, partridge, grouse and others) are shot for sport during the shooting season, estimated at 100,000 a day.

Pheasants and partridges which have been farmed, fed and ‘protected’ from predators are driven towards paying shooters by employees called beaters.

With so many guns firing quickly at so many birds, wounding is common. It has been suggested that 40% of birds are wounded, rather than killed outright, according to a former training officer at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

According to Defra, virtually all of the red-legged partridges released on UK shooting estates come from breeding birds confined in barren wire-mesh cages with less space per bird than an A4 piece of paper, often for their entire life. An increasing majority of breeding pheasants are now also confined in wire-mesh cages for at least three months a year.

Conditions are often worse than allowed under the law for chickens, leading to injury, stress, mutilation and death.

Many of the birds released on UK shooting estates actually start their lives on factory farms abroad – at least 50% according to Defra. These young birds can spend 20 hours or more crammed inside a crate stacked in the back of a lorry travelling from the factory farms to their destination in the UK.

As well as the millions of birds that suffer at the hands of this industry, millions of other animals are harmed and persecuted.

In their bid to have as many birds as possible to shoot for sport and profit, gamekeepers wage a war of persecution on animals that predate on 'game' birds. Wire snares and traps are set to target animals such as foxes, stoats and corvids, however, due to the indiscriminate nature of these devices, many non-target protected and endangered species such as badgers and hares get caught in these traps.

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Notes to Editors

The government recommendation can be seen here: https://cdn.naturalresources.wales/media/685993/ministerial-correspondence-on-nrws-review-on-the-use-of-firearms-on-the-welsh-government-estate-9-july-2018.pdf?mode=pad&rnd=131756950900000000

For more information or interview requests please contact Animal Aid on 01732 364546 or the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).