2018 has been a year of change for pheasant shooting here in Wales.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) concluded a review of the use of firearms on the land they own and manage on behalf of the Welsh Government. The final part of the review was a public consultation held early in 2018 and questions about the leasing of some land to game shooting operations featured. We submitted a response to the consultation, wrote to the Minister and worked to get our concerns raised with Welsh Government in the Welsh Assembly chamber via questions tabled by supportive Assembly Members (AMs). We also met with AMs and wrote to Ministers to raise concerns about the neutrality of the review process itself.

Working with Animal Aid, and using the Welsh Assembly’s petitions process, we ensured that AMs and the Welsh Government heard the many, many voices (over 12,000 of them) of those who oppose the use of public land in Wales for cruelty in the name of sport. We also commissioned YouGov to undertake opinion polling of a representative sample of 1,000 Welsh adults which found that 76% of people think that shooting for sport should not take place on public land. And 74% of those surveyed think that shooting birds for sport should be illegal, full stop.

Our joint campaign attracted strong media attention with me appearing on a BBC Radio Wales short documentary on the NRW review and also live on BBC Radio Wales’ breakfast show ahead of the NRW Board meeting in September that would decide the future of the shooting leases.

A critical moment had came just days before the July NRW Board meeting when the then Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn AM, wrote to NRW stating unequivocally that the Welsh Government does not support the continuation of allowing shooting leases on its land, for ethical reasons, and due to the clear public opposition to it.

Ethical considerations had always laid outside of NRW’s review process but NRW could not ignore the clear wishes of Welsh Government, as the landowner. So, at the September Board meeting, NRW decided to bring the three shooting leases to an end when their current terms expires in March 2019 and also decided to not allow shoots to drive birds from NRW land onto neighbouring shoots.  This was a huge campaign victory for us!

The shooting lobby was predictably furious about the decision and has launched a counter campaign, full of hyperbole about the impact of this decision on shooting as a whole in Wales, making overstated claims of economic impact on the industry and propagating myths about the links between the shooting industry and Wales’ national identity. They have clearly been shaken by our campaign win and this landmark decision by Welsh Government.

Looking ahead to 2019, we will defend our win and will continue to campaign to end shooting at the University of Wales, and elsewhere. The people of Wales are clear – the vast majority do not support their country being used as a playground for this cruel sport and they want it to stop.