Key decision due on future of pheasant shooting in Welsh National Forest

Natural Resources Wales is set to make a key decision on the future of pheasant shooting on Welsh public land at its Executive Meeting on Thursday, following a joint-campaign between Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports. 

Large numbers of non-indigenous pheasants are factory farmed and released into three sections of the Welsh National Forest to be killed by shooting parties. Native predators – including foxes, stoats, weasels, crows and magpies – are also killed to preserve large numbers of ‘game’ birds for the guns. These practices result in an overall decrease in biodiversity, including through displacing wild birds, upsetting the delicate ecology and threatening rare butterfly species.

On shoot days, many birds are not killed instantly and hit the ground suffering from painful wounds and injuries, only to be killed by having their necks broken or being hit over the head with a beater’s stick, the League and Animal Aid add.

Welsh Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn AM, wrote to NRW during the Summer spelling out how the Government does not support the rearing, releasing and shooting of ‘game’ birds on public land, including in the Welsh National Forest. NRW’s Executive Board is expected to implement an end to its leases to reflect the government’s policy position. NRW has drawn strong criticism, however, for proposing that beaters are still permitted to access the sections of presently-leased woodland to scare ‘game’ birds onto neighbouring land to allow them to still be shot for ‘sport’.

Bethan Collins, Senior Public Affairs Officer (Wales) at League Against Cruel Sports, says:

“The Welsh Government has made it clear that rearing, releasing and shooting ‘game’ birds for sport on public land – including the Natural Resources Wales estate – is not acceptable in any terms. So to allow beaters to scare birds from the undergrowth of the same public land onto neighbouring estates to be shot in clear conflict with the spirit of the Welsh Government’s position and wishes of the Welsh public, 74% of whom do not support ‘game’ bird shooting.

“We strongly urge NRW to end its pheasant shooting deeds upon expiry and not substitute them with a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which allows birds from its land to be shot for sport on neighbouring estates by any other means. The agency is also reminded that, without express permission, anybody engaging in the latter would be committing a criminal offence contrary to the Game Act.”

Fiona Pereira, Campaigns Manager at Animal Aid, says:

“NRW needs to pay heed to the Minister’s wishes, which are a reflection of the public’s abhorrence of shooting. In addition to the strong evidence presented to NRW on the harm that shoots do to animals and the environment, they also took receipt of a 12,000-strong petition from compassionate people calling on NRW to bring an end to shooting.

“NRW must end shooting on the land it manages on behalf of the people of Wales. It must also ban shoots from driving birds from its woodland to be shot on neighbouring land. It is the compassionate way forward and Welsh citizens will appreciate the kindness shown.”

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Notes for editors:

  • Natural Resources Wales’ decision meeting will be held on Thursday 20 September 2018 from 11:30 – 14:30 at Cambria House, 29 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF20 0TP.

  • Natural Resources Wales presently leases three pieces of woodland for pheasant shooting: Bank Wood (Powys), Maesmawr Big Wood (Powys) and Cwmgwnen (Oswestry).

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