Shooting under pressure in Wales
Despite what those that kill for fun like to say, shooting is not popular. But don’t take my word for it. In 2018 YouGov polling commissioned by the League showed that 74% of Welsh adults think that shooting birds for sport should be made illegal and 76% thought it should be banned on public land. I am happy to report that we are moving closer to that goal.
In the opening months of 2019, the League Against Cruel Sports and our campaign partners, Animal Aid were celebrating a recent decision by the courts to uphold a ban on shooting birds on public land in Wales, despite a legal challenge by shooting lobby groups.
Back in July 2018, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Board decided it would no longer allow the shooting of birds for sport to take place on public land it manages on behalf of the Welsh Government and the people of Wales. That decision came after a lengthy campaign by Animal Aid and the League. Early on, the Welsh Government responded to the campaign by commissioning NRW to carry out a consultation into the shooting of birds for ‘sport’ by private individuals on public land. The review culminated in a public consultation where 76% expressed support for a ban on shooting birds on NRW land – a figure which neatly tallies with the YouGov polling.
Pro-shooting lobby groups – the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Alliance (CA) and the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) – reacted strongly to the NRW decision, rightly recognizing (and fearing) it as being a watershed moment, and began judicial review proceedings to overturn NRW’s decision. The campaign pushed hard on the idea that somehow shooting is synonymous with Welsh culture by employing a slogan ‘‘Wales would not be Wales without shooting’ - a slogan unlikely to be used by the Welsh tourist board any time soon.
In February 2019, the Administrative Court in Cardiff determined that permission to apply for judicial review by the shooting lobby should be refused on the basis that the claim was not brought promptly and, in any event, it was not arguable. BASC, CA and NGO then renewed their application at an oral hearing in March 2019 but the Court upheld the original decision and it is likely that the claimants will have to pay costs.
The legal challenge attracted media interest and I appeared on BBC Radio Wales’ Country Focus programme a few days after the court hearing. It was a great opportunity to challenge the shooting industry’s spokespeople about the false image of a high-welfare, environmentally sound, ethical business that they like to promote.
Elsewhere, the League and our supporters won a significant victory in ending shooting at the University of Wales. A Freedom of Information request revealed that 57,000 captively-bred pheasants have been released for shooting at Gregynog Hall since 2013, and about 160 native wild animals - including foxes and corvids - had been killed by gamekeepers over the same period to preserve the land for shooting parties. Over 11,000 League supporters contacted the University demanding the University bring an end to shooting for sport on its land. And they have. Although an ongoing review regarding the Gregynog estate is yet to finalise this decision, the University has allowed its leases to lapse, bringing an end to shooting on it’s land.
Shooting animals for fun is an activity that belongs in the past, and if the changes in Wales are anything to go by, the League and its supporters are at the forefront of making this a reality.