The escalating fallout between Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales over pheasant shooting on public land gathered further momentum on Wednesday (7th November), as the Countryside Alliance again put the debate centre stage at the Welsh Assembly. Intensive lobbying from thousands of Alliance members has kept this issue at the top of the agenda, but it is vital that everyone who lives in Wales or has shot in Wales signs and sends the letter here.
Natural Resource Wales (NRW) has come under enormous pressure since the announcement that it planned to end pheasant shooting on its land, a decision it took under pressure from the Labour Government’s Environment Minister and in contradiction to the evidence it had assembled at taxpayer’s expense. The Minister Hannah Blythyn has subsequently claimed her remarks were not supposed to be binding, leaving NRW to take blame for the decision. The tension was heightened on Wednesday 7th November as Angela Burns, Assembly Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, secured a debate entitled “Rural Wales; an economy to be promoted” and spoke eloquently on the benefits of well-run game shooting.
Highlighting the value of shooting, she said: “Shooting contributes significantly to 365 days a year tourism by maintaining employment in otherwise challenging environments and provides hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and pubs with vital income in the winter months. It is not just business that benefits from the field sports industry it is also the environment,” before going on to quote the Countryside Alliance’s Shooting in Wales at length and highlighting the harm that extends from attacking game shooting.
The debate put the benefits of field sports firmly in the context of the wider rural economy, and was a direct result of the Alliance’s work on the ground in the Welsh Assembly. Angela Burns explained the economic, social and environmental benefits of game shooting, and noted that the Environment Minister’s desire to end shooting on public land in Wales “lacks significant scientific basis”.
This decision has been the subject of intensive lobbying by Countryside Alliance members and supporters, who have sent thousands of letters to their Assembly Members and to NRW asking that the decision be reversed in light of the body of evidence.
Speaking after the debate, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales Rachel Evans said “Today’s debate on the floor of the Assembly put fieldsports in the heart of Welsh politics. The debate was secured thanks to the strong relationship between Assembly Members and the Alliance, and that helped us brief extensively before it began. The Assembly heard from the Alliance’s Shooting in Wales; for Countryside and Community, a document that was produced specifically for the politicians in Wales to highlight’s the benefits of shooting to Wales.
“Angela Burns AM explained the link between country sports and a vibrant, thriving rural economy. She noted the opportunities for angling, hunting and shooting to provide Wales with a vital 365 days a year tourism strategy.”
Responding to the debate, Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn chose not to acknowledge any of the debate’s core messages in relation to farming and fieldsports.
Rachel Evans continued: “The Minister’s refusal to engage with the issues shows there is much more work to be done. We need everyone who lives in Wales or has ever been shooting in Wales to participate in our campaign.
“It is primarily the number of members and supporters who have signed our campaign to reverse NRW’s decision to ban pheasant shooting on public land that has kept this issue at the very top of the agenda. Because our members and supporters signed up to this campaign, the Minister will have to respond to their concerns. It is vital that people keep signing, that we keep up this pressure, and we get this decision reversed.” The Alliance will meet with the Minister the week of the 12th of November, and has joined with other rural groups to mount a legal challenge to this decision.