On Monday 23rd July the British Game Alliance (BGA) brought together shoot owners, keepers and representative organisations to discuss shoot management best practice with the BGA’s auditing partners Acoura.

The BGA undertook a pilot audit observed by the Countryside Alliance, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), so the organisations could understand and assess the new auditing process.

One of the BGA’s principle aims is the delivery of credible shoot standards. A key element in establishing that credibility is regular shoot auditing undertaken by Acoura, who also audit the RSPCA Assured scheme. It was vital therefore that all major stakeholders had an opportunity to see an audit taking place in practice and to feedback on how the best practice standards might be practically assessed.

The day started at Ripley Castle in North Yorkshire where the group observed an audit of the shoot’s medication records, shoot maps, rearing facilities, the feed stores and other administrative and practical elements of the estate’s management.

All shoots are different however, and one approach will not work for all, so the group then headed to a second BGA member shoot. At Swinton Estate they met Mark Cunliffe Lister on the moor and discussed the implementation of best practice in the use of medicated grit, trapping and burning of the heather.

During the pilot audit everyone agreed that there was a need to create a proforma book in which shoots could record and keep all the details the auditors will need to see in one place. Following this feedback, the BGA is now going to create exactly such a logbook and will be sending hard and electronic copies out to member shoots.

The BGA is extremely grateful to all of the gamekeepers, shoot owners and representative organisations who offered their knowledge and experience to help make the auditing process work for shooting. The day was a great start in making sure that everyone is working together to help shoots with the new process of self-regulation.

Adrian Blackmore, Countryside Alliance Director of Shooting, said: “Swinton and Ripley Castle are two of the many shoots that have become members of the BGA, and their enthusiasm for the scheme, and determination to set the highest standards, was only too apparent. These pilot audits provided a great opportunity for the Estates to put forward their own ideas as to how standards might be improved, and to raise any concerns that they had. The Countryside Alliance is fully behind the BGA, and it was great to see all the major shooting organisations working together to help make the BGA a success.”

Steve Bloomfield, BASC’s executive director of shooting and operations, said: “BASC supports the BGA in its mission to market game and give customer assurance to those buying game meat. BASC staff are working with the BGA to ensure that this initiative succeeds and is credible. BASC has been involved with BGA in conducting a shoot audit and believes that inspection systems, properly run and scrutinised, can support high standards on shoots supplying game to the market.”

Austin Weldon, Game & Wildlife Advisor at the GWCT commented: “It is great to see shoots and countryside organisations coming together to support the BGA. The BGA will provide the reassurance that guns and wider society need to demonstrate that well run shoots produce healthy and wholesome food, deliver wildlife conservation benefits and have high welfare standards. The GWCT fully support this initiative.”

Jonathan Whitehead from Acoura said: “The BGA have been extremely proactive in meeting the demand for transparency around how their members’ estates are operated and managed and this standard is a real benchmark for the sector.

“As a business, Acoura, part of the Lloyds Register Group, operates across the UK supply chain, working on farms, with food manufacturers and retailers and we’re delighted that the BGA is moving members towards industry best practice for food safety, bird welfare and environmental management. Working with the likes of Quality Meat Scotland and Red Tractor and Scottish Quality Wild Venison helps to give us an overview of the supply chain few can match and subsequently we believe this standard can be just as important for the game industry going forward.

“Additionally, having visited a number of sites now, the overall standard and openness of management has been impressive, and we are hopeful other members will meet these standards, while also being open to changing how they operate if it means greater quality assurances. Doubtless, as membership grows successful certification will also prove to be beneficial both to members and in time consumers who will have greater reassurance about the game they buy.”

Frank Boddy, Shoot Captain at Ripley Castle commented: “Well-run shoots have nothing to fear from this process, and absolutely everything to gain. It was clear that these audits are not trying to catch anyone out and the auditors are making sure they understand the practicalities of shoot management in the real world. Shoots of every size need to embrace self-regulation, and everyone who attended the pilot audit left feeling confident that the BGA and Acoura can deliver it.”

Mark Cunliffe-Lister, Lord Masham from Swinton Estate commented: “The BGA is rightly putting in place a standard of best practice for shoots and game dealers to follow. This will then allow all outlets to properly promote wild game as a great source of food to the public.”