The Countryside Alliance has responded robustly to a Natural Resource Wales (NRW) consultation on the use of firearms on publicly-owned land, but having seen evidence that a similar review was undertaken as recently as 2013 the Alliance questions why this expensive process was deemed necessary.

A Natural Resource Wales consultation was launched earlier this year, asking whether firearms should continue to be used on publicly-owned land and specifically asking whether they were ‘necessary’ in terms of pest control, game shooting and exempt hunting (i.e. using hounds to flush foxes to guns). The Countryside Alliance highlighted in depth the obvious risk to farmers on NRW land, and on neighbouring land, if appropriate pest control was not undertaken, and the clear land-management benefits of well-run game shooting. But the Alliance was also concerned about the cost this review placed on the Welsh taxpayer, and was keen to establish why the consultation was taking place.

The Countryside Alliance has seen evidence that a similar review was undertaken by NRW as recently as 2013, showing the benefits of well-run game shooting and suggesting NRW could generate a minimum of £500,000 per year from game shooting on their estate. This much-needed revenue could help fund NRW without placing additional burden on the Welsh taxpayer. The Alliance has re-submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to see the whole report, after NRW denied its existence in the first request.

NRW may be embarrassed not only to be spending taxpayers’ money on a new consultation, rather than saving the taxpayer money by following the recommendations of the first review, but also because this new consultation is being undertaken because of lobbying by the tiny animal rights campaign group, Animal Aid. A further FOI request revealed that the only organisation to have raised concerns about shooting on NRW land, before the review was made public in the press, was Animal Aid, an organisation that is fundamentally opposed to all wildlife management as well as all livestock farming.

Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, said: “This review was totally unnecessary. The Welsh government surely can’t afford to spend taxpayers’ money doing work twice just because an animal rights group tells them to. Animal Aid don’t just oppose all wildlife management, they oppose the livestock farming that is at the heart of the rural Wales that NRW is supposed to support.

“This is an embarrassing episode for NRW, but they have an opportunity to make sure some good comes of it. The consultation asked whether firearms-use meets the Wellbeing Goals that the Welsh Government has set itself, goals that cover prosperity, biodiversity, community cohesion, public health and cultural vibrancy. The Countryside Alliance comprehensively demonstrated that game shooting, pest control and exempt hunting contribute to each Wellbeing Goal, and called on NRW to maximise the value that the public estate could be deriving from game shooting. In this way NRW could enhance the conservation value and the economic value of publicly owned land while providing new opportunities for people to get involved in shooting, all without costing the Welsh taxpayer a penny.”