by Countryside Alliance

Last year the Welsh Government undertook a review of the code of practice for rearing game birds. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders, and having reviewed the available evidence on gamebird welfare, a revised code was circulated to stakeholders at the end of last year, in which officials make clear that the proposed amendments were made on the basis of the most up to date evidence relating to game rearing, including the use of raised laying units for egg production Given the evidence in favour of raised laying units from the independent research commissioned by the UK Government through Defra, and to which the Welsh Government contributed and which was carried out in Wales and published in 2015, we hoped that the Welsh Government would continue to honour its commitment to policy based on sound evidence and science and expected the Minister to approve the new code without delay. However, we were subsequently informed earlier this year that the publication of the final revised code was to be delayed due to the current situation arising from the COVID-19 crisis. This seemed inexplicable, given the clarity of the evidence base for the revised code as circulated by officials last year. We can see no reason why the Minister has delayed signing it off. 

The Alliance has thus written to the Minister asking her to approve the amended code, as previously circulated, and not to give in to animal rights pressure groups, who we know wish to ignore the scientific evidence in advancing an anti-shooting agenda. We have also reminded her that there are serious legal implications to trying to use codes of practice under the Animal Welfare Act to ban things, and that there are also implications in terms of Human Rights law. 

All we are asking is that the Welsh Government base animal welfare decisions on evidence and not opinion, and not whether the individual Minister likes, or dislikes, a particular activity. 

All the scientific evidence points to the Code, as amended following last year's review, as representing best practice such that no further change to the Code is justified. In the light of the law and the need for public policy to be evidence led, our letter urges the Minister to sign off the revised code as circulated last year, as soon as possible.

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