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Labour opposes pheasant shooting in Wales

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

Earlier this week the Welsh Environment Minister wrote to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) stating that the Labour Government in Wales "does not support commercial pheasant shooting or the breeding of gamebirds", because of "ethical issues".

This is an extraordinary statement which will be extremely disturbing to the thousands of people in rural Wales whose livelihoods depend on shooting.

The last resort of the anti-hunting movement as it loses the argument on evidence and principle has always been to start talking about 'morality' and 'ethics'. What this really means is that it wants to impose its opinions on everyone else, despite a complete lack of evidence to justify them. This is exactly the route now being taken by the Welsh Assembly Government on shooting.

The Minister was intervening after a review of shooting on public land which included an extensive consultation and consideration of the available evidence on the environmental, economic and social impact of shooting. The review recommended that NRW:

  • continue to use firearms to manage the damage caused by wild animals on the land it manages where this is essential for the sustainable management of natural resources

  • consider all applications for permission to enter onto its land to control wild animals affecting our neighbours land

  • consider leasing land for pheasant rearing and shooting and wildfowling where it doesn't negatively impact on our sustainable management of the areas

This was obviously not the answer the Minister wanted to hear so she has chosen, in effect, to instruct NRW to disregard the evidence in preference for the Labour Government's "ethical" objections.

There are any number of questions that arise out of this bizarre intervention, but perhaps the most important is whether the policy of the Welsh Labour Government is shared by the Labour Party as a whole. Until 2005 Labour retained a firm commitment 'not to restrict shooting'. Whilst there is absolutely no logical or evidential reason to change that policy Labour's Animal Welfare Plan, published last year, committed to "ban intensive rearing of game birds for shooting". Welsh Labour have gone further in stating, so clearly, its ethical objection to game shooting.

Our recent report with the Fabian Society sent a clear warning to the Labour Party that engaging with an animal rights agenda would only further alienate voters in rural constituencies that it must win to form a Westminster Government in the future.

As I wrote when we published that report it notes that the aftershocks of the Hunting Act are still felt in rural areas over a decade late. How much worse will they be if Labour turns on game shooting, an activity undertaken by at least ten times as many people?

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow me at @CA_TimB

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