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Letter Opposing Game Shooting Leaves Welsh Government with Serious Questions to Answer

In a dramatic conclusion to the widely publicised Natural Resource Wales (NRW) review of the use of firearms on land it manages, Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn has written a letter to NRW asking that they ignore the conclusions of the review because "the Welsh Government does not support commercial pheasant shooting". Following a tense meeting on the 12th July, the NRW board has chosen to unanimously accept the recommendations of the review regardless, and will ask the Minister to clarify her extraordinary comments.

The review of firearms use and game shooting on NRW land was triggered by animal rights campaigning in 2016. The Countryside Alliance has been the only shooting organisation to battle this review every step of the way, attending NRW board meetings to highlight the importance and contributions of both game shooting and pest control at every opportunity. The Alliance was particularly concerned over NRW using taxpayer's money to launch this review to appease a small number of activists, when a study had already been undertaken demonstrating that a further £500,000 could be generated for the public purse if shooting opportunities were expanded on NRW land.

Over 250 pieces of qualifying evidence were received and reviewed, resulting in the primary recommendation that shooting could sustainably continue on NRW land. The review proved that shooting contributes to the delivery of Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) and the delivery of the Well-Being Goals of the Future Generations Wales Act, both of which NRW are tasked to work towards. However, some of the details within the recommendations are cause for concern, particularly around rearing and releasing of game birds, and the Alliance will be seeking to clarify the justification for these positions.

It was at this point that Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn wrote her remarkable letter. The letter makes no mention of science or evidence and admits it falls well outside the scope of the NRW review, yet asserts that due to unspecified "policy issues and concerns… the Welsh Government does not support commercial pheasant shooting or the breeding of gamebirds".

The Alliance took the position that NRW had chosen to spend taxpayer's money on a review of evidence, and was now being asked to undermine that review and reject the evidence. The Alliance was the only shooting organisation to attend the NRW board meeting at which the ministerial letter was discussed, and made sure this point was made. The Alliance is relieved that the NRW Board has chosen not to be swayed by the Minister's letter, and instead to accept the outcomes of its review and ask the Minister to clarify her last minute intervention.

Countryside Alliance Director for Wales said: "We are bitterly disappointed that the Minister has been so poorly advised. We have met with the Minister and we are confident that this letter does not reflect her true views on this issue. We have requested an urgent meeting to discuss why this letter was written and who advised her to do so, as she is in grave danger of alienating huge swathes of rural Wales.

"Our thanks go to the NRW Board, who have stood up for the integrity of their review. We have serious concerns about the baseless recommendations relating to rearing and releasing of gamebirds and we will be challenging these positions as we move forward, but we can all agree that NRW's credibility simply would not recover if the findings of a review were to be entirely thrown out on the whim of an opinion handed to the Minister.

"The statement that the Welsh Government does not support commercial pheasant shooting will send a chill down the spine of the hundreds of thousands of people who shoot or whose livelihoods depend on game shooting not just in Wales, but across the UK where people will be wondering if this is now Labour Party policy. There are very serious questions to ask, and the Alliance will be asking them."

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