Act now to avoid animal welfare crisis in the countryside, BASC warns Defra

A poult lying in the mud

BASC has warned Defra that shooting businesses are facing financial ruin, criminal charges, or both unless it urgently reinstates a licence for the release of gamebirds in protected areas of England.

The UK’s largest shooting organisation has told Lord Richard Benyon that Defra should urgently publish guidance to shoot managers and gamekeepers who have been left in a ‘treacherous’ position by more rigorous regulation at a key point in the rural calendar.

BASC has considered all the available options for shoot managers and gamekeepers caught up in this policy change and believes many are now at risk of criminal charges if they were to take steps to stave off the animal welfare crisis created by Defra.

With gamebirds already hatched, and in many cases on the ground, Defra needs to provide shoots with a workable solution as to what should be done with these birds while the licence application is pending or not granted.

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “On the ground, it is obvious that shoot managers and gamekeepers are in limbo. They cannot release or cull gamebirds. To do any of those things would leave them at risk of criminality. Practically, at this stage of the year, they also cannot sell these birds.

“So we are asking Defra to clearly tell us what these shoots are supposed to do. In the absence of clear, useful guidance from Defra, many shoots face financial ruin, the risk of criminal charges, or both. It is wholly unacceptable for a government department to create a situation like this.

“Failing to provide guidance, the easiest solution to this crisis in our countryside is for Defra to reinstate the licence without delay. BASC is contacting government at every level to make this case.”

In the letter to Lord Benyon – the Minister in charge of the individual licence decision – Ian Bell said: “The unexpected policy change in relation to GL43 and indefensible lateness of communication of it has left stakeholders in a treacherous position where any next steps they are forced to take will either lead to financial ruin, criminal conduct or both.”

BASC has already announced that it is preparing legal proceedings against Defra’s unevidenced changes, however the better option remains to immediately reinstate GL43 without any changes.

Find more information on GL43 here.