BASC is urging Defra to engage better with the shooting sector following the publication of a risk assessment in relation to the release of pheasants and Avian Influenza.
BASC discusses avian influenza and pheasants on Farming Today
BASC’s Glynn Evans featured on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme this morning, 20 October, to discuss the impact of avian influenza on shooting and the regulation surrounding releasing gamebirds – listen here from 3.27mins.
Responding to the accusation by the RSPB’s Jeff Knott that gamebirds should not have been released this year, Glynn said that there are a number of legal requirements placed on game farmers and gamekeepers when moving and releasing gamebirds. They include the prohibition of releasing gamebirds in disease control zones (see BASC’s FAQs on the topic).
In a season that has seen shooting significantly impeded by reduced gamebird supply from the continent, Glynn highlighted the importance of shooting to the rural economy and conservation efforts.
Looking at it from a personal perspective, Glynn said; “I am in a small shoot, we haven’t put birds out this year and the loss of income to our local community would be in the region of £20,000.”
Further regulation must be evidence-based
BASC’s view is that the introduction of any further regulation or restrictions should be evidence-based, proportionate and be certain to reduce the risk of avian influenza.
The RSPB’s current position on gamebird shooting fails to meet this expectation, as recently highlighted by BASC.
Specifically on gamebird release, a revision of the RSPB’s policy called on Defra to impose “Further regulation and better enforcement of existing rules”. The announcement was made at its AGM on Saturday 15 October.
The RSPB has adopted this position without any evidence to back it up and no acknowledgement of the conservation value delivered by shooting and its participants.
Back to Farming Today, and Mr Knott’s response to a question around evidence of prevalence of AI in pheasants was based on supposition and a precautionary approach, stating that “there is a lot we don’t know about how this virus has spread around the countryside”.
So without supporting evidence, the RSPB has adopted an approach that smacks of shooting from the hip without significant consideration of the consequences for rural Britain.