BASC vice-president stands up for gamebird release in Parliament

A gamekeeper repairing a pen

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, has been heavily critical of Defra’s decision to restrict the licensing process of releasing gamebirds ahead of the shooting season, claiming civil servants were under explicit instructions not to communicate changes to shooting organisations.

Speaking at an adjournment debate in the House of Commons, the backbench parliamentarian chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Shooting and Conservation. He called on the government to commit to paying compensation to those facing significant financial losses and job cuts, or to immediately renew the old licence.

BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation, has made similar calls, providing evidence of more than 200 shoots that face uncertain futures, financial turmoil and job losses following the eleventh-hour decision by Defra.

In his speech, Sir Geoffrey recounted the chaos and animal welfare crisis the decision has created in the countryside, stating that the situation is a disaster for rural affairs.

He described Defra’s justification for the new licence – to prevent the spread of avian influenza  as deeply flawed and questioned why other rural activities had not faced similar assessments and restrictions.

Christopher Graffius, BASC’s executive director for communications and public affairs, said: “We are extremely grateful for Sir Geoffrey joining BASC’s call for the government to act. Assurances are no longer acceptable; actions must be taken to rectify the damage that has been caused by this ill-judged and unevidenced decision.

“BASC has begun legal proceedings against Defra’s decision, but it remains our objective to see the renewal of the licence to ensure the season can continue unimpeded.”

Read back a transcript of the debate here.