BASC has welcomed the government’s support for shooting in its official response to an online petition by the extremist anti-shooter Chris Packham.
The BBC presenter has called for a moratorium on the shooting of woodcock, snipe and golden plover.
But in its official reply, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it does not believe shooting is to blame for declines in populations of wading birds and also highlights the benefits of shooting to the economy and the environment.
Tim Russell, BASC director of conservation, said: “Government has responded to this issue using the evidence that they have available to them. The changes in numbers of these birds is not caused by shooting. Overwintering waders are known to be particularly prone to the effects of climate change, especially at the fringes of their range such as the UK. This is just another example of a celebrity using their profile to promote their extreme views whilst ignoring the evidence.”
Peter Glenser, BASC chairman, said: “BASC is delighted the government has again shown support for those who shoot and for the obvious benefits shooting provides to the rural community.
“It is also to be welcomed that the government has seen through yet another attempt by an anti-shooting extremist to hijack the political process. Decisions should be based on evidence, not on the number of clicks a celebrity can direct through a webpage.”
Defra’s official response to the petition said: “It is unlikely that hunting has had a significant impact on recent population trends for woodcock, snipe and golden plover; trends are likely to be influenced more by the quality and extent of habitat.
“Shooting is a legitimate activity and in addition to providing jobs and investment in some of our most remote areas, it can offer important benefits for wildlife and habitat conservation. The Government’s manifesto commits to protect shooting for the benefits it brings to individuals, the environment and the rural economy.
“Recent data shows that the woodcock has a breeding population or around 78,000 pairs; common snipe 76,000 and golden plover between 38,000 and 59,000. Overwintering populations increase their numbers to approximately 1.4 million (woodcock), 1 million (common snipe) and 400,000 (golden plover).
“For all three species, the numbers of birds hunted is small compared with the population present in the country during the open season.
“The Government is not persuaded that the current level of hunting has a significant detrimental impact on the numbers of woodcock, common snipe and golden plover. A number of English estates have already instigated their own voluntary bans on the shooting of woodcock. Any moratorium in the rest of the UK is a matter for the devolved administrations.”