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DEFRA minister Dr Thérèse Coffey spoke of the importance of continued investment by the shooting community when she addressed a packed rural reception hosted by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Angling Trust at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs highlighted shooting’s role in the environmental and economic sustainability of rural communities.

Dr Coffey said: “Certainly, shooting and fishing are pursuits that many people enjoy and government stands by its commitment to protect shooting and fishing. I would like to say a big thank you to BASC and the Angling Trust for your work. This government supports your ambitions for both sports to have a vibrant future.

“It matters that we continue to see investment in shooting, as it is key to job security and habitat conservation. The government want to see a vibrant working countryside that is enhanced by a biodiverse environment.

“We know, for example, that grouse shooting supports jobs in sparsely-populated rural areas. And the environmental benefits are also there. More than 60 per cent of England’s SSSIs are managed as grouse moors and the precious biodiversity of these areas would be at risk if they were not managed for shooting.”

Dr Coffey also spoke of the importance of maintaining high standards in shooting, adding:  “We encourage you to have a sport that is great, but you also have a duty to be responsible and the issue of raptor persecution has to be addressed by the shooting community.”

BASC chairman Peter Glenser said: “BASC places high standards at the fore of what we do. Bad practice must not be tolerated, it must stop and we look forward to continuing to work with government on this.

“We were delighted to hear Dr Coffey reaffirm the government’s commitment to support shooting. We look forward to continuing to work with government and other politicians to highlight the excellent work carried out by those who shoot and the subsequent benefits to the rural economy and conservation.”

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on shooting, introduced the speakers and said shooting was integral to the stability of rural habitats.

He said: “A lot of the positive work which takes place to improve the UK’s environment would not exist without those involved in shooting. The APPG recognises that those involved in shooting invest around £250 million a year in protecting and improving the environment.”

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