Game assurance scheme transfers from BGA to Aim to Sustain

Aim to Sustain logo

The infrastructure of the assurance scheme built by British Game Assurance (BGA) will be transferred to Aim to Sustain, it was announced today (16 October).

The transfer should be completed later in the Autumn and in the meantime, the scheme remains unchanged and open to new members.

Following completion, Aim to Sustain will take over and lead the next evolution of game assurance. As a partnership of eight different organisations with an interest in game management and shooting and a dedication to high standards and self-regulation, Aim to Sustain is uniquely placed to expand and build on the invaluable work of BGA since it launched in 2018.

Operating to the highest standards

The Aim to Sustain Game Assurance Scheme will allow game farms, game shoots and estates to demonstrate publicly that they operate to the highest standards, having been independently verified by an accredited external auditor.

The standards include assessment of animal health and welfare, food quality, environmental enhancement and protection, appropriate stocking levels, staff training and health and safety.

The scheme guarantees the quality of game meat for consumers through the Aim to Sustain assurance stamp, so they know that their game comes from an audited, high-quality source.

Aim to Sustain’s operations director Spike Butcher said: “Everybody involved in Aim to Sustain appreciates the significant amount of work that BGA has put into developing the scheme, with an impressive reputation fostered in the sustainable game management sector. Having such a strong platform in place will give the scheme the best possible chance of succeeding under the new management of Aim to Sustain.

“All eight partner organisations and our scientific advisor, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, now have ‘skin in the game’. With investment in the scheme through commitment of time, effort and resource, the game shooting community will strengthen collaboration further to ensure that effective self-regulation is in place and visibly doing its job. All major organisations in the sustainable game management sector now have direct responsibility for self-assurance – this is a major step in the right direction.”

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “BASC has helped to nurture the BGA since its beginning and we look forward to seeing game assurance grow as the Aim to Sustain partners take on the responsibility for game assurance from the BGA.

“With all Aim to Sustain partners fully committed to self-regulation and best practice within our sector, together we are in a strong position to take the assurance scheme and develop and grow it.

“Assurance is a critical element of self-regulation. It allows shoots, estates and game farms to provide evidence of their high welfare standards, safe wild harvest and food production and positive environmental effects. This evidence is important to help us tell the good news stories about game shooting and game management.”

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Demonstrating effective self-regulation

Country Land and Business Association President Mark Tufnell said: “The launch of the Aim to Sustain Game Assurance Scheme is a vital next step in continuing to demonstrate effective self-regulation, and we encourage everyone involved in the sector to get behind it and be part of assurance.

“Game meat is a healthy, nutritious and sustainably-produced option, and this scheme can help consumers and the public be confident that meat has been produced to the highest standards.”

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “The future of game shooting is reliant on public and political perception and shoot assurance and wider sector self-regulation are critical to that perception. It is critical that we can promote all the environmental, economic and social benefits of sustainable game management.”

Louisa Clutterbuck, CEO of Eat Wild and formerly British Game Assurance, said: “We believe that this transfer to Aim to Sustain will propel assurance adoption to the next level, allowing our team to concentrate on the vital task of promoting game, encompassing both feathered and venison options for the table, to the wider public. We take immense pride in the achievements of the BGA to date. I want to emphasize my personal gratitude to every one of our supporters for their loyal and dedicated assistance over the years.

The Game Farmers’ Association (GFA) chairman George Davis said: “The GFA has been a staunch supporter of assurance since its inception by the BGA and indeed, were instrumental in developing the Game Farm Assurance scheme along side the BGA.

“We are looking forward to having greater involvement in the promotion of Game Farm Assurance to the game farming community through our partnership in Aim to Sustain. The GFA believe Assurance is vital to help secure the future of our members and the wider shooting sector.”


Encouraging shoots to join the scheme

GWCT director of advisory and education, Dr Roger Draycott, said: “The transfer of the assurance scheme to Aim to Sustain is a very significant move towards ensuring shoots achieve the huge conservation benefits we know game management can deliver. 

“As Aim to Sustain’s independent scientific advisor we would encourage shoots to join the scheme, which is in line with GWCT’s science-based Guidelines for Sustainable Gamebird Releasing. When game managers apply best practice measures, they can double the wildlife in the farmed environment and demonstrate their vital role in national nature recovery.”

Moorland Association director Amanda Anderson said: “Grouse is one of the most delicious and healthy meats available in the UK and is of exceptional seasonal and regional provenance. The development of the assurance scheme over the past five years has proven to be of enormous benefit in documenting how game is sustainably produced, handled and distributed. The sector is under constant scrutiny and so the ability to dispel some of the myths about grouse moors is invaluable. We are excited to see the continued development of national and international markets for game over the coming years.”

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation chairman David Pooler said: “The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation believes that self-regulation is vital for the future of shooting and game management more widely. This is a view we have been working hard to reinforce among our members. Demonstrating the high welfare standards and the positive conservation benefits of game management is hugely important for all of us.

“Assurance plays a significant role in encouraging self-assurance among the shooting community, and we hope that by working together things will go from strength under the new banner of Aim to Sustain.”

Scottish Land & Estates chairman Dee Ward said: “SLE has strongly supported the development of a shoot and game farm assurance scheme over the last five years, and believe it is a good move for it now to come under the administrative umbrella of Aim to Sustain. 

“Game shooting is an important rural land use sector in Scotland and a rigorous assurance scheme is the best way to ensure we have a sector that is delivering best practice for nature, biodiversity and climate, and to build confidence with politicians and the public that it is being carried out sustainably. SLE has led the way with the Wildlife Estates Scotland initiative and we hope that Aim to Sustain Game Assurance will work alongside it, and will help all our members with shooting interests to take advantage of it.”

Aim to Sustain Game Assurance - your questions answered

Eight organisations, with GWCT as the scientific advisor, are working closely to protect and promote sustainable shooting, biodiversity and the rural community. 

Assurance is a state or condition of confidence, certainty, or guarantee about a particular matter or outcome. It involves providing reassurance or a level of certainty that something will be achieved, upheld, or delivered as expected.

Within game shooting, assurance is a tool through which lowland pheasant and partridge shoots, grouse moors and game farms can say with confidence that they are abiding by best practice.

We need widespread implementation of assurance to show those who want to regulate us that we are adhering to the highest standards. The decision to licence Scottish grouse moors, the Welsh consultation on game bird releasing and the Defra review into releasing gamebirds show there has never been a more important time to pull together and show that we can self-regulate and we follow best practice.

There are two key benefits to joining an assurance scheme: the evidence (externally validated) that you follow best practice and have high standards, and the opportunities to show you provide assured game meat. Independently-audited assurance underpins both benefits, providing peace of mind to Government and the general public, game stockists and food retailers alike.

Yes there is still a lowland standard. It is the first standard that has been reviewed and will go live when the scheme is transferred in mid-November 2023.  It has simplified the standards and the evidence gathering during the audit to ensure scheme members can prepare as easily as possible. This will ensure members can have confidence in the value of the scheme, as a robust, credible and effective tool.

Yes there is still a moorland standard, it is currently undergoing a review to bring it in line with the lowland standards that have been reviewed. There is some more work to complete before these are published in early 2024.

Yes there are still standards for game breeding, hatching and rearing. They are undergoing a review this winter to bring them in line with the lowland standards and will be rolled out early next year.

It was always expected that assurance would be taken on by the wider shooting organisations and developed by Aim to Sustain as part of the wider promotion of self-regulation.  

The assurance infrastructure built by BGA will be transferred to Aim to Sustain. This transfer will enable the member organisations to equally share the responsibility for the success and running of assurance.

No, your membership and renewal dates will be carried across into the new scheme.

The transfer of assurance to Aim to Sustain will streamline and consolidate the standards and admin processes. Members will be able to get support and guidance on audit preparation and what to expect from each of the Aim to Sustain partner organisations, the GWCT and the auditors. While the transition may involve some administrative changes, the goal is to ensure continuity and effectiveness of the scheme without significant disruptions.

We will use this opportunity to relaunch and simplify the scheme standards and compliance evidence while remaining focused on high standards and best practice.  There has not been a price rise for nearly five years, so there will be a new price structure for all the scheme standards – lowland, upland and game farming standards as they are refreshed and rolled out.  We will also be providing enhanced support to members from Aim to Sustain, the partners and the auditors in the new scheme. 

The aim is to complete the full transfer of the scheme in November 2023. Intertek-SAI Global will continue to be the scheme’s audit partner and administer the scheme.

The administration of the assurance scheme will continue to be managed by Intertek-SAI Global after the transfer to Aim to Sustain. This ensures a smooth transition and allows for the consistent application of the scheme’s processes and procedures without disrupting the day-to-day operations.  Intertek-SAI Global is an accredited assurance assessor with a strong reputation in this field and it brings significant experience and value to the scheme.

BGA will rebrand to Eat Wild and will concentrate its efforts on creating more demand for and marketing game. The retail market for game meat has grown significantly, and BGA aims to capitalise on this by continuing its successful game meat marketing  operation.

The marketing of game meat plays a crucial role in promoting the value and desirability of game meat to consumers. By raising awareness, increasing demand, and creating a sustainable market for game meat, it supports the long-term viability of shooting activities and indirectly contributes to the success of assurance by encouraging responsible practices.

There will be information on all the A2S partners’ and GWCT websites. The A2S website will also have assurance guidance and there will be links to the Intertek-SAI Global website where applications for membership can be made.

Your questions answered

Read the answers to frequently asked questions on Aim to Sustain Game Assurance