Sit down and try to sum up 2020 in 500 words and things can become gloomy pretty quickly. Look for the positives and focus on the brighter times to come, however, and there is much to take strength from and look forward to.
The past year has, of course, been fraught with challenges and uncertainty. That’s not about to go away overnight, but there are countless examples of resilience and adaptability within the shooting community that we can reflect on with pride and positivity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised quite how crucial shooting is for the countryside, rural communities, businesses and our mental health. It has served as a reminder of what we fight for. And at BASC it has only strengthened our resolve to represent and promote sustainable shooting unrelentingly.
Of course, Covid-19 has brought with it an unforeseen glut of work. It is testament to BASC’s agility that we have been able to manage this unexpected workload while not allowing it to distract us from meeting the many other challenges at hand. The association has left no stone unturned to ensure Covid-secure shooting can take place within the guidelines set by government. Our regional teams have delivered hundreds of successful Covid-19 advisory visits. And regular liaison with politicians has been instrumental in ensuring shooting’s voice is heard, enabling us to relay information quickly on what changing restrictions mean for our members in all parts of the UK.
Meanwhile, we continue to address a host of other issues. We’ve maintained the ability to use general licences and have encouraged Defra to take control of them so pragmatic pest and predator control can continue with minimal red tape. We have also been very active in submitting evidence to Defra’s review of gamebird release on designated sites in England, and will lobby hard to ensure any proposed licensing system for releasing birds in these areas goes no further than the established guidance already present in the Code of Good Shooting Practice. And we will also be contributing to discussions with officials on the development of a licensing scheme for grouse shooting businesses in Scotland, making representations to ensure it is as transparent and workable as possible.
Looking ahead, we will be building on a promising first year of the five-year phased transition away from lead shot and single-use plastics. Our sustainable ammunition workshops have been very well received and manufacturers continue to make great strides with new products. And with the vaccine roll-out already underway, the prospect of a return to post-Covid normality is also good news for those members wishing to make the most of BASC’s training days, stalking schemes and wildfowling opportunities. Let’s not forget The Game Fair, too, where BASC members will once again benefit from complimentary admission.
Really, it’s about remaining positive while preparing ourselves for the inevitable challenges that lie ahead. That is exactly what we have been doing at BASC. Due to sound planning, the association remains financially strong and well placed to continue the fight for the future of shooting. Despite freezing our membership fees for 2021 at the 2020 level, last year saw the organisation ring-fence a seven-figure Fighting Fund that will be used to proactively protect shooting and conservation. We’re ready for whatever 2021 brings.