Lord Botham says rising game sales prove that ‘haters’ who tried to ban the sport have ‘lost the battle’

By Hayley Dixon, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT22 July 2021 • 9:30pm

Britain’s biggest shooting organisations have formed a coalition to protect the rural landscape and fight climate change, it will be announced on Friday.

The nine rural groups say the land management gamekeepers provide is “crucially important” and have come together to continue “producing biodiversity gain as well as ensuring the sustainability of wonderful wildlife”.

It comes just months after the Government announced the biggest shake-up in farming in decades and amid heated debate over the future of Britain’s rural areas.

Writing for the Telegraph, Lord Botham, a passionate shooter, said that the coalition – alongside rising game sales – proves that the “haters” who have tried to ban the sport have “lost the battle”.

This is because it “pulls together broad communities to bring in the harvest from the skies” and provides a livelihood for thousands, Lord Botham said.

Organisations including the Countryside Alliance, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the British Game Alliance have formed Aim to Sustain to argue for the importance of shooting to both the environment and the economy.

Gamekeepers manage large swathes of the countryside, bringing private investment to maintain habitats and increasing biodiversity including through pest management.

Some popular ideas in the current battle against climate change, such as planting hedgerows and wildflower margins and building beetle banks, are things that have long come naturally to the profession, Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance told The Telegraph.

“By moving closer together into a formal partnership we can achieve even more and secure greater recognition of the great benefits that come from game management and shooting,” he said. “This is a critical step for game shooting at a critical time.”

Shooting is estimated to be worth more than £2 billion a year to the rural economy and brings jobs and visitors to some of the most remote parts of the country outside of the traditional holiday season.

Aim to Sustain is the first collective body for the game industry.

The partnership also includes the Country Land & Business Association, Game Farmers’ Association, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and Scottish Land and Estates. The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) are acting as advisors.

They said in a joint statement: “Aim to Sustain is dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the many wide-ranging conservation, biodiversity and community benefits that make the countryside the place we love.

“Rural organisations have stood side-by-side for many years but now, working as a partnership, we can be stronger and louder in highlighting the great work that is being done day in and day out for the benefit of the countryside, the environment, local communities and the people who cherish the sights and sounds of rural Britain.”