The Welsh environment minister, Hannah Blythyn, cancelled her meeting with the GWCT only days after we published a poll which revealed 61% of the Welsh public thought she was wrong to end pheasant shooting on some of their land (more here).
This was odd because only months ago she wrote to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) stating that the Welsh Government policy on firearms must take into consideration public opinion (more here). Her office stated that since some organisations (not the GWCT) are taking her decision to court she can’t talk to anyone.
Members’ letters to Assembly Members
GWCT members that sent their Assembly Members letters have also received some novel responses. The Welsh Government is saying that their policy of firearms was debated but - after rather than before the policy was published by the minister. Helpfully they acknowledge there is no published policy document on shooting. All that exists is a seven paragraph letter sent by the minister to NRW in July. The public might be forgiven for thinking the environment minister is making this up as she goes along – and has now stopped talking to anyone.
So what about the poll questions she is no longer interested in?
We wanted to share these with the minister to show that, as with Brexit, you can’t ask the public to make a decision if you don’t give them the facts. 85% of those questioned felt the wider conservation, social and employment benefits that stem from pheasant shooting are poorly understood by the public and this is how we found out:
1) Do you participate in any of the following activities? [there was a list to pick from]
2) Farmland birds can struggle to find food in winter. Grain put out by shoots for their pheasants also feeds many other species including; song thrush, blackbird and yellowhammer. Did you know this?
3) Natural Resources Wales found that pheasant shooting can promote rural jobs and social cohesion. Did you know this?
4) Pheasants are released into woods during the summer where they are then free to fly around the countryside. Meat from pheasants is high in protein and low in fat. Results from 458 shoots in a survey found that 96% of shot pheasants entered the food chain. Did you know this?
5) Did you know that reports produced by both Natural Resources Wales (a Welsh government body) and the RSPB concluded that well-managed pheasant shoots can boost wildlife?
6) Crops like kale are planted in small strips for pheasants to feed and shelter in. One study found these strips contained; 80 times more birds, 15 times more butterflies and 40 times more bumblebees than normal crops. Did you know this?
7) Wildlife can thrive in woods that are well-managed. Shooting is an important motivator for both planting new woods and managing existing ones. Did you know that in one study, woodland managed for pheasants had 22-23% more song birds?
8) Keeping the previous statements in mind, do you think pheasant shooting should continue in Wales?
9) How well do you think these wider conservation, social and employment benefits that stem from pheasant shooting are understood?
10) The Welsh Government dismissed the conclusions of the Natural Resources Wales review and decided to ban pheasant shooting on its land. Do you feel this was right?
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