Have your say on gamebird releasing in Wales: public consultation now open

Pheasant Woods

By Matt Goodall, Advisor for GWCT Wales 

At the beginning of this week Natural Resources Wales, on behalf of Welsh Government, launched their 12-week public consultation on their proposals to license gamebird releasing in Wales. It is absolutely critical that everyone with an interest in shooting in Wales, whether from Wales or not, respond, offering constructive and considered responses. The number and quality of responses will be incredibly important, so please share the links with others and encourage them to respond.

We will be publishing our guidance on how to respond in the very near future, and you can respond here when ready. Alongside our guidance we will also be asking those releasing game in Wales to respond to an additional (5 -10 minute) survey to demonstrate the reality on the ground in Wales.

A GWCT blog briefly summarising NRW’s proposals and can be found here. However, this blog includes more information and detail on how responses can be productive.

It is important to recognise GWCT’s role as scientific advisors to the Aim to Sustain Partnership. Our role is to inform policy through our scientific research. GWCT views released game shooting in Wales as a very important contributor to Welsh environmental conservation, and there is the potential to deliver a net biodiversity gain on every shoot in Wales. If shooting was banned outright this positive work would all be lost in a move which would be hugely detrimental to the Welsh countryside.

It is also important to note that this consultation is not considering a ban. NRW state that “We should make it clear that the Minister has not asked for gamebirds releases to be stopped – but to find a way that balances the needs of all stakeholders and the environment itself”.

However, as Welsh Government banned shooting on Welsh Government owned land in 2018 (despite NRW advising against it) and outlined that they do not support the shooting of live quarry as a leisure activity, it is no wonder that the proposal to permanently move pheasant and red-legged partridges to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is extremely concerning. This move would make it illegal to release these gamebirds except under licence.

GWCT would prefer to see continued self-regulation for released game shoots in Wales. As an organisation which produces evidence and champions scientific research, we would remind NRW that they are evidence-led and currently, despite their rapid evidence assessment, there is little evidence available to suggest that released game shoots in Wales are damaging the environment. Dr Joah Madden’s Evidence Report 680 produced as part of this consultation states “This review makes it clear that there is currently little reliable evidence about the scale, extent, history or methods of gamebird release and management in Wales. The estimates that I can calculate are subject to large errors, of around 2.5 fold and the extrapolations that I make are often based on restricted and perhaps skewed data”.

Therefore, GWCT do not believe that the proposal to license gamebird release is currently a proportionate response from NRW. It would be much better to commission research to determine if there is, or is not, a problem associated with gamebird releases in Wales. We will be stating as much in our response.

Whilst GWCT research demonstrates the benefits of good game management, whereby shoots can deliver a net gain to biodiversity, we need more evidence to demonstrate compliance with the Code of Good Shooting Practice and GWCT sustainable stocking densities in Wales. That is not to say it is not happening, just that there is no available data. To help GWCT collect this evidence we are asking those that release pheasants and red-legged partridges in Wales to fill in our short survey which will be produced alongside our guidance. Please look out for this survey and respond in the very near future.

If however, NRW conclude from this consultation that their proposals are proportionate and they go ahead with their licensing proposals, GWCT are reassured that NRW intend to use the GWCT’s sustainable releasing guidelines, which are based on peer reviewed science, as the basis for their licences. These guidelines are written into The Code of Good Shooting Practice, which is endorsed and supported by all the Countryside Organisations, and they underpin sustainable gamebird management in the UK.

NRW proposals in brief:

NRW propose to move pheasant and red-legged partridge onto Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which would make it illegal to release these gamebirds except under licence. Alongside this move, they are proposing to enable pheasant and red-legged partridge release under a General Licence (a licence which does not need to be applied for, and does not incur any cost) which would require those releasing to do so following the GWCT’s sustainable release guidelines. However, the proposed General Licence would not apply to the majority of designated sites i.e. SSSIs and EU designated sites (SPAs and SACs) and those wishing to release in these areas, and within a 500m buffer of these sites, would require a specific licence from NRW to do so.

General Licences by their nature do not require a charge. Furthermore, the specific licences for designated sites and their 500m buffers also do not incur a cost if releases adhere to the proposed stocking densities. However, if shoots feel they cannot operate within suggested release densities, regardless of where they are located, they can apply for a specific licence to release at higher densities which would incur a cost-covering charge from NRW.

Please look out for GWCT’s guidance on responding to the consultation in the very near future. It is important that you give your reasoning behind your position and consider whether you deem NRW’s proposals to be proportionate, workable and sustainable.


Releasing of gamebirds in Wales

at 15:26 on 24/04/2023 by Nicholas Forman Hardy

Providing the releasing of Gamebirds in wales is done correctly and properly and not excessively there is nothing wrong with it . It is a rural activity that has gone on for 100's of years and has a large following from country people 3-4 months a year. It employs a large number of people from keepers, beaters, pickers up and their dogs, vets, hospitality venues such as pubs and hotels, garages, outside clothing boots stores etc. The birds are free to roam in woods and fields and are fed correctly. This is a nonsense piece of regulation by those that don't want people to take part in their countryside sport. It is politics at its worst and is divisive.

Releasing Game birds in Wales

at 9:58 on 11/04/2023 by NEIL FAIREY

All shoot release within the GWCT guide lines and regulations are already in place this also benifits the song bird population on the arable land and within the woodland ,these areas are well managed for all aspects of wildlife and the biodiverstiy so why change another attack by those who do not understand

Gamebird release in Wales

at 11:15 on 08/04/2023 by Peter Harrison

The points Matt Goodall makes are spot on especially with regard to NRW and it’s claim to be an ‘Evidence based organisation’ both of Dr Maddens reports 680 & 681 (commissioned by NRW) highlight the lack of data & need for more research and as such do not support the need for legislation.

Game bird release every where

at 9:10 on 07/04/2023 by Gordon Higgs

First of all this is difficult for me as I am dyslexic. I totally disagree with the licensing proposals.The game industry offers a lot of other factors not just shooting at birds .Quite a lot of town folk do not understand what different jobs for people this industry entails . All governments should do their job they are suppose to do in helping too keep the countryside industry goin as it has done for hundreds of years.

Release of game birds

at 16:20 on 05/04/2023 by Nigel sweeney

Restricting and licensing the release of game birds and shoots is no more than a cynical tool with which the government will sooner or later ban live quarry shooting in Wales. This will seriously reduce both the income and employment that this industry creates.

Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

at 22:56 on 04/04/2023 by David Harding

I am in support of self-regulation for released game in Wales and do not agree with NRW’s proposals to be proportionate, workable and sustainable regarding licensing.

Gamebird release licenses

at 22:30 on 04/04/2023 by Mike evans

Unwarranted ,unjustified ,unwanted interference by an urban government With no interest in the countryside.

Bird release

at 22:15 on 04/04/2023 by Simon Mahoney

I’m strongly supporting the practice of releasing game as it’s not only good for local communities and their economies but it also aids in the conservation of other wildlife. I pick up and beat on shoots as well as participate in shooting game which I enjoy eating as it’s a great free range source of meat.

game bird release licence

at 22:05 on 04/04/2023 by robert Glynn

Another badly thought out plan by this government its tourist industry local pubs are in dire straights causing local people to see there locals closed from Mondays to Wednesday's don't they appreciate we have come through a disastrous period last 3 years, it another nail in the coffin of many small supportive businesses B&B's eateries struggling to keep afloat and with the current costs the game Bird industry has on there annual bills, none of us need this extra burden and it is a burden - I casually employ 40-50 people 5-6 days of the week who are on benefits as it is I've increased our payments to cover there fuel costs, they all get a decent meal at lunch time and let me tell you I keep my ear to the ground and I hear first decent meal Ive had all week / my kids have not seen fresh meat apart from the Pheasant and partridge we are allowed to take home, im not prompting this these are little stories between these people, and of course we do have some posh people elderly in general who just want to get out and keep fit along with a grand day socialising - these shoots do more for the local community than any council does - and all councils do is take money or threaten to take you to court if you cannot keep up - and now they propose to stop all this - local government welcome to an expensive social mistake and ultimately another dagger in communities well being and support systems even if its a small support system it stops hunger, mental stress, the local eateries hotels, pubs and it keeps young and old alike fit. So please get off your MP arses and really look at this realistically from a human point of view. Robert Glynn Human Being and decent person

game bird releasing in Wales

at 20:02 on 04/04/2023 by Lady Linlithgow

As long as game bird releasing and shooting is carried out in a proper professional manner this is a very acceptable and traditional sport . Well keepered land is an essential part of conservation Game shooting in Wales contributes hugely to the economy providing employment to many 100s of thousands of people which also extends into the hospitality section and is an essentail part of the Welsh economy. Game shooting brings people of all nationalities and walks of life to Wales. They have a chance to enjoy the beauty and some come back in the non shooting season again to boost the Welsh economy . It endeavours to remove the image of Wales a slag heaps and rain!

Gamebird releasing in Wales

at 19:14 on 04/04/2023 by Jeremy Moore

I fully support NRW's proposal to move red-legged partridge and pheasant on to Schedule 9 of the W&C Act. The numbers of these non-native species being released into the countryside is frankly mind-boggling. I also support the principle that releasing "gamebirds" should be a licensable activity so that if conditions are broken the licence can be revoked. The game shooting industry over and over again has shown itself to be incapable of self-regulation.

Bird release

at 18:35 on 04/04/2023 by Simon Mahoney

I’m strongly supporting the practice of releasing game as it’s not only good for local communities and their economies but it also aids in the conservation of other wildlife. I pick up and beat on shoots as well as participate in shooting game which I enjoy eating as it’s a great free range source of meat.

Releasing of Game Birds

at 17:00 on 04/04/2023 by Flora Rawlingson

I would support a quota for the release of Game birds as, although the birds have a good life and game shooting is important for the Welsh economy, releasing high densities of game birds is bad for the ecosystem and unnecessary.

NRW Position on Game Shooting

at 16:38 on 04/04/2023 by Charles Le Gallais

"... do not support shooting live quarry as a leisure activity" seems to indicate a narrow prejudicial perspective on game shooting - not dissimilar to the hunting debate. While this argument might seem understandable to the suburban mind, it fails to take into account the wider biodiversity and economic benefit. A more sustainable approach would be to restrict the bag count at the commercial level and encourage smaller local shoots, with stewardship obligations.

importance of shooting to the rural community and wild bird population

at 16:04 on 04/04/2023 by John Harrison

In Yorkshire we have seen a few council's who have stopped leasing moorland to local shoots. and this has have a devastating effect on the amount of difference wild bird species that were abundant when the heater was controlled. Heater and Bracken has run wild and grown to such heights that no birds of prey can hunt small rodents as the canopy is too dance's and they have gone from the moors. Further more fires have ravaged the moors due to there are no fire breaks that were in place due to controlled burning carried out for the benefit of both game birds and other wild bird species. Where the shoots had to have a fire control procedure in place the council did not consider they needed to address this issue when they took back control. In one case following a large fire the council concerned got a contractor to cut back all the Heather had Bracken when it started to grow back the next year but this was done during the breading season for ground nesting birds causing devastations to the birds nesting on the ground. Wildlife apart, you cannot underestimate the amount that hotels and pubs rely on the money from shooting during the hardest months of the year. let along the amount of money from foreign visitor that shooting brings into the economy.

Gamebird release

at 15:10 on 04/04/2023 by Erik Thott

I strongly oppose any ban on releasing gamebirds in Wales.

Welsh game bird licence

at 14:28 on 04/04/2023 by Malcolm partridge.

I do not agree to proposed licencing shooting.

Game bird release

at 14:19 on 04/04/2023 by Kenneth bates

It’s time the country side was left to the country people it’s worked all these years why try to mend something that’s not broken

Game bird releasing in Wales

at 14:18 on 04/04/2023 by Daphne Scott Harden

Leave the rural communities alone. You will destroy lots of jobs and gain nothing

Game bird releasing in Wales

at 13:17 on 04/04/2023 by sam bullard

Dear editor, i write regarding the issue of game bird releasing in Wales. Since the ban on foxhunting came into being both the fox and the rural community that benefited from hunting have become less able to survive. The number of pubs and hotels which rely on income from shooting parties is great in rural Wales, and they find it hard to survive in the countryside at the moment. We all know that the fox is more scarce in the countryside than ever before, why would sheet farmers and their like not eradicate such a menace which with the help of modern technology has been successful. If you were to allow the same slow death to shooting, all manner of countryside birds would suffer, and the pheasant would cease to exist within 10 years.. The countryside must be left to those that know it best to manage and game bird releasing is a delicate part of the infrastructure thereof. Kind regards

Gamebird release licence

at 12:17 on 04/04/2023 by Andrew Hughes

This is going to have a massive impact on my business and the spin off that relates to all the businesses that rely on me .As my business is in Wales why are you trying to ruin lots of welsh peoples lives.

game bird release

at 11:11 on 04/04/2023 by James Crosbie Dawson

as long as the release of game birds is within the GWCT guidelines, the amount of regulation should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Releasing game birds in Wales..

at 10:41 on 04/04/2023 by Martin W Youds

Gamebird shooting is always walking a tightrope over cost and viability. The amount of game released is generally governed by the acreage, the type of ground and the number of drives available. As any gamekeeper or shoot manager will tell you, over stocking doesn't work, so because of this gamebird realease is by and large self regulating. The idea of Welsh government creating a licensing system to dictate whether or not you can release gamebirds in a given area smacks of a hidden or actually not so well hidden agenda to stop the shooting of live quarry altogether in Wales. Such a reckless act for now good reason would be seriously detrimental to the wildlife, the wildlife habitat and to the rural economy in Wales and should be robustly resisted.

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