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Save our countryside and wildlife from the threat of gamebird releasing restrictions
By Teresa Dent CBE, GWCT Chief Executive
If you love our countryside, you will be aware of the serious challenges facing gamebird releasing in the UK. In England, Defra failed to reissue GL43 on time. In case you’re unsure, thats the licence which allows you to release pheasants or red-legged partridges on or near European Protected Sites. When the new version arrived, it required many people to apply for an individual licence.
This uncertainty forced a great number of shoots to reconsider their futures. Had they closed, it could have removed vital protection for many declining species. As the latest State of Nature Report shows, 43% of our bird species are at risk of extinction. Now, more than ever, we can’t afford to lose what’s been proven to support them.
Without game management, we risk losing the benefits that it provides for our wildlife, our landscape, and our rural communities. Do you want to see that happen? I certainly don’t. That’s why I need your help today. I’m putting together a fund to ensure that we have a solid evidence base ready for future consultations. In 2025 a sunset clause kicks in on GL43 which means that Defra are gearing up to gather the facts to help them decide whether the licence is renewed or changed.
This is the best and most important opportunity we have to showcase the real impact of game management in the UK. I need your help to make our evidence as powerful as possible.
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In over 20 years as CEO of the GWCT, I have seen first-hand the benefits that game management can bring to our countryside and its wildlife. At our Allerton Project demonstration farm, we doubled the number of breeding songbirds by introducing the habitat management, winter feeding and predation management associated with game. When these practices were removed, farmland bird numbers fell by 50%.
The risk to our wildlife is very real. During the recent issues of GL43, licences were initially denied to shoots across the Brecklands - an area designated for stone curlew. The management undertaken by gamekeepers on these shoots, including the control of generalist predators such as foxes and crows, would have stopped overnight without a shoot to support them.
No other organisation can undertake the research needed to inform the future of shooting.
We have a proven track record of studying the effect of releasing gamebirds and providing a balanced account of the positives and negatives. Our work has been published in scientific literature and forms a key part of the decision-making process for policymakers. By fully quantifying any negative impacts, we have successfully countered exaggerated claims made by others. Donating today means we can achieve even more.
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Due to the actions of Wild Justice calling for major legal changes to releasing and shooting, there has been an increase in research in this key area. We are currently involved in several large research programmes, but we need your support to ensure this work is published ahead of any Defra review. This is the best way to maximise our impact.
With your support, we will:
- Write up and publish our study into the relationship between gamebird releasing and fox numbers.
- Study other impacts of game management, including changes to red kite, buzzard, and brown hare populations.
- Publish a study of gamebirds on non-release sites.
- Write a definitive policy briefing on why UK wildlife depends on gamebird management and share it with policymakers, other environmental charities, and the wider public.
To achieve this, we need to raise £60,000. Your donation will support extra resources to complete our fieldwork programmes, undertake data handling and statistical analysis, and write essential scientific papers. Your support will increase the quality and volume of our research outputs, which cannot be ignored by policymakers.
This issue doesn’t just affect England. Natural Resources Wales have launched a consultation into whether a licence would be needed for any gamebird release, with a decision coming into effect for the 2025 season. It would be little surprise if the same happened in Scotland.
Please donate today to help us protect our countryside and its wildlife from further harm. Every donation, no matter how small, will make a difference in getting this work completed in time.