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Time to Change the Game

Alan Beynon BVM&S MRCVS

As a long established veterinary practice specialising in the care of game birds we have seen a further reduction in the use of avian antibiotics as a result of the summer’s benign weather. While this is excellent news for the shooting industry, it is clear we are facing challenges and threats to our sport on many fronts. I am pleased to be fighting those threats through being on the British Game Alliance (BGA) Board of Directors.

Our elected representatives – whether they reside in Westminster, Cardiff or Edinburgh – are making threatening noises and we should be listening. The Welsh Assembly is supporting the ban on reared pheasants on Government owned land and Scotland looks set to follow. Meanwhile, Labour’s recent Animal Welfare Bill is a worrying stance on the banning of intensive game rearing,

We should treat these moves as a clear warning to game shooting – both as a sport and an industry. If we can’t sell our shot game, there is no moral justification for shooting.

The British Game Alliance has made enormous strides in a few short months. Its principal objectives are to ensure there is a growing market for shot game with a value being returned once again to its members and to bring in achievable yet credible level of self-regulation that will give us security against our political opponents.

Already 180 shoots have joined the BGA, both small and large, which is well on the way to its target of 500 by the end of the first year. At the same time, efforts of the BGA to open new, as well as expanding existing, markets for game are bearing fruit, as the national marketing board for game. It won’t happen overnight, but the foundations are being laid for a secure national game market. We have to remember we are all in the same boat whether or not you have a market for your game, this initiative represents us all and so should be backed by all.

We need to work together under one united umbrella. As an industry we need to demonstrate to politicians and opponents alike that we are capable of meaningful self-regulation. Our Quality Assurance scheme is the perfect opportunity to do so and should be embraced by all whilst we have the chance. We are the only unregulated food producing sector left and to think this doesn’t affect us all is madness. With an audited best practice approach in exactly the same way the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme regulates the farming industry we can continue to enjoy our sport on our own terms.

Audits only lasts three hours with 25% of shoots being audited in year one, this figure will rise in time to come. If a shoot fails to meet the pre-determined standards, the auditors will work with you to get it right, rather than remove you from the BGA. That is unless shoots are in serious breach which means they shouldn’t be operating anyway. We should all be striving for best practice.

Of course, all this needs funding. Membership costs are tiered and relate to the size of shoot, but I hope you can join and be part of a sustainable future, even for a large commercial shoot fees are relatively modest particularly in relation to what guns pay for their day’s sport.

The BGA is also asking shoots to offer paying guns an opportunity to contribute too through a voluntary donation of 50p per bird shot. We believe this will only be a short-term measure until such time as the BGA becomes self-financing.

The threat to our sport should not be underestimated. As the Rt Hon Richard Benyon MP succinctly said:

“From where I sit in Parliament, I really feel shooting is in the last chance saloon. I am getting a little weary of a small number of those I talk to in the shooting world who think everything somehow will be alright. I can tell you it won’t.

“I really hope that if there are still some who think that ‘it does not really affect me’ or who are quibbling about the details of what you are doing, that they soon get the message that the BGA is a lifeline for all, yes, all, who love our sport.”

I hope you can be part of a sustainable future by joining the BGA today: