Every rural voice counts for Welsh gamebird consultation

Robert Dangerfield sets out CLA Cymru’s views on Natural Resources Wales’ consultation on a licencing system for gamebird release in Wales and urges members to respond before the deadline
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Passions in rural Wales have been stirred by Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) consultation on the release of game birds. The consultation is accessible to share your views here and closes on 20 June.

The CLA has prepared a detailed response offering a strong case that the release of pheasants and red-legged partridge should not require a licence and opposing additional further restrictions on release density and designated sites.

It’s inevitable that a licence will be granted under conditions, which might become more challenging over time. The CLA is grateful for the expert input, data and opinions from many members who have responded independently and from the organisations involved in Aim to Sustain.

Many members see the proposals as a direct attack on property rights, as well as an attack on part of the countryside’s culture.

In our response, the CLA says that the proposals lack a factual and scientific basis. They will damage a vital part of the rural economy, resulting in the loss of jobs and irreplaceable skills. The proposals will also detrimentally impact the Welsh meat sector, which ironically has been supported by the Welsh Government. Further, they risk a major setback to environmental and landscape conservation at a time when meeting net zero and conserving wildlife are key priorities of Welsh Government policy.

For me, the consultation has raised some important wider issues. A key one concerns quality of government. NRW’s proposals – at the behest of the Welsh Government – are made without the essential support of credible scientific data. The authors of the evidence review themselves refer to the fact that they give “a crude general picture of the activity (i.e. game-rearing) across Wales.” the document even concedes that the government is not really sure if there is a problem to solve. It (and other proposals) has led one prominent Welsh CLA member to say: “It’s as though the Welsh Government is saying: ‘We want to do this, tell us how to do it,’ when they should be asking if they should be doing it in the first place.”

The second area of discomfort for me concerns how ideology drives government policy. The consultation document makes clear that the ethics of shooting are not pertinent to the consultation. However, even during the consultation period, the Welsh Government minister for climate change made clear her views in comments in the Senedd. This contradiction undermines the critical objectivity that democratic processes must have and respondents’ trust that that their views will be taken into account.

Two other matters also worry me. One concerns social priorities about protecting culture and ever-intensifying stress on physical and mental health and the wellbeing of future generations. We know that involvement in shooting is socially-inclusive. Many of those who provided case studies of their shoot focused on these benefits. I’m not sure if Wales’ rural communities’ modus vivendi is fully understood and valued by those who seek to govern it.

My last issue is one about what I call “the island of Wales.” Researching our response to the consultation has revealed just how much cross-border activity there is in this industry, both in supply chain and clientele. We don’t know how many responses NRW will get from outside Wales, but even if they’re ignored, the consultation should represent an awakening in England that everything possible must be done to prevent a precedent being set, which could be imported.

We urge any members either affected or with an interest in this to submit their views to the consultation before the closing date. The consultation deadline does not mark the finish line for us. A strong positive we have drawn from this exercise is a far greater understanding of the game-rearing industry and its contribution to economic, environmental, ecological and social sustainability. The launch of the next ‘Value in Shooting’ report this autumn might be an opportunity to for the sector to reconvene and assert itself.

If you have any questions, please contact CLA Cymru Rural Surveyor Charles de Winton here.