Clay and target-shooting grounds can open

Clayshooting organisation the CPSA has announced that clubs and grounds are now able to re-open. It rules that the government has given it the ‘necessary assurances’.

Grounds will be able to re-open on a pay-and-play basis, with a gradual return to competitive shooting in time. They must adhere to strict Covid-19 safety protocol.

However, not all clay grounds are opening. Mendip near Bristol says that Avon & Somerset Constabulary will not let it open.

Target-shooting ranges are opening, too. The National Rifle Association is opening Bisley, starting weekends only, for some but not all disciplines, on 23-24 May 2020.

A slew of official advice allows some sports, disallows others, contradicts itself, but always ignores shooting and hunting sports. Shooters feel like they have been left out in the cold.

The government has left it to BASC and the Countryside Alliance to confirm you can go recreational deerstalking and carry out recreation pest control in England. They made no statement about clayshooting.

Meanwhile, some point to the political lobbying campaign that the Angling Trust carried out and want to know why the shooting organisations have not done the same. Here is Martin Salter from the Angling Trust and Iain Parker from the CPSA explaining how angling won the race to come out of lockdown – and why the shooting bodies are more cautious.

Horrible muddle: how the UK government has handled the leisure sector, worth £120bn/year to the British economy

23 March 2020

Boris Johnson bans all leisure activities except walking (20m people ‘walk for leisure’ says Sport England’s Active Lives Adult Survey November 2018/19 Report) bicycling (est. 6m people bicycle for leisure says Sport England) and running (est. 6.6m run for leisure says Sport England)

27 April 2020

Anglers are ahead of all other sports bodies in their lobbying. The Angling Trust launches its When We Fish Again campaign, including videos, legal opinion and a mass lobbying campaign by members (there are around 950,000 rod licence holders in England and Wales)

Anglers launch an aggressive campaign in April

29 April 2020

Organisations including Golf England send proposals for ‘safe golf’ to the government (there are 640,000 registered golfers in England)

1 May 2020

British Canoeing boss David Joy assures members: “We are working hard behind the scenes on behalf of members to encourage the government to allow a return to socially responsible paddling as soon as possible” (British Canoeing has around 30,000 members).

4 May 2020

As it becomes clear that the prime minister is considering announcing a review of lockdown measures, shooting organisations make a dash to persuade the government to allow shooting (600,000 gun licence holders in England and Wales).

The Countryside Alliance publishes a phased return of shooting activities, with the focus on “essential pest control”. Specifically, essential pest control such as rabbit, deer and pigeon, which can be done alone or in “household groups only”. It also says shoots should comply with social distancing measures. The British Game Alliance backs the CA’s statement.

CA: phased return

6 May 2020

BASC sends DEFRA an 11-point guide on how deerstalking should resume once coronavirus restrictions are lifted. It writes to environment secretary George Eustice outlining the damage being done by deer in the absence of essential management and identifies steps that could be taken to ensure the work resumes in line with social distancing requirements.

Martin Edwards, BASC’s head of deer management, says that the guide, “allows a clear route for all deer management to continue in a safe and secure manner for the benefit of our members”.

9 May 2020

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps announces a £2 billion plan to boost cycling and walking both during and after the lockdown.

Ministers brief journalists that angling will be allowed in a relaxation of lockdown.

10 May 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson says: “From this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.”

Following the prime minister’s announcement, culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s Tweet on the evening of Sunday 10 May 2020 allows golf, basketball, tennis and angling:

Reacting to Dowden’s Tweet, Angling Trust CEO Jamie Cook says: “I couldn’t be more pleased to see the hard work of the Angling Trust and our supporters delivering such an outstanding result for everyone who loves to go fishing. We have demonstrated to the satisfaction of government that angling can be permitted as a safe, healthy, beneficial outdoor activity and why it can take its rightful position at the front of the queue as restrictions are relaxed.”

Golfing bodies also react robustly, saying on 10 May: ‘The UK Government has announced that golf will be able to resume in England on Wednesday, 13 May 2020.’

11 May 2020

The government publishes a 50-page document which reveals that basketball and golf has come off its approved list, and tennis is now on the list. The document deals with the leisure sector in this five-line instruction:

Government advice: a £120bn/year industry reduced to 80 words. Click here for the whole document

According to the government, you may not participate in ‘ticketed outdoor’ leisure activities. Therefore, golf, tennis and angling should not be legal.

12 May 2020

In the absence of official guidance, BASC and the Countryside Alliance announce that deerstalking and pigeonshooting are legal. The government does not deny this.

Speaking for clayshooting, the CPSA says: ‘We have reviewed the latest government guidance released yesterday 11 May, and unfortunately feel that we need to ask the Government for greater clarity and confirmation regarding shooting grounds specifically before we, as the sport’s national governing body, can advise grounds to open.’

13 May 2020

Government finally takes its responsibility towards the leisure sector seriously and publishes Guidance for the public on the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation. It covers up the mistakes made in the 11 May 50-page document about ‘outdoor ticketed’ with special derogations for:

  • Athletics on athletics tracks
  • Fishing
  • Golf on golf courses
  • Horse riding
  • Lawn bowls and croquet
  • Swimming in public indoor (only) swimming pools
  • Tennis
  • Sailing
  • Windsurfing
  • Canoeing
  • Rowing
  • Kayaking
  • Surfing
  • Paddle-boarding
  • Privately-owned motorboats

Oliver Dowden has to break his promise of allowing basketball. And there is still no specific mention of hunting and shooting, including clayshooting. Even ferreting, foxhunting and falconry are bigger sports than some the government mentions.

14 May 2020
The CPSA rules that claygrounds can reopen.

Why has shooting been left off official lists? Some shooters blame the ‘Carrie factor’, a reference to the prime minister’s fiancé Carrie Symonds who is an animal rights activist. Many countrysports supporters believe Symonds influences government policy on shooting sports.

Symonds could have had to appear in court over accusations she influenced government policy on the badger cull. The National Farmers Union brought the case against the government. However, Mrs Justice Andrews, who analysed arguments at a hearing on Skype in April, dismissed the NFU challenge.

Others say the shooting organisations were too slow off the mark lobbying for a return to shooting, compared to angling and golfing bodies.

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