A rural way of life under threat – politicians are targeting farming, shooting, land management and conservation. The Welsh government is calling the shots. People on the ground are rebelling.
For 100s of years, farmer Gareth Wyn Jones’s ancestors have fought the elements on their hill farm in North Wales. Now Gareth and his family are facing a new enemy: politicians. The Welsh government’s rural agency Natural Resources Wales proposes to issue licences for all game bird release. It’s holding a 12-week consultation ending on June 20th, 2023.
Gareth, who shoots on a small syndicate of 16 people and also fishes, says it is an attack on the rural way of life in Wales. He says: “The Welsh consultation is a little bit frightening and I’m not sure what the point of it is.”
He says the release of game birds in Wales is an important part of the rural economy and way of life.
BASC warns the proposals reflect the anti-shooting agenda of the Labour-led Welsh government. Glynn Evans of BASC says that, if the job became too bureaucratic, some shoots will fold and jobs will be lost. He says: “As someone who lives in Wales, we really risk losing an absolute integral part of the countryside. It’s so vital if you go into a local pub in the area where I live you will see half the people there are shooters.”
He says shooting is in the fabric of the community and helped shape the countryside.
Rachel Evans of the Countryside Alliance in Wales says it’s vital people make their voices heard and respond to the consultation. She says the fieldsports community need engage with the political system through organisations such as the Countryside Alliance, that are continuously lobbying on their behalf. She says the government wants to control game bird shooting and has already made up its mind. She says that, in a recent debate on the consultation in the Senedd, the minister for climate change Julie James told MSs: “I do not think killing anything as a sport or for leisure is anything a civilised society should support.”
Rachel says: “The Welsh government are going to force you to change your behaviour. And that means to pack your shotguns away and to give up shooting.”
Gareth says everybody needs to be vocal about this issue. He says: “Maybe people in Scotland, Ireland and England might think it won’t bother them, but if this gets passed and things then start to tighten up then it’ll be in your back garden next, and they’ll be on your shoots.”
He says if the fieldsports community doesn’t come together, shooting could be lost. He says: “I think it is important that everybody in the UK has a look at this consultation and fills it in so they understand how passionate and how powerful the country people can be.”
Eddie Field is a sheep farmer in South Wales. He says the Welsh government isn’t just an anti-shooting. He believes it is anti-countryside.
He says: “It’s pathetic. It’s the way that they’re just trying to get their foot through the door to start getting rid of country pursuits.”
He says that that would be a huge loss to the community. He also says the government will go after other country sports such as fishing, too.
If the proposals are approved with no changes the first step will be a general licences system for most shoots. Those near to protected sites will have to apply for a specific licence if they want to release pheasants or redleg partridges.
It could mean the end of shooting for people such as Mike Evans, who runs a small partridge shoot in mid Wales for his family and close friends. He says that if licenses for game bird licensing are introduced it will be the end of another freedom.
He says: “It’s another cross against our way of life. As countryside people, we’ve grown up doing this for generations. Where would we go next? Fox hunting has gone, and pheasant shooting is in next on the list.”
Mike is also concerned that if he has to register his personal details it may attract antis. He says: “People who can access that scare me. I worry that it will put my family at risk. We know what the antis are like. They are extremists. We know the trouble they can cause.”
Leon Tapp is a shooter and stalker who used to run a gun shop in Wales. He says the government is targeting shooters. He says it will start with licensing but will go further.
He says: “It’s the thin end of the wedge. The Welsh government are after fieldsports in Wales.”
NRW admits that game shooting provides environmental, social, and economic benefits. Leon says: “It’s infuriating because we’re treated like what we do is wrong. The Welsh Government have very little understanding of the management of the countryside. They live in a very small metropolitan bubble in Cardiff Bay and are not interested in the lifestyles of people outside of that.”
Fieldsports groups have launched campaign platforms to encourage people to have their say.
Rachel says no-one wants to pack their shotguns away, but this could lead to the end of games shooting in Wales. She says the volume of responses to the consultation will make a significant difference. She says: “When Natural Resources banned gameshooting on public land, the minister referred to a petition of just over 11,000 signatures who had apparently called for that ban.”
She says that, when the Countryside Alliance traced the signatures, it found that many of those responses came from all over the world. She says: “We need to blow that figure out of the water. And we need to make sure that everybody who takes part in shooting responds to that consultation.”
Gareth is determined to fight for his family’s legacy of centuries of farming, shooting and fishing in the Welsh hills. He says: “It’s really, really imperative that people speak up about it because if we lose our rights and our way of life, it could be devastating for the next generation. Once it’s taken away, it will never be put back.
For the gamebird consultation, go to Bit.ly/gamebirdconsultation
For BASC’s advice on the consultation, go to BASC.org.uk/actnow