The decision to licence Scottish grouse moors, the RSPB calls for licensing and the Defra review into releasing gamebirds have caused alarm for many in our sector, but there is a way forward. There has never been a more important time to pull together and get more shoots signed up to the BGA’s assurance scheme.
BGA Assurance was created with exactly this moment in mind. The shooting community came together in 2018 to create an organisation that could both market game meat and create self-regulation for all game shoots. It is worth reflecting on what we were told at the time. Simon Hart MP reported at the launch of the BGA that “the message we got from No. 10 and DEFRA was that we must embrace self-regulation as enthusiastically and as lovingly as you can, because if not, someone else will regulate you.” Richard Benyon MP said the creation of the BGA indicated “that shooting has got its house in order and can be trusted to self-regulate.”
The creation of the BGA and the support of forward-thinking estates and game farms like yourselves meant for the first time shoots had access to independently-audited assurance. So two years later when the Scottish Government opts to licence grouse moors; and the leader in the Times calls for shoot licensing following the widespread coverage of the RSPB review of shooting policy; and Defra reviews the release of gamebirds and considers licensing releases on and around specially protected areas; we know our sector has the tools to respond. Because you helped us create credible self-assurance.
The widespread fear is that these moves are the thin end of the wedge. And that may well prove to be true, because whilst our community has taken enormous strides to embrace BGA assurance over the past three years and the percentage of gamebirds subject to assurance continues to grow, the total number and diversity of shoots and game farms signed up to assurance is not yet enough to convince those in the corridors of power that we are yet a self-regulating sector. Officials in Whitehall have told me so.
We need to ask ourselves the question posed by the comments made within Number 10 back in 2018: do we wish to self-regulate enthusiastically, or will someone else regulate our community? Have we embraced self-regulation “enthusiastically and lovingly”?
We have excellent membership organisations in game shooting who are working for all our futures. Many shoot owners and game farmers however are wondering what they can do to protect their livelihoods. As Members of the BGA, you are already doing your bit to prove our sector “can be trusted to self-regulate’. Now you need to encourage our friends, neighbours and anywhere we go to shoot to join you and get signed up to the BGA, so we can confidently say the whole sector is doing their bit right along with you. We have been told we need to evidence 80% of shoots embracing BGA assurance to demonstrate credible sector regulation.
It really doesn’t matter if a shoot or game farm is large or small. It doesn’t matter if the shoot sells its game or gleefully consumes everything it shoots. Everyone needs to embrace shoot-assurance if we are to keep our destiny in our own hands. Please drop us a line if we can help reach out to anyone you know who might be interested in that future, because we need to have them on board.
All the best,