Fears Welsh bird licensing scheme 'would lead to shooting ban'
The Welsh Government is planning to bring in a licensing scheme to regulate the release of game birds.
A 12-week consultation, launched on Monday by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on behalf of the Welsh Government, proposes a licensing system for the release of pheasants and red-legged partridges in Wales.
NRW say that there are concerns over the potential environmental impacts from the releases of the birds, particularly to protected sites.
They insisted however that the plans are “not a consultation on whether or not shooting live quarry should continue to be allowed in Wales”.
In England, interim measures introduced in 2021 restrict the release of pheasants and partridges within 500 metres of special protection areas, but those are currently under review following heavy criticism.
The introduction of the measures sparked huge backlash from pro-shooting groups and countryside campaigners.
Welsh Ministers are now asking the Welsh Government to regulate game bird releases in a similar way permanently.
The Countryside Alliance claim that if the Welsh proposals go ahead, the government would effectively “ban game shooting in all but name".
The Countryside Alliance warned the implementation of the plans could have a “catastrophic impact” on the livelihoods of rural communities.
Rachel Evans, director of Countryside Alliance Wales, said: “After the battle over hunting and the damage caused to Labour in the countryside, they will be incredibly cautious about repeating that experience by banning shooting of game outright.
"But anti shooting activists - emboldened by the legislation in Wales, could seek to chip away at shooting, banning it in all but name.
"The consultation sadly seems to have a predetermined outcome, and that regardless of the evidence the Minister is determined to see all shoots in Wales licensed, ignoring the fundamental question of whether licensing is either necessary or proportionate.
"It is vital the Welsh Government await the full evidence from the consultation, before taking any firm policy decisions which could have a catastrophic impact on the livelihoods of rural workers and the rural economy, biodiversity, and the Welsh Government’s own sustainability goals”.
In a statement announcing the consultation NRW said: “The available evidence shows that management activities carried out by the game shooting sector can deliver benefits for biodiversity”.
It added: “The release of gamebirds can also lead to harm, particularly where they happen in sensitive locations or at unsustainable levels.”