NEIL Hamilton, UKIP Leader in Wales and AM for Mid & West Wales, is calling for plans to ban pheasant shooting on public land in Wales, to be reversed.
Mr Hamilton, Party Spokesman for Rural Affairs and the Environment, is backing a move by The Countryside Alliance, who want members and supporters to write to Natural Resources Wales asking them to change their position.
Last month NRW said it would not be renewing leases for shooting pheasants on public land from March 2019. Welsh Government also announced it would not support the breeding of the gamebirds on government-owned estates and applications for firearms use for other sports, such as clay pigeon shooting would be considered on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.
Before the intervention of the Labour Government, NRW spent £48,000 of taxpayers’ money on a review that recommended game shooting be allowed to continue, and that was what the Board intended to do.
The move has been slammed by Mr Hamilton who has warned the decision could have serious implications for jobs and the environment in Wales.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mr Hamilton expressed his disappointment at the decision and warned that all country sports could be under threat.
“Does the Minister not realise the damage that this approach is going to do in the countryside, particularly if it is followed elsewhere?
“If, as the Minister says, shooting is unethical on public land, it must surely be unethical on private land as well. So, it’s quite clear what the direction of Welsh Government policy is here, and all anglers, all shooters, anybody in country sports generally, now can regard the Welsh Government as their determined enemy. This is the thin end of the wedge, they are all in the Welsh Government’s sights.
Commenting later, he said:
“Shooting contributes about £75 million to the Welsh Economy every year and is vital to the survival of many small and medium sized businesses, especially in remote areas and during the winter months. Shooting supports the equivalent of 2400 full time jobs and large land areas in Wales benefit from shoot management, with shooters and game keepers undertaking a huge amount of conservation work every year. Shooting is an integral part of life in rural Wales, a key economic contributor and also plays a major role in maintaining the health of wildlife and bio-diversity.
It is very clear that political pressure from the Environment Minister forced NRW Board to change its views. Welsh Government should allow them to follow the recommendations of the review.
“Anyone who has an interest in countryside sports should write or email the Board of NRW, calling for a reversal of the decisions taken last month, which included the end of pheasant shooting leases on public land.”
Countryside Alliance Wales Director Rachel Evans said: “Ending these shooting leases leaves NRW’s reputation as an evidence-led organisation in tatters, sends a dreadful signal to the rural community in Wales and will have serious consequences for people and businesses in remote rural areas.
“The Environment Minister has made it very clear that NRW are not bound to follow her misguided comments, so there is still time for this harm to be undone.”