The game shooting industry’s desperate attempts to self-regulate and demonstrate ‘best practice’, before regulation is finally forced upon them, is failing spectacularly.
The industry’s new self-regulatory body is the British Game Alliance (BGA), ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’, which, according to the Countryside Alliance, “aims to run a ‘British Game’ assurance scheme to ensure our game meets the highest standards“.
We blogged about the launch of the BGA a few weeks ago (here) and noted with surprise the name of two estates that had been listed as ‘assured’ members despite them both having recently been subject to police investigations in relation to reported wildlife crime incidents and one of them currently serving a three-year General Licence restriction, imposed by Scottish Natural Heritage on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of illegal raptor persecution.
When we wrote that last blog the BGA hadn’t yet published the list of its ‘assured’ members on its website, but it has now, and what an interesting read it is (see here).
According to the BGA’s twitter account, this membership list includes “assured shoots and agents”:
And apparently includes “over 100 shoots” that are “adhering to high standards”:
Unfortunately for the BGA, these claims aren’t accurate. If you look at the list of ‘assured’ members on the BGA website (as of 12 July 2018 at 2pm) you’ll find only 87 shoots. The other listed members include 6 ‘dealers’ and 7 ‘agents’. This amounts to 100 members but they’re not all ‘shoots’ as the BGA has claimed. We’re not even sure whether any of these 87 ‘assured member shoots’ have even been independently assessed to ensure they’re meeting the BGA’s standards required for accreditation. According to the BGA website, assessments will ‘commence in summer 2018’. So how many of those so-called ‘assured member shoots’ listed on the BGA website have been assessed to date? Surely, if an estate hasn’t been independently assessed it can’t yet be given ‘assured member’ status?
In addition, according to the BGA, there is no accreditation scheme (yet) for agents (no clue about dealers):
Have another look at the list of 87 ‘assured’ member shoots, all supposedly ‘meeting rigorous and ethical standards’. There are some other interesting names on there, in addition to the two we highlighted in our previous blog.
We were surprised to see Newlands [Estate] listed – this is surely a different Newlands to the estate where a gamekeeper was convicted in 2015 of killing a buzzard by throwing rocks at it and repeatedly stamping on it. There then followed a protracted prosecution against the landowner for alleged vicarious liability, until the Crown Office decided to drop the case last year “because it was not in the public interest to continue” (see here).
We then wondered whether SNH would impose a General Licence restriction on the estate for the proven illegal persecution of the buzzard. We’ve asked SNH about it several times but it has refused to discuss this case (and at least eight other cases) because, apparently, “it is in the public interest NOT to release the information” (see here). To date, the Newlands Estate has not been listed on SNH’s list of estates with General Licence restrictions, so we can safely assume a restriction isn’t being imposed. Marvellous.
This complete lack of transparency (some would call it a disgraceful cover up) by the statutory authorities seems to be an approach shared by the British Game Alliance – according to its membership list, 24 of its ‘assured’ member shoots are listed as ‘private members’ (14 in England, 9 in Scotland and one in Wales) and includes grouse shoots and pheasant shoots.
How can the public have any confidence in an ‘assurance’ scheme when it can’t scrutinise a substantial number of the ‘assured’ members because their names remain top secret?!
Sorry (not sorry) but this purported accreditation scheme looks nothing more than yet another greenwashing scam.
UPDATE 16th August 2022: Millden Estate’s sporting agent is signatory to ‘best practice’ scheme! (here)