Self-regulation continues to elude the game-shooting industry

We’re used to hearing from the game-shooting industry that self-regulation is the way forward, instead of the proposition of statutory legislation and regulation, such as shoot licensing, (e.g. see here for the Scottish game-shooting industry’s response to the Werritty Review, where they argue that self-enforced ‘codes of practice’ are the best solution for grouse moor management).

The thing is, self-regulation hasn’t worked for decades, so why should anyone believe it’ll work now?

This Bank Holiday weekend provided yet another example of what appears to be failed self-regulation, and it’s a shocker.

Have a look at this photograph:

It’s the back of a 4X4, absolutely rammed full of dead wood pigeons, which presumably have been shot, lawfully, to protect crops from ‘serious damage’. Let’s hope there aren’t any dead Stock doves in this pile – can anyone see one?

Not only was this photograph posted on social media at the weekend, but it was posted by Shooting UK, which, according to its website, is ‘the umbrella site for Shooting Times, Sporting Gun and Shooting Gazette‘. This wasn’t the handiwork of some random idiot, this was published by a so-called industry leader who didn’t see anything wrong with sharing this grotesque image nor any comprehension of the potential breaches of the industry’s own Code of Good Shooting Practice:

Here is the industry’s self-regulatory Code of Good Shooting Practice: CodeGoodShootingPractice

The Code is overseen by a steering committee comprising representatives of BASC, Countryside Alliance, GWCT, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Land & Estates, National Game Dealers Association, Game Farmers Association and the CLA.

According to page 4 of this document, ‘This Code is primarily addressed to shooting ‘game’, which includes all of the traditional gamebirds, namely pheasants, partridges and grouse, but many of the principles apply equally to other quarry types – ducks, geese, waders and hares – as well as pest species including; pigeons, crows, rabbits and grey squirrels‘.

The Code has ‘Five Golden Rules’. Golden Rule #3 is as follows:

Respect for quarry is paramount. It is fundamental to mark and retrieve all shot game which is food and it must be treated in accordance with the Guide to Good Game Handling.

So, does cramming a load of shot wood pigeons in to the back of a 4X4 constitute ‘accordance with the Guide to Good Game Handling’? Let’s have a look:

Here is a copy of the Guide to Good Game Handling: Guide-Good-Game-Handling

This guide discusses the basics of good food handling and hygiene such as keeping it clean, protecting it from contamination, the need for rapid cooling and correct storage. It discusses the importance of good air circulation and the need to space birds out, laying them separately and on their backs, and never to leave them in heaps as they’ll quickly deteriorate. It also says that when it’s being transferred to a suitable food storage facility a separate game cart or designated area within a vehicle should be used, again keeping space between the birds to encourage airflow between them.


Now, the comment from Shooting UK about breasting implies these birds are destined to be eaten, but what isn’t clear is (a) whether these wood pigeons are destined to be sold or (b) whether the person/people who shot them is going to take them home and shove them in their own freezer for their own consumption, along with all the toxic lead shot in each bird.

Does the Code still apply for private consumption or is it only applicable if the shot birds are going to be sold to someone else? Presumably the Code of Good Shooting Practice applies to ALL scenarios, right? Or is it open to interpretation, a bit like the rules about driving from London to Durham during CV19 lockdown….

13 thoughts on “Self-regulation continues to elude the game-shooting industry”

  1. The rules about driving from London to Durham during the crisis are clear enough: they are listed in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020, passed by Parliament 26th March 2020.

  2. Bloody greedy gits, ive always wanted a close season on Wood Pigeon, they should be out of season from spring till September, many many are shot in Summer leaving a couple of squabs to starve in their nest.

  3. This is a definite them and us issue (landowning aristos versus the plebs) its obvious that other creatures are just things to them. With a Tory government in power this is going to continue.

      1. Well said Dougie, also like to point out that pest controlling woodies is hardly a rich mans sport, if you’ll open your eyes you,ll realise that there are as many working class people involved in Grouse shooting as there are rich people, the failure to do anything isn’t just the fault of the government who don’t give a toss its the lack of pressure from the opposition who either also don’t give a toss or are fekin clueless

        1. Correct me if I am wrong, but I read nothing in that post about the supposed wealth of the shooters involved. Irrespective of their income, the people involved are alleged to have handled carcasses in breach of their own organisation’s Code of Practice. And then publicised it.

  4. What was the point of them displaying that photograph? Whatever it might have been it has shown them up for the morons they clearly are. As for eating them, I wouldn’t want any that have been in the middle of that pile.

    1. Call wood pigeons “game”. Until its banned entirely.
      It’ll save some of them on sunday, at the least.

  5. Interesting??
    General licence 31 which relates to killing woodpigeon clearly states:

    para 8. This licence can only be used :-

    a) Only as a last resort to prevent serious damage

    b) Before using the licence reasonable endeavours must have been made to resolve the problem using the lawful methods identified in Annex 1 below (unless their use would be impractical, without effect or disproportionate in the circumstances) and any other lawful methods that may be appropriate in the circumstances.

    c) Reasonable endeavours must continue to be made to resolve the problem using such appropriate lawful methods alongside use of the licence.

    d) Only undertake lethal control of birds during the peak breeding season if lethal control at other times or use of other licensed methods (e.g. egg destruction) would not provide a satisfactory solution

    e) Any person using this licence must be able to show, if asked by an officer of Natural England or the Police:
    (i) what type of crop any action under this licence is protecting;
    (ii) what lawful methods have been, and are being, taken to prevent serious damage to such crops by woodpigeon or why the lawful methods have not been taken;
    (iii) what measures have been and are being taken to minimise losses due to other species and causes; and
    (iv) why the threat of serious damage from woodpigeon is sufficiently serious to merit action under this licence.

    Licence users are advised to keep a record or log of crop damage and of efforts to address problems by legal methods

    Annex 1 provides a detailed list of lawful means to deter woodpidgeon, which includes scaring and deterrents.

    What is interesting is the the final paragraph entitled- Evidence- which states:

    As explained in condition 8 of the licence, any person using this licence must be able to show, if asked by an officer of Natural England or the Police, what type of crop licensed action is protecting and why the threat of
    damage is sufficiently serious to merit action under the licence, notwithstanding the use of appropriate lawful methods to contain the threat. Relevant evidence will include examples of actual losses during the present year or in recent years.

    So what is clear from reading GL31 is that it is unlawful to kill woodpidgeon, (as with any wild bird) and the defence offered by GL31 to an offence committed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is only valid if certain very specific conditions have been meet. Especially note section “d” which if I am not mistaken specifically states that birds SHOULD NOT be killed during peak breeding season unless absolutely necessary.

    It would be very interesting to know if the person so happily bragging about his “kill” had actually met all the legal obligations associated with GL31?

    Or is this another example of the abuse of the General Licence as an excuse to kill wild creatures?

    Certainly killing so many wildbirds isn’t something many humans with any sense of humanity would be proud of!!

  6. If Wood pigeons are such a menace in the area, have the landowners considered improving the habit for buzzards, goshawks and perigrines. Also encouraging corvids would help the natural predation of these and other opportunistic species.

    By just wiping out that many birds they have created a habitat vacuum that will be soon be populated with more wood pigeons. And the cycle will repeat.

  7. Personally I’m neutral on shooting pigeons, there is often a case for it, but more often than not there is no need for it snd it is just for fun. The only point I would make is about quality of the meat. It is likely that these birds were shot over decoys from a hide in a hedge or similar, over a long afternoon. Shot birds will likely have been retrieved periodically by the gundog and they will have been laid to cool somewhere shady probably behind the hedge. So although the picture does look obscene, it was probably the case that they were fully cooled before being loaded into the boot.

      1. why of course? woodpigeons are excellent to eat, simple to prepare and cook. Unlikely they will end up in a stink pit, even if just because stink pits are not very widely employed.

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