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Latest news and events...

GFA raises its’ profile at Ragley Hall Game Fair (30th July 2021)

In addition to being part of the launch of Aim to Sustain at the Game Fair on Friday 23 July, the following day, Dominic Boulton (right) joined Roger Draycott (centre) from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to talk to Charlie Jacoby (left) in the Game Fair Theatre about the new GFA veterinary pen scoring matrix.

In the context of the ongoing campaign to reduce antibiotic use and to continue to raise standards across the sector, release pens and their role were a central part of the discussion. The pen scoring matrix was discussed in some detail as part of the wider conversation about improvements to release pens.

GFA proud to be part of Aim to Sustain (28th July 2021)

Nine leading rural organisations, including the GFA, have launched a new partnership that will promote sustainable game shooting. Aim to Sustain launched at The Game Fair at Ragley Hall on Friday July 23 with all the partner organisations represented (see right) or click here for official press release.

The partner organisations will all retain their independence but combine expertise and resources to communicate to the public and decision-makers how sustainability is at the core of progressive game management. The partnership will also promote the highest standards of self-regulation and produce credible, robust, and focused research.

Aim To Sustain launched with a 10-week ‘Have Your Say’ consultation that will seek the opinions of the quarter of a million-strong combined membership of the individual organisations. For further details and social media channels, visit the Aim to Sustain website.

Pen Scoring Matrix - Updated 28 July 2021 (13th July 2021)

As promised in our May issue of Game Farming, here is the new pen scoring matrix. It was developed by some of our Trade Member Vets in conjunction with the GFA. We hope you find it useful.

Pen Scoring Matrix

Gamebird Joint Communication 2021 (21st May 2021)

As with all sectors, but especially food producing sectors, there continues to be a need to further reduce the levels of antibiotics (AB) prescribed. In the attached communication (click the link below) are some summary figures from the 2020 collection, along with some reinforcement of the rules and regulations, as well as some exciting new initiatives to help forward our sector and help maintain the sustainability for future generations to come.

As a sector 2020 has been one of the hardest years on record, but huge congratulations are due to those that persevered through Covid and also helped to continue reducing our overall AB use.

Gamebird Joint Communication 2021

Bird Flu Update (15th May 2021)

GFA - Bird Flu updateDefra has announced that the National Avian Influenza Control Zone and associated biosecurity requirements will be lifted as of midday on May 15.

Whilst the AIPZ is being lifted, high standards of biosecurity should be retained by all bird keepers as infection may still be present in the environment and good biosecurity should be maintained for the health of your birds. (see www.gov.uk for details)

Additional biosecurity measures would still apply in disease control zones surrounding infected premises. Check if and where disease control zones are in force and where higher risk areas are located on the interactive map. (see www.gov.uk for details)

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This announcement follows a new risk assessment which was completed last week. There has been a significant reduction in the number of report cases across Europe and no new cases in the UK in the last few weeks.

The risk assessment concluded that: “The risk of avian influenza infection in wild birds remains low (rare but does occur). However, the risk of HPAI H5 exposure to poultry and captive birds across the whole GB has reduced from medium (occurs regularly) to low (rare but does occur) where biosecurity is sub-optimal and remains low (rare but does occur) where stringent biosecurity measures are applied.”

This will come as a relief in the game sector and should signal the beginning of the end of the outbreak. Work will now begin on analysing what can be learned and taken forward from it. There have recently been confirmed cases in wild pheasants for the first time, and as two of the confirmed cases in kept birds involved breeding pheasants, we will need to follow these reviews carefully to see if there is anything our sector can do to better protect itself in future.

Shooting group responds to NGDA statement (1st April 2021)

GFA News - imageA group of leading shooting and rural organisations, including the GFA, has released the following statement in response to the National Game Dealers Association’s (NGDA) announcing it is committed to sourcing all feather and fur game from lead free supply chains from 1 July 2022:

A spokesperson for BASC, the CA, the GFA and BGA said: “A strong game market and acceptance of game meat will mean a strong future for shooting. The continued use of lead shot has become a growing blocker for the game market. This was a key driver in the shooting organisation’s five-year voluntary transition away from lead shot for live quarry.

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“The NGDA represent an influential portion of the overall game dealers’ sector and their statement provides significant direction and leadership.”

“The shooting organisations continue to work towards a voluntary five-year transition but accept that changes within some areas of the sector may move quicker than in other areas.”

“The shooting organisations will continue to work with all stakeholders to support the transition through education, promotion and research and development in sustainable ammunition.”

New Vision for Game Farming (8th March 2021)

GFA - new Chairman news articleThe Game Farmers’ Association (GFA) has a new Chairman. George Davis was elected at its recent AGM and takes over from Dominic Boulton, who has completed his three-year term.

George comes from a family who have farmed gamebirds for generations, longer perhaps than any other in Britain, but George himself has new ideas and a clear vision for what he wants to achieve.

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“Game farmers faces many challenges and most are known to us. We need to come together and tackle them as one,” says George. “The GFA itself must be one step ahead, doing research and development to improve welfare and practicality in the production of quality gamebirds.

“Alongside this, our renowned political lobbying must continue and I am delighted that Dominic Boulton is going to be taking over much of Charles Nodder’s work now that he is retiring after 22 years as the GFA’s Political Adviser. We will also have assistance from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, a collaboration which I warmly welcome because securing a legislative future for our sector is clearly fundamental.”

George hopes that his new vision for a fully up to date gamebird sector with high standards and high levels of compliance will encourage more game rearers to join the Association:

“Think how much is spent on feeding reared gamebirds birds and on keeping them warm. With an inexpensive membership subscription to the GFA, you can continue to ensure that the sector remains politically viable, whilst having access to the latest research and advice. I urge all gamebird rearers to join the GFA and share in our journey towards a bright future.”

Wild Justice ‘would not have been successful’, Judge says (30th November 2020)

Shooting organisations have reacted positively to the publication of court papers that suggest Wild Justice’s Judicial Review on releasing gamebirds near to designated sites would not have been successful if heard.

As interested parties, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Countryside Alliance, Game Farmers’ Association and National Gamekeepers Organisation worked together to ensure Wild Justice were unsuccessful in their request to have a stop notice placed on all gamebird releases up to 5km away from designated sites such as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

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After dismissing Wild Justice’s subsequent attempt to claim £35,000 costs for the case it instigated, the judge in the matter was critical of the group’s behaviour in the latter stages of the legal process.

Justice Holgate criticised Wild Justice for their “unacceptable” failure to deal with the content of a witness statement submitted by Defra in August which discussed the findings of their 18-month evidence-gathering review of gamebird releasing and outlined subsequent steps that would be taken by Defra and Natural England (NE).

Justice Holgate also cast doubt on the validity of the case brought by Wild Justice, who were claimants (C) against Defra and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He added: “It does not appear to me from the material before me (which includes the results of the review) that C would have been successful on the issue.”

And in direct relation to Wild Justice’s application to receive costs, Justice Holgate said: “Plainly, it cannot be said that C has been wholly or even substantially successful in relation to its claim as originally pleaded.

“I am inclined to the view that it would not have been successful… …I am left with the firm impression that the application for costs did not grapple with the real issues from the outset and should not have been made.”

A spokesperson for the shooting organisations said: “The costs order by Justice Holgate has vindicated our hard work and the original decision by the organisations to fight Wild Justice to ensure that we could become involved in the legal hearings.

“As interested parties, we were able to submit witness statements and support Defra to ensure that shooting’s voice was heard.

"It was reassuring to see the Judge set out the shortcomings of Wild Justice's case in his rejection of their application for costs."

"As a group of organisations, we now move on to focus on the Government's proposed interim licensing scheme for gamebird release in and near to certain protected sites. We are determined that the legitimate game management interests of our members are safeguarded from threats, wherever they come from."

New Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Announced (12th November 2020)

GFA - News imageThe Game Farmers' Association is advising its members that in response to the heightened risk of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has today been declared in England, Scotland and Wales.

It introduces, by law, additional biosecurity measures for all poultry and captive bird keepers, to protect their birds from the risk of infection. The measures apply to all poultry keepers, including keepers of captive gamebirds, regardless of the numbers of birds kept.

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Further details, including the measures that apply in the AIPZ, can be found:

For England at GOV.​UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/avian-influenza-bird-flu-national-prevention-zone-declared

 
For Scotland at GOV.SCOT: https://www.gov.scot/news/avian-influenza-protection-measures-1/ 


and for Wales at GOV.WALES: https://gov.wales/all-wales-prevention-zone-declared-protect-poultry-avian-flu-0

We will keep the GFA website up to date if there are further major developments.

Defra propose gamebird releasing licence around protected sites (30th October 2020)

Blog image - GFA news storyShooting organisations have responded with scepticism to Defra’s proposal to implement a licensing system for gamebird release in and around European protected sites, even after Wild Justice have indicated their intention to withdraw their judicial review.

With no prior consultation with BASC, Countryside Alliance, National Gamekeepers Organisation or the Game Farmers’ Association - who were all interested parties in the case - Defra has announced its intention to introduce an interim licensing system. The system will encompass the release of pheasant and red-legged partridge in and within 500 metres of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Wild Justice had originally demanded a 5 km buffer zone.

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Defra has not yet provided details of their proposal although a consultation on the licensing conditions is expected imminently.

The four shooting organisations believe a licensing system is not justified by the scientific evidence, even on an interim basis, that it is a misuse of the precautionary principle and may be unlawful. They are also concerned that it is open to further attack from anti-shooting organisations. They have demanded the following:

  • The shooting organisations must be fully involved with the consultation.
  • Defra, rather than Natural England, should implement any new licence.
  • The legislation for any interim licensing system should have the termination date clearly specified.
  • The conditions on any licence should be the GWCT’s rules for releasing, which are already the basis of self-regulation in game shooting.
  • Any licensing system must be in place by 1 February 2021 to allow shoots to plan for the season. If this is not possible the system should be delayed until 2022.

A spokesperson for the four organisations said: “We are supportive and fully committed to self-regulation and the principles of gamebird management in the interest of sustainable shooting. Defra’s proposed red tape under the precautionary principle will do little but threaten rural jobs, conservation efforts and a host of social benefits that shooting provides.

“Natural England’s wildlife licensing system has been proven unsuccessful as a light touch regulatory power and we remain unconvinced that Defra’s proposal for European designated sites will be fit for purpose.

“The proposal is better than Wild Justice’s time wasting demands that all releasing should be made illegal within 5km of designated sites but it is not justified by the scientific evidence, which is that the negative effects of gamebird releasing are highly localised and need to be weighed against the strong evidence of landscape scale benefits from the woodland management associated with shooting. If Defra is to secure cooperation from the shooting community, it must do better. At the moment, there is a great deal of scepticism that a unknown licensing system run by an underfunded public body can fix something that is not known to be ecologically damaging.”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shooting and Conservation, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, has already held a meeting with the Secretary of State for Defra, George Eustice MP, where they expressed their concerns. In a follow up letter, the MPs called on Defra to work closely with the shooting organisations.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: “Many parliamentarians are concerned to ensure that shooting is not damaged by whatever Defra does. We will be fighting for a sensible evidence-based and proportionate outcome.”

Shooting organisations face up to gamebird release legal threat (23rd June 2020)

News image - GFABASC, the Countryside Alliance, the Game Farmers’ Association and the National Gamekeepers Organisation are joining the government in defending a judicial review against the release of gamebirds in and near to designated sites.

The High Court has announced today (23 June) that the case should be heard by the end of October. The substantive work to date by the shooting organisations through representations has meant that this will not impact on shooting this season.

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As interested parties the shooting organisations will be able to provide written and oral evidence prior to the hearing.

A spokesperson for the organisations, said: “The government has made its position clear, yet Wild Justice continue to take actions that necessitate them using valuable time and resources defending a court case at a time of national crisis. We are pleased to stand alongside government in facing down this challenge by this anti-shooting group.

“Due to Coronavirus, there is a massive amount of uncertainty in rural communities and yet Wild Justice continue to push their extremist agenda. We should be under no illusion that this review is yet another excuse for an attack on shooting.”

Antibiotic Use in Gamebirds MUST Fall Further (22nd April 2020)

News Image - GFAClick on the link below for the latest 2020 Joint Communication on Antibiotic Reduction in gamebirds.

Joint Communication on Antibiotic Reduction - Spring 2020

Template to record usage of Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (15th April 2020)

News Image - GFA websiteHighest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HI-CIA) must only be used as a last resort under veterinary direction. Details and justification for each use must be recorded on the British Game Alliance CIA use template, together with the results of sensitivity or diagnostic testing.

Click on the link below to download a copy of the template.

Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics Template

Defra ask court to dismiss Wild Justice judicial review (8th April 2020)

News image - GFA websiteIn what is being described as extremely positive news by four leading shooting membership organisations, Defra has described Wild Justice’s judicial review seeking to restrict gamebird releases as ‘vexatious’ and ‘pointless’.

Defra has asked the court to refuse Wild Justice permission to bring the claim and goes further in asking to be awarded its costs.

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Defra’s hard-hitting submission is in response to an attempt by Wild Justice to substantially amend their judicial review to ensure that the 2021 release of game birds and the review currently being undertaken by Defra on gamebird releasing is not carried out unlawfully. Defra noted in its submissions to the court that Wild Justice are ‘shooting at the wrong target’ and should be refused permission to amend the judicial review.

A spokesperson for the four shooting membership organisations (BASC, Countryside Alliance, the Game Farmers’ Association and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation), who are registered as interested parties in the case, said: “We welcome the fact that the Government has taken such a strong line in resisting this wholesale change of approach from Wild Justice. This judicial review is clearly misdirected in terms of the law and serves no purpose. Resources and expertise should be going towards reviewing gamebird releases, not unnecessary and pointless court cases.

“Wild Justice’s application to amend the grounds of their judicial review is an admission that their claim was misconceived. As interested parties we ask that Wild Justice do the right thing and drop the case now and await the outcome of Defra’s review.”

Gamebird release safe for 2020 after Wild Justice abandon application to fast-track legal challenge (27th March 2020)

News image - GFA websiteThe releasing of gamebirds this year will not be affected by court action after Wild Justice pulled back from asking for their legal challenge to be speeded up.

Wild Justice has conceded that it was unlikely that any remedies could be ordered by the court to affect the release of gamebirds in the 2020 season and has, therefore, withdrawn its request for the case to be expedited.

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Defra was joined by BASC, the Countryside Alliance, the Game Farmers’ Association and National Gamekeepers’ Organisation in making legal submissions that said there would be significant adverse impacts on countryside management if the court had followed an accelerated process.

A final decision on whether to allow a judicial review to proceed is now expected to come later this year.

A spokesperson for the shooting organisations, said: “Registering as interested parties has helped ensure that Wild Justice cannot impact on this coming season. We said that the rural calendar was set in stone and that Wild Justice’s challenge simply came too late for their points to be taken into account for 2020. This is a crucial time of the year for the British countryside and we are glad that Wild Justice has taken a pragmatic decision.

“This does not mean the case is closed. There is still a threat to the way we manage the countryside so our work will continue to ensure shooting’s voice is heard in any future legal challenge.

“Our four organisations have united to do what it takes to ensure the future of sustainable shooting for the benefit of the rural economy, conservation and social well-being.”

Shooting organisations unite for legal battle (16th March 2020)

GFA - news imageFour leading shooting organisations have joined forces to help fight Wild Justice’s latest judicial review against Defra on the legality of releasing gamebirds over designated sites.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Countryside Alliance, Game Farmers’ Association and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation have jointly applied to become interested parties in the proceedings.

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Wild Justice claim that releasing birds, even at considerable distance, could damage a European Protected Site (EPS) and that no game bird releasing should be allowed unless an assessment has shown there will be no impact on the area.

A spokesperson for the organisations said: “This case has direct consequences for thousands of our members and supporters who shoot; many of whom are also responsible for the care and management of these sites.

“It is essential that the shooting community involves itself in the proceedings at the earliest possible stage so that we can present a robust, evidence-based case to the court.

“No matter the cost, our voice needs to be heard during the proceedings. And time is of the essence. Many people involved in shooting have already begun preparations for next season which carry significant financial burden.

“The countryside does not operate to the same calendar as the judicial system and it is essential that point is delivered loud and clear to the court. Livelihoods and the health of the countryside are at risk if those making the decisions get this wrong.

“In their attempt to attack shooting, Wild Justice are putting at risk the responsible management, use and enjoyment of the countryside by farmers, land managers and the public at large, as well as endangering the very wildlife and environment which they claim to be interested in protecting.”

Gamebird Sector Calls for Further Reductions in Antibiotic Use (6th February 2020)

GFA - news imageOrganisations representing the gamebird rearing sector have called for a big push to further reduce the use of antibiotics in 2020, despite having already almost halved use overall since 2016.

The Game Farmers Association (GFA), Countryside Alliance, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust all want to see a continuing decline in antibiotic treatments used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges, in line with action currently being taken across all farm animal sectors in the UK.

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Their renewed call comes in response to figures for 2019 antibiotic usage calculated from prescriptions written by gamebird vets and collated by the GFA in collaboration with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). These show a small increase of 7% in 2019, associated with very wet weather during the rearing season and an unprecedented need to treat sick birds hit by the very challenging disease Mycoplasma.

In the previous two years, the gamebird sector had succeeded in reducing antibiotic use by 51%, with antibiotics incorporated in gamebird feed slashed by 70%. The organisations say they want to see a return to reductions in 2020. Additional plans are already underway to improve game rearing systems and biosecurity, so that fewer birds become sick and need treatment.

A spokesman for the GFA said, "2019 was a tough year for game rearers. More birds than usual succumbed to sickness - associated in part with terrible weather conditions – and as a result vets prescribed more soluble antibiotics than in the year before, much of it to treat bad outbreaks of Mycoplasma. Antibiotic incorporated in compounded feeds fell yet again, however, for the fourth year in a row.”

The GFA is meeting with gamebird vets, the VMD and Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) before the 2020 rearing season gets underway to put in place further reduction targets and other measures to bring antibiotic use down.

Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said: “It is encouraging to see in-feed antibiotic use continue to fall in the gamebird industry, although the increase in in-water and overall antibiotic use is disappointing. However, the openness of the gamebird industry to collect and publish its usage data is to be applauded. Given the fact that, even with the 2019 increase, antibiotic use has still reduced by 49% since 2016, we are confident that game farmers, gamekeepers and their vets will investigate the reasons for last year’s increase, develop a plan of action and continue to focus on reducing the need to use antibiotics through improvements in husbandry, biosecurity and disease prevention.”

The gamebird sector has already made changes that are expected to contribute to further falls in antibiotic use. A new Game Farm Audit to ensure high standards, including disease prevention, has recently been launched by the British Game Alliance. Other industry bodies, including the GFA, are funding urgent research into gamebird diseases, including Mycoplasma.

  

 A spokesman for the gamebird organisations said that all gamebird rearers needed to work with their vets towards further antibiotic reductions. “Much has been achieved in only three years and with new initiatives underway and growing investment in rearing equipment, we expect further reductions to follow.”

Chris Lloyd, secretary general for RUMA, said “The gamebird sector is to be congratulated for its progress to date, which has seen not just significant reductions in antibiotic use but positive changes in practice as well.

“What the sector is now experiencing is similar to that seen in other farm animal sectors, where the easier wins have been had and a change of approach is needed to gain the harder reductions.

“However, the united approach, transparency and accountability of sector leaders shows there is determination to overcome these inevitable setbacks. Their continued participation in the Targets Task Force and commitment to work with others to set further reduction targets post-2020 illustrate that the sector is determined to continue making progress.”

6 February 2020

Listen/watch last week's Avian Influenza Readiness Webinar (17th October 2019)

Blog image - GFAIf you missed last week's Avian Influenza Readiness Webinar, organised by UK Poultry Health & Welfare Group, or if you would like to listen/watch it again, you can by using the link below:

Avian Influenza Readiness Webinar - listen again

17 October 2019

Leading organisations respond to Defra's new general licences (16th June 2019)

image - GFA NewsRead the latest press release below regarding the current situation on  general licences.

Genuine progress has been made and three new general licences released by Defra today (14 June 2019) are fit for purpose in most circumstances.  However significant work still remains regarding protected sites, the leading countryside organisations have said.

Representing a range of rural stakeholders, the chief executives of BASC and the Countryside Alliance met environment secretary Michael Gove MP this morning to discuss Defra’s new licences.

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The new licences cover the majority of activity which is undertaken in the English countryside for pest control, crop protection and also satisfy the need to provide control to protect public health.

However, the organisations have told Defra they cannot agree the approach to “protected sites”, home to much of our most important wildlife, where there will be additional licence requirements.  This will be captured by a further Defra consultation this summer.

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “The organisations have worked extensively in the background with Defra and we are content that the new, additional general licences issued today will be fit for purpose in many areas but significant concerns remain around protected sites.

“We appreciate that it’s not a perfect situation and there may still be some confusion; the organisations will continue to be on hand to steer our members through. The organisations have told Defra that we expect any gaps to picked up by the consultation in the summer.”

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “Whilst we remain very concerned about the initial decision by Natural England to revoke the general licences we are grateful for the Secretary of State’s intervention.

“Since Defra has taken back control of the licences we have seen significant progress and for most people managing most species the situation is now back as it was. The discussion does not, however, stop here and we will seek to resolve the outstanding issues as part of the planned consultation later this year.”

Liam Bell, NGO chairman, said: "Two cheers to Defra for sorting out most of the mess left after NE's licence revocations in April. We reserve our third cheer until they have also addressed the remaining issues in protected sites. The team-working between the shooting organisations has been great on this and a big reason for the turnarounds gained so far. We look forward to playing our part in finishing the job."

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “European designated sites will not be covered by these new general licences. If owners or occupiers have not yet applied for an individual licence to carry out vital work to protect chicks, they should.

“We have made the point forcefully to Defra that it is almost beyond belief that precious areas that support incredible bird life are being left out, areas that have been designated for their important birds and habitats. Pest bird control, certainly in the uplands, has been a contributing factor to their success.

“Making conservation in these areas harder to achieve is a disaster for our wildlife. Defra's precautionary approach and EU rules could preside over the extinction of our best loved moorland birds like the curlew, lapwing, golden plover, if a way forward cannot be found.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president, Tim Breitmeyer said: “We are pleased that progress has been made and that the concerns of rural groups have been taken on board. We will keep working collaboratively with Defra and others to help resolve any outstanding issues.

“This includes engaging with the future consultation this summer, ensuring the emergence of a robust and fit-for-purpose licensing system which protects the interests of farming and food production, as well as the conservation of wildlife.”

Game Farmers' Association chairman Dominic Boulton said: "This is good news. Our members will now be able to get back to business and control problem birds as before. Livelihoods had been threatened by NE's revocations but the situation is now much improved."

Sir Jim Paice, GWCT chairman, said: “We must congratulate Defra for producing these new licences so quickly under difficult circumstances. They may not be perfect, but it is clear they carefully considered all 4,000 consultation responses which provided them with the information they needed to reach this stage. The GWCT will continue to work closely with Defra to share our science to ensure those that manage our countryside have the right tools to do the job.”

16 June 2019

Natural England forced into shooting licence u-turn after government reinstates original system (16th June 2019)

Image - GFA NewsDefra has forced a shooting licence U-Turn after taking over from Natural England following a fiasco in which farmers were banned from protecting their land from pests.

Read the article which appeared in the Telegraph on Friday 14 June. A great quote from our Chairman, as well as Tim Bonner, the chief executive of The Countryside Alliance.

Natural England forced into shooting licence u-turn after government reinstates original system

16 June 2019

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Anger as General Licences are Revoked Without Notice (24th April 2019)

GFA - Blog imageThe Game Farmers' Association is advising all members that Natural England (NE) is revoking the three main General Licences for the control throughout England of birds such as crows, magpies and woodpigeons.

The shock decision, which applies from one minute to midnight on Thursday 25 April 2019, was announced with no prior warning and at less than 48 hours notice. It has been greeted with anger and derision by the shooting community and its representative organisations. 

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Game farmers often control corvids around their laying pens and rearing fields in the spring but once the licences are revoked, that essential protection will become illegal.

NE says that it will introduce a new replacement online system for applying for individual licences, under which some control may still be lawful, but as of now no such system is in place. It is hard to see that it could possibly replace, at speed, the daily use of the General Licences by thousands of farmers, gamekeepers and pest controllers.

GFA Chairman, Dominic Boulton, said it was a disgrace that NE was effectively changing the law at no notice, apparently panicked into an over-reaction by a legal challenge mounted by anti shooting campaigners. (No equivalent revocations have been made in Scotland and Wales, despite their General Licences having exactly the same legal basis).

"We had no more notice of this fiasco than anyone else," said Dominic. "It is exactly the sort of shambles that game farmers could do without at this critical time of year when they are trying to protect eggs and chicks from predation by corvids."

The shooting organisations are working together to get the decision reversed or a workable replacement licensing system in place as soon as possible.

For more information we recommend viewing the websites of BASC, the Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers' Organisation.

24 April 2019

BVPA working group recommendations for Mycoplasma management in gamebirds (26th February 2019)

Blog image - GFA BVPAThe British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) working group has now agreed its recommendations on Mycoplasma management in gamebirds – please click on the link below to read the recommendations.

BVPA working group recommendations for Mycoplasma management in gamebirds

  

26 February 2019

  

Gamebird Producers Slash Antibiotic Use (24th October 2018)

GFA - blog imageFigures released today (24 October 2018)  show that in the two years since the gamebird sector rolled out its voluntary campaign to reduce antibiotics, overall use has fallen by 51%, with antibiotics incorporated in gamebird feed slashed by 70%.

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The figures, announced by The Game Farmers’ Association (GFA), have been calculated in collaboration with Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and are based on prescriptions written by gamebird vets throughout the UK. [Note: All antibiotic use must be prescribed by a vet. Gamebirds are reared in the spring and released into the countryside in the summer, which is why the 2018 results are already available].

A spokesman for the GFA said, "A further year of good engagement by the gamebird sector in 2018 has brought overall usage of antibiotics down by another 24% this year. Together with last year’s substantial fall, this confirms that the industry has halved antibiotic use since our voluntary campaign was rolled out in 2016.”

Detailed analysis of the 2018 result shows that in-feed use fell by 35% this year, whilst use of AB in soluble treatments fell by 10%. The difference reflects a continuing focus on treating actual disease outbreaks rather than feeding medicated rations 'just in case', and also the need to treat some late disease outbreaks associated with the excessively hot summer.

Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said:  “Reducing antibiotic use in gamebirds by a further 24% in 2018 and 51% over the last two years is an impressive achievement. The Game Farmers Association should be congratulated for mobilising the industry, as should the game farmers, gamekeepers and their vets for their commitment in bringing down antibiotic use. We encourage everyone to continue this good work.”

Chris Lloyd, Secretary General of Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) , which is coordinating work across all livestock sectors to drive responsible use of antibiotics in the face of worldwide concerns about antimicrobial resistance, said: “We welcome these hugely encouraging results, not least as the continuing falls in antibiotic use in gamebirds have been achieved through a real focus on good management and improved biosecurity.”

The reductions were also welcomed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Alliance (CA), the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

Jack Knott, Countryside Alliance Campaigns Manager, said, "The whole shooting community can be justifiably proud of the progress made over the past two years, but we must ensure that this is only the end of the beginning. These excellent results must encourage us to keep driving down the use of antibiotics."

Glynn Evans, BASC's head of game and deer management, said: "These are encouraging results due to the whole sector working together. It is important that we continue to keep up the momentum. This year's performance is another significant step in the campaign to continue reducing antibiotic use."

The lessons learned from this year’s gamebird rearing season will be collated during November at a meeting of specialist vets and representatives of the game feed trade, hosted by the Game Farmers’ Association. Advice arising from that meeting will be provided free of charge to all game rearers in pursuit of further antibiotic reductions next year.

RUMA win prestigious award for antibiotic work (2nd July 2018)

GFA blog imageRUMA's Target Task Force initiative, in which the GFA plays a major role, won a prestigious international award for antibiotic reduction work last week, beating off many rivals, including many in the human health sector. This award recognises our AB reduction work.

The third Antibiotic Guardian awards took place on 27th June 2018. They celebrate the work of healthcare professionals across England in tackling antimicrobial resistance and form part of the ongoing Antibiotic Guardian campaign which is led by Public Health England. Click here to read the Press Release which RUMA issued after their win in the Prescribing and Stewardship award category. 

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For details of other winners and the runners up, visit Antiboitic Guardian Awards 2018 Awards website.

GFA host important fact-finding visits to a member’s game farm (22nd May 2018)

GFA - Blog imageThe Game Farmers’ Association hosted two important fact-finding visits to a member’s game farm in late May 2018.

One was for a team of officials from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), and the other was for officials from mainland Europe. 

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On 21st May, the Game Farmers’ Association hosted two important fact-finding visits. The first was for a team of officials from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) who in particular deal with outbreaks of notifiable avian diseases such as Bird Flu.

During incursions of these diseases into the UK, not only do game farmers have the worry that their birds might become infected, they also have to contend with control measures such as movement bans and orders to separate kept birds from wild birds. These rules are often inevitably designed for the much larger poultry sector and not always appropriate for game.

The officials were shown how gamebird production necessarily differs from indoor poultry and how restrictions and licensing decisions can help or hinder the game sector, worth a staggering £2.2 billion to the UK economy each year.

The second visit was by officials from mainland Europe working to reduce antibiotics across all livestock sectors. Two were from DG Sante, the EU department of animal health, whilst others work within EU member states; France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The experts included individuals from Italy and Ireland.

Antibiotic reduction is essential to preserve these vitally important medications for human and animal health and the visitors were keen to hear how the GFA is spearheading a successful campaign to bring AB use down throughout the UK gamebird sector. Good bird management and hygiene are key starting points for AB reduction and it is therefore no surprise that during these two important visits, biosecurity was tight.

The GFA hosts similar fact-finding visits for politician and officials whenever they may help the long term future of the game farming profession.

Gamebird Sector Cuts Antibiotics by 36% (27th October 2017)

GFA blog imageOrganisations involved in shooting and gamebird management have welcomed a big fall in the amount of antibiotic used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges in the UK.

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Figures endorsed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) have been released today showing that antibiotics used in gamebirds were brought down voluntarily by 36% in 2017 compared to 2016, including a 53% reduction for those administered in gamebird food. (Gamebirds are reared in the spring, which is why the 2017 results are already available).

The 36% fall comfortably exceeds the 25% official reduction target for gamebirds in 2017, developed by the sector and agreed by the VMD earlier this year. The actual reduction was calculated from veterinary prescribing records. Vets are responsible for prescribing all antibiotics administered to gamebirds.

The encouraging results come at a time when all livestock sectors have been asked by Government to reduce their use of antibiotics in the face of global concerns about antimicrobial resistance – the evolution of bugs that will not respond to treatment with antibiotics.

A spokesman for the above shooting and gamebird management organisations said, “These large reductions have been achieved voluntarily and in just one year through the hard work of game farmers, gamekeepers, the veterinary profession and the game feed trade. We welcome today’s results as an excellent start to our continuing campaign for antibiotic reduction.”

Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said, “The significant reductions achieved in 2017, the same year that the sector started to collect and scrutinise its antibiotic usage data, highlight the strong commitment of the game bird industry to bring down antibiotic use. The reductions achieved in 2017 are to be highly commended, and are an encouragement to all to continue the good work.”

John Fitzgerald, General Secretary of RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance), whose conference, ‘Facing Up to the Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge’ was held in London today, said, “We congratulate our colleagues in the game sector on their excellent 2017 antibiotic reduction results. The enthusiasm and commitment with which the whole sector has engaged with this process is exemplary and we have every confidence that they will achieve further reductions in future years.”

Antibiotics are used in gamebird rearing, as in other livestock sectors, for the treatment of natural diseases. Their use is sometimes essential for welfare reasons but administration of antibiotics can be reduced through good biosecurity and correct management, in close liaison with specialist vets.

The lessons learned from this year’s gamebird rearing season will be collated during November at a meeting of vets being hosted by the Game Farmers’ Association. Advice arising from that meeting will be provided free of charge to all game rearers in anticipation of further antibiotic reductions next year.

GFA Opens Doors to Defra (30th July 2017)

GFA blog imageThe Game Farmers' Association (GFA) this week showed Defra round a game farm in the Home Counties where the main issue under discussion was the prevention of Bird Flu. 

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The visitors were from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which together work to keep the country free from Bird Flu and oversee its eradication when outbreaks occur.

Bird Flu is a notifiable disease currently circulating world-wide in various forms. It can affect all birds, captive or wild, and is often fatal, costing bird farmers dearly. Outbreaks impact on trade and some strains can also pass to humans, although this is rare. The Government has strict rules for eradication and for keeping birds in ways that reduce the risk of outbreaks.

The visit was an opportunity to build on the excellent cooperation that exists between Government and the gamebird sector. Discussion subjects included the restrictions that can apply on game farms during outbreaks and also best practice for keeping pheasants through the winter for egg production.

A GFA spokesman said, "This was a valuable 'peacetime' visit to review the overall disease situation and the often complex regulations that apply. It was also useful for more Government officials to see first-hand a game farm in operation and the measures that are constantly in place to minimise infection."