The Game Farmers' Association
....representing the UK's game farmers & promoting high standards
The 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any remedies could be ordered by the court to affect the release of gamebirds in the 2020 season and has, therefore, withdrawn its request for the case to be expedited.
read more »
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.”
Dear GFA Members
As we all battle with the challenges posed by Covid-19, I wanted to send you an update.
The GFA Committee met yesterday via a 90-minute telephone conference call. We made excellent progress on some really important issues, including a decision to play a full part in resisting legal proceedings by Wild Justice to restrict gamebird releasing. But you will primarily be interested in what was said about Covid-19.read more »
- All game farmers present reported impacts arising from the disease
- Orders are down, in some cases well down, because of the economic situation but primarily the uncertainty about when restrictions might be lifted in relation to shooting
- Some game farmers have asked customers to share the risk by paying non-returnable deposits, even up to 50%, this has been well-received by some shoots, so it’s not all bad
- Most committee members reported that their gas and feed suppliers had undertaken to continue supplying them and eggs have been coming in from France
- Veterinary practices have made adjustments to the ways they work but are generally saying that they will be able to support game farms
- Some workers expected from Europe have been caught up in travel restrictions
The general feeling was that this is a year to focus on business survival rather than anything more. Checking with all suppliers and service providers (e.g. vets) their expected ability to operate is vital and sharing the risk with customers by requiring those all-important deposits is essential.
It was pointed out that there is in any case a need to rear breeding birds for 2021 and also that the cost of incubating eggs is relatively small compared to the later rearing stages, potentially providing a later point at which decisions can be made as to numbers to rear.
Each game farmer must of course make their own decisions, but we are all bound by the Government restrictions. These are all on the www.gov.uk/coronavirus website but for convenience, the most relevant sections are:
Social distancing, travel to work and businesses:
Note especially in section 4 of this link that with the exception closing non-essential shops and public spaces, the Government has not required any other businesses to close – “indeed it is important for business to carry on”, they say.
I hope this update helps you to develop your own thinking on dealing with this terrible situation. On the committee call I think we all felt helped by sharing the problem and our experiences with other game farmers, similarly affected. I would encourage you to discuss and share your thinking with others as we did yesterday. There may be practical outcomes such as passing on any remaining customers from a farm which has decided to mothball this year. And remember that there is help and advice available from the banks, accountancy firms, and the personal support charities.
My best wishes to you all and stay safe,
Four 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.read more »
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.”
Organisations 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.read more »
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
We have just been alerted by Defra to the confirmation of Low Pathogenic H5 Bird Flu on a poultry unit in mid Suffolk. Click below for the Defra press release and the declaration and map:read more »
If 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:
17 October 2019
UK Poultry Health & Welfare Group are delighted to announce that registration for the Avian Influenza Webinar is now open. Taking place from 3pm to 4pm on Wednesday 9 October 2019, this webinar will be filmed and streamed live from London and has been designed to keep everyone aware and thinking about biosecurity. Please note that because the event will be recorded, it can be sent to those who are unable to participate on the day.
So if you want to hear the thoughts of The British Poultry Council, National Farmers Union, British Egg Industry Council ,The British Veterinary Poultry Association and The Game Farmers' Association, then don't forget to register using the link below:
28 September 2019read more »
Whatever you are planning on doing on 9 October from 15.00 - 15.30, don't forget to tune in for a special Webinar on Avaian Influenza (AI) Readiness.
Charles Nodder, the GFA's Media and Political Advisor, together with representatives from other poultry sectors, will be filmed and streamed live from London talking about AI and the need to be prepared for it - whatever type of birds are being kept.
The webinar is only 30 mins long, and we hope to keep everyone aware and thinking about biosecurity.read more »
So if you want to hear the thoughts of The British Poultry Council, National Farmers Union, British Egg Industry Council ,The British Veterinary Poultry Association and The Game Farmers' Association, then don't forget to check back here to find our more. Further details about the event will be circulated in due course.
10 September 2019
Read 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.read more »
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
Defra 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.
16 June 2019read more »
The 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.read more »
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.
24 April 2019