The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation is calling on the Welsh Assembly Government to endorse a draft code of practice for rearing pheasants and partridges “as it stands” rather than repeat “idiotic” legislative mistakes made following a similar consultation in England.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) has welcomed the Welsh Assembly Government’s draft consultation on a new code of practice for rearing pheasants and partridges, calling on the Assembly to endorse it as it stands and not repeat the “idiotic” legislative mistakes made following a similar consultation in England.
 
Welsh Assembly Government gamebird codeThe NGO represents gamekeepers throughout Wales, and believes the Welsh Assembly Government should endorse the pheasant code it as it stands currently, although the consultation does not close until the end of this week (April 16).

Shooting in Wales supports in the region of 2,500 full-time jobs and generates in excess of £70 million a year for the Welsh economy, according to research (Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, 2006).
 
Chairman of the NGO’s North Wales group, David Pooler, said: “The NGO has given the draft code a big thumbs up as its contents combine solid common sense with the best available animal welfare science from respected bodies like the Farm Animal Welfare Council.

“Anyone with an interest in gamebird welfare doesn’t want to see the same mess developing in Wales as happened in England only a few weeks ago. When new clauses were inserted into the legislation at the last-minute the facts were ignored and no new evidence presented to justify the changes. The London Government‘s tinkering has effectively made parts of the code worthless for upping the welfare of game in England. I wouldn’t want to see that shambles happening to our birds in Wales.”

The NGO said what had been a useful document for those rearing pheasants and partridges in England had ended up “looking plain silly”.
 
Mr Pooler said: “For example, one of the last-minute clauses put into the code in England requires new breeding stock to be kept separate from existing birds for the entire duration of the breeding season. How are they to mate? There’s just no logic to it. This is why we are looking to our AMs to demonstrate a better understanding of the Welsh countryside.”

NGO logoBrian Hardcastle, who runs the NGO’s group in Mid and South Wales, said: “We want the Welsh code to be the best it can be and as the draft code stands it’s practical and authoritative so it gets our vote. We are optimistic the WAG will adopt a common-sense approach in the review. It’ll mean the rearing and welfare of pheasants and partridges in the Welsh countryside will get formal recognition and that must be a good thing all round.”

He added: “What is often forgotten is that gamekeepers and game farmers need to rear healthy gamebirds, so their welfare has always been a paramount responsibility for them. It is no surprise that a lot of the small print the experts have come up with in the draft consultation reflects much of the voluntary code of practice our members in Wales follow.”

Included in the Welsh Assembly’s gamebird rearing consultative document is a review of aspects of some egg laying systems used for partridges and pheasants. Here, eleventh hour changes to draft legislation in England were some of the most idiotic, claimed the NGO. 

Mr Pooler said: “In one instance, instead of opting for simple improvements to gamebird housing – called Option 2 in the draft – as scientists from the Farm Animal Welfare Council had advised, the Westminster Parliament ignored its experts and instead imposed its own arbitrary space allowances that have no basis in science. It’s doubly baffling as last year the London Government actually cancelled its own research programme into best practice for breeding partridges before it had even begun.”

He added: “That’s why we are calling on the WAG not to short-change the Welsh countryside as London has done in England and to let gamekeepers in Wales have a code of practice that works and which puts gamebird welfare at the top of the agenda.”

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