High Stakes in Wildlife Law Review

 lawcom logo The current shake-up of all wildlife legislation in England and Wales by the Law Commission will have profound consequences for shooting and game management in the near future, believes the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO). Conservation organisations like the North West Raptor Group however now believe that if the proposals relating to ‘protected birds of prey’ are implemented in full, the future of these species may be a little brighter, in particular throughout our uplands predominantly used to shoot red grouse.

The NGO says that unless the on-going legal review is managed appropriately and collaboratively by the countryside’s representative bodies, the impact of the legislative changes could be akin to those seen when the Hunting Act came into force. Handled correctly, however, the review could potentially have significant benefits for wildlife and the management of the countryside.

In a detailed 26-page response to the Law Commissioners’ consultation, the NGO has provided expert input on a huge range of topics from the future of game bird releasing to deer management.

The NGO’s response concludes that whilst the Law Commission’s review has correctly identified many of the problems brought about by the mish-mash of statutes currently comprising wildlife law in England and Wales, there is still a long way to go before the exercise can result in a Bill ready for Parliament to make the necessary improvements without threatening current shooting and game management best practice.

Lindsay Waddell, the NGO’s Chairman said:

Never before has so much law surrounding the countryside been thrown up in the air all at the same time. Make no mistake, this is potentially as big for shooting as the Hunting Act was for hunting. Get it right and we could have some of the best wildlife management laws anywhere in the world which would be great for wildlife and practical for wildlife managers. Allow anti-shooting politicians to walk all over it and restrictive amendments and unwarranted protection could turn into a nightmare.

The NGO response welcomes the review’s overall intention of modernising wildlife law, supports proposals to make poaching a more serious offence and urges a more consistent approach to managing Britain’s wildlife. But the organisation warns that changes to the law on non-native species could threaten gamebird releasing if not drafted correctly.

The Devil is in the detail with this exercise and there is an awful lot of it!” commented Lindsay Waddell. “Our political team has worked through the Commission’s 184 pages of proposals, with practical advice from our gamekeeper representatives and with input from lawyers, vets and land agents. We have shared our views with all the other shooting and farming organisations. This is just too important for individual rural bodies to try to go it alone.”

The long-awaited Law Commission review of wildlife laws in England and Wales was published during the Autumn. The Commission has made dozens of proposals, covering everything from poaching to non-native species, wildlife licensing, deer control and much more. Their review was carried out on the instructions of the Government and it is highly likely to result in a new Bill coming before Parliament, perhaps in 2014, to implement the changes.

“That is when the NGO and the other affected sectors will really have their work cut out,” said Charles Nodder, the NGO’s political adviser, “Because whereas the Law Commission’s work is limited to suggesting reforms to existing laws, at that stage MP’s could ask for any amendments they want, so we will rapidly be into discussions of what is or is not protected, the shooting seasons, prohibited methods of control and much else besides. And by then, of course, we may well have a different Government.”


The Law Commission is an independent body that advises Government on reforms to the law. Their consultation document on wildlife law is at Wildlife Law Review

The NGO’s full 26-page response is here:

NGO Response to Law Commission

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