The Government recognises and encourages the conservation work carried out by shooters and anglers, the Minister for Agriculture and Food Jim Paice told delegates at the Conservative party conference on Monday.
Speaking at a very well-attended Rural Reception, hosted by the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), and angling’s representative body the Angling Trust, Mr. Paice said: “What you represent here is the Big Society in action. We don’t go out in the countryside just to pull the trigger or cast a fly; we are out there day in, day out working for conservation.”
Anglers and people involved in shooting carry out conservation and restoration work worth hundreds of millions of pounds every year. Mr. Paice also said that the Government does not intend to interfere with fieldsports where it is not necessary, but said it was important for shooting and fishing to ensure everything was being done properly and was above reproach.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for shooting and conservation, told the meeting that everyone who shoots or fishes should encourage others to come out into the countryside to find out the real story of what goes on. Mr. Clifton-Brown said the days of the perceived rural/urban divide are over.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said that anglers were already playing a key role in delivery the Big Society agenda, but said that they would need Governemnt help in three key areas. He called for reform of the Environment Agency, delivery of the Water Framework Directive and reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
He said that anglers wanted to see “a return to the day when our coasts and inland waterways teemed with wild fish once again.” He warned against complacency on water quality: “we should not be too pleased with ourselves just because we have at last nearly stopped industrial effluents and raw sewage pouring into our rivers and onto our beaches.”
John Swift, chief executive of BASC, welcomed a Defra team with practical countryside experience and said shooting’s main concern is the review of firearms law being carried out by the Home Affairs Select Committee. Mr. Swift called for a proper review on the basis of facts.