LEADING animal protection group Animal Aid has launched an online petition calling on the Welsh Government to ban shooting on Welsh public land.
The petition, which is hosted on Animal Aid’s new microsite (www.animalaid.org.uk/nrw), comes in response to growing public outrage about Wales’ environmental protection agency, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), leasing areas of public land for the ‘sport shooting’ of pheasants.
The petition reads:
‘We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to ensure that Natural Resources Wales, as the Welsh Government-Sponsored Body responsible, stops leasing out public land to commercial shooting operations.
NRW’s key constitutional function is to act as an environmental steward of the land that it manages on behalf of the Welsh Government and citizens.
‘But leasing this land to shooting operations negatively impacts on conservation, biodiversity and animal welfare.
‘Shooting also pollutes the land with toxic lead shot which is responsible for poisoning and killing many animals.
‘NRW’s shooting leases facilitate an activity that is abhorrent to many Welsh citizens: the killing of animals for ‘sport’. The leases also mean that public access to land that is owned by Welsh citizens can be restricted.
In October 2015, a well-placed source informed Animal Aid that NRW intended to rent out some of its land in Myherin for the ‘sport shooting’ of pheasants.
As a result of several Freedom of Information requests, Animal Aid learned that at least five other parcels of land managed by NRW are already rented out for shooting.
While NRW did not initiate these shoot agreements – one or more predecessor bodies was responsible – NRW could have wound down the operations, rather than expanding them.
Media exposure of NRW’s shooting agreements, as well as public pressure on the agency and Welsh Assembly members, have resulted in NRW announcing it will conduct a review into whether it should continue to allow recreational shooting on its estate.
Animal Aid has insisted that it is vital that NRW allows independent experts, interested parties, and the public as stakeholders to participate in the review process.
Fiona Pereira, Animal Aid Campaign Manager, said: “Animal Aid’s petition calls for an end to ‘sport shooting’ on public land. That land belongs to the people of Wales and they have every right to determine how it is used.
“We are heartened that Natural Resources Wales is to conduct a review into this issue because we believe that a properly conducted, independent and stakeholder-inclusive review should come to the conclusion that shooting should be banned on Welsh public land. The majority of people abhor the killing of animals for pleasure and it is high time that NRW ceases leasing publicly-owned land for shooting and instead uses it for projects that are positive, educational and enhance the environment.”