Friday 27 October 2017


ORGANISATIONS involved in shooting and gamebird management have welcomed a big fall in the amount of antibiotic used in the rearing of pheasants and partridges in the UK. 
Figures endorsed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) have been released today showing that antibiotics used in gamebirds were brought down voluntarily by 36 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016, including a 53 per cent reduction for those administered in gamebird food. (Gamebirds are reared in the spring, which is why the 2017 results are already complete). 
The 36 per cent fall comfortably exceeds the 25 per cent official reduction target for gamebirds in 2017, developed by the sector and agreed by the VMD earlier this year. The actual reduction was calculated from veterinary records. Vets are responsible for prescribing all antibiotics administered to gamebirds.
The encouraging results come at a time when all livestock sectors have been asked by government to reduce their use of antibiotics in the face of global concerns about antimicrobial resistance – the evolution of bugs that will not respond to treatment with antibiotics.
A spokesman for the shooting and gamebird management organisations said: “These large reductions have been achieved voluntarily and in just one year through the hard work of game farmers, gamekeepers, the veterinary profession and the game feed trade. We welcome today’s results as an excellent start to our continuing campaign for antibiotic reduction.”
Professor Peter Borriello, Chief Executive Officer of the VMD, said: “The significant reductions achieved in 2017, the same year that the sector started to collect and scrutinise its antibiotic usage data, highlight the strong commitment of the game bird industry to bring down antibiotic use. The reductions achieved in 2017 are to be highly commended, and are an encouragement to all to continue the good work.”
John Fitzgerald, General Secretary of RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance), whose conference, ‘Facing Up to the Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge’ was held in London today, said: “We congratulate our colleagues in the game sector on their excellent 2017 antibiotic reduction results. The enthusiasm and commitment with which the whole sector has engaged with this process is exemplary and we have every confidence that they will achieve further reductions in future years.”
Antibiotics are used in gamebird rearing, as in other livestock sectors, for the treatment of natural diseases. Their use is sometimes essential for welfare reasons but administration of antibiotics can be reduced through good biosecurity and correct management, in close liaison with specialist vets. 

The lessons learned from this year’s rearing season will be collated during November at a meeting of vets being hosted by the Game Farmers’ Association. Advice arising from that meeting will be provided free of charge to all game-rearers in anticipation of further antibiotic reductions next year. 

Thursday 26 October 2017


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is to seek discussions with Police and Government Ministers over an escalation of vandalism and interference with legal traps by activists and the public.
Members of the gamekeepers’ representative body are reporting increasing incidences of intentional damage to predator control traps and snares operated as part of their employment.
In the past fortnight alone, legal Fenn traps have been vandalised, rail traps smashed, wires cut and traps left in the open air in Tayside, Perthshire, Angus, Speyside, Grampian, Tomatin and the Great Glen area.
In one incident in Angus, 22 traps, approved for legal predator control by Scottish Natural Heritage, were damaged in one afternoon.
The SGA, which represents 5300 members in Scotland, believes the number of incidents is now becoming unsustainable and that lawful businesses are being targeted.
They feel specific offences need to be worded to tighten up ‘wooly-ness’ around vandalism and interference and are seeking discussions with Scottish Government and Police Scotland.
Licences to control predators legally are subject to regulation by Scottish Natural Heritage and gamekeepers are trained to operate traps and snares legally, using approved equipment.
Predator control has been scientifically proven (1)* to benefit ground nesting game species and threatened birds such as the red-listed Curlew.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “Members are extremely worried. The situation can’t go on like this. The biggest problem is the law, as written, and the lack of a specific offence. 
“Every time damage or interference is reported, Police say no crime has been committed. Yet, if a trap was interfered with by a member of the public and a non-target animal was caught in that trap, a gamekeeper could lose his General Licence and charges would be brought yet the law wouldn’t touch the person committing the interference. That surely cannot be allowed to continue.
“The Police have given some members explanations as to why they cannot act, which we welcome, but it seems their hands are tied as well.
“Some people might not agree with some things, and predator control might be one of those things, but that doesn’t legitimise people vandalising people’s work tools, or worse, rendering them illegal.
“If a gamekeeper’s snares are tied up or someone has smashed a boulder through a Larsen trap, that gamekeeper cannot perform his duties. It would be like a bus driver expecting to drive a bus with tyres removed.”
Under the Land Reform Act, it is illegal to enter land and commit crime and the SGA hope to discuss possible routes forward with authorities.
Gamekeeper and SGA member, Andy Smith, provided video recordings to the Police of a member of the public releasing a call bird from a Larsen trap on a farm, leaving the trap vulnerable to catching a non-target species, which itself could lead to a charge against the operator.
“If a gamekeeper or farmer failed to comply with the General Licence in the operating of that trap, the licence would be withdrawn and charges brought,” said Mr Smith. “The owner of the land could also be liable for punishment and heavy financial penalty under Vicarious Liability law.
“The member of the public who made the trap non-compliant, on the other hand, can walk away.
“Everyone has a responsibility to wildlife and that should mean members of the public as well.
“There is also the possibility now of people removing traps then setting them incorrectly elsewhere. There are far too many loopholes which can threaten the employment of people operating their business within the law.”


Game shooting is worth £200m a year to Scotland’s economy. PACEC Report 2014:

Tuesday 24 October 2017


An online questionnaire has been launched by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland designed to gather views from all those who have applied to have firearms licensed or renewed in the last two years.
This is an opportunity for all those who have gone through the process, to comment on their experience ahead of an investigation on what is working well and not so well.
The SGA has had a lot of engagement with members who are having issues with firearms licensing and would encourage all members and supporters to take the time to fill this out and register their feedback with those investigating the process.
Full details can be found here:

The closing date of November 3rd is fast approaching but the questionnaire takes 10 minutes to complete and could make a big difference.

Thursday 12 October 2017


For members reading media reports about mountain hares this morning , please see the SGA response here, in full. It is possible only certain elements of the response have been reported.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "The activist organisations constantly calling for this in press releases would be better to explain to the public why they themselves have such comparatively poor populations of mountain hares on their holdings and why their management is producing so few.
"This is the elephant in the room which has never been properly addressed, amidst the campaigns. When the new guidance on best methodologies to count mountain hares is published, the SGA will be asking Scottish Government to ensure hares are counted on all holdings, including nature reserves and re-wilding areas not just grouse moors, so the public can finally get a transparent picture of where hares are declining and why.
“Voluntary restraint is being exercised on grouse moors. Where hares are over-running, populations are being controlled to prevent disease and habitat damage. Where their numbers are lower, there is less or no need for management. It is the same with deer. In our view, that is what voluntary restraint is.”
*The SGA would also like to receive reports and images, by SGA members, of any mountain hares seen on nature reserves or areas of rewilding run by charities or outdoor organisations. If you are accessing any such areas for walking or leisure, please report any sightings of mountain hares and numbers seen to 'SGA mountain hare study' and email them to the SGA office.

Friday 6 October 2017


The Scottish Government has this afternoon announced a consultation on fox hunting. This follows  a review of how the Wild Mammals Act is working in Scotland, undertaken by Lord Bonomy.
The SGA was one of four stakeholders asked to provide oral evidence during the review and currently sits on the working group tasked with examining the issue in the light of the Bonomy report recommendations.
Recognising the crucial importance to our members of retaining the ability to use hounds to flush foxes to guns, particularly in dense forestry and cover, the SGA would strongly encourage all those who have an interest in this issue to respond.
You can find the details here:

Monday 2 October 2017


Valuation notices for sporting rates, plus essential information, will soon begin to arrive on doorsteps. 
Throughout the Land Reform deliberations in 2016, the SGA argued that reintroducing rates would have negative impacts upon skilled land management jobs and opportunities. This could also affect species diversity in Scotland.

The published rates are: £2 per hectare for Deer forest, hill, moor.
Improved Grassland: £3.50 per hectare
Unimproved Grassland: £4 per hectare
Arable: £4 per hectare
Woodland/Forestry: £5 per hectare
Mixed: £5 per hectare.

Those unhappy with their ratings can appeal within 6 months. 
The SGA would also like to hear from any member whose operation is expected to be adversely affected by this, so we can take these concerns directly to representatives.

To find out more about the assessment process, click here: