Coalition to consider extending shooting season

The government has said that it may consider extending the shooting season into February. The statement came in response to questions posed in Parliament by Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon.

The leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young said that he would raise the matter with the appropriate minister at Defra “to see whether this issue ought to be discussed and whether there are good reasons for moving away from the traditional beginning and end of the shooting season.”  

At present, the law prohibits shooting wild game outside of set seasons. The pheasant, which is the most plentiful and best-known game species in the UK, has a season which lasts from 1st October until 1st February, while partridge, wild duck and goose seasons run through from September until the end of January.

Sir George added, however, that there may be “all sorts of implications" if it was extended.    

The move could provide an additional boost to the game market, which has increased in popularity in recent years. Game promotion body Game-to-eat has invested £1.5m to promote game since it launched in 2001 and estimates that its marketing campaign has a reach of 64m people a year.

Sales of game during 2010 are estimated to have grown by 6.7% to £80m, up from £75m in 2009 (the latest figures available from Mintel), with feathered game — primarily pheasant, partridge and grouse — accounting for around £21m of sales in 2009.

Alexia Robinson, Project Manager of Game-to-Eat, said: “Demand for game is at an all time high (sales have increased by a staggering 92% since Game-to-Eat started in 2002) and though game can be sold year round there will always be an extra buzz around enjoying it in-season. Any extension to the shooting season is, therefore, good news for retailers and caterers that do well from game promotions.”

Game is increasingly available in both foodservice and on the supermarket shelves, with a widening array of fresh meat, prepared convenience dishes and game ready meals now available. There is even a fish and chip shop in Norfolk selling deep-fried breaded pheasant, with game supplied by local butcher Arthur Howell from the Holkham estate.

Shannon has said that any discussions on that matter should take into account the opinion of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Alliance, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and other shooting bodies.

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