|Please see an open letter from Dylan Williams, former Managing Director and Founder of the Royal Berkshire Shooting School with forty years experience in the industry, we would kindly ask that you share this with your shooting contacts to help spread the word.
I am extremely proud to have been instrumental in the establishment of the British Game Alliance nearly two years ago. I now help the BGA on a consultancy basis with moving the scheme forward, in addition to this, I Chair the Advisory Committee, giving me a very good insight into the whole operation. This is how I see it and is why I am proud to put my name against it.
As I reflect on the first 18 months I actually asked myself key questions, in the main based on the issues, problems and indeed tribulations since the BGA was set up. Has it been seamless – absolutely not – but I am sure every start-up business and even shoot has had issues. No estate can state it has not had a bad drive or day and the BGA has been no different. However, I do know that the level of “unity“ that the BGA has created within the organisations and wider community in a bid for a sustainable future for shooting is at a level I have not experienced in 40 years of being in the industry.
Yes, still not all are convinced, in time I hope all will come to embrace the Alliance when it’s achievements are visible and effective. I hope our progress to date will prove we are not in “competition” with any other body – the BGA is very simply an assurance scheme promoting best practice negating the need for government involvement which seems so real these days and to market game to new markets ensuring a real value returns to this great food source.
How do we mark success?
Well, I am very proud to announce the recent commercial agreement as seen below to export over 250,000 birds to Hong Kong has now be signed with BGA Assured game soon to hit the shelves of supermarkets and restaurants. This is so significant that I actually stated that DEFRA should be excited, to which they are! On top of this are hopeful success stories to come from Japan and trips planned to Canada all organised in conjunction with the Department of International Trade and Investment – who set up 13 meetings for the BGA team in Japan over 5 days … with one objective – to promote Assured British game. We hope to announce very soon, more ground breaking news that I assure you will assist us all, from large catering companies such as Compass and Aramark to pub groups and even retailers. People expect results and results now from what is only a small team with a juggernaut to turn around, we need to recognise this.
Why have I got involved?
Many years ago at the Royal Berkshire, we hosted a meeting of over 100 representatives of the industry to meet the then Labour DEFRA minister. Following a useful open discussion, he asked to see me in my office. He stated, “if you can create a level of demand for game greater than you can provide, and therefore be seen as providers of food, we will back off… but oh .. I know you will not”. In the last 12 years the amount of game shot has increased dramatically, and in the summer of 2017 many of the largest Sporting Agents and Shoot managers could see a major problem fast approaching. Out of this meeting, the BGA was established as a concept.
In Spring 2018, supported by Ivan Shenkman, Tom Adams commenced what can only be described as a Herculean task by becoming the driving force of BGA. Along the way mistakes have been made which have been readily accepted, I can tell you it has not been a bed of roses and no one can denounce Tom or the team’s incredible commitment and progress to date, so much has been achieved starting from scratch. Last year many estates were paying up to £1 a bird for processors to collect game – we are hearing this season these same estates might get paid. This did not happen by magic! The awareness for game along with the drive to open new markets and expand existing ones is a very tangible one for game on a national picture.
What misconceptions are there?
The BGA sells nothing – it has no produce. It helps with Market development for Assured game on behalf of the processors, assisted by Acoura (Lloyd’s Register) to ensure standards are met. The Beef, Lamb, Poultry industries all enjoy having similar bodies, surely game has to follow suit, we are after all, food producers! Estates and shoots of all sizes can enjoy this “service“ for as little as £100 for a small shoot up to a maximum £1000 for the largest.
The 50p per bird donation is totally voluntary and funded by the guns, not the shoot, unless they wish to. All a small price to pay to keep our business thriving?
Keepers should not fear the audit. It is designed to help and assist and many are delighted to have received really useful advice – and there is no additional cost for this – it’s funded by BGA. If you wish to speak to those who have had it, then I can put you in touch. There is total governance by the board of directors on all costs, expenditures, and salaries, etc which they set and sign off, these individuals have given their time for free with no vested interest apart from the passion of their sport.
What causes me concerns?
The support of the inaugural 600 estates and almost unanimous support from all the industry organisations has been brilliant and over and above from eminent parliamentarians, key industry players and very generous benefactors, it has been humbling. However those that sit on the fence “waiting to see” will not help any of us – a recent meeting with a very supportive MP stated there should be 5000 estates as members by now – as the BGA is working for, and benefiting, each and every shoot in the UK and indeed the preservation of the sport we love.
Should you feel guilty if you are not on board – yes!
More and more estates are appreciating that they should support BGA, not only to ensure best practice on their estates – but because we all have a vested interest in the value of our end product, it underpins what we do. Finally, many of you, or more likely friends of friends, will have criticisms, misconceptions, issues, and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly as I will be delighted to discuss and hopefully resolve problems “off the record”.