With the ever-decreasing value of game and the continued popularity of shooting, we must act fast to reverse a potentially dangerous trend. Together with BASC, CA and GWCT, the British Game Alliance (BGA) was formed with two main aims – to increase the demand in order to return a commercial value back to game and encouraging shoots of all sizes to join its initiative to implement a credible self-regulation across the shooting industry, ensuring we abide by “best practice” and offering political security for a sustainable future.
In what has been the first season as the newly-formed alliance, there has been an overwhelming amount of support. Through hard work and support from the community, we have exceeded our target, with over 400 shoots signed up to the BGA already, with an aim of 500 by March of this year. We are very pleased to say that 33% of those shoots have already received an audit last season and we aim to audit the rest of the remaining member shoots in the next 18 months.
We encourage shoots registered with us to embrace the audit process, which need not be feared. It is a process to help each shoot understand what abiding to “best practice” means and to make any changes, if necessary, with the help from the auditor. As part of our registration agreement a shoot agrees to adhere to the BGA Assurance scheme standards, and so the assessment is a means of verifying this.
The assessments are carried out by a specialist team from Lloyds Register (formerly Acoura), an independent inspection and certification body who have been contracted by Acoura, for this role. As well as a good background in shooting and agriculture, they have received specialist training from the GWCT, and for those assessing upland shoots, the Moorland Association.
The shoots are contacted by the BGA prior to the audit to set an agreed date, complete with documents including the pre-assessment checklist. Following the feedback from last season’s shoot audits, we recommend to all shoot owners and gamekeepers to review these documents before the audit, as it makes the process much more straightforward. Once the assessment day comes around, all aspects of the shoot will be reviewed to ensure the shoot is complying with best practice standards. The assessor writes a report, and should there be any non-compliances, the assessor will detail the type of evidence required to achieve the BGA standard.
The shoot will then be asked to sign an undertaking of intention to carry out the action required, provide evidence that the necessary action has been taken or be subject to a re-assessment to confirm that the improvements have been completed. The BGA auditors are there to help and support the shoot through the process. If all standards are met, the shoot will pass the audit immediately and receive their certificate of accreditation.
In his first season as a BGA member-shoot, Andrew Rettie from the Balruddie Shoot in Perth and Kinross, had his shoot audited last season. “I found the audit a straight forward and a fairly enjoyable experience. Prior to the visit I had completed the information in the file sent by the BGA and during the visit the auditor spent time with myself and our gamekeeper looking at our rearing field, release pens, game cart and discussing our method of handling game on shoot days including the game larder. He reviewed shooting records and veterinary practices. He was very friendly, professional and helpful in his approach.”
Peter Boggs, of the Moulinard Shoot in the Highlands was also audited last season, “As we are a small shoot for friends and family, I was somewhat apprehensive about the audit, but not as much as our game keeper. The audit took several hours with some excellent feedback and positive suggestions. In the end, it was rather painless and constructive. The audit helped reinforced the fact that we are doing things properly and do have the bird’s welfare top of mind.”
The BGA welcomes all shoots of all sizes to join the movement.