Lord Botham welcomed the launch of Aim to Sustain by noting a crucial shift in the fortunes of shooting: More people finding game in their supermarkets and choosing to eat it. Beefy attributed this turnaround to “the determined push to modernise the industry through its marketing board – the British Game Alliance (BGA).” So how will the BGA’s “determined push to modernise” continue in this exciting new Aim to Sustain era?
The launch of Aim to Sustain was a triumph of optimism. The chairs of all nine constituent organisations sat together in The Game Fair’s Carter Jonas Theatre, and announced we were coming together in partnership to pool expertise, set common direction and collaborate in the protection, promotion and preservation of the landscapes and livelihoods that depend upon shooting.
The response was overwhelmingly positive. Throughout The Game Fair I heard only enthusiasm for this new dawn of public-facing cooperation, and the response in our community’s media, both online and in print, has been similarly sunny. The opponents of shooting, on the other hand, were caught noticeably on the hop.
Yet I was asked two questions time and again: How will the BGA operate in our particular field of expertise and activity now we are part of a wider partnership? And what will we do that is different to what went before?
Needless to say, I agree wholeheartedly with Lord Botham. The BGA’s push to modernise shooting has been a game changer. That modernisation has primarily come in the form of auditable Standards and the Assurance Scheme that registers shoots and game farms and certifies them via an independent assessor, SAI Global. Everyone who has chosen to register a shoot or a game farm for Assurance over the past three years of our existence has contributed to the establishment of credible self-regulation in game shooting for the first time. And Lord Botham is correct to point out that supermarkets and other outlets are a lot happier to put game on their shelves with this peace of mind.
Game on supermarket shelves is a great way to shift public perception; there is no greater friend of the game shooting community than someone who eats game. But assurance and modernisation has so much more to offer, and that is why the BGA is playing a key role in Aim to Sustain.
Aim to Sustain is committed to “actively encouraging all keepered shoots to register for the appropriate level of BGA assurance”. The partnership has launched with three core areas of proposed activity: social licence; science and research; and self-regulation and standards. It is this latter work stream in which the BGA will focus our efforts. The Code of Good Shooting Practice has long been the benchmark by which shooting is judged, and the BGA Standards are essentially the Code rendered into an auditable format. Through our new partnership, we will ensure that the BGA Standards for grouse moors, game farms and shoots of all sizes are in line with the objectives of all Aim to Sustain organisations and informed by the latest research from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
It is important to note that shoot assurance is not the only element of self-regulation that shooting needs to develop, but it is a vital plank. That is why Aim to Sustain will be encouraging everyone in our sector to register their shoots and game farms for BGA Assurance, so that those partner organisations at the coalface of campaigning for shooting are able to speak with confidence about a shooting sector that is living up to those standards of best practice that we know deliver so many multifarious benefits to the countryside.