Welsh Government may be subsiding firms breeding birds to be shot for sport
An animal welfare campaign group says it has been shocked to discover that the Welsh Government may be subsidising businesses that rear birds to be shot for sport.
Animal Aid said entries on a public register show that a firm based at Bettws Hall in Powys – the biggest game shooting business in Wales – has received tens of thousands of pounds under the government’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) for farmers.
Fiona Pereira, Animal Aid’s campaign manager, said such payments were “shocking” and wholly inconsistent with the Welsh Government’s opposition to killing birds for sport.
In April this year, Climate Change Minister Julie James said during a Senedd debate: “Just to be very clear, the Welsh Government does not support the shooting of live animals or birds as a leisure activity …I do not think killing anything as a sport or leisure is anything any civilised society should support, I’m afraid, and I’ve been very clear about that.”
However, a search on the UK Co-ordinating Body’s publicly accessible farm subsidy database shows that Messrs TG Evans and Co – a firm based at Bettws Hall Game Farm near Newtown and named after Trevor Gwyn Evans, whose company G and A Leisure owns Bettws Hall and runs the game shooting business – received payments from the Welsh Government of £37,748.01 in 2021 and £25,148.48 in 2022.
G and A Leisure Ltd’s report filed at Companies House for the year ending January 31 2022 said: “Following the ending of trading restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has had a successful trading period buoyed by the resurgent demand from clients now freed from government lockdowns. Turnover has returned to pre-pandemic levels at £12,799,432.”
Ms Pereira said: “Animal Aid has been conducting research into businesses that are claiming funds under Rural Payments schemes, including game bird farms and businesses that offer game bird shooting. According to the website, BPS is ‘the largest rural payment scheme providing financial support to the farming industry’, and those funds are awarded to farmers by the Rural Payment Agency (RPA). In Wales, the same scheme operates, the only difference being that the money is allocated by Rural Payments Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.
“Eligibility to claim funds is mired in unwieldy rules and paperwork, but it does seem clear that land used for housing and rearing game birds is not eligible for funding under the scheme. According to Rural Payments Wales, ‘When making a claim for BPS, all ineligible features with an area over 0.01 hectares must be deducted from declared field parcels. The structures used to house game birds are ineligible features for the purposes of claiming BPS. However, other areas, such as permanent grassland, permanent crops or arable crops within a parcel may be eligible for funding.”
“From Animal Aid’s research, it appears that the owners of the largest game farm in the country, Bettws Hall, receive funds under the BPS. It is not known if the funds are allocated to land used for the game farming and/or shooting business – or to other parcels of land which meet the criteria for funding. It is also not clear how money allocated to businesses or farmers is used, or what checks are in place to determine eligibility for claiming.”
A June 2023 email to the Rural Payments Agency asking for the number of game bird farms in the UK that claim BPS and were visited by field officers to check for compliance in the years 2020, 2021 and 2022, received the following response: ‘The Rural Payments Agency does not collect information which determines the business type when businesses register with the RPA or make an application under the BPS. Therefore we are not able to identify which businesses are classified as ‘game bird farms’. This means the information you requested is not held.’
Ms Pereira said: “Animal Aid is writing to the Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, to ask the Welsh Government to investigate the administration of BPS funds – not least because ultimately the funding comes from the public purse.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual claims. BPS is provided for agricultural activity on agricultural land, and although rearing game birds is an agricultural activity, claimants must meet the eligibility criteria as set out in the scheme literature.”
A Welsh Government source told us: “There are two elements to BPS eligibility – the first is whether the farm business is eligible; the second is whether the land itself subject to the claim is eligible.
“To be eligible a business must undertake agricultural activity. Annex 1 of the EC Treaty lists ‘live animals’ as agricultural products. EC regulation 1308/2013 defines this further to include ‘game’ as an eligible agricultural product. As BPS continues to operate in Wales under retained EU Law the definition of agricultural products remains. Therefore, a farm business which only rears game would be eligible to claim BPS; however, it is likely a business would also keep other livestock and/or perhaps grow arable crops.”
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