Ceredigion-based chairman of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Cymru, Owen Williams, says he is exasperated by the Welsh Government distancing itself from The GWCT Welsh Game Fair, being held on 9 and 10 September, which is predicted to inject £12 million into the North Wales economy next month. He feels their failure to engage is short-sighted and sends a worrying message.
“Developing rural policy is a highly complex brief and getting the correct balance between preserving people’s livelihoods, culture, heritage and the urgent needs of combatting climate change and biodiversity loss is one of the most pressing challenges of modern politics,” says Owen, adding: “This is compounded by emerging science and the shifting opinions and attitudes within rural communities. The GWCT Welsh Game Fair offers those dealing with rural affairs a unique opportunity to fast track understanding, meet those working in the sector and on a simple level, offers a superb PR opportunity to show you’re willing to engage with an often-overlooked segment of society.”
Last year’s inaugural GWCT Welsh Game Fair was incredibly well received by the rural community in North Wales, with more than 10,000 people attending. “Wales needs a proper game fair to call its own, where we can educate people about the countryside, food production and country pursuits. This event brings town and country together and helps secure our way of life for future generations. Without it, there is no platform for face-to-face debate and discussion,” stresses Owen, adding: “It is deeply regrettable therefore that the Welsh Government appears to be bunkered in Cardiff and dismissive of the event. There is little doubt in my mind that Welsh Government ministers would benefit from a greater understanding of the countryside if they were able to overcome their bias and visit the GWCT Welsh Game Fair and engage in meaningful dialogue with our community.”
Just recently the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, stated that the Welsh Government “doesn’t support the shooting of live quarry ‘as a leisure activity,’” but then, with an astonishing twist of logic went on to say: “when it comes to the game meat industry in Wales, that is a different matter, and that does have the full support of the Welsh Government”. Owen feels that this suggests a failure to understand that game meat is harvested by shooting.
As well as showcasing Welsh food, including game meat, the two-day event brings together, conservation, shooting, fly fishing, falconry, rare breeds, country crafts and skills, wildlife art and gundogs – the event is a true celebration of the Welsh countryside. The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Cymru will be hosting ‘Countryside Conversations’, a broad programme of discussion between experts and the public about the biodiversity, climate and food security challenges facing the rural communities of Wales. Skilfully curated and moderated by Rob Yorke in the GWCT Theatre, this will be a safe debating space in which to discuss all aspects of the Welsh countryside at a time of great change.
Decades of GWCT research have shown the ecological benefits of good management, but our recent Community Spirit report goes further by clearly illustrating how important local shoots are to so many rural communities up and down Wales. It reveals how shooting benefits the physical and mental wellbeing of participants. It shows how game shooting fulfils the seven goals set out in the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, and all at no cost to the public purse. “So much good comes from fieldsports – please, ministers, don’t ghost us without getting to know us better,” says Owen.
For more information, visit: www.welshgamefair.org