Sweeping proposals to reform the restrictions on game licensing and management were announced by junior DEFRA minister Lord Rooker at the CLA Game Fair last Saturday (28 July).

The main feature of the proposals, which will be out to industry consultation until 20 October, will be to remove the need for those who sell, deal, kill or take game to hold a licence.

The pieces of legislation being considered for repeal are the Game Act 1831 and the Game Licences Act 1860.

Most significantly, would be the removal of the restrictions placed on dealing in game birds and deer during the close season.

If implemented, the change in law would permit the all-year-round sale of game provided it was lawfully killed during the open season.

Lord Rooker said:

“Many of the laws surrounding game licensing are outdated and irrelevant.

We don’t need laws that were originally intended to stop peasants killing pheasants.”

He added:

“These proposals remove an unnecessary burden from shoots and retailers alike, making it easier for people throughout the country to buy local game.”

In addition, the consultation also seeks views on whether to retain or remove the restriction on shooting game on Sundays and Christmas Day.

Many organisations, including the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Country Land and Business Association and the British Retail Consortium have been calling for the game licensing laws to be changed.

It also fulfils a Labour party manifesto commitment made at the 2005 election.

“Modern food retailing is extremely sophisticated.

It achieves the highest standards of quality and hygiene and the requirement for a separate licence simply to sell game is an anachronism from another age,” said Andrew Opie, BRC food policy director.

“Retailers suffer thousands of pounds of administrative costs applying for licences and coping with inconsistent local authority enforcement.

Scrapping the licence would save that unnecessary expenditure and broaden choice for customers,” he added.

The consultation can be viewed at www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/game-licensing/index.htm

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk