Hunting and shooting have been included in a list of exemptions to Covid-19 measures that ban gatherings of six or more people.
The move follows significant pressure on the government from countryside bodies, shooting groups and pro-hunting MPs.
The groups claimed an exemption was justifiable because the rules – imposed on 14 September – threatened rural jobs, while infection risks outdoors were low.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and Countryside Alliance (CA) were among the successful lobby groups and have produced guidelines on the exemptions.
Covid-19 updated guidelines on rural pursuits
- Any outdoor physical activity which requires a licence issued by a public body for the activity itself, or for equipment used during the activity, will be exempt from the gathering limits
- For shooting, this means that where the organiser or a participant holds a valid shotgun or firearms certificate, there is no limit to the number of people who can gather for the purpose of the relevant activity while outdoors
- The organiser will be required to have undertaken a health and safety risk assessment and put in place all reasonable measures to limit transmission of Covid-19
- The exemption does not apply indoors, where the gathering limit of six people will still apply
- Employees, such as beaters, pickers-up and loaders are also exempt from gathering limits – both indoors and outdoors – where their gathering is necessary for work purposes
However, the exemptions have faced a barrage of criticism from opposition MPs and animal rights groups who claimed the government had given rural sports special treatment.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard claimed the Tories had kowtowed to pro-hunting Conservative party donors.
Mr Pollard told news website the Huffington Post that the exemption exposed the government’s bias towards countryside issues.
“It is clear there’s one rule for the cabinet and their mates, and another for the rest of us,” he said in the interview.
What is the ‘rule of six’?
- Social gatherings of six or more people in England, Scotland and Wales were made illegal from Monday 14 September
- Rules apply to private property, indoors and outdoors, and public outdoor spaces
- Fines of £100 – doubling with each offence up to £3,200 will be imposed
- In Scotland, the rules apply up to a maximum of two households
- In Wales, it applies to the same extended household
- Age limits have been introduced – under 12s in Scotland and under 11s in Wales are exempt – but there are no age exemptions in England
- Schools, universities, workplaces, weddings, funerals and organised team sports are also exempt
CA and CLA have produced a longer, updated document on how Covid-19 affects game shoots.
The government’s advice is available on the gov.uk website