Joint meeting of the APPG for Animal Welfare and APPG for Shooting and Conservation
Airguns: Problems and Solutions
11th September 2018
Committee Room 10, House of Commons
Attendees: Jack Knott (Countryside Alliance), Gudrun Ravetz (BVA), Mark Outhwaite (police), Madison Rogers (Cats Protection), Graham Downing (BSSC), Simon West (GTA), Mike Eveleigh (PSRA), Fraser Lamb (SACS), Mary Eveleigh (PSRA), Christopher Graffius (BASC), Caroline Allen (RSPCA), Colin Shedden (BASC Scotland), Claire McParland (RSPCA), Angela Smith MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Bill Wiggin MP, Andrew Mitchell MP
Apologies: Baroness Mallalieu
The APPG for Shooting and Conservation and APPG for Animal Welfare held a joint meeting on the issue of airgun misuse following the BASC and RSPCA conference earlier in the year on this subject. A report and recommendations were produced; one of which was the joint APPG meeting.
Angela Smith MP and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP jointly chaired the meeting. Both welcomed the opportunity for joint work on an issue that is of real concern and felt that an evidence-based approach was a good way forward. Angela also said that it is important to look for practical ways to solve problems before identifying new legislation and take a similar approach to that in the recent work the APPG for Animal Welfare had done on livestock worrying.
Dr Caroline Allen, the RSPCA’s veterinary director for London gave a short presentation outlining the animal welfare issues that arise from airgun misuse:
- According to RSPCA figures at least one thousand animals are shot or killed per year, however this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg as many animals, especially wild animals, are not discovered.
- It is clear the injuries can cause significant pain and suffering to animals and often do not kill the animals outright leading to a painful and slow death (especially the case with wildlife).
- Surveys conducted by both the BVA and Cats Protection indicate vets regularly treat animals injured by airguns.
- The most common types of animals injured and killed by airguns are cats and wild birds, however this can have a significant impact on pet owners as well as they can become concerned about letting pets out in case they are injured again.
- It appears, according to the information that is available that complaints about airgun misuse peak in the summer months and primarily in urban areas. This suggests it may be younger people causing the problem however this hypothesis needs to be explored and tested.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC’s Director in Scotland then gave a short presentation of the situation in Scotland following the recent changes in the law:
- The law was recently changed in Scotland and a licensing regime was introduced for air weapons following a tragic incident where a child was killed by one. However there had been a significant decline in air weapon offences prior to the new regime coming in.
- It is unclear what the reasons are for the decline however education about responsible use may be one reason as shooting organisations, local authorities and government all played a role in education in Scotland. Before the new law had been introduced the Scottish Government invested in a major education and awareness programme. Enforcement of the existing legislation by the police may also have contributed.
- It is difficult to tell how effective the new legislation has been due to the decline in offences before the law change and also that it is extremely early days. In addition it was estimated there were around 500,000 airguns in Scotland, of which only around 112,000 are now accounted for, implying there are many unaccounted for airguns still in circulation.
- There are however some problems appearing with fewer people being able to use airguns for legitimate pest control and humane dispatch. There is also a small number of continuing reports of domestic animals being shot.
Claire McParland (RSPCA) and Christopher Graffius (BASC) then explained to both APPGs the outcome of the first meeting of the working group that was set up following the conference earlier in the year. The RSPCA, BASC, BVA and police are represented on the working group, with observer status for the Home Office. The group will look at and analyse the data and information available to determine if interventions can be identified that could be effective at reducing the misuse of airguns and improving animal welfare. Although this piece of work may take time the group is hopeful an intervention can be developed.
Questions were then taken from the audience:
- Cats Protection observed that it may not just be young people causing the problem and there are plenty of instances where it is older people who are shooting at animals, especially cats. The speakers agreed with this point and the working group had already noted this point in their discussions earlier that day.
- Bill Wiggin MP asked whether there was any comparison with the data on airgun injuries with injuries from other weapons and pointed out there was a need for responsible cat ownership. The BVA said that their survey looked at some comparison and that the data was not taken in isolation. Agreed that responsible cat ownership was important however this did not excuse people being irresponsible and using such approaches to deal with problems. There are other more humane methods for deterring cats from gardens, etc.
- PSRA noted the benefit of education to encourage responsible use of airguns and the real need for state schools to run similar programmes to those run in the independent sector. She had also heard that some middle-aged people are buying airguns to shoot at cats who are messing up their vegetable plots.
- BSSC was concerned about the impact a new licensing regime may have on already busy police firearms departments and felt this would not be a good way forward.
- BVA and RSPCA to see if they can provide comparable data for injuries to animals from other weapons.
- The working group to provide an update to both APPGs in six months time on their progress.