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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 13:24 GMT
West: Fair game?
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
The Politics Show West

Game hunter
New EU regulations on how 'game' is caught

What are you planning to eat on Christmas Day? Turkey, duck - or perhaps something more unusual like pheasant, pigeon or rabbit?

If game is your thing, then make the most of it. Many dealers say they could be out of business by this time next year.

Game is big business in the West. It is estimated to bring in at least 15m annually. But that could be about to change.

It is all to do with new EU regulations on how the meat is caught and sold on. Critics say it is unnecessary meddling.

New EU rules will be applied to Game meat

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) fears there will be a dramatic decrease in game dealers in 2006.

"We have told something like 200,000 people that this is going to happen," says John Dryden of the BASC.

"But there are over 700,000 shooters out there, so that is another half million that know nothing about any of this."

The new rules are being enforced by the Food Standards Agency.

They are designed to ensure food safety and to make meat traceable if there are any problems - but few seem to understand what it all means.

Amongst hunters out in Somerset for one of the last shoots before the new rules come in, there is bewilderment and anger:

"My game dealer phoned me up and gave me 45 minutes of tirade on the phone", says Robin Marshall-Ball, a veteran shooter.

"There are an enormous number of mixed messages going around, it seems to be very unclear still and the deadline is approaching."

And it is not just the dealers who are in the dark. From January 2006 those buying the meat say they need to make sure it meets new requirements:

Clinton Bonner
Clinton Bonner; We have been kept in the dark

"I have heard nothing, nobody has informed me of anything," complains butcher Clinton Bonner.

"My father got out of the trade because he had too many regulations thrown at him, and I have taken them on as such, but literally they just fly at you!"

Jan Andrews has managed game in Dorset for 30 years.

But she reckons only a few dozen dealers in Britain will meet the new standards, and up to 2,000 others could go to the wall.

"As a small game dealer I would be finished, and so would a lot of other small game dealers, unless we could get some sort of grant to update our premises, and that will cost between 15,000 and 20,000 for us to continue," she says.

Jan - and many others - are arguing for exemptions for smaller dealers. But even if they were successful any changes would not come in before 1 January 2006.

The West's hunters and game dealers fear it will be a far from happy new year.

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11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show


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