Login/Register Basket

More News

By Spike Butcher, Aim to Sustain Ops Director


There is a reason that Aim to Sustain partners advocate for sustainable game shooting through high standards and self-regulation.  It can make the case with evidence rather than anecdote.  It can prove that when done well, game shooting has significant positive effects in the countryside.  Without robust evidence our credibility is undermined. 

A working definition of self-regulation is the voluntary adoption of standards to control an activity (in this case game shooting), by the people (game farms, shoot operators, gamekeepers, sporting agents, guns, beaters, pickers up et al), and organisations involved with it, in such a way that control by an external party or agency, (such as the government) is not required. 

But I hear you cry: “We are already heavily regulated and it’s not our job to enforce the regulations!”.  And my response is that you could be right, but being right and being successful are different things. We can be righteously grumpy when further regulation is imposed on us, or we can get on now with protecting ourselves with robust evidence of our high standards.

There are many ways to engage with self-regulation, but today I want to discuss embracing game assurance. While change and innovation is alive and well in game shooting, we are understandably reluctant (metaphorically and physically) to open the gates and let strangers onto our land and pick over what we do.  Especially if they are going to give us a rating in the process. 

An additional challenge is that an assurance scheme for game shooting is a new concept when judged against the collective memories, histories and traditions of our sector, despite many of us having experienced them in other parts of our lives.  I hope I can reassure you that membership of the Aim to Sustain game assurance scheme is not a hideous invasion but a worthwhile way to help protect our future.

The scheme follows a familiar model found in other sectors with a set of standards that members comply with, and evidence of compliance confirmed by an independent assessor. This does of course require the member to prepare for and arrange the assessment visit, which is additional work. I think this is a sensible price to pay for the benefit: the certified member gets to use that evidence to publicise their adherence to the scheme’s high standards. 

Recent work, with advice and help from across the game shooting sector, has focussed on making the scheme as simple, relevant and affordable as possible. The standards are complemented by a comprehensive members’ handbook with detailed guidance to achieve a successful assessment, including templates for evidence records. Help is also available from the Aim to Sustain team and the partners. Our assessment partner, Intertek SAI Global, is a World leader in this field with significant experience of other rural assurance schemes and assessors with experience of game shooting. Their independence gives credibility and robustness to members’ assurance certification.

The standards cover general topics and specifics associated with three areas: lowland shoots (pheasant, partridge, duck), upland shoots (grouse) and game farms (rearing, hatching and breeding), alongside a commitment to follow the relevant best practice guidance, such as the code of good shooting practice. Topics include general operations and safety, biosecurity, bird health and welfare, medicine management, game handling and food quality, environmental protection and pest and predator management. I would encourage you to read the detail on the game assurance web pages.

Membership prices have recently been reduced and a new group discount offer has been rolled out, with 5% discounts for groups of 3-9 members, 10% for groups of 10-19 members and 20% discounts for groups with 20 or more members. If you already have a group set up, or would like to pull one together, and access the membership discounts, please get in touch.

Being a certified game assurance member demonstrates publicly that independently verified high standards are followed, without needing to let the public (or politicians) in to see for themselves. That members or the shooting organisations are not marking our own homework makes our evidence robust and is the key benefit of membership. As the scheme grows and more of us become comfortable gathering evidence about what we do, it also provides a growing body of evidence for political and public engagement that collectively we can self-regulate and do it well.

I will leave you with a question.  Is your shoot (or the shoot you attend) assured, and if not, what is stopping you? If we can answer any questions to help convince you self-regulation and assurance are important, please do get in touch.

Join the NGO and Support Gamekeeping

Joining the NGO is easy and can be done now online. Or if you prefer, call 01833 660 869.

Trade & Corporate


Join Now

Gamekeeper Member


Join Now

Support Member


Join Now

Family Membership


Join Now


Help to support the NGO by visiting one of our dedicated sponsors.