THE UNIVERSITY OF READING has decided to end organised game shooting on its land following the conclusion of an internal review.

The University Executive Board decided on Monday, November 11, to endorse the findings of a review group set up to examine the case for continuing or ending an existing licence allowing game shooting, after earlier discussions with internal and external groups.

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This means the university will no longer allow its land to be used to raise game birds for shooting, such as pheasants or partridges, once an existing agreement with an external group that uses university farmland comes to an end in February 2020.

The review group was chaired by professor Mark Fellowes, pro-vice-chancellor for Academic Planning and Resource, and included expert panel members from the university's School of Agriculture, Policy and Development and School of Biological Sciences.

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The group considered evidence that included submissions from groups in favour or against the practice of game shooting, as well as comments from students, staff and members of the public.

They also considered the legal and financial implications of either maintaining or ending existing arrangements, as well as consistency with the university's new strategy, which is currently under development.

A University of Reading spokesperson said: "The University of Reading is known in the region and around the world as a leading centre for the study of agriculture, food and the environment.

"While there are many arguments for and against game shooting, this decision was taken based on what is the most appropriate use of University land, based on our values and plans for the future.

"We are committed to maintaining close links with outside groups and the local community across all our operations, including on our farms.

"We are grateful to all those who engaged with us positively throughout this review process."

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Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "We're understandably delighted the university has decided to end pheasant shooting when its licences come up for renewal in February, and especially following an independent consultation of which the League was part.

"The ecological impact of the commercial shooting industry is huge, and we would urge all private landowners to follow the university's good example and ban shooting for ‘sport’ on their land.

"Until this happens the League will continue to campaign to end commercial shooting in the UK."

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “It is  extremely disappointing that the University of Reading has chosen to ban game shooting on their land. 

"This is a decision that will seriously damage the biodiversity on the university’s farm, as the shoot has worked tirelessly on a number of conservation schemes.

"It is an exemplar of best practice, having won awards for their care of the environment.

"Through this ban, the University has turned its back on prevailing science and, unless it intends to invest tens of thousands of additional pounds each year in providing safe habitats, there will be a significant impact on a number of red and amber listed species."