A MEMBER of the Countryside Alliance has spoken out following the University of Reading's ban on pheasant shooting.

In a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the university, Robert Van de Noort, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Tim Bonner expressed the organisation's concerns, saying: "We were confused and disappointed at the recent decision by the Executive Board to end game shooting on University of Reading land.

"This decision goes against all available evidence. It is a sad day when a university, especially one of Reading's standing in the agricultural world, values the prejudice of animal rights activists over facts and science."

READ THE FULL STORY: University of Reading to end pheasant shooting lease

The backlash follows the university's decision to end organised game shooting on its land after 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.

READ MORE: PC Andrew Harper's widow releases statement of thanks

Mr Bonner added: "The environmental health benefits of the shoot at Hall Farm were documented.

"The shoot has undertaken an ambitious program of tree planting, planted and maintained cover crops each year that provide valuable habitat for all wildlife, provided supplementary feed throughout autumn and winter which benefits songbirds as well as gamebirds, and has undertaken predator control, allowing the return of red listed farmland birds such as the grey partridge."

He added that techniques used during shoots are 'critical' to maintaining biodiversity on British farms, and that the university has a 'prestigious reputation for its agriculture and land management teaching', which would be denied to future members of the university if the shoot were to end.

He concluded: "Your decision is damaging to your students and to your reputation as a university, especially in the rural community from which many of your students have come.

"The decision made by your Executive Board was clearly neither based on evidence or principle and we would ask that the university revisit it urgently to protect not only the biodiversity of the land it is steward of, but also its own reputation as an academic institution."

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."