Tory MP denounces 'absurd' government rule exempting hunters and shooters from coronavirus rule of six

Exclusive: ‘It is apparently in order to assemble in large groups to hunt and to shoot mostly hand-reared birds,' says party grandee

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 07 October 2020 12:14
Shooting parties of more than six are still legal
Shooting parties of more than six are still legal

A veteran Conservative MP has slated Boris Johnson’s exemption of hunting and shooting from the coronavirus “rule of six”.

Sir Roger Gale said: “I find it absurd that while restrictions are placed upon public gatherings including most sporting events, including horseracing, and that while gatherings of more than six people even within a family are prohibited, it is apparently in order to assemble in large groups to hunt and to go out to shoot mostly hand-reared ‘wild’ birds.  

“Do hunters and shooters not catch or transmit Covid 19?”

The UK population has been told it is illegal for people to meet in groups of more than six, in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

But the government has exempted shooting and hunting from the restrictions, a move which has prompted uproar among many people.

The pheasant-shooting season began last week. Up to 20 million pheasants are shot a year of the roughly 50 million that are bred.

Hunters have regularly been seen in the countryside in groups of more than six since the rule was introduced last month, and in once case were filmed at an event mixing with police officers.

The government regulations forbid mixing in groups of more than six before or after sporting events.

Days after large gatherings were banned, about 130 people met for a stag hunt, almost all not wearing masks, in scenes that critics said “made a mockery of the social sacrifices” of others to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The government was accused of hypocrisy in creating exemptions for “friends” and other people deemed as being more inclined to vote Conservative while introducing fines for the rest of the population.

Sir Roger, a long-time animal-welfare supporter, voted against the internal market bill, which breaches international law, saying: “An Englishman’s word used to be his bond. Under Johnson that is not so.”

One animal lover wrote: “One cannot visit family members who may be physically or mentally ill or really struggling if it means there would be seven or more, and one cannot visit loved ones in hospital, but if one wants to go out in huge numbers and kill animals, it is allowed.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have exempted over 30 types of sport, exercise and physical activity such as football, rugby and other outdoor pursuits. Outdoor activity is safer from a transmission perspective, and it is often easier to social distance. Where such activities take place, safety measures must be taken including conducting a risk assessment and compliance with Covid-19 secure guidance.”

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