Grouse shooting and other hunting sports are exempt from the new ‘rule of six’ coronavirus restrictions.
The day before the Government published its guidelines for the new ‘rule of six’, Michael Gove scheduled a meeting with the single agenda ‘Exemption: hunting and shooting’, HuffPost UK reported.
Sources told HuffPost that the meeting was cancelled just a few hours before it was supposed to start and then the wording ‘outdoor activity’ was used when the regulations were published instead.
Some sources said they thought the meeting was cancelled so ministers could not raise any objections and one said the issue was what held up the publishing of the regulations until just before midnight.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) lists ‘shooting (including hunting and paintball that requires a shotgun or firearms certificate license)’ as a ‘sport or organised outdoor activity’.
People have criticised Westminster for the move suggesting that the Conservative Party – whose members include self-professed hunting fans – made the exemption to please the many donors they have from the sport’s organisations and supporters.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: ‘Across the country, people are struggling to get COVID-19 tests anywhere near their homes.
‘But the Conservatives are distracted with trying to exempt the bloodsport passions of their big donors from coronavirus regulations. It shows where this government’s priorities really lie. It is clear there’s one rule for the cabinet and their mates and another for the rest of us.’
It is unclear whether fox hunting is including in the sports exempt from the ‘rule of six’.
In the past the Tories have argued that hunting and shooting boosts rural communities and the party has received several donations from those involved in the sport with former Countryside Alliance chairman Simon Hart currently sitting as Mr Johnson’s Welsh Secretary.
Dominic Cummings’ father in law Sir Humphry Wakefield often hosts shoots at his own property, Chillingham Castle estate, in Northumberland and has expressed his love for hunting in the past. Some of the party’s fundraising events have auctioned pheasant shooting events in Scotland.
Boris Johnson himself has written in the Spectator magazine of his love for fox hunting with dogs and the ‘military-style pleasure’ of moving with them on a hunt.
When shooting grouse, pheasant, pigeons and ‘recreational deer stalking’ was allowed along with other activities when lockdown started easing there were no restrictions on how far people could travel to shoot.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation issued a statement saying they are asking ministers for more detail but believe they fall into the exemption category.
The Countryside Alliance said last week: ‘From our understanding at present businesses and organised sports operating in England to Covid secure standards will be exempt from the new restrictions on social gatherings.
‘Details to follow, but we are confident rural activities will be able to continue with current safeguards in place.’
Metro.co.uk has contacted Westminster for comment.
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