Rishi Sunak: it’s time to go!

Ahead of a worsening economic outlook and with his personal popularity at a historic low, on May 22nd Rishi Sunak decided ‘enough was enough’ and called a General Election.

It was certainly about time. Even without his self-sabotaging gaffes this week – including of course his spectacular lack of respect for the thousands who died on the Normandy beaches – it would be easier to explain away a plate of offal at a vegan festival than explain why this man was ever thought fit to be prime-minister.

While Protect the Wild is not explicitly backing one party over another, we most certainly do not want to see Sunak or his awful coterie of self-interested ministers back in power. They have been a disaster for an environment buckling under the pressures of sewage-filled rivers and estuaries, routinely worked hand in glove with the NFU and other anti-wildlife lobby groups, and shown an almost wilful desire to miss biodiversity targets year after year.

Sunak can’t of course be entirely blamed for the utter disregard for wildlife and the environment shown over the last fourteen years of Tory rule, but he is responsible for the decision to grant 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences last year, the watering down of green policies that would have seen a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the phasing out of gas boilers by 2035, trashing improved energy efficiency targets for private rented homes, and turning plans for low-traffic neighbourhoods into some sort of crusade against ‘wokeness’ (as if clean air isn’t something we all need).

Protect the Wild doesn’t specifically campaign on many of those issues (we strongly support anything that is pro-wildlife and pro-climate of course), but Sunak – who has lied his way through the start of the election run-up and with the political antennae of a slime mould has said he will stay on as PM if the Tories retain a majority in the House of Commons – is also a shooter and that particular anachronism sits firmly within our remit….


A ‘regular on shoots’

Readers will be aware that Britain’s elite protects the interests of a shooting industry that is barely regulated. Landowners get away with routinely burning peat moorland in order to keep grouse numbers – and therefore shooting profits – high. At the same time, gamekeepers in the lowlands aren’t accountable to anyone as they release millions of pheasants and partridges into already unbalanced ecosystems every year.

The shooting industry should, of course, be held accountable. But don’t hold your breath if you’re looking to Rishi Sunak to take action.

Britain’s unelected prime minister since 2022, Sunak has been MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire, in the heart of one of the worst areas in the UK for raptor persecution, since 2015. Shooting Times lauded Sunak as:

“its most openly and vocally pro-shooting prime minister in decades.”

In another 2022 article, Shooting Times wrote:

“Well-placed sources have given Shooting Times convincing evidence that Mr Sunak and his family are regulars on shoots in the north of England and that his fox-red labrador is a working gundog.”

Indeed, he is so pro-shooting that the Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner welcomed his appointment. In fact, in his bid for the role of prime minister, Sunak wrote an ‘exclusive’ article for the magazine of the UK’s biggest shooting and hunting lobby.

rishi sunak
Rishi Sunak. Photo via Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street – Creative Commons Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Deed

Sunak’s role in preventing a ban on toxic lead shot ammunition

Sunak has been a mouthpiece for the shooting industry for years. Back in 2015, in a Westminster debate on lead shot ammunition used, Sunak made his position on the blood sport very clear. He said:

“I stand in this Chamber today as the representative of a rural community for whom shooting is not a quirk of history, or something from another century; for my constituents, it is an industry that creates real businesses, real jobs, and real investment in our landscape. It is an integral part of our community.”

As for lead shot ammunition, the future prime minister went out of his way to try to persuade politicians that legislation on the restriction of lead shot shouldn’t be on the agenda. He instead reiterated the “vital contribution that shooting makes both to our economy and our countryside,” (though didn’t mention how this trickles down to Britain’s poorest). He continued:

“In fact, as we have heard, the average consumer is exposed to 60% more lead from their consumption of beer. It may interest colleagues to learn that products contributing more lead to our diets than game meat include potatoes, coffee, and even everyday eggs. Simply put, all studies carried out to date show that eating game meat in moderate quantities has no effect on blood lead levels.”

He finished his long speech by saying that any changes to the use of lead shot ammunition would be damaging to animal welfare, the beauty of our landscape, and the security of our food supply. Just seven months later, the government – unlike governments across most of Europe – decided that after a lengthy review of the use of lead shot ammunition, it wouldn’t implement a ban.

Protect the Wild has extensively covered how toxic and detrimental lead shot is to our environment and to human health, too.



Spouting the usual false narrative.

In 2016, in a Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting, Sunak again argued that grouse shooting makes an invaluable contribution to our rural landscape. He said that without grouse shooting, “the moors as we know and love them would be lost.” He then lamented once more that the shooting industry’s poster child, the curlew, would suffer if grouse shooting didn’t exist.

Sunak also stated:

“We must be clear: a Britain without grouse shooting is not a Britain where the hen harrier would thrive.”

This statement would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic: after all, research shows that the likelihood of Hen Harriers dying or disappearing is ten times higher in areas covered by grouse moors, where the bird is illegally murdered.

He finished by saying:

“Banning grouse shooting would undermine the balanced ecosystem of our countryside.”

This statement is, once again, laughable. After all, the ‘management’ that goes into keeping a Red Grouse population artificially high for the blood sport – up to half a million are shot every year – involves burning moorland and remorselessly killing native predators. It only creates an imbalance in the ecosystem.

A pro-hunting prime minister

On top of all this, Sunak is also pro-fox hunting, although he isn’t quite as vocal about it as his passion for shooting.

Back in 2015, Sunak falsely gave out information that could have relaxed the already weakened hunting ban. He stated that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons thought that hunting was a humane way to control foxes, which he called “pests”. His claim came at a time when Downing Street was set to vote on relaxing hunting laws in England and Wales. The vote was only shelved because the SNP stated that it would vote against it. Sunak retracted his statement after he was challenged, admitting that some individual RSV members held this view, but that it was not the stance of the regulatory body itself.

Incidentally, foxes have never been officially classified by either Defra or the government as ‘pests’ or ‘vermin’, despite what the hunting set might like us to believe…


Not fit to protect wildlife

It is abundantly clear that we currently have a prime minister and a group of ministers that will never, ever support a ban on shooting nor will they step up to save foxes (or for that matter badgers). He and they need to go (and preferably never come back). After fourteen years of indifference to wildlife and the environment, we need a pro-wildlife government led by a prime minister who will put animals’ interests before those of his buddies and lobbyists in the likes of the Countryside Alliance and BASC.

We don’t have an opinion on who that person should be or what party they come from – just that we and the wildlife we all love need change!

  • Opportunities to shape how a government treats wildlife don’t come around often. The ‘groaning postbag’ may be an outdated term now, but the digital equivalent is very real and just as potent. So let’s all email as many candidates as we can, telephone them, go to hustings and put questions to them, and talk to them in the street. Make hunting, shooting, and the badger cull live issues. Something candidates take note of, report back to their strategists about, and feel they daren’t ignore. If even for just the next month or so, all of us need to become lobbyists too – lobbyists for wildlife.