The Songbird Survival Trust’s chosen partner in their slaughter of crows and magpies is the shooting industry’s ‘Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’ (GWCT). The GWCT (known as The Game Conservancy at the time) introduced Larsen Traps into the UK and made huge profits from the sale of their plans and equipment to gamekeepers. The following report by Animal Aid exposes the myth that the GWCT is a ‘conservation group’.

The GWCT itself is not independent of the shooting industry. It is a registered charity with trustees and council members, some of whom draw an income from estates offering game shooting. Its Chief Executive Teresa Dent openly promotes shooting. In conducting ‘scientific’ research into the shooting industry, the GWCT has consistently supported the purpose breeding of birds for ‘sport shooting’, while broadly endorsing current farming and killing methods.

GWCT Chairman:
Ian Coghill

  • Huntsman with the Three Counties Mink Hounds. An undercover investigator reported that Ian Coghill instructed his terrierman to throw a live mink to the hounds, which he did. (see Outfoxed)
  • He is also a former spokesman for the pro-hunt, pro-shoot British Field Sports Society (see NWHSA)

GWCT Vice-chairmen:
Hugh Oliver-Bellasis FRAgS, also listed a Company Director of GWCT

  • Cattle, sheep, pig and chicken farmer
  • Former chairman of the pro-cull British Deer Society. (see Hunting Inquiry)
  • Personally funded a study into the ecological damage caused by deer. (see GWCT)
  • Lists ‘field sports’ as a recreation in Debretts (see Debretts)
  • Supports a badger cull. (see The Independent)

The Honourable Philip Astor, also listed a Company Director of GWCT

  • Owns Tillypronie, ‘one of Scotland’s finest shoots’ (see The Field)
  • Son of Lord and Lady Astor. Viscount Astor is David Cameron’s stepfather-in law and an outspoken proponent of hunting (see Country Life)
  • According to Country Life he is one of the top 100 most influential people in the countryside. (see The Field)

Richard Wills, also listed a Company Director of GWCT

  • Farmer.
  • Appears to have won a day’s shoot in the GWCT grand draw, even though he is a vice-chairman (see GWCT)
  • He donated a day’s fishing at his estate in Hampshire to raise money for the North Atlantic Salmon fund, which campaigns to increase salmon ‘stocks’ for fishermen to catch. (see Fish and Fly)
  • Rodger McPhail – best known as ‘one of Britain’s foremost wildlife artists’ – told The Field magazine: ‘I once saw Richard Wills take a nice grayling with his choke barrel as it rose to a fly.’ We believe this is the same Richard Wills. (see Animal Aid)


  • Jonathan Minter – In Debretts, he includes shooting among his recreations. (see Debretts)
  • Andrew Salvesen, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Runs pheasant shoots on his Findrack and Tillyfour estates. (see Press and Journal)
  • Ian Yates, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Farmer
  • Mike Rands BSc, D.Phil, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Former Director of Birdlife which supports the culling of ruddy ducks.
  • Robert Douglas Miller, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – In Debretts, he includes shooting among his recreations. (see Debretts)
  • Anthony Hamilton – Independent Director of Axa SA, formerly Chief Executive of the investment bank Fox-Pitt.
  • Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall (full name Edward Anthoney Egerton Hoskyn-Abrahall), also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Shoots as a hobby. (see Withers Worldwide)
  • James Keith, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Pig farmer. (see Waitrose)
  • Alasdair Laing, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Owns a grouse shooting estate in Scotland (2002) (see BBC News)
  • Charles Mullins, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Farmer and manager of the Great Hundridge Manor Estate
  • David Solomon BSc, PhD, also listed a Company Director of GWCT
  • John Henniker-Major, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Managing agent for the some of the Crown Estate, including Ashby St Ledger, which has a shoot. (see The Crown Estate)
  • James Laing, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Head of the rural division of Strutt & Parker. Addressed a conference calling for deer management in 2004, which his company sponsored. (see The Deer Management)
  • The Honourable Nicholas Soames, also listed a Company Director of GWCT – Goes shooting with Prince Charles. (see The Daily Mirror) Also hunts and fishes. (see BBC News)
  • Elly Woolston – Managing Director of an advertising agency. Married to a Devon farmer and together run horse riding holidays (although she goes under her married name Ellen Linford here).(see Off Pisteriding)

Additional Personnel:
John Pochin

  • Listed as a Director at Companies House but is not in any of GWCT’s lists online.
  • He owns a shoot in Leicestershire. (see Guns and Gundogs)
  • He ‘won’ the ‘prestigious Carter Jonas Grey Partridge Trophy for conservation’. His GWCT co-Director John Henniker-Major is the Chairman of Carter Jonas. (see Carter Jonas). The award was presented to him at a GWCT event. (see GWCT)

Previous GWCT Directors include:

  • Jim Paice, now a Defra Minister with responsibility for animal welfare and hunting and shooting, was a Director of the GWCT from 2nd July 2008 until 8th July 2010. One month before he resigned as a GWCT Director, he withdrew a Code of Practice for ‘game’ birds (June 1st, 2010), which would have effectively banned keeping pheasants in cages for their entire productive lives. He also chaired an extraordinary meeting of the Gamebird Working Group to redraft the Code (June 7th, 2010). (see Countryside Alliance)
    The Working Group consists of two welfare organisations (League Against Cruel Sports, RSPCA) and the rest are pro-shooting groups: British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Game Farmers’ Association, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, the Countryside Alliance and the Country Land & Business Association. Just two weeks after resigning from GWCT, his new Code, which allows pheasants to remain caged, was laid before Parliament. (see Defra)
  • Michael Barnes (resigned on 30 Oct 2009). Wrote The Game Shooting Handbook. (see Amazon). He is also editor of Fieldsports Magazine, (see Bourne Publishing Group) and a former editor of Shooting Gazette. (see IPC Media)
  • Edward Fitzalan Howard (resigned on 30 Oct 2009). He is the Duke of Norfolk and Earl or Arundel. He owns a partridge shoot near Arundel (see Shooting Times) and lists shooting as a recreation in Debrett’s. (see Debrett’s)
  • Timothy Michael Steel (resigned on 30 Oct 2009). We believe this is the same Timothy Michael Steel who is battling to keep walkers off his land. The rambles say that they have been chased off the land by gamekeepers from his shoot. (see The Independent)
  • The Earl of Dalhousie (resigned on 30 Oct 2009). At his home, Brechin Castle, he sells deer stalking, fishing, grouse and pheasant shooting. (see Dalhousie Estates)
  • Mark Hudson (resigned on 18 Oct 2010). Formerly chairman of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), a pro-shoot organisation, with similar aims to the Countryside Alliance. He is now a farm consultant (see Harper Adams), is on the Board of Directors of a large animal feed business (mainly dairy cow feeds). (see NWF). He is also a dairy farmer (see NWF) and supports hunting. (see CLA)
  • Joseph Cowen (resigned on 18 Oct 2010), also known as Joe Cowen (see Companies in the UK). We believe this is the same Joseph Cowen, that is a current Master and trustee of the Fernie fox hunt (in Leicestershire). (see Men Media). Two Fernie hunt employees were in court in July 2010charged with alleged offences under the Hunting Act 2004 and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. (see Digging Out)

More on the GWCT

Research conducted by the GWCT always finds in support of the shooting industry. Animal Aid considers this charity to be part of the shooting industry.

More information about the GWCT (formerly Game Conservancy Trust) can be found in a 2006 Animal Aid report.

The Legality of a Corvid Cull

A cull of corvid birds for scientific purposes may be illegal. Birds on the General List may only be killed if they pose a threat to agriculture, aviation or public health and then only if all other non-destructive methods of dispersal have failed.

Pigeon Racing

The Songbird Survival Trust, founded in 2001 by pigeon breeders and racers.
Les Newman, the Secretary, is said to be a ‘legend’ in the pigeon breeding world. Pigeon racers detest birds of prey and – like shooters – call for them to be culled. Animal Aid considers this a convenient alliance.


Many of the Songbird Survival trustees are farmers, keen to refute that it is modern day intensive farming practices that actually decimate songbird numbers (the removal and destruction of wildlife habitat; the use of insecticides which kill the bugs that birds feed on).