We are incredibly lucky to work with businesses and organisations that inspire us each and every day. We have been working with the British Game Alliance since its inception in 2018 and it has been amazing to see a start-up organisation achieve so much in such a short period of time. Today, we want to introduce the new Chief Exec of the BGA, Liam Stokes and how he plans to continue this momentum, driving the BGA forward this year.
How has your professional background prepared you for the role of CEO?
I have been very fortunate in my career, working across the game, wildlife and farming sectors. I have worked as a field assistant for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, taught gamekeeping and countryside management at Wiltshire College Lackham, written a Game and Wildlife Management degree programme for the Royal Agricultural University, sat on the BASC England Committee, worked as Head of Campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, and spent time as Senior Leader for Farming Sectors at Defra. That journey has given me a pretty good understanding of some of the BGA’s key audiences- I have experience working across the shooting organisations, so can see where the BGA can bring real value to the game sector without duplicating work already being done. I can use my Government experience to position the BGA on the Defra food and farming stakeholder groups we need to be on in order to give game an equal voice to that enjoyed by other meat producers. And I have practical experience of game and wildlife management to help guide the development of our industry-leading Assurance Scheme.
What are your key focuses for driving the BGA forward this year?
Any plans I might have had have been somewhat altered by the Covid emergency, surely one of the most extraordinary examples of the ‘opposition of events’. So now the key focus is to do our bit to support our member shoots and game farms, our registered processors, stockists and suppliers, and the whole game sector through the crisis and out the other side. This means acting as a conduit for information between Defra and the game sector, and working with our processors to find new commercial opportunities for game products as we navigate a potentially slow restart to the hospitality sector.
What are the BGA’s main objectives?
We are here to promote, develop and assure the consumption of game. Our promotion work focuses on introducing game to members of the public who have never tried it, either through our public-facing Eat Wild campaign or by working to find new stockists and suppliers to make game more widely available. We aim to develop the game meat sector by providing health services to our member game farms and shoots, by improving our sector’s visibility within Government and helping develop new game products. And of course growing our Assurance Scheme is unique within game shooting and underpins everything we do. We want every shoot, large or small, to be able to boast of rigorous, independently-audited assurance. Assurance is a fundamental part of modern food production, and we are determined to make it available to game shooting.
Why do you think the BGA assurance scheme is important in securing a future for the game shooting industry?
The days in which people could shoot birds and eat them without someone asking questions about provenance and safety are gone. They were on the way out already, Covid has provided the coup de grace. The pressure for standards of traceability, sustainability and safety will increase, and the only credible response is independently-audited assurance. Every other farming sector already has this in place, yet prior to the launch of the BGA game shooting did not. This is extraordinary given whatever pressures face farming, and they are substantial, shooting faces the same and then some thanks to the attention of the anti-fieldsports lobby. We hope we can portray a vision of a modern, future-proof, independently-assured shooting sector that every shoot, of every size, will want to be a part of.
What is your favourite game dish to cook or eat?
Pheasant Korma! It’s a dish I hit upon whilst experimenting during the Countryside Alliance’s annual Pheasant Cup. I didn’t win, due to some highly suspicious voting behaviour, but it is really excellent. I find pheasant absorbs flavours really well, so lends itself to a good curry recipe!