13
Oct
20

Intensive gamebird shooting in the UK: the writing’s on the wall (and in the papers)

Imagine you are a member of the gamebird shooting industry in the UK, you’d just heard about the RSPB’s plans calling for gamebird shooting reform, and then you’d read the following damning editorial, in The Times no less, you’d surely realise the writing’s on the wall:

And if you were a member of the gamebird shooting industry that had just read this opinion piece from a paper ostensibly seen as being on your side, how would you feel if you then read the reactions of the organisations who are supposed to represent your ‘sport’ but are effectively sticking fingers in ears, denying there’s any need for reform and are instead dancing in a circle singing ‘Tra la la, I can’t hear you‘, e.g. BASC (here), Moorland Association (here), Scottish Land & Estates (here)?

These knee-jerk reactions have been slammed in another editorial, this time in today’s edition of The Guardian (read it here).

The final two paragraphs are compelling:

There is no good reason for the oppositional stance that has become a reflex of many countryside organisations. It is the enormous dangers facing the natural world that should concern them, not a confected threat to their way of life. Self-regulation has failed to stop birds of prey including hen harriers from being poisoned by gamekeepers. Nor has it led to advances in land management, despite greatly increased public awareness of the risks of flooding, and the burning of peatlands (carried out in order that grouse can feed on new growth). Even the editor of Shooting Times was moved, in 2018, to decry the “greed that has crept into shooting”.

Ministers cannot continue to look away as landowners dismiss concerns rooted in public opinion and evidence. Conservation efforts must be recognised, and destruction punished. Impartial research into the shooting industry should be ordered. It is reprehensible, given the huge climate and biodiversity challenges facing us, that those who claim to have rural interests at heart appear determined to block progress‘.

It’s not just the broadsheets covering this subject. Have a look at this:

It’s an article that features in a publication called First News, a weekly UK tabloid aimed at 7-14 year olds and with an estimated circulation of 2.2 million. Thanks to the blog reader who sent us this (who also happens to be a teacher who says he’ll be highlighting the issue with his class).

The writing is definitely on the wall. It’s now just a question of when, not if.


27 Responses to “Intensive gamebird shooting in the UK: the writing’s on the wall (and in the papers)”


  1. 1 Mike Whitehouse
    October 13, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    As you would expect – the GWCT are still in denial. See Andrew Gilruth’s letters to the Times and Guardian today.
    They still think that bashing the RSPB is still the best way forward! I think the RSPB have set out their researched position clearly, concisely and factually and I applaud them for that.

    • 2 Mike Whitehouse
      October 13, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Sorry – I should have said Times and the Telegraph. I bet the Guardian can’t wait until it is their turn!

    • 3 Simon Tucker
      October 13, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      One has to ask for how much longer GWCT will allow Gilruth to continually damage what is left of their credibility as a “scientific research” organisation?

  2. 4 WTF
    October 13, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Noted that the BASC says ‘No-one in shooting wants to see environmentally-damaging practices’. So what about the use of lead ammunition, then? Say no more.

  3. 5 Fraser Cottington
    October 13, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    I know any press coverage should be looked at as good for effort to stop the destruction of habitat and native species, but why does the Times have to put it that shooting practice enables the land to be cultivated and maintained. As your piece says it’s about habitat destruction and turning a blind eye to the deliberate murder of birds of prey. But if we are to make the wider argument really mean wider meaningful change, then we must insist DEFRA changes 70 years of bad policy on chemicals push any of the farming industry that uses insecticides and pesticides, to stop immediately. Yes an alternative must be found, but with incomprehensible percentages of insects wiped out in the last 40+ years, enough is enough. Nature must thrive, not barely survive to help mankind do the same. We already face mass extinctions of wildlife, but we too will face extinction if we do not alter our current path and use less of everything and work hard to make no negative impact through what we use and consume and even where we visit, we cannot allow this new generation of whatever human being they may describe themselves as to treat everywhere they go as an open rubbish tip, we must stop people from littering in all forms, in all places. Accountability and consequence must be the new mantra.

  4. 7 Keith Dancey
    October 13, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    The RSPB’s “plausible, temperate and driven by evidence” approach was also covered in this morning’s Radio 4 Farming Today, with the shooting industry’s spokesperson very much on the back foot. Martin Harper was excellent.

    Although I had argued for a complete ban on all shooting for ethical reasons, I am still pleased that the RSPB have made a historic step forward on this issue, because I think it will eventually lead to the same result, especially concerning upland shooting.

    I also think it is an approach which is most likely to attract political support, and that is most important.

  5. 8 Douglas Malpus
    October 13, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    Oh! I got in before the bird brain (perdix). Is it taking so long to come up with a conspiracy or even worse “fake news)!

    Things sound like they are building in favour of licencing or perhaps a ban!!!!

    Doug

  6. 11 Cyan circus
    October 13, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    The Shooting industry is still pushing its ‘self regulation’ propaganda , their ‘blueprint’ for the future of gamebird shooting brings zero new to the table , it’s just the same old bullshit polished and sprinkled with cherry picked science !! But this is being pushed at the government as an argument as against licencing!! Why brush licensing aside , we all know they are seriously concerned about any scrutiny of their management practices, it’s patently obvious that they have something to hide !! We know what that is as they are as good at hiding their dirty washing as they are at self policing !! Bring on the licensing .

    • 12 Stephen Lewis
      October 13, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Don’t be fooled Cyan, licensing is precisely what they want, despite what they say in public. Once they’re licensed they’re legitimised and the chance of a ban will be further away than ever.

      • 13 Keith Dancey
        October 14, 2020 at 11:21 am

        “Don’t be fooled Cyan, licensing is precisely what they want, despite what they say in public.”

        You have zero evidence to support that accusation (that the shooting industry want licensing), haven’t you?

  7. 14 Stephen Lewis
    October 13, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    “I am still pleased that the RSP[of some]B have made a historic step forward on this issue…” Nonsense. No they haven’t Keith. They are still ‘OK’ with killing birds for fun.

    • 15 Cyan circus
      October 13, 2020 at 7:13 pm

      Possibly , but it would totally depend on the details of the licence, and I would hope that open access to routinely monitor would be high on that list of details . If not, you are correct in that it would be worthless, however, what we have now is not acceptable so something has to give. A total ban is of course the real answer but unlikely to become reality any time soon.

    • 16 George M
      October 13, 2020 at 10:33 pm

      Well said with both your comments Stephen. You seem to have an unblinkered understanding, historically and contemporary, of how the shooting lobby and Elitist hegemony are woven together to continue the indefensible destruction of our environment and ecology.
      The arguments used by the Times were not required when the working class sports of badger baiting and hare coursing were outlawed rather than licensed.
      It’s time we woke up to the true nature of the enemies we arew facing.

      • 17 Stephen Lewis
        October 14, 2020 at 8:36 am

        Cheers George. To me it is blindingly obvious what is going on with the shooters and the woeful response of establishment charities. The stakes are so high that I feel the need to keep on saying this stuff and it is good to see many folk on here and elsewhere ‘getting it’.

        Good point about badger baiting and hare coursing.

    • 18 Keith Dancey
      October 13, 2020 at 10:37 pm

      ““I am still pleased that the RSP[of some]B have made a historic step forward on this issue…” Nonsense. No they haven’t Keith”

      Yes, they have. They have changed their policy to campaign for a licensing system which produces real environmental change in upland shooting, otherwise they will campaign for a ban within five years, and for a reduction in released birds in lowland shooting within 18 months. That is a historic step forward.

      No one else has achieved either of those things, yet.

      • 19 Stephen Lewis
        October 14, 2020 at 8:33 am

        “…which produces real environmental change…” Think you’ve got your tense wrong there Keith old bean and this is your usual pie-in-the-sky crap about the wonderful word of a licensing system that – as all the evidence shows – will never be enforced.

        Why wait five years? Are they just sucking up to a disgusting Tory Government to make sure that they still get wads of public money? I smell a rat and I’m not talking about you Keith.

        “That is a historic step forward.” Really? More like an historic pile of fudge.

        • 20 Keith Dancey
          October 14, 2020 at 11:19 am

          “Are they just sucking up to a disgusting Tory Government to make sure that they still get wads of public money?”

          Do you, Stephen Lewis, want to stop any public funds going to the RSPB?

          • 21 Stephen Lewis
            October 15, 2020 at 8:41 am

            A question answered (not) with a question. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx

            [Ed: abusive comment deleted]

  8. October 13, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Whenever I read the shooting industry praising the “patchwork countryside created by game shooting” excuse, I wonder what the shooting industry has done to stop the huge increases in agricultural intensification, the ripping out of hedgerows, the massive application of pesticides and herbicides which still continues throughout the UK? Surely the landowners and land managers who are responsible for managing shoots are the same people who are responsible for all the habitat destruction – at the very least they should have more influence on that situation than conservation NGOs?…So what use are they?!…why shouldnt the rest of society be calling for their damaging hobby to be banned…?

  9. 23 John L
    October 14, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Is the writing really on the wall for intensive gamebird shooting?
    What is the realistic chance that driven grouse shooting or even the release of so many pheasants into the UK countryside will be banned?

    As much as I would like to see all blood sports banned, I have to be honest with myself and accept that as long as the majority of humans see the rest of the animal kingdom as inferior to themselves, then human exploitation and at times blatantly wicked behavior towards the rest of the animal word will continue. For centuries there has been philosophical debate on this issue, and even now with all the scientific knowledge we have that animals are sentient beings capable of rational thought and emotions, who suffer pain and loss, the vast majority of humans will never accept that animals have as much right to life on this planet as they do.

    Because of this innate premise, it will be very difficult indeed to convince sufficient politicians that those humans who wish to engage in shooting, or hunting should have those activities banned or heavily restricted.
    This intrinsic human position will have consequences on the call to end driven grouse shooting, curtail pheasant release numbers, or to introduce tough regulations.

    At best there might be new regulations introduced as to regard grouse moor land management, but this is more likely to be driven by environmental issues and the climate emergency , and include such measures as carbon capture, flood prevention, CO2 emission; rather than a desire by government to actually ban or curtail driven grouse shooting.
    We can only hope that if such regulations are introduced, then a consequence of these regulations will be a fall in grouse numbers from the artificially high numbers being achieved at the moment.
    This could then have an economic impact on the viability of intensive shooting as there simply won’t be sufficient birds for the current intensive shooting which takes place.
    But this won’t have come about simply because politicians have accepted that the only way to stop the wildlife crimes is to ban or regulate the shooting itself.
    As regards pheasant shooting, we might at best have limits set for the number of non native pheasants released, but this number will still probably be way in excess of what is actually needed to stop the damage to native flora and fauna, as the conservation arguments presented by both sides will simply leave too much doubt in the minds of politicians.

    We must also not forget the shooting industry itself will adapt.
    Firstly the various bodies which represent grouse moor owners will very vociferously proclaim all the conservation and environmental conservation work which these owners undertake. Much of this work is beneficial.
    The question will be raised as to how this conservation work is to be paid for, if the owners of the land can not recoup some of the costs by hosting activities such as grouse shooting. We can see from the press releases put out by the various shooting associations that this is already happening, and it is a message that resonates with many politicians.
    The basic laws of economics will then no doubt start to come into play, and if there are reduced “bag sizes” then the cost of shooting could increase to reflect the scarcity of bird numbers, so that participation in driven grouse shooting becomes the sport of the uber rich. The practice continues, but with simply less shoot days, and a price per gun to reflect this exclusivity. This won’t help eradicate the wildlife crime which is currently taking place.
    I think we can also be pretty certain that the shooting industry will invent other ways to ensure that driven grouse shooting and the mass release pheasant shooting survive in some form or other. The industry will no doubt do all it can to persuade politicians that to ban or heavily regulate such activities is simply a step too far.

    Where there is at least some consensus amongst conservationists, the various shooting associations and politicians, is the eradication of the wildlife crime.
    Whilst there is some evidence to suggest the shooting industry supports this in words only, it does put them in a position where to oppose reforms to existing laws with enhanced wildlife crime investigation, or to oppose the introduction of robust crime prevention and detection methods, would severely undermine their credibility in the eyes of not only the public but more importantly politicians.

    If the sheer scale of wildlife crime taking place was properly exposed, with offenders brought to justice and successfully prosecuted; with their association to the shooting industry laid bare for all to see – would this not then provide the greatest incentive for meaningful change in how the game shooting industry operates?
    The vast majority of law abiding shooters would not want to be associated with this criminality.

    The question then: Is would conservation bodies such as the RSPB be better working towards achieving these smaller but perhaps more realistic steps, in pursing changes to wildlife legislation reform, and wildlife investigation techniques, rather than trying to introduce new regulations or ban driven grouse shooting, which they know will be hostilely opposed by the industry, and will most probably not receive widescale support from politicians?

    I think there is still a long way to go before the writing is truly on the wall for intensive game bird shooting.

    • 24 Keith Dancey
      October 14, 2020 at 12:05 pm

      Did you put your thoughts to the RSPB during their long consultation?

      “the vast majority of humans will never accept that animals have as much right to life on this planet as they do.”

      Do you eat meat?

      “But this won’t have come about simply because politicians have accepted that the only way to stop the wildlife crimes is to ban or regulate the shooting itself.”

      Does it matter how it (the reduced financial viability of intensive shooting) comes about?

      I agree that arguing purely on ethical grounds doesn’t cut it with politicians, because we are not a vegan society. It could be argued that if shooting caused no environmental damage at all then it should be allowed to continue (like angling), but the reality is that not only does it cause tremendous damage – and it is doing so during an environmental crisis of epic proportions – but the shooters (or anybody else) do not even eat the birds they kill.

      Politicians will react to that. Both Werritty and the RSPB have now put licensing on the politicians’ agenda.

      • 25 John L
        October 14, 2020 at 10:13 pm

        Keith,

        The reason I raised the fact that the majority of humans don’t value other animal life as highly as their own, is because it has an impact on how politicians are likely to respond to raptor persecution.

        If 44 humans went missing or were confirmed killed on grouse moors since 2018 (The number of Hen harriers reported missing or killed).
        Would we see a total lack of response from the government?
        Or would politicians from all parties be demanding immediate action?
        I think we could be pretty sure there would be a whole raft of new legislation and funding to ensure the police had every tool possible to the bring the offenders to justice.
        We aren’t seeing this with raptor crimes, because even though raptors are protected and there are public funded projects to improve their conservation status, the lives of individual birds are simply not valued enough.
        So the ethical value we place on a species has a consequence on how we respond to the illegal killing of that species.
        It’s got nothing to do with eating meat or being vegan.
        This lack of ethical value may help explain some of the political inaction we continually witness when it comes to wildlife crimes.

        The licensing of shooting may be on the political agenda. But how high is it on that agenda?
        Because of Covid19, I think we can be pretty certain that politicians minds will be firmly focused on the economic consequences of the pandemic for many years to come. (and that is without factoring in Brexit and subsequent future trade negotiations with countries outside the EU.)
        So this may well have the result of pushing Werrity and the RSPB licensing proposals so far down the political agenda, that parliament simply won’t devote any time to these matters in the foreseeable future.
        The consequences of this could be that the current situation as regards intensive shooting may well endure far longer than we envisage or want it to.
        Hence my suggestion that by taking small steps, in trying to persuade parliament to reform the way wildlife crimes are dealt with by giving the police greater investigative powers, may have more success than trying to go for wholesale changes with the introduction of new legislation, which the shooting lobby will react to with hostility. There shouldn’t be opposition to wanting to eradicate crime, as it’s a matter all sides agrees on.

        To quote Sun Tzu (The Art of War) – “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat”

        • 26 Keith Dancey
          October 15, 2020 at 1:38 pm

          Thank you for replying.

          “If 44 humans went missing or were confirmed killed on grouse moors since 2018 (The number of Hen harriers reported missing or killed).
          Would we see a total lack of response from the government?
          Or would politicians from all parties be demanding immediate action?”

          First of all, we cannot compare the loss of a raptor with the loss of a human being. If we did we would be classified as cranks. (aside: which is why the illegal killing of any raptor is not called murder, either in English/Scots law or in dictionary definitions of the word – but that is a bit by-the-by because you never use such misleading emotive terminology)

          However, in terms of evolution and the crisis of biodiversity which we – as the human race – have brought about, any particular human DNA is significantly less important than the DNA of rarer species.

          “So the ethical value we place on a species has a consequence on how we respond to the illegal killing of that species.
          It’s got nothing to do with eating meat or being vegan.”

          I disagree on that because I think, by regularly eating birds, it helps to define the general ethical value we place on them as a genus. If, for some weird reason, we worshipped them, then the illegal killing would, I expect, be taken more seriously by the authorities.

          Of course, neither raptors nor ‘game’ birds are primarily killed for food. That is possibly not well enough understood by the general public?

          “This lack of ethical value may help explain some of the political inaction we continually witness when it comes to wildlife crimes”

          I think the lack of political action is a direct result of two things: powerful vested interests – on the one hand – and a serious lack of will to tackle the environmental damage the shooting industry cause. Maybe, it is a lack of appreciation of that damage – but it amounts to the same thing.

          “The licensing of shooting may be on the political agenda. But how high is it on that agenda?”

          I do not disagree with your analysis of why this issue is not very high on the political agenda, especially on the current agenda. However, it is rising… with thanks to people/groups/organisations such as Raptor Persecution, Revive, the RSPB etc As our environmental crisis worsens, so the issue of the wholescale environmental damage caused by the shooting industry rises.

          “Hence my suggestion that by taking small steps, in trying to persuade parliament to reform the way wildlife crimes are dealt with by giving the police greater investigative powers…”

          I do not necessarily disagree with you on that. If the penalties were increased above certain thresholds I believe it automatically increases the scope of what the Police are permitted to do.

          However, I do not see it as an ‘either or’ situation: I campaign for all approaches (incremental steps and wholesale changes). The environmental damage done by the shooting industry exceeds the killing of raptors, so wholesale changes are required. Some politicians are seeing that. But it takes time to overcome the vested interests…

  10. 27 AnMac
    October 14, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    I am inclined to agree with John L. The real way forward is to have a proper and legal investigative system which goes after the criminals involved in raptor persecution.
    We all know that the police have a major influence on the people who peddle drugs and who eventually end up in court and convicted.
    What we need is the same level of effort put into this. In Scotland, we have been asking for years to give the SSPCA more powers to do just this and all we have is the Scottish government saying that they are thinking about it.
    Again more talk and promises that they are serious about tackling wildlife crime but no evidence is forthcoming or action to prove it.


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