I don’t often pay much attention to e-petitions when they appear on my Twitter timeline, especially not when they’re being frantically spun by metro-liberal luvvies. However, one caught my attention recently. It was a petition to try and ban the sport of grouse shooting. This immediately got under my skin as the person who had launched the petition clearly had no idea what they were talking about. They seemed to lack a basic understanding of what the impact of their petition would have on the countryside and on the local economy of areas that promote shooting.
The petition was worded in a very emotive way, talking about the humane treatment of the birds and giving them the same rights as humans. It tried to spin those individuals that do shoot as being seal clubbing, bunny strangling, posh, environment-haters. This is however as far from reality as you can get.
I know this because I am something of a country bumpkin. I have lived in the countryside my entire life and so have inevitably come to know a great number of people who take part in shooting; be it grouse, pheasant or deer. These individuals care a great deal about the countryside and do far more for conservation than anyone else, because they have a vested interest in protecting Britain’s areas of natural beauty.
Perhaps the best way of explaining this is through a local case study. There’s a pheasant shoot near where I live. It’s run by an independent syndicate that all put money into maintaining a large area of wilderness near my home in Berkshire. The members pay an annual fee to the syndicate to maintain the land and and they have the luxury of spending a couple of months in Winter to shoot there as well, on specific weekends that are calculated to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible to the ecosystem.
These people aren’t all posh boys fresh out of Oxford and earning six figure salaries, but rather come from an extremely diverse range of backgrounds. There are farmers, bankers, builders, doctors, veterinarians and police officers. They come from all areas of society as well. Christians, Muslims, socialists and conservatives can all come together and get along because they all have a common interest in shooting and a love of the great outdoors.
This group of individuals only spends a couple months a year actually shooting, for the rest of it they work on maintaining natural woodlands, open meadows and tranquil streams. They ensure that the pheasants themselves have a good quality of life and aren’t cooped up in cages, but rather left to run free.
What’s more is that because they have maintained this piece of land so well if has become one of the few places in the surrounding area where people can see an abundance of life. Including a large number of endangered species such as Green Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, Crested Newts, Adders, Blue Herons and more. An area that has been set up for shooting has become a rich eco-system and sanctuary for the UK’s more vulnerable flora and fauna. In fact, the members of the shoot are extremely protective of this patch of land, having turned down offers from developers who have sought to turn the entire area into houses. If it weren’t for the shooters, none of this would be here.
So what happens if this petition does go through and shooting is banned? Well suddenly there will be no one to look after this land. Developers would move in and the habitats would be lost. These rare species would disappear and future generations wouldn’t be able to enjoy them. The bees would have nowhere to collect pollen from and shortly after they were gone, so too would our beautiful plant life.
Jobs would be lost as well. The breeders of the birds that are delivered to the shoot. The manufacturers of specialist equipment, the local businesses that stocked game meat, the gun sellers, the clay shooting groups that people practiced in, the gun dog breeders. Thousands of jobs up and down the country would be lost and billions of pounds from our economy struck off. Shooters spent £2.5 billion in 2014. As well as the fact that shooting groups spent £250 million on conservation in 2014 and spend 3.9 million working days a year on it as well.
Why do we want to put all of this at risk? If shooting and conservation groups are doing more than the government to protect our natural habitats, why punish them? Surely the answer to protecting Britain’s places of natural beauty is to encourage more to join the sport and spend more on defending our eco-system. But then what do I know, in the eyes of metro-liberals I’m just a backwards country dweller.