Fair play to BBC’S Farm­ing To­day for giv­ing game­keep­ers a voice. Now we must build on that and try to con­vert those who hold a neu­tral view

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CATLOW’S NOTEBOOK -

From 15 to 20 Oc­to­ber BBC Ra­dio 4’s Farm­ing to­day had a week of pro­grammes fea­tur­ing in­ter­views with game­keep­ers and dis­cus­sions on game­keep­ing. the pro­gramme at­tracts a large, di­verse au­di­ence and is ac­tu­ally quite in­flu­en­tial, de­spite the early trans­mis­sion time of 5.45am. it has a 15-minute week­day slot, ex­tended to 30 min­utes at the week­end, which is lis­tened to by farm­ers and those with an in­ter­est in all things ru­ral.

i opened on the mon­day morn­ing and was asked some gen­eral shoot­ing and game­keep­ing ques­tions. Noth­ing con­tro­ver­sial, noth­ing dif­fi­cult. On tues­day, there was a keeper from a scot­tish moor, who did a great job of ex­plain­ing the eco­nomic im­por­tance of grouse shoot­ing to up­land com­mu­ni­ties.


Wed­nes­day fea­tured a friend of mine from the Peak Dis­trict talk­ing about moor­land man­age­ment and the is­sues caused by last sum­mer’s wild­fires. He ex­plained the dif­fer­ence be­tween a man­aged cool burn and a hot burn, and de­scribed some of the work his es­tate is do­ing to re-es­tab­lish heather and re­duce fire risk. He came across well and his depth of knowl­edge and pas­sion for the job were plain to see or, in this case, hear.

Pre­dictably, there was some­one from Friends of the earth on the same episode, spout­ing anti-grouse shoot­ing rhetoric. He was quickly and ably cor­rected by amanda an­der­son of the moor­land as­so­ci­a­tion, who rightly con­demned bad and il­le­gal prac­tices, and high­lighted the nest­ing suc­cesses of the hen har­rier in eng­land in 2018.

thurs­day there was an in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion about the pub­lic per­cep­tion of our sport. Dun­can sin­clair, head­keeper at the Powys moor­land Part­ner­ship, stressed the im­por­tance of habi­tat man­age­ment to the pro­duc­tion of wild game — and the ben­e­fits to other species — and how he thought we had a great story to tell but were pretty poor at telling it. Fri­day was an in­ter­view with a part-time keeper from Le­ices­ter­shire. He came across well and, again, did a great job ex­plain­ing the role of the keeper and the rea­sons he en­joyed it.

satur­day’s fi­nal episode was from a shoot in the Cotswolds, where the game­keeper and shoot pro­cesses all their own game, as well as an ex­ten­sion of the de­bate be­tween the Friends of the earth rep­re­sen­ta­tive and amanda an­der­son on moor­land man­age­ment.

the game­keep­ing slot was only a few min­utes each day. the ques­tions were fair, the pre­sen­ter well briefed and, on the whole, i thought it was pre­sented from a neu­tral stand­point. the BBC has come in for crit­i­cism in the past, ac­cused of bias and hav­ing an anti-shoot­ing agenda, but on this oc­ca­sion, it played it with a straight bat. No sur­prise ques­tions, ev­ery­thing asked was top­i­cal and there were no hid­den agen­das.

the only thing i am un­sure of — and there is no way of know­ing — is what the bal­ance of emails and re­sponses was. How many were pro-shoot­ing and how many were against? Per­haps more im­por­tantly, whether any of the lis­ten­ers changed their minds af­ter the pro­gramme.

i sus­pect the vast ma­jor­ity of Farm­ing to­day lis­ten­ers are ei­ther pro-shoot­ing or neu­tral on the sub­ject. this doesn’t mean we should dis­count those who lis­tened in who are op­posed to game shoot­ing and who don’t par­tic­u­larly like game­keep­ers and what we do.

the peo­ple with a neu­tral view, those who hold the mid­dle ground and make up the vast ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion, are the key to our fu­ture. We need to ex­plain why we do things, ex­plain how what we do ben­e­fits other species, fol­low best prac­tice, be po­lite and fo­cused, stay within the law and be proud of what we do.

One grumpy game­keeper, one il­le­gal act, one in­ci­dent of bad prac­tice caught on cam­era and shared on so­cial me­dia is one too many, if we want the neu­trals to re­main just that.

if you didn’t man­age to catch the pro­gramme — and 5.45am is ad­mit­tedly a bit early for all but the most die hard among us — you can catch up with it on

BBC iplayer. it is well worth a lis­ten.

“One case of bad prac­tice caught on cam­era and shared on so­cial me­dia is one too many”

Fire­fight­ers dampen the moor­land with water on the hills near Staly­bridge dur­ing June’s wild­fires

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