Game shoot­ing is a badge of hon­our

Shooting Gazette - - Letters -

I’ve been a keen shot since my early twen­ties, when I lived near Ex­moor and stud­ied an­i­mal care and coun­try­side man­age­ment. How­ever, I’ve worked in care for 15 years now.

Some­times I get asked what I do in my spare time. “Shoot­ing” or “train­ing and tri­alling my gun­dogs,” are my usual replies. “Shoot­ing” is nor­mally fol­lowed by a frown and, “Shoot­ing what?” When I reply pheas­ant, grouse, par­tridge or pi­geon and geese, this is fol­lowed by dis­gust or cu­rios­ity. I try to ex­plain my ex­pe­ri­ences so they can un­der­stand what I do and why. I ask if they eat chicken. Ninety per cent of them do and most buy from KFC. I tell them each branch across the UK wastes close to three tonnes of food per year and ask if they eat free-range chicken, which most ex­plain is too ex­pen­sive. Which brings me to why they some­times see my point. I par­tic­i­pate in a sport that pro­duces clean, healthy, wild meat. I pre­pare my birds my­self and my wife and I cook them. They have lived a nat­u­ral life in the wood­lands.

I add that the work of game­keep­ers re­sults in more bio­di­ver­sity due to preda­tor con­trol and be­cause the food pro­vided for pheas­ants and par­tridges also ben­e­fits ev­ery­thing from song­birds to deer. I also tell them that the shoot­ing in­dus­try adds £2bn a year to the ru­ral econ­omy.

Next it’s, “Do you en­joy shoot­ing birds?” Yes, of course I do. I am par­tic­i­pat­ing in a chal­leng­ing sport and shar­ing my time with close friends and like­minded peo­ple while putting tasty, healthy meat on the ta­ble for fam­ily and friends. I’m also part of na­ture and con­nect­ing with it. Once I’ve said all this I hear, “I can un­der­stand why you shoot but I couldn’t do it.” Well, that’s fair enough.

The un­pop­u­lar­ity of shoot­ing is partly down to a lack of ed­u­ca­tion and un­der­stand­ing. Why wasn’t the self-ban on shoot­ing grouse this sea­son pub­li­cised? The RSBP has a mas­sive PR ma­chine but where are our big­gest or­gan­i­sa­tions to counter it? I’d like us to be more ac­tive and less re­ac­tive. Surely get­ting into schools or run­ning cam­paigns in the me­dia would help to ed­u­cate those folk not in our com­mu­ni­ties. Hope­fully the newly formed British Game Al­liance will help with this.

Nathan Hawkins, by email Each month one let­ter writer will re­ceive a spe­cial pin badge, gen­er­ously pro­vided by John Cle­ments.

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