Game shooting is a badge of honour
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.