Shooting has long been a target for dissenters and the explosion of social media over the past decade has given them a platform.
Every sport has its problems but just when we’re turning a corner, there’s some scandal that knocks us back. Wildlife crime, raptor persecution... as isolated as it is, it has given our vocal opponents just what they need. And we all get tarred with the same brush when these shocking and disappointing acts are committed. Of the 5,000 gamekeepers in the UK, a handful have let us all down. A fraction of 1%. It’s like saying a shoplifter is representative of all who use a supermarket.
These ‘heroes’ have the ability to galvanise a movement, giving antis a focus and a justification to air their misguided views. Hand them an ipad and a Facebook account and you have the perfect storm. Everything they read on social media becomes a truth, the story is manipulated, shared and shared again. Before long, it becomes a fact and we’re once again trying to defend the low ground.
This is demonstrated by the recent debacle in Wales and the banning of shooting on NRW land. Despite hundreds of supporting review papers proving the benefits of shooting and an initial acceptance by ministers, they chose to bow to the vocal minority of online activists. And England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be next. The objectors are energised and have a sense of moral justification – they’ll succeed unless we act. Now!
What we need is a joined-up approach. All our organisations must come together, sit around a table and combine talent, resources and manpower to formulate a plan of attack. The NRA in the US is a fearsome lobby, a political monster made up of countless smaller organisations that once all beat their own drums. By combining their efforts they now have a loud voice.
I doubt we’ll ever have our own hero. We have a few celebrities but would they put forward to spearhead our fight? In the meantime, we only have ourselves. If you have social media, write a status, tweet, come out in vocal support of the sport we all love, share posts that highlight the fantastic work our gamekeepers do, lobby your MP, write to BASC and insist they start working with other organisations. Make your voice heard.
Remember, in the mid1990s hunts were warned that they were walking blindly into a ban. They acted too late and in 2004 it all changed for them. We’re not walking blindly but crawling on our knees. We all have a responsibility to act.
Jonathan Davis, by email