BASC UPDATE: Why there can be no room for bad practice in our sport
Gamekeepers, shooters and landowners that commit wildlife crimes are destroying our reputation and fuelling the antis’ fire. Enough is enough, says Conor O’Gorman
Grouse has been very much on the menu at BASC over the summer months. Rarely a day has gone by without some mention of this gamebird, as various projects have taken shape and campaigns planned ahead of the start of the shooting season.
So much hard work goes into effective and sustainable habitat management all year round in the uplands, and especially on our amazing grouse moors. The start of the grouse shooting season should be a wonderful celebration of the fruits of those labours in the sustainable harvest of red grouse in a landscape rich in flora and fauna.
Instead, grouse shooting has found itself in the firing line, with anti-shooting propaganda and political activism the likes of which we have not seen since the debates around hunting that lead to hunting restrictions in England, Wales and Scotland.
It is so frustrating that all the positive aspects of grouse moor management are getting drowned out by the criminality of the tiny minority of gamekeepers and shooters among our ranks that kill and illegally disturb birds of prey, damage precious habitats, and commit other offences in the uplands. Let us also not forget those landowners that collude in such criminality by allowing it to continue on their land.
Evidence of illegal activity continues to surface with depressing regularity due to sophisticated surveillance techniques being utilised in our uplands. Forget the antis for one moment. Anyone thinking that they can continue to carry out wildlife crime undetected and with impunity in the uplands are the enemies of shooting. This criminal minority is giving the antis the ammunition they crave to seek a much wider agenda to bring public opinion against all shooting disciplines.
It is hard to write these words. It feels like I am letting down shooting by writing them. I have spent nearly my whole working life protecting and promoting shooting. But as I write these words, on the eve of 12 August, yet another media storm is brewing. Video footage has been published online of people with guns on a moor interfering with a marsh harrier nest that is subject to a police investigation.
All that hard work carried out all year round by gamekeepers, shooters and landowners on moors across the country has now been drowned out by the selfish actions of a few.
Enough is enough and we have to start speaking out. By remaining silent and not calling these people out we are part of the problem. Each one of us is an ambassador for shooting. We abhor any wildlife crime being carried out by a minority that brings shame on us all.
If you suspect or witness wildlife crimes being carried out, report this to the police.
If you use social media please use it to support shooting, not only by recognising good practice but also by condemning bad practice, including instances of wildlife crime carried out by gamekeepers, shooters and landowners.
We are each conservationists, but public opinion is being pushed against our conservation credentials. There is a growing tide in support of restrictions on shooting. Your shooting associations can only do so much to stem that tide.
Time is running out.