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

Sporting Shooter - - CONTENTS - WITH BASC’S 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.

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