The anti-shooting ego crisis

We need to counteract the haters with stories explaining the benefits our habitat management program

We need to counteract the haters with stories explaining the benefits our habitat management programmes bring to wildlife. Credit: Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) - Credit: Archant

Our contributor from Ireland, Rupert Butler, eloquently links the conduct of anti-shooting keyboard warriors to their own fragile egos

Gamekeepers look after far more than their game birds, as we all know. Credit: Peter Thompson

Gamekeepers look after far more than their game birds, as we all know. Credit: Peter Thompson - Credit: Archant

For many years now, I have wondered why some of those that do not shoot should attempt to disrupt and, indeed, marginalise our sport at every turn. I have sought to understand why they would use every form of communication and media outlet to discredit us to the masses. After much deliberation, I think I have found the answer as to why those that stand tallest against us, those that fill our screens and tabloids with as much damage as they can muster, choose to do so. They so choose because they seek recognition above all else. Recognition that they are the saviours of the beautiful flora and fauna that abound on these wonderful islands of ours. Recognition that they are fighting a crusade against a blood-thirsty minority, whose sole aim is to further deplete already declining populations. In truth, they seek recognition because without it, they are nothing. They seek recognition to massage ever-increasing egos or else they risk fading into oblivion.

It is so easy to drum up support in relation to wildlife crime nowadays, given the widespread use of social media in our lives today. It costs nothing to share a tiny morsel of information, which can go viral in a matter of hours, even though that information may not be true. Once such incidents go viral, they are naturally picked up by the larger media outlets that, in turn, raise the profile of such cases inexorably.

Lapwings are among the many species to benefit from the good work brought about by shooting. Credit:

Lapwings are among the many species to benefit from the good work brought about by shooting. Credit: CreativeNature_nl/Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’m not saying such incidents only occur with misinformed information; it’s simply that the factual ones form such a small proportion of those reported, so more harm is done than good. It is frustrating to see people giving their opinion on social media platforms on issues they know absolutely nothing about and, in some cases, even attacking others that try to throw some light or reason on the matter in hand. If people are to be held accountable for their actions, then this has to be reflected across the board. If a wildlife incident is deemed not to be true, then the source of such scaremongering should be vilified as much as those who commit such acts. It is far too easy nowadays to throw a curveball without any accountability.

It is up to us all to appeal to the common sense and, indeed, good nature of the majority of people, who are looking in from the outside. These are the people we need to inform and educate on all that is good about our sport and, more importantly, on all the benefits our management programmes bring to wildlife in general.

Harvest mice flourish on land managed for shooting. Credit: gwct

Harvest mice flourish on land managed for shooting. Credit: gwct - Credit: Archant

As much as our detractors attempt to ply the media with stories of woe, we should not only seek verification on each and every one but counteract with stories of our own. Stories about all that’s good about country life; stories about how predator reduction in upland areas greatly increases the mortality rates among ground-nesting species; stories about how cover crops abound with our smaller feathered friends during the harsh winter months – the list is endless. Above all, the conversation is not about town versus country, privileged versus unprivileged, shooters versus non-shooters; it is simply about everybody managing our flora and fauna in the best and most sustainable way possible.

We will always have detractors, some of whom simply don’t understand what we’re about and others that have complete tunnel vision where shooting is concerned. The former is the group we should focus our attention on because, if we show them the difference we make, there is the possibility that they will understand. The latter group are not worth our efforts purely because they do not want to listen, regardless of how well meaning we are. To be honest, the older I get, the less I want to put my case across to those that simply will not listen. In some instances, life is really too short.

Planting conservation headlands is just one of the ways that shooters give back to the countryside a

Planting conservation headlands is just one of the ways that shooters give back to the countryside and aid wildlife. Credit: laurie campbell - Credit: Archant

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Where funding is concerned, I think we need to step up to the plate somewhat in order to prevent attacks on our sport – especially unfounded ones. If those that get crowdfunding continue to nibble away at our fringes, then we need to do likewise to counter such cases. We need funds, not only to set the record straight, but more importantly, to carry out more scientific research of our own in areas from which we benefit greatly. I think many laymen and laywomen would be surprised by the greater variety of bird and mammal life there is on keepered land in comparison to non-keepered areas. Shooting estates and, indeed, syndicates should be lauded for the sterling work that they do, not vilified at every turn.

On the whole, I think we need to be far more proactive in our approach. Gone are the days when we could keep our heads down and hope it will go away. Why should we keep our heads down? We are, in the main, law-abiding citizens with as many rights as the next man or woman. I, for one, make it my business to approach people in the course of a day’s hunting, especially ones that are not sure about the whole experience. It takes but a few minutes to explain that I’m out for a ramble with my doggies and that, while bagging a bird or two is always great, it is not the sole purpose of my wanderings. Apart from the more common species, most people won’t know what a snipe or woodcock, etc look like, so it’s always good to show them if you have one, together with a brief description of habitat, and so on. For those that are seemingly outraged, all one has to do is be as polite as possible – tip one’s hat and keep going. After all, some things in life aren’t worth the bother, nor should they be.

Corvid control doesn't just beneift gamebirds, but all ground-nesting birds. Credit: David Mason

Corvid control doesn't just beneift gamebirds, but all ground-nesting birds. Credit: David Mason - Credit: Archant

Those on the outside looking in may not realise how important predator control is to ALL wildlife, n

Those on the outside looking in may not realise how important predator control is to ALL wildlife, not just game birds - Credit: Archant