When I worked at the RSPB I got a media summary every day. I would look forward to Thursday as the Shooting Times would always deliver a few laughs. You could tell that when there wasn’t anything of great interest to write about in the shooting world they would fill their pages with lurid stories about the RSPB. Thursday’s media summary would often have an ‘and finally’ piece, just like the 10 o’clock News does, but relating to the Shooting Times. The Shooting Times was treated as light relief.
, via Wikimedia Commons”]This week the Shooting Times is pretending to have some real news about the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and their position on wanting a total ban on lead ammunition use in the UK and I expect there will be a few chortles over at Slimbridge about it.
It’s hardly surprising that a conservation organisation which works on wetland wildlife is worried about the use of lead ammunition which is a major killer of that wildlife – and not just when it is propelled into bodies at high speed but also when it is ingested accidentally.
Also in the Shooting Times, Tim Bonner, the Countryside Alliance’s director of campaigns, writes of his ‘sadness that an organisation that was founded by a wildfowler, is supported by so many of the shooting community and which shares exactly the same aim of conserving ducks, geese and waders and the habitats they rely on, should engage in what is (despite the many protestations) a blatant attack on shooting’.
The Countryside Alliance seems to me to be these days an organisation in search of a cause and casting around for a role but to suggest that replacing toxic lead shot with non-toxic non-lead shot is anti-shooting should be laughable to everyone. The need of the shooting community to paint every criticism as a threat is pathetic really. There are people who want shooting to be banned but I haven’t met many of them engaging much in the discussions around replacing lead shot with steel, bismuth etc. Anti-shooters want lead to be replaced with fresh air!
And Sir Peter Scott was indeed a wildfowler in his early years. I have a copy of his excellent autobiography, The Eye of the Wind, which I received from the great man himself, when as a schoolboy, I won a competition at Slimbridge. In Chapter 26 he writes as follows:
‘But there comes a time for some men when their first reaction even to the traditional quarry is no longer to kill.‘ and goes on ‘They reach a certain stage, or age, some sooner, some later, when the old phrase which is supposed to epitomise the English country gentleman, ‘It’s a lovely morning; let’s go out and kill something,’ is no longer funny but obscene’. and later ‘After many years of wildfowling the first inklings of this changing attitude came to me on a marsh where, one early spring day in 1932, David Haig Thomas and I had shot twenty-three Greylag geese. Among them were two wounded ones, and as soon as we had picked them up we hoped that they might not die.’.
There are many in the shooting community who have realised for many years that lead shot will, one day, be banned and have come to terms with that change and actually agree with it. But unfortunately they have been unsuccessful in working for change within the shooting community – although I remember well being told at a Game Fair once that the shooters are riven with factions and in-fighting and don’t really represent a community at all.
, via Wikimedia Commons”]But I am grateful to the Shooting Times for giving me a nudge on this subject. Its treatment of it has reminded me how little chance there is that the shooting community will move on this issue without being forced to do so by an external force. And that’s despite the fact that the Danes and many others manage perfectly well without lead ammunition to carry out their shooting. So I will return to this issue through the summer (if we get a summer).
The one thing that is a bit nasty about this story is that someone within WWT, presumably on their Council or staff, leaked the information to the Shooting Times. It’s never nice to think that one of your colleagues is a snitch. I don’t blame the Shooting Times for printing the story but the person who leaked it should be somewhat ashamed as he (or she) has betrayed the trust that has been given to them as either a trustee or staff member of WWT.
Even if Sir Peter Scott had remained a keen wildfowler it is difficult for me to imagine that he would not have suggested to his fellow fowlers that a move to non-toxic shot was not the end of their sport and would inevitably happen eventually because of the impacts on wildlife and potentially on human health. I think a man as wise as Sir Peter would have advised moving to non-toxic alternative shot quickly and voluntarily rather than looking as though shooters were reluctant to make such an an obvious and sensible change.
Every time some idiot with a gun goes on the rampage, or a fatal accident occurs, or there is any misuse of a firearm all shooters are often unfairly blamed. But when shooters remain obstinately opposed to small and reasonable changes to the way they carry out their sport then they are shooting themselves in the feet. Come on wildfowlers, pheasant shooters and grouse shooters – see the bigger picture. There is a PR victory to be grasped here if only you raise your sights and stop firing blanks in the Shooting Times.