I spent some time, on both Saturday and Sunday, talking to BASC people on their stand at the Game Fair. I’ve always thought that BASC was the serious and nice end of shooting with lots of wildfowlers and not many grouse shooters, and my conversations strengthened that view. They also plied me with cold drinks which was nice of them.
One of our subjects of conversation was the compliance with the laws governing the use of lead ammunition to shoot wildfowl (which in England and Wales are ‘you can’t’ and in Scotland are ‘you can’t over a wetland’ – roughly).
After 10 years of a ban on the use of lead shot (for shooting ducks etc), most wildfowl purchased for human consumption in game dealers and supermarkets have been shot with lead. And after last year’s big push at the Game Fair to educate shooters – the figures did not change at all.
This looks pretty bad for shooting – when people with guns break the law, and break it deliberately rather than through ignorance, then it’s a poor show. But always I am told that wildfowlers are good at policing their hobby and the problem lies elsewhere. I wanted to hear more about this, and to hear it while looking people in the eye (I always find that helps me decide whether to believe them or not) – and so I sought out BASC people at Blenheim.
To cut to the chase, I do believe that wildfowlers are probably the best of the bunch in terms of legal compliance. No-one claimed they were perfect but they convinced me that wildfowling, at least organised by clubs associated with BASC, is a pretty clean act.
It would be interesting to know, and I don’t know whether we do (I don’t), whether the incidence of lead in Pintail, Wigeon and Teal (that are a bit more likely to be shot by wildfowlers on the saltmarsh) is less than that in Mallard (which are more likely to be shot inland and as incidental quarry on, for example, Pheasant shoots). Since you can shoot Pheasants with lead, if you are shooting Pheasants and a duck flies past, you may, illegally, fire off a cartridge already in the chamber and down your duck with lead. That isn’t an excuse, it’s still illegal (in England and Wales) but it is understandable (although not, if we are being completely prissy about it, condonable).
The next time that compliance (or lack of it) is measured, it would be good if more effort went into tracing back the game with lead to its shoot of origin where the illegality has occurred (unless, as some jokingly suggest, it all comes from Scotland). We need to do more to finger the people who are actually breaking the law. This blog is my contribution to ‘de-tarring people with the same brush’ if you like.
But I do think that the good people within shooting, in which I tend to put many of BASC’s members, need, themselves, to differentiate themselves from the bad guys. There’s a lot of nonsense about sticking together and ‘shooting under threat’ which is, quite honestly, rubbish. Shooting needs to clean up its act on lead-compliance, illegal persecution of protected wildlife, over-release of Pheasants and a range of other issues.
At present, the good guys seem scared to talk about the bad guys – which means we, on the outside, tend to be misled into thinking that there are very few good guys out there. It really is time for the good guys to stand up and speak out.
I’m happy to consider Guest Blogs here from any pro-shooting organisation – BASC and GWCT have already had them here and they are welcome to have more to discuss these or other issues (but especially these issues of lead ammunition, raptor persecution and the nett benefits of driven grouse shooting). That offer is open to the Moorland Association, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, BASC and even the Countryside Alliance.