Game Fair 4 – BASC, seriously nice people


car6I 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.


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11 Replies to “Game Fair 4 – BASC, seriously nice people”

  1. I used to think hunting is ok, then I thought that most hunters are ok, it's just a vicious and/or ignorant minority that cause problems. Now I think that a group of good guys is a minority in the hunting community. Never mind what country they are in.

    The ills of hunting are everywhere; the sound of the voices of hunters that show respect to life (and law) is a deafening silence. What's with that? I would dearly love to see, read, hear from hunters that spoke wise words, loudly. Maybe it's not happening because it's not possible? Wise words and hunting just don't go hand in hand?

    I have learned too much to ever go back again. I now think hunting should be stopped altogether. But I am willing to live in a diverse world that allows hunting, even if I hate it. It is however unacceptable that it is not conducted lawfully (minimum) and as respectfully as possible. This is my world too, not just them there hunters'.


  3. Great to read balanced comments about shooting. The arguments have become polarised between many of the contributors to Shooting Times, who represent the 'everything's a threat to shooting, and we have a right to kill 300 birds a day' brigade, and the 'all shooters and particularly gamekeepers are worse than war criminals' faction. There is a balance to be struck here, and wildfowlers and rough shooters have (for me) been the acceptable face of shooting for the last 50 years.

    The objective is to take only as much game as you (individually) can use, work a trained dog to recover any wounded game, and the philosophy that to succeed as a fowler at all, you need to be a good naturalist.

    These principles were commonplace before shooting became as popular and as 'corporate' as it now seems to be.

    Here ends the catechism of a confirmed old git!

    1. David - thank you and welcome! Some people are anti-shooting per se, and I can see where they are coming from, but they don't include me.

      The closer shooting comes to 'hunting' the more I can understand it and sympathise with it. The closer it comes to killing for your own consumption or that of friends and family - the more I can understand it and sympathise with it. the closer it comes to a moderate and sustainable harvest of a natural resource - the more I can understand it and sympathise with it. So, I agree that wildfowlers and rough shooters seem to fall into that category most easily, and I guess that makes me a confirmed old git too.

      And I speak as one who has shot a couple of rabbits and caught a few handfuls of fish in his life.

      Also, the more nice and reasonable people I meet who do a bit of shooting then the more I sympathise with them. But, I have to say (well, I don't, but I'm going to anyway) that shooting does have some very nasty supporters in its midst. Seriously nasty. Some of that emerges in the Shooting Times and it really doesn't do the image of shooting any good. So, I come back to one of my points in this blog post - the more that the good guys and moderate guys and civilised guys can speak out the better for themselves and the better for the future of shooting.

      But you sound very nice - you are very welcome here!

  4. Mark,you put it very well and think lots of us agree with you.We cannot really be against any legal activity but it is a pity that almost all shooters seem to hate anything with a hooked beak.

  5. I too have always thought of BASC as the good guys in shooting and I too fell that wildfowlers and rough shooters are the acceptable part of the shooting world per se.
    I can remember a story a grouse keeper now long retired told me. At the time he and some friends regularly went wildfowling somewhere on the west coast. THe local vicar wanted to learn and take part in the sport so being good chaps they took him along. Unfortunately in the half light he shot a Shelduck, for which of course he was berated by the others, but they made him take it and eat it for two reasons.
    1 He shot it and thus ought to take it and not waste it.
    2 They apparently taste pretty poor and it would remind him not to do it again!

    on a very different occasion a local pheasant and partridge shoot periodically shoot grey lags at the end of the day on some local gravel workings as the local farmers hate the geese thinking there are too many.
    A colleague who knows the keeper well asked if they were lead free and the comment back was " our geese are old fashioned they still fall out of the sky when hit with lead!"
    I once witnessed them shoot at geese, 6 shots into one bird ( lead no doubt) which was crippled but alive as a result, on the water some distance from the shore. Did they make any effort to retrieve it or send out a dog, of course not. To my mind people who have no respect for the quarry species have no place in the shooting world I would hope to see.

    1. That's a tricky one when you have someone who is a wildfowler and therefore a good chap but also shoots grouse and therefore downright evil. This morality business is difficult and there seem to be cowboys out there with more than two shades of hat.

  6. "We cannot really be against any legal activity "

    I'm really not sure why one could not be against a legal activity any less than one could be for an illegal one. Why be so subservient to the law? It does not define good and bad there have always been good laws and there will always be bad ones and as long as that situation continues there will always be bad legal actions and thoroughly good crimes.

  7. Find myself agreeing with Giles on this...was it Rumpole who said 'the law is an ass'? Probably not!
    Just because something is legal doesn't make it sensible. Not much evidence of personal responsibility around. Eating game full of lead is not illegal but that is a pretty stupid thing to do. Perhaps a test case against the supplier of lead laden game would focus a few minds.

  8. But how do you go about deciding where the line is between ok hunting and not ok hunting; how do you make sure that what one kills for friends and family is not too much? One's amount of friends and family can vary quite a bit 😉 after all.

    If we all go about on this same principal, there's an awful lot of us out there, so how do you define a sustainable shooters-to-game ratio? How do you define sustainable and moderate, when years and populations vary and there can be such local differences? A hunter here has many ducks but 100 hunters elsewhere have little or none? A group of hunters think it's their right to hunt Long-tailed Ducks in the spring because that's the way it's been for generations. Who decides if they are right? Who defines what birds are for who to hunt? How can we oppose say Maltese hunters if we allow ours because we deem it sustainable and moderate? Who decides?

    How do you police all of this? Seeing as deciding & policing is as difficult and downright impossible already now.

    My personal conviction is against hunting but I don't argue against hunting because of it. I have qualms about it because of the above, because of the impact we humans have on our natural environment, because the hunting community doesn't do enough to curb the actions of bad and downright horrible hunters.

    1. Well I feel in my case it's pretty obvious. When I use my dogs to flush out a herd of deer legally I have to have enough guns present to gun them all down and if I just let the deer run off it's illegal.

      I won't get into discussing whether it should even be legal to chase herds of deer out of woods with dogs and gun them down as they flee but \I have to say it's a pretty dodgy practice from many points of view including animal welfare and sound deer management.

      I don't think the politicians who drafted the Hunting Act thought properly about the practicalities and I don't think they even realised that deer could be dispersed to reduce the damage they do without killing them.

      People often say we can't just disobey laws because we disagree with them but the truth is we can so long as no one who's role is to enforce the law agrees with it either.

      I'm quite proud to be a hunt criminal to be honest.


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