‘Defending our way of life’

In this month’s copy of The Field there is a page about the role of the the GWCT’s science in defending  ‘our way of life’ which is surely a misprint for ‘our hobby of death’.

The article is written by the GWCT’s chair, the tadpole conserver himself, Mr Ian Coghill, and it is basically an advert and a plea for money rolled into one.  Apparently, when Mr Coghill shoots he enters a special world ‘surrounded by happy and amusing like-minded people’.  Is he sure? They must get angry and nasty as soon as they go on Twitter then, I guess.

I just thought you ought to know that Mr Coghill has a word for you, if you were one of the 120000 (123,077 actually) who signed the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting (although he omits  the word driven), apparently you did so through prejudice or because you were led astray by the likes of me and Chris Packham.

The point, I think, of Mr Coghill’s article is to claim that it was ‘the GWCT wot won it’ for the grouse shooters.  And the way that the GWCT won it, was through providing science.  Then Mr Coghill makes a plea for more money and more members for the GWCT so that their science can fight off people like me, you and Chris Packham again.

It all reads a bit desperately to me. And the reason, I suggest, that GWCT needs some more dosh and members is exactly the opposite of the reason that Mr Coghill suggests; it is because GWCT is becoming less and less relevant to the future of shooting, because the last thing that shooting needs is the science to come out on its impacts. Let’s take lead ammunition as one example; the GWCT kept its head well and truly down on that subject and played no real part in it except for Ian Coghill himself flouncing out of the expert group set up to look at the subject when he realised that the science couldn’t be denied.  It was the Countryside Alliance and the shooting press who played the largest part, it seemed to me, in putting pressure on government not to phase out lead ammunition.  You don’t need a bunch of scientists when you have the ears of Defra ministers and those ministers are quite happy to ignore the science completely.

And you really don’t need a bunch of scientists when the evidence is unlikely to help your case very much, as it doesn’t on driven grouse shooting. We hardly see a GWCT scientist in public these days, it’s always our favourite spin-doctor Andrew Gilruth (or is Amanda our favourite still?) who is spinning like a top. GWCT was unable to field a single scientist, trustee or member to speak at the Bird Fair debate on the future of driven grouse shooting, remember.  Can you recall the GWCT doing any science on flood risk or greenhouse gases that has been used in this debate so far? And nor will they in the future.

The truth is that the GWCT is in slow decline, which I feel rather sad about, and that is with its former friends (that includes me) and those who might be regarded as its customers in the shooting industry. In a post-truth world it is difficult to be an organisation based on science supporting an industry which needs science like it needs a hole in the head when it comes to justifying its existence.

If this really were an advert it might be worth taking it to the ASA but as it is an article in The Field we can just turn the page and buy a copy of the Naked Strewth or other naked calendars with our money which do at least support a good cause.



11 Replies to “‘Defending our way of life’”

  1. Defending killing for killing’s sake was never going to be sustainable in the public’s eye.
    There is no respect for people using guns for killing nature in the name of fun.
    It’s time the fun killers traded their guns in for cameras.

    1. Andy – conservation success is generally achieved by hard work on the ground; not taking pictures of it. Our farmland, uplands and nature reserves are all managed (even the rewilding project at Oostvaardersplassen in Holland depends on the shooting of thousands of animals every year to succeed).

      Also, on lead – the GWCT’s Alastair Leake helped write the wildlife risk assessment. It found no single study or group of studies adequately shows a link between spent lead ammunition and negative effects on bird populations overall in England.

      I hope this helps. Best, Andrew

      1. Mr Gilruth: of course it doesn’t help at all. As someone who gives up days of his spare time working in conservation, getting my hands dirty, running projects on threatened species and habitats, writing reports and advising my local Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission on management of their estate, for the benefit of various species, I have never felt the need to shoot the birds I am working to help. Nor have I felt the need to kill the local birds of prey, Corvids, weasels, stoats, foxes and badgers, let alone hares, to keep those bird populations sustainable.

      2. Andrew I know very well indeed how much hard work is necessary for conservation because I’ve done it. I’m not some numpty with a gun who acts as if they are god’s gift to the rural economy and wildlife because they shoot grouse, pheasants or red deer. That’s arrogant and delusional and any conservation benefit from shooting is actually purely incidental and at the cost of a great deal of damage to wildlife in general, principally natural predators which we actually have a shortage of. How much land is intensively farmed here and abroad to provide the feed for pheasants? This includes domestic grain and foreign soy meal. Pheasant shooting is not an antidote to intensive agriculture it’s a driver of it.

      3. Yeah, we’ve all seen the effects of your “management” of our uplands, Mr Gilruth. And no amount of fake survey data, appearances on Countryfile and lies from your friends in the tory party will ever hide the ecological damage that your pastime inflicts on our countryside.

      4. Summaries and discussion of the widespread effects, actual and potential, of lead ammunition for wildlife can be found on pages 35-37 and pages 52-59 of the Report “Lead Ammunition, Wildlife and Human Health” (2 June 2015). The risk assessments for wildlife are published as appendices. These can all be accessed via http://www.leadammunitiongroup.org.uk.

        Understanding from more recently published research has only tended to support what we suspected in 2013 when the risk assessments were received by our Group – that the effects of lead ammunition on wildlife (where the sources and pathways exist) are more widespread and harmful than much historical wisdom assumes.

        The Lead Ammunition Group continues to monitor these subjects and provide access to them on its website.

        1. As a matter of interest, John, is Mark correct in saying that Mr Coghill “flounc[ed] out of the expert group … when he realised that the science couldn’t be denied”?

  2. Holy Moley The Field does a wide range of naked lady calendars, doesn’t it! And not a naked male buttock in sight.

  3. Some interesting headline figures from their 2015 Consolidated Financial Statement, available via the Charity Commission website http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/DocumentList.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1112023&SubsidiaryNumber=0&DocType=AccountList

    In 2015 of their 117 employees 62 were listed as scientists.
    47 county groups with 60,000 supporters of which 22,000 were members.
    An income of £7.19m with a £4.1m spend on research and assets at year end of £8.35m.

    Amongst the 16 Trustees is The Rt Hon Richard Benyon MP, and as an Ex-officio Sir James Paice.

    The report makes interesting reading and taken together with Mark’s assessment of the ‘appeal/pleading’ in The Field is quite revealing and whilst analysis can be subjective the published figures provide a measure of what the G[WC]T is?

    But just 22,000 members 😉

  4. “… it was ‘the GWCT wot won it’ for the grouse shooters.”

    Won it? I don’t think that the final whistle has been blown yet.

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