Shooting Times – the gift that keeps on giving…

It’s almost as though Shooting Times has been set up to provide weekly evidence to support Wild Justice’s legal challenge of the General Licences…

There appears to have been no attempt to use non-lethal means before popping away at this bird, and it is just a little unclear as to what issue listed in the General Licences this casual killing of a wild bird was intended to remedy. Are Ring-necked Parakeets causing serious damage to crops or livestock on this Hertfordshire farm? I’m guessing ‘no’.

Young Ralph might turn up in our witness statement if we get to court…

I don’t blame the kids, I blame the parents, but also the magazines that they read, and the statutory nature conservation agency that should regulate these matters.


58 Replies to “Shooting Times – the gift that keeps on giving…”

  1. You can just see that photo popping up all over the internet in the next few days, and recycled whenever the issue crops up in future. Thanks Dad!

    1. As well as the parakeet, they’ve killed this poor kid’s chances at an easy Uni interview in the future. Every interview panel is going to ask about that photo and what they’ve learned from it. And the kid is going to have to try and guess if the uni management is pro-toff or pro-environment, or just anti-adverse publicity in their answers.

  2. Outrageous that the Sooting Times is publishing stuff like this. They should know better.

  3. To me that is a variety of child abuse: destroying from an early age any appreciation for wildlife as something to be valued for its own sake and desensitising the child to killing for no reason.

    1. Totally agree with the comments, especially yours, Simon. And your final sentence, Mark.

      And so many dislikes – how disturbing that is.

  4. Aren’t they pathetic; shoot everything that moves; won’t be happy until nothing’s left alive!!

  5. Ring-necked parakeets are likely to be the next ecological disaster after American grey squirrels and mink. It has been reported that they are already causing serious damage to fruit farms in the south-east.

    1. Peregrines, Goshawks and Eagle Owls could take care of them, if these species were allowed to expand and fulfill their role in the wider countryside. But then the shooting fraternity aren’t going to let that happen.

    2. Please could you point us to the research on which your claim of serious damage is based?

    3. That may or may not be true, its not the point. The point is that do the actions in this particular case fall within the bounds of the general licence or not?

  6. Buying a four year old a .410 shotgun for his birthday!*?*****! FFS even under supervision this is extremely crass, stupid, whatever but certainly not sensible.
    One parakeet killed for “fun.”
    Whilst there is an argument that invasive alien wildlife should have no protection at all, even the protection afforded by the general licence, currently it is and I doubt very much this incident falls within the legal definitions.—— One guilty irresponsible parent I suspect.

    1. Actually, I find the idea of encouraging a 4-year-old to shoot at a teddy bear disturbing enough, never mind illegally killing birds! Not the ‘education’ I would recommend for any 4-year old.

  7. In theory, this is a violation of the General Licence as you point out. The article has been printed in the sure knowledge that no prosecution will ensue – pretty much the same nose-thumbing attitude such folk take to killing birds of prey. There is another less serious crime here, of course; it should be “One parakeet fewer” not “One less parakeet”. Appalling on both counts, m’lud.

    1. Andy – I almost did point out the other crime but thank you for doing so as a comment.

  8. What a comment on our broken and sick society that a publication could show this sort of thing, encouraging the youngest to kill our wildlife for fun. To some extent it is a reflection our broken and sick Westminster Government..

  9. Teaching children to kill and adopt your own prejudices?
    Pretty sick individual in my opinion.
    Let’s hope the young lad grows to have a brain of his own and is allowed to appreciate life without looking at it down the barrel of a gun.

  10. I returned yesterday from visiting family in Texas & enjoying the delights of playing with my 4 yr old grandson. In a gun-ridden state he’s being allowed to grow up like a child, playing hopscotch, board games, counting games, using the trampoline, swings & slide in the back yard (as they call it there), playing ball & learning to play frisbee. He’s curious about the garden birds in a normal sort of way, watching and listening to the song of the local Northern Cardinal when it stops by. I doubt he’d have much in common with Ralph Moss; his 4th birthday presents included accessories for his Octonauts underwater module.

    1. I have a three-year old grandson living in New England not far from Sandy Hook. It worries me that he may visit other children’s homes where there are guns and the amount of gun-ownership in the local population. It seems to me we are heading down the same path in this country. How can anyone with any intelligence countenance buying a gun for an early fourth birthday present? Poor child.

    1. Country Man, I am sure you are not a troll, who would leave such a comment, without any evidence or argument of your own, just to wind people up. So I am sure that you will now post your list of stuff written here which you regard as ‘crap’, followed by your arguments, specific to each element of ‘crap’ to indicate why you think those who ‘spout’ it do not have a ‘clue’.

      You won’t do that, I suspect, thus demonstrating that you are just a foolish bag of wind. Honestly, why bother just to demean yourself in that way?

  11. The shooting of birds under the general licence is only permitted for very specific reasons with the proviso that “These Conditions include the requirement that the user must be satisfied that legal (including non-lethal) methods of resolving the problem are ineffective or impracticable.”

    How often are these non-lethal methods tried?

    There is no right to shoot birds listed on the general licence for sport, and technically that’s illegal. Yet anyone with knowledge of shooting in the countryside is well aware that shooters tend to regard these birds listed on the general licence as not being protected, and shoot them whenever they want for sport. The authorities appear to just turn a blind eye to this.

  12. These people have to get further up the evolutionary scale before troubling themselves with grammar.

  13. Surely this is a breach of the Firearms Act 1968, General restrictions on possession and handling of firearms and ammunition

    S1 Requirement of firearm certificate.

    (1)Subject to any exemption under this Act, it is an offence for a person—

    (a)to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, a firearm to which this section applies without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate;

    (b)to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, any ammunition to which this section applies without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate, or in quantities in excess of those so authorised.

    There are exemptions but I don’t know enough about guns to check this out.

    Surely a four year old can’t be deemed responsible enough to be granted a certificate!

    1. Presumably the legal owner and certificate holder for the gun is the boy’s father. I believe that under S. 11A of the same Act “Authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting etc” he can legally allow his son to use the gun. If I understand correctly the son would need to be at least 17 years old if the gun was a rifle but there is no similar prescribed age limit for a shotgun as long as the use by the borrower is in the presence of the lender/certificate holder. This would seem to suggest that (setting aside the question of the misapplication of the general licence) the father could probably successfully argue that no breach of the Firearms Act has taken place. Of course, this says nothing about whether it is responsible behaviour to give a four year old child a gun and encourage him or her to kill things.

      There is no minimum age or possession of a shotgun certificate so technically the four year old could have his own certificate but the police issuing the certificate would need to be “satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess a shot gun without danger to the public safety or to the peace” which is perhaps doubtful. Irrespective of whether a child has his or her own shotgun certificate, up to the age of 15 the law does not allow them to use it other than under the supervision of an adult of 21 years or more [S. 22(3)]. I suspect this requirement may be widely breached on farms up and down the country.

      I am not a lawyer and would be happy to stand corrected on any of this by someone with a better understanding of the law.

    2. Shame you refer to the firearms act in a way that implies you know something about it. You might want to ammend your post with regard to the the use of a SHOTGUN which does not have the same conditions attached to its use of as a firearm (which propels a single projectile)

  14. This story is so bizarre that at first I thought it must be some sort of April fools windup, but apparently not!

  15. I guess he was just following the example set by our future monarch. Introduce them young, then they are less likely to criticise you when older.
    This is child abuse plain and simple.

  16. It seems the main argument from Packham and his followers is the General Licences and the use of non-lethal methods as opposed to shooting.
    The birds that cause some of the biggest problems for growers/farmers are, Pigeons and Corvids, I would ask how many of you have ever tried keeping these birds of a 40 acre field of corn? Well I can tell you its not that simple, Pigeon soon learn that gas guns and hawk kites are no danger, they will eat their own weight in corn a day (pigeon weighs 1lb/0.453kg) they will hit a field of corn in large numbers, a thousand plus birds on a field is not uncommon, that’s approximately half a ton of corn a day during the summer months.
    Corvids will pull the corn up when its just showing, they then move onto the standing corn during the summer months and can cause equal amounts of damage, Corvids are perhaps a bit smarter than pigeons and will sit and watch your attempts at keeping them off a field but they soon learn that the non-lethal methods are no danger to them.
    If you feel so passionate about farmers getting shooters to kill these birds may I suggest you approach a few farmers and ask them if you can pay for the gas guns and hawks kites and be allowed to put them on his fields or alternatively offer to pay for their loss during the summer on corn and rape during the winter months.

    Unless you have been there and know what you are talking about please do not accuse farmers/shooters of being blood thirsty morons or words to that effect.

    With regards the young lad being taught to handle and use a shotgun, if we take the number of law abiding gun owners and look at the numbers of murders in the UK, can anyone tell me how many murders were committed by gun owners as opposed none gun owners, farmers and the general public of good character are allowed to own guns after applying for a licence so being taught at an early age the safe handling of guns is surely a good thing.

    1. Countryman – thanks for your first comment here.

      ‘blood thirsty morons’? Your words, not mine.

      Birds as pests – no argument they can be, that’s why the law allows birds to be killed if they are doing serious damage – but how do the General Licences ensure that that condition is met, and only after non-lethal mean have been assessed/tested?

    2. The argument that has been put forward by Wild Justice is not that there are no circumstances in which lethal control of birds is justified but that the General Licence is not a lawful means of licensing this activity. Furthermore, because the General Licence places the decision in the hands of the person killing the birds as to whether control is actually necessary (i.e. there is a genuine problem that falls within the terms of the licence) and whether alternative non-lethal methods of control have been determined to be inadequate, this has resulted in wide scale casual killing of birds where neither of these conditions is met. The case being brought by Wild Justice would not stop someone who is suffering genuine damage to crops from using lethal control methods but would require Natural England to put in place an appropriate system to ensure that in cases where this is permitted it is genuinely necessary and genuinely a last resort.

      As to whether it is a good thing to teach people at an early age how to handle guns safely, I would suggest that this rather depends on what we consider to be early enough. I would contend that four years old is much too young. There is also the question of what lesson the child is actually being taught: safety around guns is one thing but this child was also being taught to casually kill a bird that jut happens to have landed within his range. It does not sound from the father’s description of the incident as though there was any discussion of why it was ok to kill this bird or whether other species would not be appropriate targets. I would suggest these are complicated issues for a four year old to get to grips with.

      Your argument about the number of murders in the UK and who commits them appears to me to be utterly irrelevant to this discussion.

  17. The wee chap is also too young to be in charge of anything made by John Deere, other than toys. While I agree that there is something iffy about one so young having a real live .410 popgun, and that shooting the parakeet was probably illegal, let’s look on the bright side. Becoming inured to killing at such a young age will allow him, in his later years, should he be so inclined, to happily cull cats, rats, grey squirrels and hedgehogs and shoot injured, slow or old racehorses without a second thought.

  18. First, I did add “or words to that effect”

    Mark…most farmers/shooters already know how effective non-lethal methods are, they sometimes work for a couple of days then birds get used to it and start dropping into the field away from the deterrent.
    Do you realise just how many acres are put to corn in the UK, trying to assess just what would work would take hundreds of man hours, small to medium farmers just do not have the time or the money.
    The general licence as been in force for a good number of years and none of the pest species on those licences are in decline, its just about keeping the numbers down, a manageable balance.
    It always makes me smile when I hear someone who lives in the town thinking they know how the countryside/farming works, they tend to look at nature through rose tinted spectacles and let their emotions rule their head, I bet most would not know the difference between a field of barley or wheat.

    1. Country Man – our case is that the General Licences cannot possibly ensure that birds are killed according to the law and your response is that some of them are by some people sometimes. Well done!

      It makes me smile when someone claiming to be a country person spouts off here about what people like myself do and do not know without a clue whether they are right or not. They don’t normally stay very long – they just fling around a few insults, poor arguments and irrelevant opinions and fairly soon they disappear. But you are very welcome to put a smile on my face. You’re probably a teenage girl from the middle of Birmingham anyway…?

  19. It’s outrageous that a publication such as the ST exists. Murdering wildlife is inexcusable, NEVER a sport and the practice of reta*** **** ********wits.
    Here’s hoping every hunter has that shooting accident that takes their genes out of the Darwinian pool.

    1. Kevin – thank you for your first comment. Don’t use language like that, please.

      And I don’t agree with your sentiment in your last sentence.

  20. I personally find it rather disturbing that ‘Shooting Times’ has seen fit to publish this photograph. I don’t particularly have issues with the fact that one of the ‘green squawkers’ has been killed but seeing a small boy holding a gun in this manner and being paraded like some trophy hunter is in very poor taste and, I suspect, many members of the shooting community will feel the same.

  21. As a Shooting Times subscriber for over 45 years, publishing this, in my opinion, was unbelievably

  22. Well Mark if that’s the response of an adult I feel sorry for anyone who is influenced by you or Packham.

    And Kevin thanks for lowering the tone, funny when people are losing an argument how they revert to insults and name calling.

    1. Country Man you may think you are winning the argument but your tactic of making entirely unfounded assertions about where people may or may not live and what they may or may not know are in fact the resort of someone who hasn’t got a stronger argument.

      You don’t speak for everyone in the countryside (or even all farmers). Where someone lives is also irrelevant to whether or not they can have valid informed views on a topic. I daresay you hold opinions on things that are not countryside issues and would not consider for a moment that your rural background disqualifies you from holding those views.

      It makes me smile when people think they have won an argument simply by claiming that where they live makes them right and anyone else wrong. Still, I’m glad that we are both smiling.

  23. I’m struggling with the notion that modern farms are operating without Gas cannons, flags & other bird scarers! Standard use really.
    Just to point out, there’s a lot of assumptions in this blog!…

    1. Interesting Ed. Do you imagine this chap is operating gas cannons in his farmyard to scare off the parakeets?

  24. The assumption that non lethal measures are not in place or already tried. Should he of sent in a picture of them, just on the off chance you would be flicking through ST?….

  25. A shotgun isn’t technically classified as a firearm, and there are different certifications and licences. You can hold a shotgun certificate at any age, but you must use it with adult supervision until you are 15.

  26. Your assumption that there’s no damage to this farm in Herefordshire….that you’ve never been to!
    If anyone posts a picture of a shot pigeon, do they have to post a picture of the gas cannon to?!

    1. Ed – you aren’t on top form today, probably because you are fighting a hopeless cause.

      It’s Hertfordshire, too.

      What damage are you envisaging those passing parakeets were doing? Give us all an example or maybe a scientific paper to read?

  27. Mark, we all know autocorrect can be a pain!
    Maybe you could show us some evidence of wrongdoing, rather than just assumptions?!…
    Now, back to the pigeon question!?…

  28. Thanks Jonathan for taking the time to look into this more thoroughly. What a ridiculous and irresponsible situation and what a dismal ethics lesson for that kid.

  29. I have been watching this feed all day and i agree that there are arguments on both sides and I’m sure it will go on and on both sides having never agreeing .
    But the one thing that has got me enraged is for two of the contributors to claim that this is child abuse .This is disgusting to use remarks like that.
    I know for a fact that a child living on a farm knows more about life and death especially at this time of year with lambing than most people
    How many of the people that have contributed to this have fought to save an animals life because of a breached birth how many have seen both five o clocks in a day not many if any at all .
    You ask about gas cannons and other non lethal methods where does it end scare them of one field they move to next personally i think you need a reality check farmers are producing food for your table

    1. Steve M – I have done the things that you say that you doubt whether any at all have done. Although it seems a little extreme to set that as the test for having a view on a four year old shooting a parakeet. I don’t normally expect anyone commenting on Hen Harrier persecution to have seen a White-rumped Sandpiper in the UK (which would make as much sense).

      My question would not be ‘where does it end’, but ‘where does it begin’?

      Thank you for your first comment here.

    2. An absolute master-class in besides the point argument Steve. What on earth does the time someone gets up in the morning have to do with the appropriateness of giving a gun to a four year old and teaching it to kill birds? What bearing does it have on whether or not the terms of the General Licence were correctly applied here or if the General Licence is an appropriate way to regulate lethal control of species that have been deemed a ‘pest’ for one reason or another? Why should having assisted with lambing be a qualifying requirement for commenting on these issues? Does this mean that arable farmers with nary a sheep on their land should be excluded from the discussion? What is more, as Mark points out above, you might be surprised at how many of those of us who are shocked by this story do indeed have experience of these things.

      I have not used the term ‘child abuse’ myself but I do think that it was totally inappropriate to put the gun in this child’s hands and encourage it to kill the parakeet. Four year olds are not stupid but neither are they yet capable of complicated moral reasoning. It seems doubtful that prior to the shooting, the parent discussed the financial impact of parakeet behaviour on the farm, the legalities of lethal control in response to this or what other methods of control might be tried instead – or if they were whether the child would have really understood. Rather, the lesson the child will have drawn is simply ‘we kill the stuff we don’t like’ which to me at least seems a very unhealthy idea to sow in one so young.

      Finally, you finish your comment with the remark that “farmers are putting food on your table”. Do you really believe that this should place them above criticism? What a strange idea! There are all sorts of people in our society who provide essential services of one kind or another – are you suggesting that we should refrain from criticising them all, regardless of what they do or how they do it? With respect to the food on our tables I would point out that for most people the food on their table is there thanks to the activities of a whole chain of people including the farmer, lorry drivers, factory workers, warehouse workers, and supermarkets. Are you suggesting that none of these should be criticised because they “put food on our table”? If not, why of all of these should farmers be uniquely shielded from criticism and allowed to behave in any way they like?

  30. The relevant General Licence here is WML-GL04,

    It is permissable to kill parakeets. Thus, the act of killing, whether by an adult or child, is not illegal providing the conditions of the licence are met, and other legal thresholds.

    Given the species involved, it would presumably require proof that serious damage to crops, caused by this species, is occurring. In my view, the argument will focus on the word ‘serious’ and specifically whether the threshold of seriousness was crossed as a result of the presence of this species. How many parakeets are there on the farm (data available from BTO Bird Atlas may help in general terms), the crop(s) being grown, and what non-lethal activities are being applied?

    I am inclined to agree with other commentators that birds habituate quite quickly to acoustic emissions; there is a fair amount of scientific literature on this subject that I’ve researched as part of writing EcIAs on construction effects, so lethal activities are probably, however unpalatable, likely to be necessary.

    The issue is probably not whether the GLs are being abused but how any abuse will or could be policed. And there in lies the nub of the issue. A GL absolves all responsibility of the state to police the threshold. It is transferred to the user. And there is a vested interest to reach that threshold quickly. And, as a secondary question, if the threshold was legitimately breached in 2018, is it therefore reasonable to assume it will in 2019,and therefore revert to lethal control immediately? Thus, if one swaps the year 2018 with an earlier one, eg 1985, one can argue, following the logic that it is pointless trying other means first and so lethal control becomes the go to approach.

    Of course, crops change, as do bird populations and species causing perceived problems. So reaffirming thresholds is, scientifically, the appropriate way forward. But realistically, this won’t be done.

    As to the image of a child. Well, not very good PR in the context of the emotive issue of GLs. A blunder there. But it is not illegal, for a child, under adult supervision, to shoot. This is a morality issue, not a legal one. And it is entirely irrelevant to the debate on GLs.

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