A widely-circulated article in The Guardian (a UK newspaper) yesterday featured a report on a “leaked briefing note” which advised Conservative Party candidates “not to sign up to non-approved pledges on nine key areas” in upcoming General Election debates, but that “supporting shooting was allowed”.
The authors of the briefing paper would surely know that If questions are asked about “supporting shooting”, voters will most likely be querying support for the high-impact industrialised shooting typical of pheasant shoots and grouse moor estates rather than lower-impact walked-up shooting.
Especially when the rationale they provide is that ‘shooting’ is …”worth around £2bn to the economy, much of it in some of our remotest communities”. That absolutely suggests travel costs, overnight stays, spend in hotels, and wages etc.
Those figures have been widely disputed many times (and wages for eg beaters are far lower than national averages anyway). And while briefing papers are usually ‘brief’, it’s perhaps surprising that the section on shooting does focus on an economic argument (and, oddly, mentions banning the primate trade, extending cat micro-chipping, and consulting on live exports), but doesn’t appear to mention several other key elements of ‘shooting’ that a truly progressive government with a genuine interest in animal welfare and the environment might want to look at.
Elements, perhaps, such as:
- the deaths of millions of birds (recent reports suggest that a staggering 47 million Pheasants and 10 million Red-legged Partridges are released to be shot every year for instance);
- the pain and suffering of wildlife that is shot or injured;
- the wildlife crime and the wilful blindness that appears to actively protect those who commit it;
- the enormous use of (legal) traps and snares to kill ‘vermin’ (including huge numbers of native mammals like foxes, stoats, and weasels) on shooting estates and grouse moors;
- the noise pollution, disturbance, and genuine distress felt by many people living near shoots;
- the use of lead in shot (thousands of tons of lead shot are blasted over the countryside every year);
- the massive waste of life endemic to the intensive forms of shooting now widespread throughout the UK
How about other major political parties though?
At least the “compassionate” Conservatives have been upfront about their support for shooting (even if the briefing sheet was ‘leaked’), which is a major help for any voter with an interest in the subject.
What about our other major political parties, what have they had to say?
Manifestos for the 2019 General Election are being produced at the moment, but a look at recent announcements suggests the following:
- the Labour Party have produced an animal welfare manifesto and say they will implement an independent review into the economic, environmental and wildlife impacts of driven grouse shooting and enact the last Labour Government’s proposed legislation on cage rearing of game birds, but dont talk about shooting otherwise;
- the Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of climate change and support better animal welfare, but (according to shooting lobbyists anyway) have always enjoyed a ‘close working relationship’ with the shooting industry;
- the Green Party are focussing their efforts on the existential threat of climate change, but in previous elections have stated that they “will end all commercial driven shooting, including grouse shooting, and will outlaw the use of cages to rear game birds” (though why you would still need cages if commercial driven shooting was banned isn’t explained);
- the Scottish National Party website doesn’t appear to mention shooting at all (we tried the ‘search’ function) but have in the past condemned wildlife crime – though they have been heavily criticised for subsequent inaction on it;
- Plaid Cymru don’t cover shooting in the nine ‘key policies‘ they will be campaigning on.
That information was harvested during an admittedly cursory trawl through the internet – but that’s proves a point anyway: political parties are now happy to state upfront their support for the Hunting Act (which banned the hunting of wild mammals with dogs) but are either unconcerned about the millions and millions of birds killed every year or believe that a relatvely small and likely overstated contribution to the British economy trumps everything else.
Are we getting the politics we want?
Which makes those of us who are concerned – and there are many of us – somewhat disenfranchised.
Yes, while we are all of course desperate for immediate and meaningful action on climate change, care deeply about inequality and the aggression embedding itself in society, and have endlessly discussed Brexit along with everyone else, we also want wildlife properly considered and properly protected.
Perhaps one day a political party will appreciate that they’re potentially losing votes by not understanding that.