Some years ago, a website was published called ‘Common Decency’. The author wanted to show what life was like when a pheasant shoot you don’t want any part of starts up next door to the fixer-upper cottage you bought. The transition from quiet farmland to noise, disturbance, a hail of dying pheasants and lead shot falling into your new garden. The disregard for personal feelings that appear to be endemic within the shooting industry.
The same author has now created a website which continues where Common Decency left off. It’s called Seven Years On, and is subtitled ‘Seven years on, but still snared by a driven pheasant shoot. This is a story of dishonour and arbitrary power in Britain’s countryside‘.
The author is right: Seven Years On is indeed a story of dishonour and arbitrary power in Britain’s countryside. It’s a true story of intimidation and a complete lack of empathy from the shooting industry. It is a story of guns pointing at your windows and of quad bikes parked just outside your house. Of routinely finding wounded birds in your flower beds. Of experiencing “menacing imposition and supercilious attitudes”.
The author’s story went viral on Twitter this weekend.
There is always an element of an ‘echo chamber’ on social media. It’s highly likely that many of us reading this don’t follow the (few?) accounts that include shooters who think it’s entirely wrong to subject one person to this level of harassment for nearly twenty years, but the one response that we’ve seen is interesting only in how widely it misses the point.
Shooters are reasonable – even friendly – people, the respondent purrs. The shooting has gone on since 1998, the author feels trapped in her own home, but if us anti’s only got to know shooters we’d see what wonderful people they are. Besides, shooters, keepers, and beaters love and understand wildlife far better than anyone who doesn’t kill birds yards from someone else’s front door.
We are often urged to find common ground with people who shoot. But it’s very difficult. On the most basic level, they kill and many of us don’t. That colours things. Whether or not they’d be great company down the pub, love their dogs, or would lend you a tenner if you were caught short, their values are simply not the same as ours. And many of us think our values matter.
Shooting for sport is of course highly polarising. It’s a day out with friends for the gunmen, an unconscionable few hours of destruction for others. For many of us there is no reason whatsoever to do it. It serves no survival purpose, it doesn’t contribute, it adds nothing to the sum of existence. It is taking not giving. An interminable cycle of tearing down the natural world for fun.
But that’s just the view of the ‘snowflake’, the ‘townie’, the ‘anti’. Shooters will never understand the distress they cause. It’s beyond comprehension to them that shotguns blasting away near your house could be seen as anything other than a re-affirmation of all that is great about country life. They will never understand (or acknowledge) the hurt they cause not only to the birds they shoot but to the many of us who feel rage and heartbreak at every death. It’s simply not conceivable that what they see as normal could be seen as deeply unpleasant by anyone else.
Indeed, as the author of Seven Years On herself asks:
- Is the shooting fraternity unaware of its selfishness or is it indifferent to it?
- Does the shooting fraternity believe it has a moral right to impose its values on people in their homes?
The answers to those questions appear in far too many cases to be, Yes. It’s how situations like Seven Years On arise, develop, and play out. The relatively powerless vs the relatively powerful, the polite and reasonable vs the intractable, the kind and hopeful individual vs a stonewalling and uncaring industry.
The author has created a remarkable website with one very clear ask:”Until legislation constrains where pheasants can be put and shot, there should be a statutory right to know the proximity of driven pheasant shoots to domestic dwellings.“
She is unequivocally right. So can we help her achieve that very fair aim? We can, and we start by reading the story at Seven Years On.
Images from Seven Years On. Follow the story on Twitter at @SevenYearsOn1