The ‘voices of the countryside’, raptor persecution, and trophy hunting

Yesterday shooting lobbyists realised something that the rest of us have understood for quite a while now – outside of their own circles, they’re not actually all that popular. In fact, shooting itself seems to be under threat!

Imagine, in times of biodiversity loss, the decimation of wild animals and plants across every habitat, genuine fears about climate change, and an understanding that our disconnection with Nature is creating the sixth mass extinction – shooting’s tone-deaf hobby of going out and killing things is – quelle surprise – becoming associated with wildlife crime, waste, selfishness, alt-right gun nuts, and an absolutely unacceptable lack of compassion. Amongst other things…Hard to see why all of that isn’t wildly popular with today’s environmentally-concerned generation.

Anyway, the ludicrous answer to all their ills, they pronounced, was to – er, have ‘zero tolerance for raptor persecution‘! Staggeringly enough, they feel that if only they could persuade the ‘bad apples’ (yada yada) in their midst to stop illegally shooting, poisoning, trapping, and persecuting birds of prey then the rest of us would look past the slaughter of native wildlife by the gun, the destruction of more native wildlife in spring traps and snares, the burning of upland moors, and the refusal to use available alternatives to toxic lead shot etc etc. Maybe we’ll all rally round and take ‘killing for fun’ off the endangered list. Yep, that’ll do it.

Only, of course, that won’t do it. Because no-one in their right mind will believe that shooting has suddenly had a moment of clarity and conscience and is concerned about raptors. It’s been killing them for centuries to ‘protect’ they things they want to kill themselves, after all, despite the law saying that all birds of prey are protected since — actually, go on, have a guess. Since last year? Since the turn of the century? The 90s? The 80s? No, since the passing of the Protection of Birds Act in 1954! And if that’s too far back for shooting’s top tier (which seems unlikely given the average age of Board members of these ‘institutions’) maybe they might remember a law called the Wildlife and Countryside Act which went on to the statute books in 1981?

Declaring ‘zero tolerance’ after literally decades of law-breaking, has nothing to do with a sudden affection for raptors and all to do with self-interest. This latest attempt by shooting to pull the wool over the eyes of a public far more informed than its lobbyists seems capable of grasping is beautifully dissected in a blog today by Raptor Persecution UK, but what they don’t talk about (as it’s beyond their remit) was that these paragons of conservation and environmental awareness are now also lobbying to ban changes to laws on the import of dead bits of wildlife killed by trophy hunters.

Yep, following Defra’s announcement that they would consult on proposals to ban the import of ‘trophies’ into the UK, both BASC and the so-called ‘Countryside Alliance’ are also mobilising to block any change to the law…way to go, you animal lovers, you…

BASC has lobbied for the government’s consultation period to be extended by one month because, as it admits, there has been a very poor response rate from people that shoot to the consultation.

In its submission to Defra, BASC brands people who have responded to the consultation in favour of a ban as “unsophisticated” and goes on to say on its website (in sweeping – and again tone-deaf – fashion) that “the antis are using this consultation as a vehicle to attack all of shooting“. They say that “whatever your shooting interests please use this opportunity to show unity for shooting“.

Yes, we’re back to the whole ‘shooting is under threat’ theme so beloved by the ‘shooting community’. No matter what the issue, shooting will always stop any potential modernising of shooting. It’s the same ‘line in the sand’ mentality that sees any common-sense concession (like not using lead shot) as just the thin of the wedge, which will eventually see ‘antis’ (we prefer to describe people who actually care as ‘pro-wildlife’) knocking the whole sandcastle down. Yes, it’s not the killing, the illegality, the waste, or its support of trophy hunting that we all object to…it’s just that we’re ‘antis’. Unsophisticated antis at that.

The Countryside Alliance, meanwhile, claims that 2,500 people could lose their jobs in Scotland if a ban on trophy exports comes into effect. Why? Because trophy hunters from overseas might get miffed if they can’t take dead deer heads home so just might not bother to come over here at all. How unsporting …and we thought they were ‘conservationists’ coming here to selflessly help us all keep a plague of deer under control. Who knew shooting might be so ready to throw its toys out of the pram (okay, yes, of course we did).

Joking aside, the fact is that the shooting and hunting lobbyists are mobilising. Rushing to defend what they see as their ‘right’ to shoot wildlife – and to shoot as much of it as they like (everything from sixty million non-native pheasants and Red-legged Partridges to deer in Woburn and sheep and goats on Scottish islands).

If you’d like to mobilise back, then please feel free to use the following template email from the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting which puts things far more clearly (and probably less snarkily) than we might:

 

To: huntingtrophyconsultation@defra.gov.uk

Subject: Consultation on Controls on the import and export of hunting trophies

Dear Minister

I am writing to express my support for Option 3 – a ban on all hunting trophies entering or leaving the UK.

Killing animals for ‘trophies’ is cruel, unnecessary, and indefensible. The species targeted by trophy hunters are social, emotional, intelligent beings.

Studies have linked trophy hunting to major impacts on wildlife populations. They also show some remarkable recoveries where trophy hunting has been halted. Adding needless persecution to the growing threats faced by wildlife from habitat loss and climate change is senseless.

The trophy hunting industry gives awards to those who have killed the most animals in the most countries. It promotes Records Books that actively encourage hunters to shoot the biggest and strongest individuals. These animals score the most ‘points’, winning the hunter a place in coveted annuals. We are now seeing potentially disastrous ‘artificial selection’ in many species. The size of elephant tusks and other animals’ horns is getting smaller. Killing large males reduces genetic diversity, making it less likely those species can adapt to global warming and survive in the long term..

To say that trophy hunting is a vital source of income for people in Africa is misleading. Very few jobs have been created for locals. The main beneficiaries of ‘trophy fees’ are often officials, some of them corrupt, and overseas companies.

I urge the government to implement Option 3 as quickly as possible.

Yours sincerely