Simon Heffer

Gunning for game-shooting

Simon Heffer on the latest front in the war against field sports

The first fortnight of the shooting season has not been as auspicious as it might have been. This is not just because the grouse themselves are in short supply. It is also because, having put on to the statute book a crass, pointless and probably unenforcable law against the killing of vermin with hounds, the animal rights fascists are now turning their attention to the killing of birds with guns.

The RSPCA, which used to do good work in persuading children to be kind to furry and feathered beasts, and still does perform a valuable public service through its inspectorate in tackling the genuine and sickening incidences of cruelty to animals, is also now heavily politicised and partisan in its opposition to field sports. It takes pride in its role in abolishing fox-hunting. Jackie Ballard, the former LibDem MP who is now director-general of the RSPCA, says that shooting ‘is horrible and nasty’; and adds, minatorily, that ‘we will get round to try to end this’. Hers is not a lone voice. The League Against Cruel Sports attacks ‘trigger-happy punters willing to pay through the nose’ who are ‘funding the eradication of British wildlife’, ignoring completely the fact that if grouse, pheasant and partridge were not reared or actively conserved to provide sport there might be none of them left. Another group, Animal Aid, says that ‘millions of birds are intensively reared every year in order to satisfy the base appetites of wealthy “guns” who often show little appetite for their quarry once they have brought it down’, and calls on the government to introduce a ‘total ban’ on the production of birds for what it terms ‘the pheasant killing industry’.

Although Animal Aid’s prejudices are as ignorant as anyone else’s — we shooters all quite happily tuck into grouse, partridge and pheasant — its words do bring us close to the nub of the real reason for opposition to game-shooting.

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