I’ve never had the privilege of sitting in a grouse butt on the Glorious 12th and (as a shooter who prefers the silent stealth of the air-gun over the blast of the shotgun) I probably never will. Yet I watched with interest the political parrying in the lead up to this traditional, annual event. The RSPB and that pompous hypocrite Mark Avery once again exposed their tendency to try to manipulate the media by (on the eve of the 12th) spinning out a four month old tale of a dead hen-harrier allegedly shot by a grouse moor manager or keeper? Absolutely no proof, of course, but a story hidden for 16 weeks and only released to try to undermine a long-standing British tradition. I have been attacked myself recently (on this blog) by people who say that my insistence that rural traditions such as fox-hunting need to be protected is indefensible because society has ‘moved on’ and mankind no longer needs to go out and hunt. One imbecile even went as far as to say that we don’t need to hunt now and kill for the table, we can get in a car and go to the supermarket. Does he think the bullock that provided the beef in his quarter-pounder committed suicide?
Many of us still hunt or fish for the pot. Rabbit, deer, pigeon, wildfowl, squirrel, coarse or sea fish. Free, unprocessed and untainted food won through fair and legal means. The fact that anti-hunting types think that their supermarket meat or fish arrives on the plate through some process that avoids ‘killing’ highly amuses me. We hunters and anglers, of course, know how to process our meat or fish, select the healthy cuts and ensure we only put the best on our menu. We will have selected the right beast for the cull with a view to this, whether mammal, bird or fish. My home-made rabbit burger won’t have horse meat in it. The venison sausages passed to me by the stalker came from the same pure Norfolk acreage where I shot the rabbits. Air-mile free, unlike the venison haunch in the supermarket bearing a ‘New Zealand’ label.
Perhaps though, the resentment shown by ‘antis’ to those of us who hunt and fish is more deep-rooted? Based on incapacity? To go out into the countryside to gather your own harvest means you have to get off the sofa, turn off the TV, and shut down the PC or iPad. You need to pull on a pair of boots, buy a gun (and have the legal credibility to do that), train a dog … even own a car? All of a sudden it’s a challenge, isn’t it? Who’s going to look after the cat (who killed fifty songbirds already this year). Who’s going to cash the benefit cheque tomorrow? And most ‘anti’s’ don’t do challenge unless a cosmetic company funds a ‘whip round’ for a mini bus, some crow bars and a set of balaclavas. The higher level ‘anti’s’ … and by that I mean the celebrity wildlife quasi-ecologists who will tell the public that foxes and badgers are just “doing what they do”, rarely visit the real countryside. They visit sanitised, clinically managed reserves. People like Avery, Packham, Oddie, May and that foul-mouthed cretin, Gervais (who has probably never got further than Hampstead Heath?)
If homo sapiens had never learnt to hunt, we wouldn’t be here now. We would have been superceded by a species that had the capacity to wipe us out. Probably, the wolf. Isn’t it ironic that it is the relationship with the wolf, which fuelled it’s domestication, that turned us into the most efficient hunting combination on the planet. Man and dog. Yet a political manifesto, in the UK, has successfully constrained that relationship. For now. But just look at the history books. Those who challenge injustice generally win. We just have to be persistent. Hunting has been part of mankind’s psyche since our primeval ancestors stood on two legs. We mastered it and became Earth’s dominant species. We should bear no shame for that achievement. We are, though, the only species on the planet that encourage the weak to survive. The only species to invent concepts like ‘cruel’ or ‘brutal’ and to understand (or misunderstand) the meanings.
So, coming back to the opening point … tradition? If we follow the argument that society has ‘outgrown’ old traditions then surely we would finish the monarchy? So, with no Royalty, there can be no Royal Society for the Protection of Birds? There can be no Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I’m sure none of us want that?
Just saying !
Copyright, Ian Barnett, WildScribbler, August 2015