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Why do we call bird shooting an 'industry'?

Why does Protect the Wild calls the ‘bird shooting industry’ (a blanket term for shooting estates, shooting syndicates, shooting lobbyists, gun and ammunition manufacturers and suppliers etc) an ‘industry’ exactly?

Because that’s exactly what it is – an industry. And it’s huge.

 

We all need to move past old-fashioned ideas about ‘shooting’ being little more than killing the occasional Wood Pigeon for the occasional pie (as distasteful as that is), or a few mates meeting up to wander across some fields and go home happy even if they didn’t kill anything (sort of like going birdwatching but armed).

Shooting today is a highly organised industry involving the industrial-scale release and killing of pheasants and partridges (numbers being released have shown increases since the early 1960s of around nine times for pheasants and almost 200 times for Red-legged Partridges), the snaring and shooting of countless numbers of foxes, and the eradication of highly-protected birds of prey (the Hen Harrier has become a poster bird for the illegal persecution of birds of prey on shooting estates). It has its own magazines (with dead birds and weapons proudly displayed on its front covers), online shows, and wealthy supporters – from minor celebrities who appear to think gunning down birds is aspirational all the way up to the Royal Family who have done so much to make killing huge numbers of pheasants and grouse a ‘tradition’ (one it happily hands down to its children while they are still at primary school).

Like other industries, it’s a major landowner (an area twice the size of Greater London is held back for the killing of Red Grouse) and is buying more all the time. That land is largely off-limits to anyone without a gun. And as soon as it moves in it starts to make changes, beginning its well-documented war on foxes and badgers, stoats and weasels, birds of prey, and even some crows.

As with many damaging industries, shooting’s top tier (the landowners) keeps a distance from the damage it does. It employs gamekeepers to carry out its dirty work. These blunt tools are the industry’s ‘enforcers’, keeping the public away from the vile stink pits and traps they routinely use, illegally persecuting birds of prey, and protecting the industry’s profits by killing huge numbers of animals so that other people can kill other animals (in essence the core role of a ‘game’ keeper).

The industry’s customers pay hundreds of pound to buy those ‘other animals’ – birds, and vast numbers of them. Just for the privilege of standing in a valley or on the edge of a woodland while ‘beaters’ drive unsuspecting birds towards them, ‘shooters’ will pay the landowner thousands of pounds a day. Millions of pounds are involved.

Shooting is shockingly influential, on a scale with other industries (the dairy industry that has demanded the extirpation of the badger for example) that supportive MPs and landowners in the House of Lords are involved with. A current Minister of State at Defra, Lord Benyon, is a grouse moor owner. Spokespeople for the industry like Lord Ian Botham get to edit Radio Four’s influential ‘Today’ programme and make unchallenged claims that the industry has control of raptor persecution. Major bird charities claim ‘neutrality’ on shooting and skirt around condeming it outright because while they’re killing millions of birds shoots provide some crop cover that coincidentally benefit a few farmland birds. Its wealthy owners are awarded vast subsidies from the public purse. Shooting even got a pass on releasing birds during the worst avian flu crisis in history – something the hugely influential poultry industry wasn’t able to do.

Like so many other destructive industries, this one greenwashes itself with talk of ‘conservation’ while destroying biodiversity, setting fire to precious habitats while talking about protecting landscapes, insisting that using lead shot (an environmental toxin) is important for the welfare of the birds they shoot with it, denying it is riddled with serious welfare issues, and sending its supporters out to rubbish proper naturalists and claim that the rest of us aren’t educated enough to understand what it really does.

Like many industries before it shooting speaks with one voice. From lobbists to MPs, the same statements are given in what is clearly unified coordination. Stand up to it and just as with the tobacco, oil, and pesticide industries you’ll be met with denial and disinformation, because like so many other exploitative and profit-driven industries before it, shooting doesn’t think it should ever have to change to reflect modern-thinking – or reality…

 

We call the bird shooting industry an industry because that is exactly what it is. An industry turning over vast amounts of money, underpinned by wildlife crime, and trying very hard to convince us all that it should stay exactly the way it is right now.