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  • Fieldsports Oct Nov issue
  • Fieldsports Oct Nov issue
  • Fieldsports Oct Nov issue
  • Fieldsports Oct Nov issue

A love out-weighed by hatred

This time, the charity has had a private prosecution of Avon Vale thrown out of court on the first day of a scheduled seven-day trial, with district judge Simon Cooper describing it as “not a strong case”. And the cost of this belligerent 14-month venture: £50,000 – of course to be settled by its donors and the taxpayer. One has to wonder how members are supposed to keep faith in the organisation when their offerings are splashed with such frivolity.

With the looming shadows of the £327,000 obsessive pursuit of the Heythrop and the collapsed case against a family for allegedly interfering with a badger sett costing another substantial sum only a month or so later, Tim Bonner, director of campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, stated that the RSPCA are ruining lives in their “vindictive” campaign against hunting.

It seems that the RSPCA's love for animals is far out-weighed by their hatred of those participating in country pursuits, and they therefore throw huge amounts of charitably-donated resources into scrounging for evidence rather than seeking the truth.

We see other organisations such as the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and Brian May's Save Me marching to the same tune and airing arguments that are intentionally dependent on the ignorance and naivety of their largely urban audiences. Although the voice of the countryside has never intended to convert the public but rather to educate, these groups are fervently single-minded in thought and have a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who owns a pair of green wellies.

The badger cull is a prime example. Those against refuse to acknowledge any reasoning behind the proposed culls due to take place this summer, and can't fathom that just maybe these farmers aren't vying for badger blood but rather seeing a glimpse of hope in safeguarding a national resource and reducing the level of slaughtered cattle – over 130,000 cattle in England alone since January 2008, and counting. I've always wondered how these welfare groups prioritise one species over another. And what baffles me most is how little appreciation people have of the mammoth impact of farmers, and those employed by sporting interests, in managing and maintaining the British countryside.

Just recently within the shooting community, many were surprised to learn that Bob Elliot, Head of Investigations at the RSPB, filled the role of giving the keynote address at the LACS seminar entitled ‘Gunning for Change' – a symposium billed to 'expose' shooting in order to get it banned. The RSPB has always maintained that it just wants changes to the way things are done, not an outright ban. Yet, by contributing so prominently, they have seriously compromised their claim to be neutral on the issue.

More than £250million is spent every year on conservation across two-thirds of the rural land area in the UK (two million hectares) as a direct result of the shooting industry. There can be no debating the fact that sporting interests are a monolithic driving force behind the management and preservation of an eclectic range of British bird species – although certain groups try – through predator control, muirburn, cover crops, hopper feeding, nesting boxes etc. If shooting is banned, who will cough up this sum? The RSPCA, perhaps, who clearly have no shortage of disposable funds at present.

In addition to this support, farmers also enter ELS and HLS agricultural schemes to aid and enhance many of the feathered species that ornithologists get giddy about. From the way some groups paint such an apocalyptic picture of those employed in these roles, with death threats and the exposing of farmers' addresses surfacing without pause for thought, this is clearly going wholly unrecognised.

Obviously certain practices within the countryside are not to everyone's liking and, as with anything in life, if you scratch deep enough you are bound to find faults and imperfections. Shooting, hunting, fishing and farming are not something that everyone needs to take part in, but at the very least the RSPCA, the LACS and co. could rein in the hot-headed sentience and try to understand the bigger picture. Undoubtably, however, this is wasted optimism rather than realistic hope...

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