We who love the countryside, see the beauty whatever the season and are generally positive in outlook as we know we are lucky, indeed privileged to be part of this environment.
In a time when the press and TV media seem intent on providing coverage to opinionated minorities of all causes, who actively ignore objective reasoning, or truth, in an effort to increase distribution. We are inundated with ‘news’ that is so depressing it makes you want to retreat to a desert island and live your life out as a recluse. Daily reports about ‘antis’ trespassing and sometimes breaking the law without any outright condemnation of them by the reporting medium, or indeed the nations lawmakers does seem to make one feel that we either have different rules for them or the police simply do not have the capacity or deal with rural crime. A law breaker is a law breaker regardless of their cause so to not treat violent activists as such is simply a dereliction of duty. Other organisations, such as Wild Justice, have taken the other route and employed the ‘ballot box’ method to legitimise an illegitimate campaign against lawful and justified rural activities. Sitting, either silent or, in support of these protests are the ‘Royal’ Societies. Caught between the need to show support to many in their membership (money is important), whilst fully understanding, not just the benefits of but, the need for practical gamekeeping certainly gives them a tricky conflict of interest to balance. Unfortunately, the consequences of their in-action may not be understandable until it’s too late.
All is not lost, however. In fact, I’m remarkably upbeat about the current situation and our future. The world of social media is brand new to me. I’ve only recently installed Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter on my mobile phone. We launched our profile only a few weeks ago and it’s been tremendous to see how broad, large, vocal our fieldsports community is. It is unquestionably apparent that those of us passionate about wild game and its associate pursuits are certainly not alone.
As Wolfie Smith used to say, “power to the people”! Well, we are the people and we are plentiful in number. Furthermore, we have a voice and its loud enough to be heard. Social media is such a powerful platform and even us ‘mature’ types have learnt to use it. We can always learn how to harness its power even more and so I urge you all to get on it and spread the word far and wide. Use the fantastic concepts such as Eat Game Awards to champion our way of life to the rest of the country. Everyone must eat, and we know people like to eat wholesome, organic, ethically sourced, sustainable food. The best form of defence is attack but we don’t need to employ the same tactics as our antagonists. Indeed, to stoop to their level would simply champion their cause, if indeed you can call it that. All we need to do is continue to legally, peacefully and proactively advocate the fantastic benefits of wild game. Highlight it as a healthy alternative food source, hopefully bought from a local butcher or even better given to you by the local as repayment for helping out on a shoot day. When asked why you eat it never forget to mention the unmistakable benefits to the countryside when managed correctly. I’m sure, like me, you meet many people who are, on first introduction, anti-hunting. These people aren’t activists, but rather ‘normal’ folk who you meet in a setting that would generally expect each party to behave respectfully to each other such as the workplace at a social or formal event. After the initial awkwardness has passed, I explain in a friendly and, more often than not, calm manner, how and why I do what I do. I make no apologies for taking an animal’s life but explain how I took it and what I do with it afterwards. By the time I’ve finished explaining about the actual food, how it was cooked and how it enhanced the social gathering, whether a dinner party or BBQ reasonable people start to see it from a different perspective. That’s all I want. I don’t expect them to come out hunting, but if I can get them to at least accept the food and social benefits, in addition to the humane way it is sourced then that’s enough for me. I’ve yet to come up against anyone, in these circumstances, who hasn’t been objective and open to the ‘pitch’. The positive objectivity outweighs the negative subjectivity.
Supporting our passions today are some wonderful organsiations. BASC, the Countryside Alliance, BDS, BGA, SACS and many others. They, on our behalf interact and lobby politicians, but that doesn’t remove our responsibility to champion our activities whenever and wherever you get the opportunity. We are all accountable for promoting the positives and due to the organisations relieving other pressures we have more energy and time to fulfil our responsibilities within this regard. At this time of year, we can all gift birds to work colleagues. I accept that oven ready is more likely to be readily received so let them have those and keep the feathered ones for yourself. Cook game for others whenever you get the chance. I can’t remember the last time I had a party where I didn’t have game on the menu. It gives me the opportunity to explain where and how I got it and hopefully convert some who wouldn’t necessarily have supported Country Pursuits beforehand.
The food industry understands the value of game due to its organic and healthy credentials. As a result, they see the financial benefit to their bottom line. They have put a few hurdles in the way, such as lead shot removal, but overall this is a great opportunity for our community to promote game pursuits. The more people we can convert through our daily interactions, the more people will look for game in the supermarkets. It’s already available in farm shops and quite a few butchers but for the majority the supermarket offers the easiest accessibility. Let’s support that.
The UK’s conservation activities are thriving. Whilst we believe our community leads the way we have to give credit to other organisations and volunteers who are doing some remarkable work. We shouldn’t be afraid to give credit where credit is due. Furthermore, we must join with them and demonstrate how our activities bring greater benefit. You won’t be able to change a vegetarian from being vegetarian, but you may be able to enlighten them to the real benefits managing our wildlife brings. Its fine for people to hold different views but at the end of the day we are still social creatures and we can get on whilst not always agreeing or wanting to change what we do. Don’t get me wrong, there are those who simply won’t be either objective or social. An activist is called an activist for a reason. We do need to see a change in how the judicial system deals with these people, lobbying politician when there is a General Election due could be a good time to do it!
Another reason I’m in such a positive mood currently is it’s the best time of year for our passions. The constant hard work performed by so many prior to the shooting season over the year does now reap its reward. We can fill our larders with the best meat money can’t buy. At this time of year our passions run particularly high, our excitement is unbound, our opportunities are wide and varied. We are spoiled for choice at this time of year, enjoy it! This has been a year many of us would rather forget politically so make the most of everyday of country pursuits this season, whatever that might entail.
It’s easy to feel under attack but don’t. Be proud of what you do and don’t be afraid to broadcast it. I travel a lot on planes, trains and in my trusty Land Rover. I never worry about opening a game pursuits magazine whilst sat next to a stranger. I’ve not had one make any negative comment towards me yet. I’m sure it will happen one day, and when it does, I’ll relish in the opportunity to educate that person as best as I can. You never know, they may go out to buy game that weekend and join our already very large community.