Sadly, on a number of occasions in the last year we have been involved in situations where advocates of countryside pursuits have felt it 'better' to not publicise their involvement in this way of life. The reasons are pretty self evident - fear of reprisals by a bullying group of self righteous activists. So, who can blame them for being somewhat nervous of advertising their activities, especially if reprisals would adversely affect their way of life? For many, the countryside activities they undertake generate the income with which to support their families. Silence therefore, would appear to be an easy and sensible, albeit cautionary, route to take. Is it the right way though?
Ironically, we live in a world where any form of minority exclusion is rightly seen as outside of the moral compass of society. Modern civilisations count freedom of speech as a pillar of any democracy. As Evelyn Hall wrote: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", and we see examples of this everyday. Unfortunately, its also true to say we see too many examples of where this right is not equally apportioned. Sadly, it seems acceptable for our media outlets, along with many celebrities and 'significant' individuals within our society, to demonise law abiding people carrying out activities that they have deemed, through lack of true understanding or knowledge, as unacceptable in modern times. Hunting, shooting, and managing wildlife is certainly one of those groups that is apparently worthy of demonisation. As a result, criminal, if not terrorist, activities conducted by activists against gamekeepers, organised shoots, and any individual conducting related activities, seems to be seen as righteous and acceptable. I could ask 'how can this be right', but what would be the point as we know it isn't but that doesn't seem to make these popular vocalists any less vocal? Why would they be quiet when the powerful see it as easier to support them than stand against them? And thats the point, we have become cowered in our resolve to speak out and protect what we know is right.
Edmund Burke once wrote "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". That's the short version, and either side of our current quandary could claim it supports their side of the argument. However, the longer version is more informative:
"Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other’s principles, nor experienced in each other’s talents, nor at all practised in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business; no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them; it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy. In a connection, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public. No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle".
It would appear to me that the current countryside pursuits community is fractured and not standing united in promoting its activities to the wider society in the same way that those opposed have mobilised their campaign. Whilst we have the support of organisations such as BASC, The Countryside Alliance and GWCT fighting the good fight, we need all of those involved in this way of life to become proactive participants. To stand aside and hope others succeed in securing our future is the same as standing against them. I would even venture to say that if you are an individual, or organisation, that isn't prepared to stand up for what you do then maybe its time you reconsider whether you should actually be engaged in countryside pursuits at all. Participation doesn't require activism. Far from it, activism has a negative connotation which is not where we should operate from. A better way forward is based on a positive overtone. I ask all of you therefore who would currently remain silent, to speak up when people are speaking out against us, be proud of your involvement and educate the naysayers on the positives of countryside pursuits. Silence is not always golden.