We are all, in some capacity, aware of the tradition that is game shooting. The phenomenon described by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as ‘wanton destruction’, which is responsible for 100,000 birds being shot each day during the shooting season, has its origins more than 2000 years ago. However, call me a naïve city girl, it wasn’t until I came to Edinburgh that I realised how present the so-called sport still is.
The argument for and against shooting is ongoing and controversial. Many supporters defend their actions with statistics, claiming that it generates £2 billion a year, creates jobs and boosts conservation. While it is true that shooting creates lucrative rural economies and generates tourism, many figures have been shown to be exaggerated. Furthermore, can the abuse and killing of animals really be justified by money? Millions of birds, born and bred for this purpose, are shot each season. It has been claimed that as many as 40 percent of birds that are shot are not killed outright and instead wounded. This would suggest that not only are animals killed for pleasure and sport, but many are in fact also caused to suffer before dying.
Aside from the death of the birds, treatment of the animals prior to the shoot is also concerning. Defra has stated that almost all red-legged partridges involved in UK shoots are raised in wire-mesh cages, smaller than an A4 piece of paper per bird, often for their entire life. Living conditions can be found to be worse than that allowed by law for chickens, resulting in, for example, stress and mutilation. In addition, during transportation birds can spend upwards of 20 hours in crates.
It has somehow become acceptable for a small part of the UK population to spend £2.5 billion each year to provide themselves with entertainment at the cost of millions of animals.
The malice spreads further, impacting many other animals that predate these birds. In order to maximise the number of birds available to be shot, predators such as foxes and stoats are subject to wire snares and traps. As these devices are non-specific, many other innocuous animals often suffer from their presence. In other words, animals are suffering and dying to facilitate the sport of killing birds.
There are facts and statistics to support either side of the argument. It is a tradition that is long standing and has been passed down many generations. The elitist event lacks emphasis on the killing of animals, instead placing importance on the social aspects of a weekend shoot. It has somehow become acceptable for a small part of the UK population to spend £2.5 billion each year to provide themselves with entertainment at the cost of millions of animals. While my ears are open to opposition, on this question my mind is relatively closed. The sport of killing innocent animals and causing them to suffer has no honest justification.