What is wrong with us in this country? We have few top predators in our countryside, whether foxes or buzzards, yet we demonise and persecute them indiscriminately. Some sections of the media can be seen to fuel this by, for example, referring to foxes as "sly assassins, who have been on a killing spree." For goodness sake, we are talking about one of our few wild largish mammals, who act in a natural way to get food. It is down to us to find ways to peacefully coexist with them, not kill them purely out of our self interest.
We should revel in our top predators, leaving them to live full and natural lives, not demonise and persecute them.Why do we talk and act against them in such a harsh and cruel way? I am sure there is ignorance and prejudice, fuelled by propaganda. But a main driver for this human behaviour is greed and chasing the dollar.
Take the recent government farrago over buzzards. They tried to slip through a covert cull of buzzards and failed due to the outrage of the vast majority of people in this country who are proud of the successful project to increase the buzzard population. My kids are thrilled every time we spot a buzzard hovering as we drive through the countryside. The reason the Government fell into yet another wildlife policy blunder was because they were listening uncritically to their chums in the shooting industry. Buzzards do take some game birds to eat, as do foxes, but far fewer than the gamekeepers and shoot entrepreneurs claim. But each one is a "cash bird" worth £100 out of the pocket of a blood sport fanatic.
This is not the only aspect of the shooting industry that, if you stand back and consider, is bizarre in the extreme. One of the few notable wildlife crimes in this country is to release a non-indigenous species into our countryside. Yet every year the shooting industry releases 30 million pheasants and partridges into woodland across the country, neither of which is a natural inhabitant.
Not to mention the horrible lives these poor birds have. They are bred and kept in small, cramped unregulated cages and mutilated to stop them harming each other in the crowded conditions. They are released unable to survive naturally and die through starvation, are hunted by our indigenous predators, or scared into the path of lines of humans waiting with guns who shoot them, often leaving them injured and left to suffer until collected by dogs – and they call that sport!
This is not the only dark secret of the shooting industry, with shoots we see a vengeance against predators. Raptors are illegally poisoned and other birds illegally trapped. Snares are also used to catch mammals. Snares are the most cruel and indiscriminate weapons of wildlife destruction. A recent DEFRA study showed they catch everything from foxes through to domestic pets. They are still legal to use, if a certain design of snare is laid, yet the DEFRA study could not find any legal snares on sale in this country. They had to make their own to conduct field trials! How can we allow snares to be used at all when you can't get legal ones and gamekeepers rarely comply with the rules on their use? We should join other civilised countries in Europe and ban their use altogether.
The shooting industry has a marvellous PR machine which projects an image of cool chic and conservation. It's time the veil was lifted to show the hypocrisy, vested interest and extreme cruelty behind this “sport”. The short lives of the target birds are cruel in the extreme. Their treatment of our indigenous predators is shocking. We are exposing this in a new undercover film called Gunsmoke and Mirrors. Watch the trailer here and join our campaign to end shooting of live animals for sport.