Things aren’t going well for those who shoot birds for fun. In 2015, an exposé from the League Against Cruel Sports lead to both P&O and Brittany ferries to ban the transport of pheasant poults from France on its ships. In 2016, 123,000+ people signed a petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting, leading to the first ever parliamentary debate on the subject (as bad as the debate went, this is still a significant step forward). In 2017, Sir Ian Botham caused much outcry when he announced he was going to donate game birds from his estate to the poor – perhaps because people would prefer that those directly benefiting from the shooting industry didn’t try to deceive the public into thinking the industry has nothing to hide. This year, the shooting industry seems to be turning on itself, a victim of friendly fire, as it were.

At this year’s Game Fair, Patrick Galbraith, editor of Shooting Times, Britain’s premier magazine for all things unnecessary-bird-slaughter, said, “There isn’t the demand for all the game we are shooting and to carry on shooting 500 bird days is a terrible PR move”. He’s not wrong! For years the League have seen saying that releasing up to 35 million pheasants and red-legged partridges into the British countryside might be a tad excessive, but this has been met with fervent denial, with shooters insisting that it’s ‘one for the pot.’ Well Mr Galbraith shot this claim down in flames, going on to say, “There is a greed that has crept into shooting. We try to go bigger and bigger to make more and more money” finishing with “If we can’t criticise ourselves we are on the road to ruin.” I hope he’s right.

This year, in what is clearly a direct response to the growing awareness of the shooting industry’s cruelty, also saw the formation of the British Game Alliance, a marketing board for ‘game’ meat. But it seems they have quite a task ahead of them. At the same time, the Countryside Alliance launched polling describing ‘game’ meat as a growth market. I’m no spin doctor, but something tells me they’re not shooting straight. Let’s have a look at the numbers, shall we?

According to the poll, 85% of the British public have never bought pheasant or partridge. Leaving 15% who have. Now, describing this as room for growth is certainly one very optimistic way of looking at it, but I would rather look at the numbers for what they actually say. That 85% of the public don’t cook and eat ‘game’ meat. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s most people. This might explain why 46% of shoots are giving their birds away for free, and a further 12% are actually paying game dealers 20-30p to take their dead game away. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

And finally, this year YouGov polling from the League and Animal Aid shows that 69% of people oppose the shooting of birds for sport.

So, most people don’t eat it, most people don’t agree with it, and above all, it’s unnecessary and cruel. I think it’s about time the shooters shot-off, don’t you?