Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Pleasure Killers.

I've meant to write this for some time, but difficulties with broadband/internet facilities has dictated otherwise. That intervening period, however, has allowed me to return to the subject time and time again to ensure that the comments below are really what I think!!  The conclusions are directed absolutely towards the motivations of people associated with shooting, not with wider aspects of their personalities. I know various people who shoot and, in all other respects, accept them as people absolutely, but simply don't understand the real, deep reasons for their interest.

A little while ago a good friend of mine advised that there are some proposed revisions to shooting legislation being considered in Denmark and that the rough translation ( into English) of shooting " aficionados " being considered was " Pleasure Killers".  I didn't pay too much attention at the time but, more recently, I've returned to the subject and attempted to try and determine what my own thoughts on the subject really are.

I suppose I've always accepted the fact that shooting, under the laws of the land, is a legal activity and never taken the subject any further. And summarizing things, I suppose that's the stance that many conservation organizations, not all,  take too. However, increasingly,  I've begun to feel more than a little uneasy about the whole process if I'm honest. I'm not a person  (I hope ) that holds deep prejudices or disagrees with anything without a degree of reasoned consideration, and so I started to consider many of the issues that actually surround shooting.  Setting aside, as a conservationist, the usual subject areas which give rise to concern with the activity, e.g raptor persecution and, seemingly, the mindless slaughter of numbers of Red Grouse, Pheasant and Partridge each season, and moving to what I feel are fundamental aspects associated with shooting, I confess to coming to a conclusion that it's all somewhat dis-quieting!!!

What actually motivates these people and why?  Why?

In order to try and set the subject in context , let us set out why they don't do it!  It's absolutely not because they need the food. I doubt no one attending an urban food bank can afford the luxury of these pursuits!!  Do they receive wide recognition of their prowess in being a good shot?  A few do, I suppose, in the somewhat sectarian publications that support these activities, but , generally, an individual's involvement goes unrecognised.  Indeed,on many occasions fees are paid for the "privilege" of taking part in an organized shoot, which is perhaps a major clue to one of the fundamental drivers of the whole scenario. Is there a sense of tribalism in it all?  Or is there a sense of trophyism?  If not then , is it to exhibit good hand and eye co-ordination? I doubt it unless you've designs on being a member of the Olympic Target Shooting Team.  The list goes on until you arrive at the conclusion that they enjoy going out and pitting their wits against their hapless prey and then, hopefully, efficiently knocking them off,  i.e. killing them. The description "Pleasure Killers" begins to take on more substance!!

Now I'm sure it's also necessary to take on board the feedback from the social melange that surrounds such activities, so we are transported into the realms of ego and " having arrived " ( Oh, well done Charles!! ). Such is perhaps not as elevated as the ultimate accolade of bagging a Woodcock with both barrels!!  Hooray!!  But these are perhaps no more than quasi-social aspects, not what is actually motivating the activity. Surely not!!  I'm sure there are wannabees involved in the process, but that they exert little influence in the greater scheme of things is unlikely.

At the end of the process the activity involves the killing, quite deliberately, of a living entity whatever the extent of the congratulations on expertise or the quality of the port at the end of the day!! Now let me say, at this point, that I'm not a vegetarian  ( perhaps I ought to be ) and that I square the knowledge of how we source our supplies of meat and fish with a desire to keep alive and a varied palate!!  By contrast, I wonder how much, by proportion of the grouse, partridge and Pheasants which are killed each season, are actually eaten?  Am I the hypocrite then?   Do please tell me if you know anything of this as I believe the truth is something we need to have revealed.  Discovering that an appreciable proportion is just wasted adds to the despair surrounding such activities.

Birds reared in their thousands to face no better than a "deliberate despatch" within twelve months is a pretty appalling situation in this day and age.  But it is the motivation of those involved that bears the most scrutiny and I'm led, time and again, to conclude that they are involved simply because they are " Pleasure Killers". Doubtless their need for such involvement is deeply wired into their psyche based on our primaeval beginnings and the need to hunt to survive. But does the need to "bring home the bacon" have any relevance in this millennium?

Out of this is arising an ever more stronger personal feeling now that suggests driven shoots  ought to be banned altogether. If the urge to shoot is so irresistible then why not fall back on Clay Pigeon shooting?  In other words, why is it necessary to kill things?  Now I hear objections from the sidelines, but I suspect all will be confined to those who make a living from the world of organized shooting.   What actually intrigues me is what the shooters believe they're actually achieving when they're engaged in shooting.  Walk up shooting does appear to involve the many basic skills involved in hunting that many of us can more readily understand. The slaughter associated with driven shooting is too redolent of the dreadful circumstances on the Somme to be anything more than comfortable I'm afraid!!

In summary the above, I believe, does raise serious questions about the continuing validity of commercial shoots given their proven association with raptor persecution. Given the apparent, almost shallow motivations  demonstrated above associated with the activity, the continuing  persecution of raptors in order to achieve commercial benefit must surely be little more than illegal exploitation of an opportunity. To that extent the industry has much to answer for in my opinion, not least what really is it encouraging and supporting in the end?

This is a highly emotive subject. Do please take time to comment, to promote these thoughts as widely as possible and to disagree as necessary.  I do think we need to understand what the shooting industry itself thinks its actually achieving and representing in the current Millenium.  We don't want the usual rhetoric that normally surrounds any response to criticism of the industry but heartfelt explanations of what it is really felt is being achieved in the long run.


  1. Mike Mills

    August 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm · Reply (Originally placed on raptor politics site )

    I fully agree with the term Pleasure Killers being appropriate in its application to driven grouse shooting. However I’m not so sure that the killing has remained in the conscious part of the shooter’s brain( and I’m not so sure about that brain either )! It may be that they are so caught up in their ‘sport’ that they haven’t stood back and really considered it recently, that they are just swept along with all the associated activities and minimised the reality that they are taking lives by the score.

    Many of us drive a vehicle on a daily basis and it is easy to lose touch with the reality of just what a killer machine we have under our control. Those who stop to weigh up the matter may well change their driving behaviour considerably as a result. There remain plenty who obviously do not take this into account and who are the driving equivalent of a driven grouse shooter, on the roads!

    Like you John, I’m an omnivore. I also did a little fishing as a boy and I used to accompany a wildfowler on the salt marsh. So I tasted that hunting instinct and can therefore, sort of, understand what it feels like and how some take on that mantle for life. I have great respect for the likes of Sir Peter Scott, a wildfowler, who with maturity hung up his gun and followed the conservation banner. Of shooters I have great resect for a good wildfowler and so I would have no problem with walked up grouse shooting, but I just cannot see that a continuing hunting urge in the form of driven grouse shooting can be other than Pleasure Killing.

    From what I know and have seen of driven grouse shooting I feel that there are a range of motives which may keep a gun in the club. There is simply being a member of that club, where your friends are, it’s what you do with yourself at the weekend and what you talk about after, and that can be very difficult to take yourself a away from without some good excuse.

    Status and experiences to talk/brag about after must also play a part – being invited to shoot on some aristo’s shoot for the weekend or having been there when some great number of brace were dropped… those occasions sees you firmly as part of the tribe and for many who aspire or see this as a hallmark of social status and what money buys you. I’m saddened but there are a lot of those folk out there and yes it’s probably got a lot of profile association with the merchant banker / hedge fund type as well as the landed classes who have always done this and who have to maintain that position.

    I guess that, as in Mediterranean countries, there’s some element of machismo involved in the shooting. They see it as manly to go out on the wild moors in all weathers and dress the part and be a dashing, swash buckling, good shot!

    There are undoubtedly more factors involved in the psyche of the driven grouse gun that keep them signed up members of the club but it is that club that doesn’t stand back from what they are doing, take a long hard look and have the wisdom and maturity to realise that they are simply Pleasure Killers.

  2. Thanks,Mike. I suspect there is much in what you say and that, in the UK, there is more than an element of participants being the equivalent of ostriches with their heads in the sand. Their reasons for participation I guess range across the aspects you set out. Given current public concerns I also believe there is a proportion of these "constituents" who may yet consider themselves what their own actual motives are. Whether this then results in their seeking for improvements from the inside I doubt we'll ever know, but time will tell. Certainly the need to keep promoting the persecution problem is the way forward at the present time.
    keep in touch. John.