The new PACEC report reveals that shooting accounts for 10 per cent of all spending on outdoor activity, supports 74,000 full-time jobs and manages 10x more land for conservation than nature reserves

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Shooting’s long-awaited Value of Shooting report is in and its marks are hugely impressive:

  • The industry is worth £2billion a year to the UK economy, accounting for almost 10 per cent of all spending on outdoor recreation;
  • Shooters spend £2.5billion annually on goods and services;
  • The shooting industry supports the equivalent of 74,000 full-time jobs;
  • More than 600,000 people shoot in the UK;
  • Shooting providers invest £250million a year in protecting and improving the environment;
  • The number of days shooters spend on conservation work adds up to 16,000 full-time jobs, and
  • Shooting manages 10 times more land for conservation than the nation’s nature reserves.

What’s more, the figures prove that for most participants in the UK, shooting isn’t about big bags of driven birds, and shooting sports are far from being a minority pastime benefitting only a small but wealthy sector of society. According to the report by Independent Cambridge-based firm Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC), you’re as likely to find a shooter in a home-made hide as standing on a carefully placed peg.

The headline findings of the PACEC report, titled The Value of Shooting (see “About the report” below), are no surprise to many in the shooting world. However, the clear calculations of shooting’s economic, environmental and social worth make it a valuable lobbying tool to combat shooting stereotypes and promote positive policy decisions, and it has been welcomed by the UK’s shooting and countryside organisations.

Shooting improves our well-being

The Value of Shooting report shows that it’s not just shooters who benefit from shooting, which provides jobs, training, education and experience for a broad range of people — from school children to retirees. Responses collated by PACEC detailed how shooting trade bolsters hospitality enterprises such as hotels, pubs and B&Bs outside of tourist seasons, and “can make the difference between profit and loss for some rural services”.

Though much of the paid work supported by shooting is part-time or seasonal, the report has added the notional hours together to express the amount of work supported as “full-time equivalents”. The level of employment directly supported by shooting (gamekeepers, shoot managers, beaters, pickers-up and such like) is estimated to be equivalent to 35,000 full-time jobs. Indirectly supported employment is thought to equate to 39,000 full-time jobs.

The survey also asked shooters to assess the effects of shooting on their personal well-being and on that of the local area. More than 93 per cent of respondents agreed that the locations in which they shot were “healthy and attractive”; 87 per cent felt that shooting was good for the “social fabric of the local area”, and 97 per cent said shooting improved their personal well-being.

The statistics also show how shooting helps keep rural communities economically viable outside traditional tourist seasons.

Shooting conservation outstrips RSPB’s

PACEC calculates that shooting has an effect on the management of roughly two-thirds of all the rural land in the UK — amounting to approximately 14million ha. Almost 2million ha of this (12 per cent of all rural land) benefits from “active management” due to shooting — including the management of heather moorland and the planting of trees and hedgerows. This is 10 times more land than is managed in all the UK’s national and local nature reserves put together.

Conservation spending by shooting providers in the year to the end of the 2013 season is estimated to have been almost £250million. In comparison, the RSPB spent £29.6million on conservation on its nature reserves in 2012 to 2013. The time spent on shoot-related conservation work is assessed as being the equivalent of 3.9million work-days, or 16,000 full-time conservation jobs.

What’s more, it’s not only management for gameshooting that helps boost biodiversity and the state of the land. The Value of Shooting report contains a case study of the 4,000-acre Bisley shooting range in Surrey, much of which has been awarded recognition as an environmentally sensitive area at a European level.

The report also warned that without shooting as an incentive, two-thirds of shooting providers “would reduce the effort they put into managing habitats.”

Who shoots?

According to the results, almost one per cent of the UK population — at least 600,000 people — shoot targets or live quarry. PACEC believes this is likely to be an underestimate, as survey and sampling requirements meant that many, including young Shots, were not counted for the purposes of the total. In addition, existing industry data suggests a further 1.6million people shoot live quarry with airguns. Most respondents were male and aged over 40.

Where do they shoot?

Broken down by country (and allowing for the fact that participants to shoot in more than one area), this works out at more than half-a-million people shooting in England last year; 120,000 in Scotland; 76,000 in Wales, and almost 10,000 in Northern Ireland. On a regional basis, the South East and South West of England see the most shooting and the North East the least.

What do they shoot?

Almost four out of five shooters shoot live quarry and two in three shoot clays. When the live quarry statistics are broken down, shooting avian pests (mostly woodpigeon) was almost on a par in the popularity stakes with shooting driven game, with 54 per cent of shooters taking part in the former and 55 per cent in the latter.

Why do they shoot it?

The PACEC report finds that 97 per cent of edible quarry shot was destined for the dinner table.

Gamebirds and venison were the most favoured foods, eaten by more than two-thirds of respondents, with woodpigeon and rabbit coming close behind.

Most shot quarry was eaten by those involved in its shooting (62 per cent) and 35 per cent took a less direct path to people’s plates, for instance via gamedealers and restaurants.

What do the organisations think of the Value of Shooting report?

BASC chief executive Richard Ali highlighted the PACEC report’s importance to future policy debate, saying: “The Value of Shooting report will help us set the foundations of shooting and conservation for the future. Now the report is published we are calling for policymakers, politicians and the media to recognise the positives that shooting delivers. Historically, legislation has been restrictive and reactive. We want it to be supportive and enabling, so that shooting is part of the nation’s innovative future.”

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, highlighted the report’s topical importance in the context of calls from conservationists for restrictions on grouse shooting in England: “This thorough report tells us that environmental work undertaken by shooting people covers more than 10 times the total area of all national and local nature reserves. The largest type of land by far over which beneficial management takes place is heather moorland managed for grouse, accounting for a significant proportion of the 3.9million conservation work days. Grouse shooting is a major contributor to the health of our countryside.”

Lindsay Waddell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, expressed similar sentiments, saying: “This detailed report demonstrates gamekeepers deliver truly effective wildlife conservation across the uplands and the lowlands on a scale that the managers of most nature reserves can only dream about. It is clear gamekeeping safeguards a lot of jobs in the countryside and helps keep the rural economy alive, especially so in remote areas.”

British Shooting Sports Council chairman Sir Peter Luff MP said: “This timely report reminds us of the vital contribution shooting makes to the economy, to rural jobs, to conservation and to building strong communities. It does so on the basis of solid research and strong data. It is a document that should be read with an open mind by everyone interested in the future of shooting.”

Nick Fellows, chief executive of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, said: “It is great to see the value of our wider industry identified so comprehensively… With the broad club base and initiatives to encourage and support young talent, it is a sport that embraces all ages and abilities and it is really encouraging to see it in the wider context of a thriving and valuable industry.”

The National Rifle Association’s Andrew Mercer praised the PACEC report’s illustration of shooting’s diversity, saying: “From grass roots to international competitions such as the Commonwealth Games, shooting can claim to be a sport for all ages, sexes, budgets and any physical ability.”

Others, including the Countryside Alliance, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the Gun Trade Association welcomed the report’s recognition of shooting’s contribution to UK jobs, the rural economy, countryside management and conservation, and the enjoyment
of participants.

About the report

The Value of Shooting report was commissioned by 16 organisations representing the UK’s shooters and was prepared by independent Cambridge-based firm Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC).

More than 16,000 members of the shooting community submitted their responses to a detailed questionnaire, making this the most extensive and comprehensive survey of the UK shooting world undertaken to date. Answers related to the 2012 to 2013 shooting season and the work builds on a previous report carried out by PACEC in 2006. Direct comparisons between the two are, unfortunately, not possible because the 2006 survey did not include clay pigeon or target shooting. The groups involved were:

  • BASC
  • The British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC)
  • The CLA
  • The Countryside Alliance
  • The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association
  • The Game Farmers Association
  • GunsOnPegs
  • The Gun Trade Association
  • The Moorland Association
  • The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation
  • The National Small Bore Rifle Association
  • The National Rifle Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Scottish Land & Estates, incorporating the Scottish Moorland Group
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group

  • S Davis

    Countryfile.com website has a poll running – “What do you think – overall, does the shooting industry do more good than harm to Britain’s wildlife?” Please take the time to vote. Just now 73% of voters are saying yes!