Shooting Times is wonderfully ?British?, in the unfashionable, fair-play sense of the word. I was reminded of this when I read Letter Of The Week in the 4 August issue, which contained a trenchant criticism of me by Ruth Kerr. She took exception to my practice of making sweeping generalisations about Guardian readers.
Ms Kerr is absolutely right. I am gratuitously beastly about Guardian readers, and stereotyping is an idle habit that is indeed offensive, divisive and unhelpful. Frankly, we shooters need all the friends we can get.
Yet, which other fieldsports publication would award a self-confessed Guardian reader a pair of Hunter wellies for telling off an obscure redneck columnist? It?s sort of poetic ? and very effective. I have reformed. I shall try, very hard, never again to resort to clumsy, inaccurate stereotypes of The Guardian and all who sail in her. Incidentally, if The Guardian ever ran a letter- of-the-week competition, I wonder what the prize would be? Not Hunter wellies, that?s for sure. A pair of organic sandals, perhaps?
What the numbers really say
The police National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) has recently issued its latest annual report. This follows the NWCU?s Tactical Assessment, dated June 2010, which gave details of the number of reported offences, by category, for last winter. This revealed that poaching, in all its forms, was by far the most frequent type of offence, racking up a whopping 772 incidents out of a total of 1,101 between December 2009 and February 2010. Hare coursing was the biggest single category, with 446 recordings, with Lincolnshire alone accounting for 55 per cent of the total.
Raptor persecution and poisoning, by contrast, notched up only 10 incidents during the reporting period. In other words, during the past winter, poaching outnumbered raptor persecution by more than 70:1. The assessment states: Raptor persecution currently accounts for less than one per cent of all wildlife incidents reported to the NWCU.
However, most poaching takes place in winter whereas the majority of raptor persecution occurs in spring or summer. Even so, the same Tactical Assessment reveals that the total number of recorded raptor incidents across the entire UK, over the past two whole years, was only 216. Interestingly, the NWCU annual figures are about half those routinely trotted out by the RSPB in its annual Birdcrime report.
But back to the NWCU report. Given the relative rarity of raptor crime, which category of wildlife crime dominated the case-histories part of the document, with lots of shiny pictures? Yes, you?ve guessed it ? raptors. Admittedly, it was cases of illegal hawk keeping that featured most, rather than gamekeepers, but it goes to show that it?s the most photogenic crime that gets the most attention.
Meeting Joe Public
Stumping through the Game Fair crowds like a mastadon negotiating a primeval swamp, I repeatedly bumped into people who recognised me from the photo at the top of this page. How scary is that?
One Game-Fair-goer said: ?Your photo does you justice.? Now that?s really worrying, when you think about it. Another chap eyed me for a moment, rather in the manner of a wounded cape buffalo looking at a hunter whose rifle has just jammed. Then he said: ?Are you who I think you are?? That?s a hard one to answer, isn?t it? I mean, there are times when even I am not entirely sure who I am. But it emerged that I was indeed who he thought I was (and I didn?t owe him any money), so all was well.
Indeed, I must make it clear to readers, should you ever see me skulking around anywhere, please feel free to accost me for a chat. I have to admit that I am always gratified to discover that there are a number of bitter- and-twisted fellow travellers out there.
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