Good science can help us rebut any nefarious allegations made by our enemies as well as ensuring best practice, so funding the GWCT is vital
Scientists are riding to the rescue of humankind. The UK’s scientific community is playing a globally recognised role in developing vaccines to combat the pandemic. Public and private money is being poured into research and manufacturing facilities. So why are we in the shooting community leaving the GWCT short of funds?
I cannot recall exactly when I joined the GWCT. Some years ago, I carried out some work for the organisation. They were great people to deal with. They had an intrinsic respect for professional advice and were assiduous in assessing facts objectively. I suspect this has something to do with a grounding in scientific integrity. In 2018, Quiller Publishing produced my book, Sharpshooter — a selection of my columns from Shooting Times. It received some very kind reviews.
Funding the GWCT
Yet the GWCT magazine, for some reason, chose not to review it at all. I was a bit miffed. Did this make me reconsider my subscription to the GWCT? Of course not. I support the GWCT out of enlightened self-interest. To paraphrase President Kennedy, we shooters should ask not what the GWCT can do for us, but what we can do for the GWCT. As a registered charity with a research remit, the GWCT doesn’t simply tell us what we want to hear. It is not a ‘shooting organisation’, as the antis sometimes try to suggest, but a scientific body with huge credibility among legislators and the conservation establishment. It is the antidote to pseudo-science. The GWCT provides the bullets for others to fire in the defence of shooting. At the same time, if its findings show that we should change certain aspects of what we do, then so be it. There is no future in ignoring good science. If there are any uncomfortable issues, it is vital to get ahead of the curve and deal with them before they are exploited by the enemy.
The GWCT has a track record of producing sensible, pragmatic ways of dealing with conservation conundrums. Some of the most useful official stewardship options — including beetle banks and conservation field margins — were based on pioneering GWCT work. Without the GWCT’s science to help us rebut nefarious allegations, or to guide us in modifying our own behaviour, shooting would be at the mercy of the enemies who will always be able to outspend us.
You can argue about the relative merits of the various organisations, but there is only one GWCT. It is irreplaceable. The past year has been hard for the GWCT because its normal fundraising has been blighted by the pandemic. Yet scientific endeavour requires continual investment. One bad year for fundraising could scupper programmes that will prove essential a few years hence. I appreciate that many people are currently worried about job security. But I also know that there are some of us who find the pandemic restrictions have curtailed our customary expenditure on holidays, shooting, travel and so forth. One day, the restrictions will end but the countryside will still be there. We need to ensure we are funding the GWCT properly.