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Rural groups share their trick-or-treats

Today is the spookiest day of the year, and we asked several of the leading rural organisations what keeps them up in the middle of the night.


People ignoring the science on muirburn is a nightmare for some. Credit: Laurie Campbell

While the queue of trick-or- treaters at your door might cause a restless evening on Halloween, leading countryside representatives say there are bigger issues to lose sleep over.

Shooting Times asked them what their own trick-or-treats would be and what issues are currently keeping them up in the middle of the night.

Driven grouse shooting debate

National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) development officer Sarah Read said: “I know what will be keeping me awake on the night of Halloween. By a spooky coincidence the debate on driven grouse shooting at Westminster Hall will take place on the same day. I live and breathe grouse and grouse shooting, the english uplands are at the heart of my NGO patch, and the NGO has been lobbying hard in advance of the debate, so my treat will be a chance to chew over with keepers what went on down in London.”

Fellow NGO development officer Tim Weston added: “I don’t like the tacky, commercial nature of Halloween at all. So my trick would be to steer well clear of it and invite a few friends over for dinner. If we can get someone who doesn’t know much about shooting to come along, to enjoy venison and partridge, so much the better. And not a bag of sickly sweets in sight.”

CLA president Ross Murray told us that what keeps him up at night is the thought that “the British public have no idea that in the UK we eat more than 1 billion meals a week and that the food for these meals comes from farms, not the supermarket shelf”.

He added that his treat would be “the eureka moment when the UK draws up its own bespoke and fully-funded Food, Farming and environmental policy to keep us fed, safe, healthy and happy”.

“Antis and extremists wear various masks”

BASC said that, just like Halloween tricksters, “antis and extremists wear various masks. So we need to be on our guard to ensure that whatever shape or form they take, they do not unduly influence government policy.”

The shooting organisation added that it would be “delighted if its emphatic coaching success at the recent essex International Jamboree translated into more youngsters shooting”, and commented that “we must never lose sight of the fact we need to continue enthusing and encouraging the next generation”.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is concerned by the “trick” of people ignoring the science on heather burning. It said: “Scientists keep publishing papers which emphasise the need for more evidence; yet some continue to express views on the ‘damaging’ effects of burning which are not verified by evidence.”

The GWCT’s treat is its successful restoration of the grey partridge in Ireland which at one point faced extinction: “In 2002, the one and only remaining site that had grey partridges increased their population from 22 birds to more than 900, with a further five sites set up in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This success is due to the impact of 40 years of GWCT research into grey partridge survival and conservation.”

The Countryside Alliance’s (CA) Liam Stokes, said that the “trick” for shooting is to make its case in a positive and inclusive manner. “An example of that at the moment is the ongoing heat around grouse shooting,” he explained. “Where social media has generated negative commentary towards it, our challenge is to continue to make the case for our keepered moorlands and the benefits shooting brings to the landscape and to upland communities.”

Mr Stokes said his “treat” is the “huge pride” of working with the Government to develop a young gamekeepers’ course. “As a former teacher it is a priority for me to ensure we have a committed and knowledgable generation of keepers coming up, so for the CA to be at the forefront of the new course is one of the best aspects of the job.”