Peter Glenser, the new chairman of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, tells Selena Barr about the post-Brexit challenges ahead for the membership organisation that has already had a difficult year.
Tell me a bit about yourself…
I took over a month ago and I’ve been confirmed as chairman of BASC for the next two years. I Iive in rural Norfolk with my wife, daughter and two dogs. Professionally, I’m a regulatory and criminal barrister with a particular interest in rural matters – firearms licensing in particular. I stalk and shoot, and especially like shooting over pointers, but I’m as happy to spend a day ratting with an air rifle as I am on a grouse moor.
How did you get into shooting?
I think the first time I ever pulled the trigger on a firearm was when I was a Sea Scout. I shot a .22 falling-block Martini-Henry rifle and I loved it; I can remember the smell even now. I would have been around 10 or 11 years old and it was a tremendous experience.
I grew up in London and although I had cousins that shot, I certainly didn’t grow up doing it. I did have a fascination for it though, from a very early age. I remember lobbying my parents for two years before they allowed me to have my first air rifle – a Webley Hawk Mark 2 .177 that I wish I still had today. A friend at the time had a BSA Airsporter and we endlessly debated the merits of BSA over Webley. I subsequently had Webley shotguns so I’ve remained fairly loyal to them over the years.
What do you hope to achieve in your two years as chairman?
It’s an interesting time post-referendum and we’ll be looking to see the impact of that on shooters in the UK. BASC took a neutral stand on Brexit as we have members on both sides of the question. There’s a challenge there in making sure that whatever happens, shooting’s voice is heard and we continue plugging any gaps that appear in the regulatory regime.
Overall I would like to see the membership grow. I was very pleased to see that women now hold something like 5.5 per cent of shotgun licences in the UK, but in my view that’s still not enough. I’d like to see more people coming into shooting. I’d also like people to understand that shooting is an integral part of providing meat for the food chain. Overall I’d like to leave a happier, bigger, healthier organisation, knowing that shooting is safe and will be robustly defended by an organisation which is utterly determined to fight for its members’ rights and for shooting.
What is your message to members who are concerned about recent events at BASC HQ?
Well frustratingly there isn’t much I can say to them at the moment. There’s an investigation in progress so I can’t say anything that might prejudice it or infringe on people’s employment law rights. It’s business as usual at Marford Mill, the staff are happy, unified and determined to continue to provide the best possible service for the members. It’s important to remember that we are above all an organisation that belongs to our members and that there are 144,500 of them. We exist to look after our members’ interests and that is what we are determined to do. (Ed. For readers wondering what the mystery is about, there are some internal employment issues at BASC which have been under investigation this summer and we cannot report any more at this stage.)
What are the current biggest threats to shooting?
Lead comes up time and again and people often ask what my position is. It’s simple: BASC’s position, my position, is no sound evidence, no change. I’m a traditionalist, I like lead and there would have to be incontrovertible evidence before BASC could support any change whatsoever. Until then we will fight robustly, vigorously and hard to preserve the use of lead ammunition. There will be challenges; for instance if Europe decides it will be lead-free then acquiring and importing lead ammunition may become a problem but that’s a matter for the future.
Other than that, I suppose it is the constant attacks by those with an interest in seeing shooting banned. We have to be very vigilant that a few misguided individuals that break the law by persecuting raptors or abusing the land or the sport for selfishness or solely for profit, don’t tar us all with the same brush. We must observe the law and we must be seen to do so.
After the media furore about Cecil the Lion, there’s a global anti-hunting climate.
What is BASC doing to educate non-hunters in Britain?
We exist to look after our members’ interests and we are a British organisation; we are inclined to set the highest possible standards of sustainable use of our quarry. That is the best way to inform, to educate, to fight the relentless anthropomorphic Disneyfication of animals. Even the question contains a clue: when you start naming animals and calling them Cecil you are imbuing them with human attributes. The reality is that sustainable hunting provides a great many benefits to the areas and to conservation. Big-game hunters generally pay big sums of money for the privilege. They wish to engage in ethical hunting where the meat from quarry species goes straight back into the local area and the money raised can be used for conservation purposes that we support.
What is your view on BASC linking with other UK membership organisations to have a stronger voice?
We have an extremely close working relationship with all the other shooting and fieldsports organisations. We work, for example, with other groups including the target shooting bodies on the British Shooting Sports Council. We speak to colleagues in other organisations all the time, they’re just a phone call away, so we cooperate with them on a daily basis. We have been representing shooting on the international stage since the 1970s. We’ve been a leading member of FACE [the umbrella group for shooting organisations in Europe] and we enjoy close relationships with all the other organisations.
If your question is targeted towards some forces joining up, then I’m not sure that would be in our members’ best interests. At the moment we have a powerful lobbying voice expertly run, with tremendous reach. We punch well above our weight in all manner of areas and it’s quite good that there’s debate and consensus between different organisations. So at the moment I’d be inclined to say business as usual and that’s how we’ll carry on.
Will you do as much with FACE post Brexit?
FACE has always included European countries such as Norway and Switzerland that are not in the EU. We don’t yet know the exact form of our future relationship with the EU or if we will have to accept aspects of European law as part of a trading arrangement. That will decide the amount of work that needs to be done. In any event, what the EU does on shooting will influence countries outside the EU. Our membership will continue and we will maintain a watching brief and influence any moves that might damage British shooting.
How long have you been a BASC member?
Nearly 30 years.
Over-under or side-by-side?
.243 or .308?
Driven or walked-up?
Must I choose? If pressed walked-up over pointers.
Favourite UK location for fieldsports?
Thoughts on taxidermy?
I like to eat what I shoot but I might keep the head if it’s particularly good. I have my daughter Georgia’s first grouse – shot with a .410 when she was 12 – in pride of place at home.
Thoughts on trophy hunting?
Not particularly my bag, for me hunting is more about the food. I don’t choose to shoot predators apart from for control reasons, so I wouldn’t be interested in shooting Cecil the lion for instance.
However, people have different interests, we are a broad church and I recognise that some people might want to do that. I understand it but for me it’s not about trophy hunting.
Technical clothing or traditional tweed?
Again I’m a traditionalist so I’m not a huge fan of camo, although there is a time and a place for it. Tweed is our traditional camouflage and there’s not much it can’t do on the hill or the moor. Especially with a bit of Gore-Tex!
Stockings outside or inside breeks?
Ties on driven days?
Absolutely, it shows respect for quarry and fellow guns.
Spaniel or retriever?
Favourite thing to do outside of fieldsports?
Family, dogs, cooking.
County you would most like to live in outside Norfolk?
The Highlands and Islands – I’m deeply in love with Scotland.
Scottish round-action: Dickson or McKay Brown. MacNaughton skeletal action.
Do you shoot abroad at all?
I have never shot abroad because the best fieldsports are at home. People come from all over the world to enjoy British fieldsports.