It is time we called out the freeloaders in our sport — those who enjoy their shooting but make no contribution to protecting its future, says Alasdair Mitchell

If you shoot but are not a member 
of any fieldsports organisations, does 
that make you a freeloader?

It’s a contentious question. In January 2017, I wrote: “To me, enjoying your shooting without being a member of any fieldsports organisations is short-sighted and perhaps even selfish. Surely there is an organisation to suit every shooter? And even if you don’t think so, I do hope you will find ways to help fund essential research, or help at a Young Shots activity, or conservation — whatever.”

Since then my attitude has hardened. One reason has been the way certain people boast about the cheap shooting insurance deals they’ve found and use this to attack membership organisations. They seem to think the only justifiable reason for joining an organisation is for the insurance — and they seem to know little about insurance in any case. You should be wary of relying on the advice of those with an axe to grind. All too often, they are simply riding their favourite hobby horse. There is truth in the saying about knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Shooting insurance cover

Unless you have taken a good look at your own insurance needs, then you are not in a good position to evaluate different policies. Certainly, you should never do so on price alone. What really matters is what happens when you actually need to invoke your shooting insurance cover. When that day comes, you may discover, to your everlasting regret, exactly why a particular policy was so cheap. Will your claim be taken up? Who will handle it, and how easy will the process be? What recourse do you have if things don’t go smoothly? With insurance, you only tend to find such things out in your hour of need.

For the more widespread types of insurance, consumer group Which? produces league tables ranking customer satisfaction. The disparity these tables show between providers ranked in these terms is vast. That alone should give you pause for reflection.

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Fieldsports organisations

Most membership organisations make very little on insurance. Even if they make an overall surplus from the other aspects of their membership subscriptions, they do not generally distribute it to external shareholders. Instead, they plough the money back into the organisation for the benefit of their members. Any money they make is used for the defence and promotion of shooting, which is their overarching aim. They can negotiate good deals on insurance because of their buying power and ability to influence the design of a specialist product.

By contrast, the purpose of a commercial broker is to make profits for shareholders. Such businesses are interested in shooting only to the extent that they can make money from shooters; they are effectively capturing money that might otherwise be used for the overall good of shooting.

It’s your free choice if you wish to aid this process. But if you do, then I hope you contribute to the future of our sport in some other way. There are too many who sit back and let others fund the bodies that worked so hard to save pigeon shooting, to give one recent example.

There is nothing wrong with commerce, and much that is good about competition and choice. But perhaps it’s time we called out the freeloaders who lurk among us.