Writer, zoologist and gundog enthusiast, Pippa blogs on life in the countryside

Thought for the day!

There have recently been some comments on this blog by someone opposed to pheasant shooting and it is perhaps surprising that this has not happened sooner.   So this morning I will add a link to my post on the ethics of game shooting to my about page.

I have also given some thought to how I would deal with future comments of this nature.  I do believe in respecting everyone’s views and listening to others,  and I think it is important to take every opportunity to promote and defend our sport and our lifestyle.

But on the other hand I do not have unlimited time to spend debating a topic on which it is often hard to find common ground.

So I have decided to put some other thoughts on this issue,  in response to these recent comments,  and simply add to these if any relevant points need covering.    I have also decided to moderate ‘all’ comments (this blog is currently set to moderate only the first comment made by a new visitor).

So in the future you will find that your comments do  not appear until I have approved them.  This may take a few hours as I am not always online!

Against pheasant shooting

Some people are opposed to pheasant shooting.    Some arguments against pheasant shooting are based on misconceptions about how shooting is run and who takes part.  Many shoots, including my own, have guns that are not remotely ‘wealthy’  and work hard all week to make sure that they have enough money for their sport,   which may cost them less than a season ticket to Chelsea.

Most arguments ignore the contributions that shoots make to our wildlife and economy.  Many ignore welfare issues entirely.   (A pheasant does not suffer more because the man who shoots him is wealthy for example  –  this is a completely irrelevant argument)

Arguments I respect

Some arguments against pheasant shooting are based on a genuine desire to live on this planet without harming or eating other animals.

I have every respect and sympathy for that view,  though it is not one I share.  And I suspect it may not actually be is achievable.  Even with a truly vegan lifestyle.

Every aspect of human life requires that animals step aside at some point.   Especially when it comes to protecting our food chain.   I have been involved in the pest control industry for over thirty years and can assure all readers,  that if you ever eat in a restaurant,  vegan or not,  rats (and mice and cockroaches and all manner of other beasties) have probably died for your pleasure.

Drugs must be tested on animals so that our children and pets can be safe from the diseases that once ravaged society.

Crops are sprayed so that we can eat wheat, beans, carrots and all manner of other plants without paying a small mortgage for them.   And yes,  the average resident of my village can probably afford organic food,  but could we feed the planet on that basis?  I doubt it.

And bear in mind that even organic farmers employ pest control contractors to kill rodents, rabbit and birds that eat their crops or contaminate their stores  and use heat treatments to kill insects.

Still,  I do sympathise with all those that wish to live without harming other species,  and wish them well.   Most of the vegans I have met live according to their principles without trying to force their views on others.   Respect.

Those who oppose the many aspects of my own lifestyle that they find offensive,  are I find, often confused about their own principles.   They will often admit to hypocrisy when it comes to what they will kill and what they will not.  But do not see that this diminshes their own arguments.  They are also often happy to eat farmed meat which has been subjected to all sorts of unpleasant procedures.  This is what I have to say to them.

To those who oppose my lifestyle

I am happy to be a meat eater.  And happy that my pheasants  (and all the wild animals that we shoot and eat)  have had a better life (and death) than most of the lumps of meat you will find on a supermarket shelf.   I am deeply interested in animal welfare and always pleased to hear of new research or evidence on this subject.

Please read the ethics of game shooting for an explanation of my views,  and please do not be too disappointed if I do not get involved in too much debate with you.

I support your right to have your own views and ask that you support mine.  New information and research is welcome.  Repeated comments that cover the same ground will not be approved and those that come just to argue may be blocked.

This blog is for those that are interested in our shoot and in the activities that go  on there.  If that offends you,  you may be happier reading a different blog


Gundog owners in Wales face new legislation

The Welsh Assembly seems to have become rather ‘carried away’  with its proposals to control the breeding of dogs in order to resolve the problem of ‘puppy farms’  in Wales and are intent on labelling anyone keeping a number of unspayed bitches outdoors as commercial dog breeders.

This has raised questions in the working gundog community,  and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation has now become involved.

Whilst puppy farming is a serious and important problem,  it is also important that new legislation takes into account the needs of those that are clearly not puppy farmers but that may fall foul of the new legislation in its currently proposed form

As it stands at the moment,  under the new proposals, if you keep three or more unspayed bitches in kennels,  as indeed I and many other working dog owners do,  then you would in theory be obliged to register as a commercial breeder.   This would be the case even if you had no intention of ever breeding from your bitches.   Just owning unspayed bitches and kennelling them outside might be sufficient.

An exemption for working dogs

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation is seeking to provide an exemption for owners of genuine working dogs  to be able to produce up to four litters per owner per year.    BASC feels this would be sufficient for owners of working dogs to be able to maintain their working lines whilst still enabling the new regulations to help control puppy farming. 

I do wonder if by asking for this many litters per owner, BASC  risk losing their case altogether.   I would suspect anyone breeding four litters a year has some kind of commercial interest in dog breeding,  even if it is not a full time one. 

There are exceptions,  but few people with say a ‘picking up team’  of dogs,  work more than five or six dogs at once.  Most work less than this.   Anyone maintaining a line of dogs purely for their own personal use is surely only breeding a litter from each bitch once or occasionally twice in her lifetime in order to replace her.  This means that they would not have more than say five or six active bitches at any one time.  Even if you owned as many as ten bitches (to allow for retired and youngsters not yet at work),  and bred from each bitch twice in her lifetime,  with an average lifespan of ten years,   that is up to twenty litters,  or two per year at most.  

Perhaps BASC is hoping that if they ask for ‘4’  they might be able to do a deal for a lower number.

If you are concerned about these proposed new laws,  you need to contact BASC as a matter of urgency and definitely before the 30th September. 

You can find all the details you need here

What do you think about these proposals?  Are they fair?  Will they be a disincentive to puppy farmers, or will those people simply register as commercial breeders and pay their dues?



Down with the village bank!

Those of you who are old enough will remember when opening a bank account was a simple matter.  My seventeen year old son popped in to our village banks yesterday with his brand new student photo ID card, proof of address,  and letter from his college confirming his place on a course recognised by the student loans authority.

There are two small banks in our village.   This first bank told him that his student ID card was not the right sort of ID card,   they would only accept a passport (he does not have one) or a driving licence (he does not drive),  or a special student ID card whose origins they were not able to divulge.

The second bank were perfectly happy with his student photo ID card which was apparently quite ‘studenty’  enough for them.  But alas, his course (a one year higher diploma)  did not quite meet their standards in the duration department.   Only two years of study would do.  

To what age group do these ridiculous criteria apply I wonder.  Does a thirty year old need to be on a two year study course to open a bank account.   I suspect not.

Neither bank had the slightest interest in this seventeen year old as a long term customer or offered him any constructive advice as to how else he could access his student loan  (which the student loan authority will only pay into a bank account in his name)

It appears that you have to jump through more hoops than a performing parrot to put money IN to a bank.    What a pity the banks don’t get together and agree on the same checks,  then publicise these clearly for all and sundry to see.  

What possible relevance the length of a course should have to a bank,  when the course is approved for a student loan by the student loans authority,  I cannot begin to imagine.  And why should banks be able to insist on photo ID,  when carrying photo ID is not yet a legal requirement in this country?

Maybe someone can enlighten me?

Long live the village pub!

We are getting a bit predictable in our old age.  On a Friday evening at ‘beer o’clock’   we tend to wander down to our local hostelry.   British country pubs are extraordinary places.  Inside our local you will find a wonderful cross-section of society where people from all walks of life meet on the same level.  Where else would you find a surgeon, , a gardener,  bricklayers, a lawyer, businessmen, a mechanic, and the local ratchatcher all chatting happily together.    And that was just yesterday.

 Of course not all pubs are like ours,  some are snooty establishments where you wouldn’t dream of popping in with your wellies on,  others are scary places where newcomers are greeted with a stony silence, and suspicious stares.  

But dotted about the countryside  there are many public houses just like my local.   A home from home,  a place to relax,  to unwind at the end of the working day whilst the dinner dries up in the oven.   

A far cry from ‘dinner parties’,  the pub is a place (and this is the very best bit) where you can turn up at whatever time you like, sit or stand next to whomever you choose,  and leave when you please.  The older I get,  the more important this ‘freedom to leave’  is to me.  I find I no longer have the patience for long conversations about recycling,  organic potatoes, or other people’s toddlers.    I need to be able to move on and talk to someone else if I get bored.

The secret to making the most of your forays to the pub seems to be to avoid talking about anything too personal or too heavy,  and to remain standing up.  That way you can’t be trapped in a corner by someone who has been drinking heavily since lunch time and wants to tell you how much they love their dog. 

Oh , and to  go often enough to get to know the other locals,  but not so often so as to need your liver replaced.

Long live the village pub.