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What's so bad about teaching young people how to shoot?

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 31, 2012

PHEASANT SHOOTING ON EXMOOR
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Campaign group Animal Aid has called for a ban on sales of shooting magazines to under 18s. Pro-shooting groups are outraged. Philip Bowern assesses the strength of the argument.

Ever since man has been chasing and killing animals, which is pretty much as long as man has been on this earth, youngsters have been clamouring to be initiated into the hunt. In many cultures joining in the pursuit and dispatch of prey animals is part of becoming an adult.

Shooting may be a relatively recent development in this age-old human endeavour but the allure of joining the adults on a day in the field, with or without a gun, is a major draw to many young people. Fathers who enjoy shooting often want their offspring to take up the sport they love. And for many sons and daughters going out with a parent for a day's shooting is both exciting and an important rite of passage.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that shooting organisations have caught onto the fact there is a ready-made group of new recruits itching to take up the sports they promote. And in the past few years it has become a priority for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation and the Countryside Alliance, to devote time and energy to encouraging young shots to become involved in country sports.

Of course in some quarters there is revulsion at seeing children involved in any way at all with guns. One or two MPs periodically take up the cause of the animal rights lobby and seek to have the age at which young people can hold shotgun licences raised. But with the most recent attempt to do just that rejected by ministers, the shooting lobby is pressing home its advantage with a concerted effort to recruit more youngsters. Promotion via magazines and websites, is part of that campaign.

It is not surprising that Animal Aid, a vegan group at the extreme end of the animal welfare lobby, should want to hit back. Having lost the argument over young people legally owning and using weapons under supervision, they are now seeking other ways of attempting to restrict the growth of the young guns.

They want to turn long-established and well-respected magazines like Shooting Times into top shelf titles available only to the over-18s. In the eyes of many it is a tactic that smacks of desperation.

The evidence that such publications in any way corrupt youngsters, encourage them to be violent or risk twisting young, impressionable minds seem fanciful, particularly given the many more alarming influences to which youngsters today are exposed.

Statistics tell us more than half of all teenagers have accessed hardcore pornography online, a significant proportion have tried illegal drugs, larger numbers regularly smoke and the unsupervised drinking of alcohol, even among pre-teens, is at levels which most people would find frightening.

Legal pastimes for the young, like playing computer games, watching television and over-eating fast food, are all at levels among 21st century British children that most adults find worrying.

It is well-documented that children no longer get out and about in the countryside as they once did and know less than ever about the plants and animals – wild and domestic – that make up our rural acres.

Those who become involved with shooting sports do, at the very least, get exercise in the open air, take responsibility for their own safety and that of others, develop social skills and start to gain an understanding of the countryside.

Together with important lessons about the control of vermin – a concept not supported by Animal Aid but acknowledged by the majority as essential in the food-producing countryside – and you have yet another reason for encouraging young people into shooting sports.

Add the provision of food, in the shape of game meat, and for most people, the case for introducing youngsters to shooting becomes even harder to oppose.

Going out with a gun is not, of course, the only way to get exercise, learn about the countryside or put food on the table. But, as has been clearly shown over many centuries, it has a place. If the regulated shooting of live quarry is an acceptable part of country life in Britain today – and for the vast majority it is – then youngsters should be able to take part and read about it in magazines.

In their campaign material Animal Aid blank out or pixilate the faces of the youngsters proudly holding up the first rabbit they have shot or the brace of pheasants they have bagged. It gives the pictures a sinister and secretive tone that simply does not exist in the magazines it targets.

Most youngsters are justifiably proud of learning skills with the gun. What they are doing is legal and widely acknowledged as a part of looking after the countryside. Should they be demonised for it or made to believe it is wrong just because Animal Aid says so?

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  • ReeceFowler  |  October 19 2012, 6:32PM

    homerjay, What evidence is there that going shooting makes one a "psychopath"? None whatsoever. Murderers and rapists have been known to start out by beheading cats. Are you seriously attempting to compare shooting to that? As far as I am aware, no study has ever tested shooters, so there is not a shred of evidence to back up your theory. Humans have been hunting for thousands of years. Why is it suddenly wrong?

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  • ReeceFowler  |  September 15 2012, 8:28PM

    homerjay, There was no mention of slaughter in the article. You're the one who's brought this in, and it is completely irrelevant. In fact, you help back up shooters. Shooting wild animals which have lived a good life and been killed quickly by the gun is a perfectly humane way of getting meat. Much better than eating meat from the shops, which may or may not have been slaughtered humanely.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  September 04 2012, 11:20PM

    The c**p excuse that DEFRA can't make any prosecution against slaughterhouses because of illegal trespass to film this disgusting cruelty to animals makes me want to kick something or somebody. Why are Animal Aid or any other welfare group having to do the work that DEFRA should be doing????? Something MUST be done to stop this. I do not condone cruelty to any living animal at the end of their life. Words WILL be said in no uncertain terms. DEFRA is a disgrace.

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  • homerjay  |  September 02 2012, 11:50AM

    Mr Bowern Do think giving a child a gun to kill an animal is beneficial for his mental well being? Murderers and psychos invariably started by abusing animals. I was indoctrinated into hunting as a child and was disturbed by those that giggled like psychotic children at witnessing animals writhing in agony and the supremacist attitudes of those who thought it their right to do what they pleased. We do not need to hunt, we now have Tescos neither do we need to indoctrinate innocent children to gain enjoyment from the death of another being. You are a Neanderthal Mr Bowern, it's time to grow up and act like a man. This is an example of what Animal Aid, exposing institutionalised abuse and torture on the defenseless (in your weasel words ''a vegan group at the EXTREME end of the animal welfare lobby'') do, uncovering the facts behind the myths. Facts that you'd probably like to brush under the carpet. In 240 hours of film taken by Animal Aid throughout entire days, in nine different UK slaughterhouses, they only saw one vet once, checking three dead animals. They never saw a vet anywhere near live animals. The following was caught on film.... Animals being kicked in the face, slapped, stamped on, picked up by fleeces and ears, and forcibly thrown across or into stunning pens. Animals screaming and struggling to escape. Animals going to the knife without adequate stunning. Animals stunned and then allowed to come round again. Electric tongs used maliciously on the snouts, ears, tails, bodies and open mouths of pigs, resulting in the animals being given painful electric shocks. Pigs being jabbed viciously in the face with the electric tongs. Ewes being stunned while a lamb suckled them. A sheep too sick to stand – or possibly already dead – being brought to slaughter in a wheelbarrow. A pig bleeding after being deliberately hit in the face with a shackle hook. Improperly stunned animals being stood on to keep them still while shackles were attached. Pigs falling from the shackle line into the blood pit and then being dragged through groups of live pigs. Animals being decapitated before the appropriate statutory time had elapsed, and while the animals may still have been alive. Long periods elapsing between electrical stunning and 'sticking' (throat cutting), which increases the likelihood that animals regain consciousness. Pigs being burned with cigarettes.

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  • homerjay  |  August 31 2012, 11:19PM

    Who was the psychopath that wrote this trash?

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