Let’s put a stop to a free lunch

There is widespread recognition that we live in a world of finite resources that come under increasing pressure as the world’s population grows and the climate changes. What is perhaps less obvious, but is becoming increasingly talked about, is how the world economy does not satisfactorily deal with the issues that these climate and population changes raise.

In recent times mankind’s response to shortage has been to reclaim land from the forest and the desert to farm, and to harvest wild birds, mammals and fish to eat. Fossil fuels laid down over millennia have been dug up or mined or drilled for and used to fuel industrial development and growth.

Common to all of the above has been the “free lunch” economic philosophy, where no economic value has been placed on the resource being exploited. The current economic reality is that if it is wild it has no owner and can be killed free of charge. If it is a natural resource the value placed on it is the cost of digging it up and exploiting it. Little account is taken of the replacement cost of the exploited asset.

In more recent years the language has changed a bit and exploiters now talk about sustainable harvesting and restoration projects after mining, but still no real account is being taken of the true value of the wild and natural resources exploited.

Hunting and shooting for sport are classic examples of the “free lunch” philosophy in action. No account is taken of the economic value of the quarry species, they come free with the sport. There is no requirement on the hunter or shooter to replace and replenish, and there is no charge on the hunter or the shooter for the valuable natural resources they have exploited for their own enjoyment and profit.

As a result of the free lunch philosophy hunters and shooters over the ages have hunted quarry species to extinction and then simply turned to a new quarry so that they can continue their sport free of charge. The same philosophy of putting no value on the wild and the wildlife within them is leading to the destruction of rainforests and the over-fishing of the seas. The value of what is being lost is huge and some of the lost resources are irreplaceable.
The failure to place a value on wildlife leads to perverse incentives to exploit wildlife for profit. Venison prices make deer live targets for a bloodsport that actually rewards the shooter with the sale of a valuable carcass. The shooting of wild grouse is in part funded by the sale of the dead birds. Why should anyone be allowed to take animals and birds from the wild free of charge and then sell them for profit? The wild animals and birds are a national asset, not the property of any individual.

The fact that a badger has no economic value gives the badger killer a free of charge live target shooting opportunity if the legal protection for badgers is dropped. Pre-ban fox, deer and hare hunting were all sports where the quarry came free of charge for the sport provided. So called bloodsports are based on the free exploitation of the nation’s wildlife for the benefit and pleasure of the “free lunch” brigade. The question we should be asking is, what right do they have to that free lunch on a public asset? Why shouldn’t the hunters and shooters have to pay for every meal, just like anyone else? What right do they have to exploit the nation’s wildlife free of charge?

When the government model the impact of diseases like bovine TB on farmers, they don’t put any economic value on badgers. When the government issue general licenses to shoot wild birds, they do not put any economic value on the birds being shot. When the government place restrictions on the shooting or killing of protected animals, they do not put a charge on the lives taken if crimes are committed. As a result there is a perverse incentive to kill these wild “free lunches”.

A pheasant shoot costs money to run because of the rearing costs of the live targets, but a pigeon shoot is free, as is a capercaillie shoot, or a snipe or widgeon shoot. At its simplest the hunters and shooters are exploiters of the natural resources of the country, who free lunch on their prey. They claim to be the guardians of the countryside and the conservators of wildlife. They claim to be working in the national interest while in reality they exploit the nation’s natural resources free of charge and without responsibility, for personal profit and for pleasure. And worst of all, they now want to be allowed to kill even more of the nation’s wildlife.

As the new hunting season looms, four separate groups of hunters are already on their way to court charged with offences under the Hunting Act. On the badger culling front it seems that some people feel that they have tacit government approval for jumping the gun on any licensed badger culling. Dead badgers are being found on the sides of roads, looking like road kill but with bullet wounds.

There are also worrying reports of an increase in badger baiting with dogs, as some farmers and land owners turn a blind eye to the actions of those who seek to break the law in the more remote areas of the countryside, far from public view.

On shooting estates there is clear evidence of depleted raptor population levels while the shooting fraternity deny that it is anything to do with their activities. Recent reports which contrast and compare raptor populations on estates managed for shooting and on other estates, show clear differences in raptor population that cannot be explained given the increased food supply for raptors on those estates.

Raptor persecution does not just go on in the UK. It is a problem closely associated with the hunting and shooting fraternity right across Europe. On Malta, an important stopping off place for migratory birds, there is wholesale slaughter of protected raptors by hunters and shooters. Already some in the hunting and shooting fraternity in the UK are talking about there being too many otters and too many buzzards and claiming that the law needs to be relaxed so that they can deal with these perceived problem animals, and they are seeking a licence to kill.

While the hunters and shooters in the UK all claim to be operating within the law and to deplore illegality while swearing that they are ready, willing and able to self regulate, they completely fail to do so amongst their own members in any effective manner. Most of the pro-hunting and shooting organisations are members of FACE, a pan-European hunting and shooting association, which has completely failed to take any collective action to prevent the illegal raptor slaughter taking place on Malta.

The idea of the free lunchers self regulating is risible. It’s time that the reasonable majority put in place legislation to end to their practice of using wild animals as free of charge live targets for sport and personal gain, when the public value those lives.

Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive, League Against Cruel Sports

11 comments to Let’s put a stop to a free lunch

  • James

    I fully understand this site is hardly shooter-friendly, but to allow it to be used for this sort of ghastly one-sided propaganda and lies does it no favours.

    A capercaillie shoot indeed! Mr Batchelor has no idea what he is talking about.

    For anyone interested, the website http://www.shootingfacts.co.uk/ – which is also, of course, one-sided, explains something of the value of shooting to the environment.

    Perhaps Mr Batchelor would like to explain how all this applies to the LACS’s appalling treatment of deer on its own Baronsdown ‘sanctuary':
    The LACS are in no position to lecture anyone.

  • Harrier Man

    Im sure James that web sites like Raptor Politics and articles like above making these comments would not be expressed if the slaughter of some of our birds of prey did not go on, the hen harrier is a case in point. Take away the Bowland population in England and what have we got zero. I think the UK government should be held responsible for this lack of responsibility and taken to the European courts as soon as possible.

    • Admin

      Raptor Politics recieved this question which we have been asked to reply to.

      Question: Why have the Abbeystead estate recently spent 30,000 pounds on night vision

      Reply: most likley this high tech equipment will be used to control fox; one unit consisting of dedicated rifle for night use only, plus night vision scope and a personal hand held night vision spotting minocular can cost in the region of 8k

  • paul williams

    hear hear harrier man, james argues it is one sided propaganda, YET..openly admits bird of prey persecution will NOT stop.

  • Jock Scott

    This is not the way to beat organisations like The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Countryside Alliance, BASC and others who would seek to see raptor control legalised. Neither is it the way to influence those in power who are the decision makers regarding illegal raptor persecution.

    Raptor Politics should not lower itself to publicise this absolute rubbish and propaganda from what amounts to nothing more than an extremist pressure group. This article is basically inaccurate, rabble rousing drivel and contributes nothing to the fight against illegal raptor persecution.

    The image and reputation of Raptor Politics is severely devalued by promoting this erroneous nonsense.

    • Mrs Jane Waters

      I hope you don’t mind but I feel I have no alternative, I must add a comment detailing a scene of barbarism I witnessed today in the Forest of Bowland.

      As I was walking with my family along the public foot path in Nicky Nook towards the Barnacre reservoirs we could hear a lot of shooting and people shouting. Within seconds at least three small birds fell from the sky, one poor bird just missing me. Our dog ran towards the closest of the three birds which was clearly still alive. As I ran to prevent our dog harming the creature I was horrified and sickened to find the bird had one shattered and broken leg and a one wing hanging by a thread of bloody flesh. The shooting continued as more distraught families with small children came along the path as more birds fell amongst us shot to bits.

      Having witnessed this appalling carnage I have now decided to join the League Against Cruel Sports. What my family witnessed today was not sport, it was a sickening display of pure unadulterated cruelty in its worst form.

  • admin

    Raptor Politics likes to air a diversity of views, whilst not necessarily endorsing those views in their entirety.

    We’re flattered to hear we have a reputation and image in the eyes of some: we’ve variously offended (justifiably in our eyes) the RSPB, Natural England, United Utilities, the joker occupying the post of Lancashire’s Wildlife Crime Officer, gamekeepers, landowners, shooters, other (alleged) raptor conservationists … the list goes on and on!

    We note the concerns expressed in the comments above, and will strive to do better in future!

  • Che of bowland

    Raptor Politics is what it is…A site designed for anyone and everyone to air their political views on raptor persecution and wildlife crimes. Every living creature on this planet has an infinite right to a quality of life and no human being has the right to end that life prematurely.

  • Coop

    As a birder/wildlife enthusiast of some 35 years, and one who was brought up in “the countryside”, I’m proud to say that I finally joined the League Against Cruel Sports a year ago. I, like many others, am no longer prepared to tolerate scum like the countryside areliars abusing wild animals for their own degenerate amusement, while they spout bare-faced lies to a gullible public, in a pathetic attempt to legitimise their gutless activity. Those of us who truly love and respect our natural environment, and have taken the time out to learn how ecosystems function, see these “people” as the lying hypocrites they truly are. I’ll fight them with my dying breath.

  • John Miles

    To Jock Scott and any others out there, if you want to highlight your views then write an article and send it to admin.

  • Harrier Man

    Totally disagree with you Mr Scott as COOP stresses the shooting publicity band wagon lies and lies continuosly to justify shooting while ‘breaking the law’ killing birds of prey, its quite simple really stop killing birds of prey.