Saturday, 3 May 2014

Imposing a culture.

I had the good fortune to receive a call from a much respected friend who follows this blog.
During the conversation, my friend remarked that certain elements of society "Had no right to impose a culture on others which has an affect on diminishing our lives".

This conversation came about as I needed to talk to a friend on how our family felt after yet another shooting incident on our farm.

On Easter Sunday, a Larsen trap was set in the middle of the field where my sheep graze. We were given no warning that this trap was to be set, no warning that a vehicle would be used across a field which will yield hay and therefore, a standing crop.
We were not given any warning that the gates would be left open, my sheep released then worried by a dog, no warning that this dog would kill poultry then enter our cattle shed where pregnant cattle are due to calf.

We had no idea who the Larsen trap belonged to as it had no identifying number. I will admit that I had no idea what a Larsen trap was although I have seen them on the hillsides in the area. On research, I find that they use a live lure, usually a Corvus, and the given the social nature of these birds, the live lure is used to catch other Corvus.
That is the theory but in practise, the Larsen trap is capable of trapping owls, raptors and other birds. These traps are supposed to be checked every 24 hours with the provision of food, water, a perch and 'shelter' for the live bird. The dead rabbits begin to stink.

I am assuming that the water supply is contained in the jam jar which the stressed bird knocked over? I could not see any water in the jar.

We were to discover that the only law broken was an absence of a number on this cage, not sheep worrying, death of stock, abandonment of an injured dog, leaving gates open....this is, and I quote Police Scotland, not a criminal act as the person has the landowner's permission".

Really? This appears to be from a law that I cannot find any reference to on the internet. My guess is that the person who owns the land has no idea this is going on, I would even go as far to hazard a guess that if they did, they would not be greatly impressed.
I personally find these traps hugely offensive and cruel.

Have we received an apology? No.
Has our stock been replaced? No.
What followed was a fair bit of shooting (on Easter Sunday) then some 'lamping'* in our field, again without warning, shooting continuing in the dark.

* This definition by Wikipedia: Spotlighting or lamping (also jacklighting[1]) is a method of hunting nocturnal animals using off-road vehicles and high-powered lights, spotlights, lamps orflashlights, that makes special use of the eyeshine revealed by many animal species. A further important aspect is that many animals (e.g. foxes and rabbits) often remain to continually stare at the light and do not appear to see the light as a threat as they normally would view a human. It is possible to carefully approach animals on foot to a short distance if the bright light is continuously maintained on the animal to greatly improve chances of successful killing. Spotlighting may also be used as a method of surveying nocturnal fauna. Repeated, frequent spotlighting may have a detrimental effect on animals and is discouraged.
We received a high handed reply from the person whom I assume has accepted responsibility. The reply contained a reminder that they were acting in accordance with the agreement they had with the owner of the estate, in other words, they had shooting rights on our farm.
I cannot find the rule which states this gives them an arrogant, inhuman right to make people's lives miserable, in fact, I feel there is a whiff of the feudal about this 'shooting right' which smells worse than the rotting rabbits in the Larsen trap.

This brings me back to my friend's comment; "What right do these people have to impose their culture upon others to the detriment of people's lives?".
Our family do not shoot, we do not keep guns on our farm, we are in the industry which creates life, food for others, we sow and harvest crops. We assist cattle to deliver their calves safely so that one day, the meat will feed others.

I personally have chosen to stick to a plant based diet for almost forty years with a choice to include dairy products during my pregnancies. That is my own personal choice, one which I would not impose even on my family. I am happy to cook meat, fish and poultry for them as that is their choice of food. I can gut a fish, rabbit or even assist in butchering up a cow, pig or sheep as my father taught me to do when I was young. The fact I can do this does not mean I personally have to eat this meat.

Our family manage to find a compromise where vegan lives with beef producer. I am realistic and respect my husband's ability to produce good cattle, he in turn respects my refusal to eat meat.

We are fortunate that we have a choice on what we eat - so many do not and have to rely on food banks or diets low in fresh produce through no fault of their own.
How many pheasants from shoots are handed in to food banks? How many rabbits, how much venison or heavily subsidised Wagyu beef steaks are donated to those who cannot afford the £198 per kilo this meat costs to buy in Harrods?
How many pheasants are dumped after a shoot only to attract Corvus thus the Larsen trap cycle begins ad nausea?

I might add that the rogue dog who killed our poultry has denied my children a few dinners? Perhaps that breed of hen was for table use as well as an egg provision for my family, neighbours and friends.

This culture of shooting being imposed upon us has a detrimental affect not only on our quality of life but our income. We are unable to rent out our farm cottage due to issues that tenants have experienced from shoots, shooting parties, noise pollution, aggressive behaviour from some individuals who carry a gun?
Damage to standing crops by 4x4s, pheasant damage and the noise. Oh God, the noise.
Who would come here for a quiet holiday in stunning countryside when the peace is shattered by shooting? Why is this activity acceptable here yet would be unthinkable in an urban setting?
My friend pointed out that it would be offensive if someone urinated beside your house, they would be arrested if they defecated beside your house yet some are allowed to kill beside your house, in view of children.

This is not our culture.

When did it become acceptable to foist another culture from a tiny minority to the majority ie most of us do not partake in the shooting culture- most of us either cannot afford to or have more common sense not to. I am sure that the thousands of acres of grouse moor land could be put to a wider public benefit by ploughing them up and sowing crops - the lands here showing ancient signs of having been productive for thousands of years. Ecology, proper ecology and not gamekeeper 'conservation' can easily live beside agriculture if carefully thought out. The Ancients managed it!
Nature would sort itself out if given a respite from the release of millions of game birds. The raptors would flourish, given a chance.

The incident which took place on Easter Sunday has much wider social and ethical implications - one man controls several thousand acres of land yet contributes little if anything to the plates of the hungry, contributes little to the community economy, prevents diversification in tourist accommodation due to noise nuisance, fear and alarm. It could be understood by some that these shoots can have a detrimental affect on the actual population of an area - certainly here, the population is in decline, industry non existent, school role threatening to drop to single figures next term.
This area once had seventy farms. The same area now has less than ten.
This area was rich in agriculture, the three schools had a role of a total 300 pupils, there were five hostelries, three churches, plus a much greater population than today.
Some of the old farms have been amalgamated into a single 'unit' - run in partnership between an estate and a farmer on a very short contract. Great for subsidies, not so great for anything else and certainly terrible for the other sixty nine families these farms once provided for. If the old farms were still running today, the population here could be increased by a potential 280 (if each family had 2 children). The moors which now lie empty once grew oats, barley and potatoes. It is beautifully fertile ground.

The reason the farms became empty here was a refusal by the farmers and their families to adopt the laird's religion. Their own church was closed to them by the laird, a new church built by the laird and those who did not comply with this alien religion were evicted or 'opted' to leave for Canada.

Imposition of a culture having a detrimental affect on people's lives.

I feel we are seeing Clearance by shotgun. Clearance by fear, stress and control. Clearance by subsidy. Clearance by the imposition of a culture.

It is apparent in the wildlife, the most common bird being the large pheasant rather than the robin or blackbird. How much feed does a pheasant need in comparison to a small robin? Are our garden birds being deprived of feed by some of the 50 million pheasants* reared and released in this country?
Our own crops, silage and grain stores are decimated by hundreds of pheasants each year and going by our archaic tenancy agreement, we are forbidden from shooting and eating a single one.(Not that we would).
*Google the figures.

A recent poll in the Scottish Farmer asked if any of us believed the amazing facts and figures ejaculating from the Scottish Land and Estates stating how much money they had invested in tenant farms (millions!), THE ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION OF LANDOWNERS IN SCOTLAND screamed the grandiose release. Gazillions of pounds were being made on these shooting estates.

The quiet reply came from those weary farmers who actually have to live and work with shooting tenants tramping roughshod over their fields and farms, tumbledown farmhouses. Shoots climbing over broken fences onto land which has not seen landowners 'investments' for generations.

100% did not believe the findings.

Listen to the quiet voice of the farmer.....if you can hear him over the gunshot.


  1. Monbiot had an article the The Guardian recently about the tax niches associated with pheasant rearing the shooting estates.
    I did suggest he read your blog...but the comment never appeared (as far as I now as the article disappeared).

  2. Many thanks, the fly in the web.
    I have sent George Monbiot a letter enclosing a copy of this blog. The article is still available to read but is closed for comment.

    1. So my comment was too late, I expect.....the time lag again!
      I hope you get a response....and some action!

  3. I can empathise with the time lag - sometimes I think we are stuck in 1890 here!
    We can only but hope that the words written will be read by those who can help, although today I have received several very positive communications.

  4. A wonderful article and conveys such a sad state of affairs. This is not what most farmers want to deal with, this is plain selfishness on a grand scale.

  5. Many thanks, Graham and I would wholly agree that this is not what farmers want to deal with, especially new entrants to farming. A little courtesy and common sense go a long way.

  6. Coming to this article sometime later, I have had the opportunity of reading the replies to George Monbiot’s twitter about Gentle Otter’s blog. As usual the shooting fraternity display not only their disdain for any opinion other than their own, but their lack of respect and empathy with others. Snide remarks may score brownie points amongst themselves, but they also reveal shooting attitudes.

    Shooting logistics of entourages of people, dogs, gamekeepers, guns, snares, traps, poison, lamping, shooting, feeders, seed hoppers, cover crops, rats, putrid corpses, quads, quagmires, gunfire and gunshot, even looming trees, let alone thousands of pheasants does diminish the private/peaceable enjoyment of a home, throughout a year. It is amazing that anyone would/could think otherwise.

    21st century shooting culture is a victim of centuries of aristocratic arrogance and fear. It is archaic, ugly, callous, selfish, cruel and divisive requiring legislation to prevent it being imposed on other peoples’ lives, especially when one understands the nature of the pheasant (susceptible to noise and movement).

    The menacing intimidation practiced by shooting proponents is often on secluded or isolated homes where there are no witnesses.

    Gentle Otter’s courage to vocalise and defend her right not to have her life diminished by the vindictive meanness metered out to her for years because of shooting, deserves huge respect and support.