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2 billion reasons to take shooting seriously

30 July 2014

When I told our blogs editor about an independent survey claiming that shooting was worth £2 billion to the rural economy, he didn’t believe me. ‘Are you sure it’s not £2 million, Camilla?’ But no. I duly went and checked for him, and £2 billion is indeed the figure. The amount spent on shooting (£2.5bn), is almost ten per cent of the total amount spent annually on outdoor recreation, which has been measured at £27 billion.

The problem with shooting, as with many other rural or field sports, is people’s perception. Fair enough — after all, not many people have their own grouse moor. But, as the report showed — and as most people living in rural areas will know — shooting is about far more than just swanning about in tweed and bagging a few brace.

According to the report, shooting supports 74,000 full-time jobs, and owners of shoots spend £250 million per year on conservation and habitat management, which benefits both game and wildlife.

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Even Martin Harper of the RSPB, which is historically opposed to shooting, has said that ‘land over which shooting is carried out does some good things for wildlife: management of woodland for some pheasant shoots can improve species diversity; some farmers, who run shoots, have achieved great things for wildlife supported by agri-environment schemes; many of our Nature of Farming Award finalists manage farms with shoots on them; and of course some birds flourish in the uplands where grouse moor management is prevalent.’

But if shooting does bring so many benefits to both the countryside and the economy, why isn’t this more widely recognised? Shooting remains a controversial topic for many (the current furore over Mark and Spencer’s refusal to stock grouse this season and the campaigns against the supermarket is proof of the pudding), and shooting is inextricably linked with game shooting — which, in the public’s mind, is the pastime of toffee-nosed buffers and City Boys.

Target shooting is, in fact, a popular sporting and leisure activity, and one that Brits are fairly good at. At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, England have (at the time of writing) won 15 medals in shooting (5 golds, 2 silver and 8 bronze), while Scotland has three, and Wales one. This success is in spite of public support, not because of it. Geri Buckley, a pistol shooter competing at the games, told me that both she and the majority of the shooting team are completely self-funded. For her, this means fitting in practice sessions around her job on the membership team at the Countryside Alliance.

Team England's Double Trap shooters celebrate with their Silver, Gold, Gold and Bronze medals

Team England’s Double Trap shooters celebrate with their Silver, Gold, Gold and Bronze medals. Image: Getty

Indeed, five self-funded target shooters even started an online campaign in order to raise enough money to go to Glasgow. One of these, Matthew French, won silver in his event (in an all-England final – he lost out to fellow England shooter, Steve Scott). UK Sport and similar organisations can’t support every athlete of course, but juggling work and sport means that many British shooters won’t have the time or money to practice as much as they’d like.

Maybe, as long as our shooters keep winning, and wildlife and bird habitats keep improving, the perception of shooting could yet change. But don’t bet on it.

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Show comments
  • Reg Bungaloyd

    ‘Why isn’t this [the beneficial role of shooting] more widely recognised?’

    The usual suspects in the media seem unwilling to acknowledge any positive part played by shooting, or even to give it balanced coverage.

    Here’s a recent example, concerning Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson on BBC’s Countryfile:

  • Baron

    Amazingly, Camilla forgot to mention where do those medal winning boys and girls train if they shoot handguns. Why?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Thanks to HMG’s panic over-reaction to Dunblane, namely the banning of almost all firearms in private ownership, but specifically handguns, Britain now wins fewer gold medals as would otherwise be the case. Of course the justification was to take guns out of the hands of violent criminals. That went well, didn’t it!
    When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

    • Baron

      Spot on, Jackthesmilingblack.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    I owned a 12-bore from around age 20 until 27, when sold up to raise funds from all available sources in order to make the trip to Japan, via the Trans-Siberian train. Yes, it was operating in 1970, although the resident cyber stalker would have you believe otherwise.
    Jack, Japan Alps

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    When you plan to severely reduce civil rights and civil liberties, thus to bring in a Police Super State, one important pre-requisite is to remove firearms from private ownership.

    • John Court

      This is part of the erosion of individual responsibility. I believe that one is not allowed to be in possession of a “weapon” for self defence in this country, which is ridiculous. If there happens to be something useful nearby then one may use it, but I think that’s it. I remember thinking how weak and defenceless the general public looked after Lee Rigby was attacked – it was, through no fault of theirs, pathetic.

  • The Masked Marvel

    “But if shooting does bring so many benefits to both the countryside and the economy, why isn’t this more widely recognised? “

    Indeed, it’s so poorly recognised that the Spectator blogs editor did’t know and wouldn’t believe that it was so beneficial. Why is that?

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Urban Muppet, one assumes.

      • The Masked Marvel

        Junior establishment, then. This wasn’t meant to be Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy.

  • GraveDave

    ‘Team England’? Where’s the rest of it, like we saw with the Olympics.
    Come on middle England – you’ve got some catching up to do.
    We need to see some black shooters as well.

    • wycombewanderer

      try the court lists at the Old Bailey!

      • GraveDave

        They just don’t get irony here do they.

  • Holly


  • Colin

    Well spotted, Camilla. Plus, the very fact that your article wasn’t spiked, on the spot, probably means that there’s hope for the speccie, yet!

    • GraveDave

      ‘Camilla Swift’. That name says it all – doesn’t it.

      • chudsmania

        Nope. I dont get your point. She didnt name herself did she. I often deliver to sink estates and often encounter names you would expect to find on an Eton roll call. So your comment is a bit daft really.

        • GraveDave

          Yes but this isn’t some sink estate Camilla posting on Twitter or Facebook is it. So your comment is a bit daft actually.

  • Augustus

    When we moved into our country house there was a gun cabinet screwed to the floor of the cloakroom, which I removed. Since then I’ve heard shooting all around us, in field upon field, most of the year. Goodness knows what they’re aiming at – rabbits, I presume, as there are plenty of those. I can well believe the amounts spent on this pastime.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      I had that gun cabinet removal routine when I returned to UK having made my fortune in the colonies. But it didn’t take, so I flew the coop again.
      Jack, Japan Alps

  • Inverted Meniscus

    This all sounds far too white male middle-class and toff orientated or, in other words, a thoroughly worthwhile and sensible pursuit deserving of support. No doubt our resident socialist nutters will be along shortly with the usual ‘funded by tax cuts for millionaires and elitist’ claptrap. I wonder if any of them can rise to the challenge and make a case that shooting’s protagonists are racist, chauvinist and pro-Israel.

    • ToryBoomandBust

      “I wonder if any of them can rise to the challenge and make a case that shooting’s protagonists are racist, chauvinist and pro-Israel” – no need, since you acknowledge this to be the case in your own comment. Cheers!

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Socialist nutters like yourself don’t count laddie.

        • ToryBoomandBust

          Of course we don’t. That’s why I thank you for implicitly acknowledging in your original comment that “shooting’s protagonists are racist, chauvinist and pro-Israel”. Like I said – cheers!

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Your a socialist nutter lad your opinion counts for nothing.

            • ToryBoomandBust

              Thank you for your kind observation – if you read my comment you will notice that I have acknowledged that, of course, my opinions “count for nothing”.

              Incidentally, I notice that you often accuse those you disagree with of being a “nutter. Did you know that it is a trait of higher-functioning people with border-line personality disorders to accuse others of mental illness?

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Whatever lad. You started this discourse with me and that is indicative of a socialist nutter borderline or otherwise. I have no interest in you or your irrelevant opinions lad. Now kindly get lost.

                • ToryBoomandBust

                  Actually you issued a challenge. I merely informed you that it was a pointless challenge as you had made the point – most eloquently, i might add, yourself. You really must stop projecting your opinions as well as your psychological problems on others. I wish you well, old timer.

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  I didn’t expect anybody quite so stupid.

                • ToryBoomandBust

                  There you are – projecting your own anxieties on to others – again. Cheers!

  • HookesLaw

    Firstly I think the benefits probably are widely understood.

    Secondly your blog editor is terminally thick if he thinks any significant sporting pastime could only be worth £2 million

  • John Court

    A good article but this bit might need an edit: “and sport shooting is inextricably linked in the public’s mind with game shooting — the pastime of toffee-nosed buffers and City Boys.” Is this your opinion or the public’s opinion of game shooting? That £2bn is significantly game shooting by the look of the BASC report.

    • Camilla Swift

      Thank you – certainly not my opinion!

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