Animal Aid

YOUNG BLOOD - The BASC - Young Shots

In part 2 of this special Animal Aid report, we take a look at 'Young Shots', the youth wing of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) presents itself as the UK's largest 'game' shooting lobby, claiming 120,000 members and 1,600 affiliated clubs and syndicates. Its aim is to promote all aspects of 'live quarry' shooting and fight any proposals for tighter legislation. Founded in 1908, its patron is the Duke of Edinburgh, while the Earl of Lichfield is president.

Shooting holidays

'Young Shots' is the BASC youth wing. Members receive a badge, together with details of competitions and specially-arranged shooting holidays for children. One such four-day trip involved introducing 12 year olds to 'grouse moor management' and deer stalking. The prize for a recent photo contest was to shoot driven pheasants on the Castle Howard Estate in Yorkshire. There was no minimum age for entry.

In autumn 2001, the Association announced a 'major initiative to introduce more young people to shooting sports'. The plan was to bring together grass roots members, the gun trade and other rural and urban sporting organisations in a 'far reaching review' of 'how youngsters can be provided with more opportunities to learn to shoot'.

Blooding them young

Writing recently in the BASC journal, Voice of Shooting, chief executive John Swift noted: 'We all know that the future of shooting rests with the enthusiasm of young people...'

A typically disturbing story posted on the BASC website featured eight year old Thomas, shown wearing a Mickey Mouse baseball cap and holding his 'pet' ferret. 'Young Shot' Thomas says his first experience of bloodsports came when, aged three, he used his ferret to catch a rabbit. The boy watched as his father killed the animal and 'blooded' Thomas - smearing the rabbit's blood over his face. A smiling Thomas revealed how 'proud' this made him feel.

Next generation

Shooting Times bills itself as the BASC's 'official weekly journal'. Its Next Generation feature celebrates the exploits of children as young as three. Often they are decked out in full camouflage gear, a shotgun in one hand and a dead bird - held by the throat - in the other.

Examples include:

  • A 12 year old Buckinghamshire boy, Tom, described one outing during which he 'accounted' for 20 birds but took home just two.
  • Danny, a three year old from West Sussex, was pictured clasping a dead bird; he has been going shooting since the age of six months.
  • Tom, a 15 year old from East Sussex, boasted that in the first seven months of 2001 he had already killed 36 magpies, 21 crows and reared 400 pheasants for the 'big shoot down the road. It's there', he declared, 'that I also go shooting and beating.'
  • Sam, an 11 year old from Somerset, was shown posing proudly with his first killed pheasant. 'When I got back to the trailer', he told the magazine, 'everyone was saying 'well done Sam', and patting me on the back. I felt so proud and think I will remember that day forever.'
  • Thomas, a 16 year old from Wiltshire, regularly goes hunting with dogs, in addition to shooting pheasants. He was recently given a birthday present of a weekend's deer hunting in Ullapool. There he shot his first stag. For 'supplementary sport' he keeps a ferret.
  • Tom, aged 11, from Essex, shoots on the estate where his uncle works as gamekeeper. He describes personally killing 10 pheasants before lunch on a recent shoot, during which time other shooters had downed another 160 birds. Tom claimed another nine pheasants in the afternoon. 'What a brilliant day,' he raved. 'The most pheasants I have ever shot. I hope that they never ban shooting.'
  • Charlie, aged 9, from Kent, has been beating on his dad's shoot for three years. Every season when his father buys poults for shed-rearing, dad gets some white ones for his son. Charlie then keenly watches out for them on shooting days. That's because dad has promised him £25 towards shooting lessons if anyone succeeds in downing one of Charlie's 'pets'.
  • 10 year old David, from West Sussex, has been shooting for two years - claiming dozens of rabbits, rooks and mallards. This year, he was particularly excited to have shot his first fox cub.
  • 12 year old James, from Wiltshire, 'recently got the surprise of my life when my dad got me a 12-bore shotgun'. His 'best outing so far' climaxed with the shooting of a fox. 'As I looked up, half expecting to have missed, there in the morning dew was a pile of red fur. I was shaking all over, I don't know whether from shock or happiness. We put the fox in the car and headed up the hill with the ferrets for some more fun.'

Non-participants are asked to believe by advocates of such activities that they amount to wholesome 'land management'. Yet, study the shooting lobby's own publications and you see little discussion of conservation but plenty of evidence of the lascivious delight taken in the termination of these small lives - a delight which adult enthusiasts are keen to transmit to the very young.

The third part of our Young Blood report provides a background on the pheasant shooting industry.

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