Over the last few months my blog posts on TN have eg challenged the idea that slaughtering wild birds is ‘normal’, whether we are supporting trophy hunting through our purchase of optics, and (frankly) ‘bigged up’ the League against Cruel Sports, an organisation I liked so much I became a trustee (to misquote the late Victor Kiam).
These posts have tended to put across one point of view: mine. I think that’s understandable. It’s my blog, I’ve don’t hide what I believe in, and I’m passionate about animal welfare and conservation. However, perhaps fairly, critics (and there are critics of TN) have pointed out that there are sometimes two sides to an argument and that it would be useful to allow a little space for those ‘alternative’ voices to be heard.
Well, why not. My gut-feeling is that former soccer-manager Brian Clough got it right when he described dealing with disagreements thus, “We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right”, but I’ll give it a try (it might be worth a laugh anyway)…
One of those who regularly emails me to complain is one Nigel Litteygayte (which sounds like a made-up name to me), a self-professed ‘countryside expert’ who I gather is a lawyer or some such who likes to shoot and I think is a strident ‘little England’ voter. Nigel usually starts his emails off with ‘Dear Comrade Chuckles’ and precedes to lambast me vigorously for being a pinko carrot-cruncher with no understanding of the countryside. He has an interesting writing style, though, so I have decided to offer him the public forum he clearly craves. I’ve said that I won’t edit him (unless he strays into diatribes about ‘bongo bongo land’ or actually looks likely to blow a hole in the libel laws) or restrict him to certain topics. In return I’m hoping he’ll stick to what is really a gentleman’s agreement about the use of my blog.
I’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out at least I can say I tried to accommodate those (wrong) alternative viewpoints. The first (and perhaps the last) of Nigel’s columns is therefore posted below…
Cuckoo in the Nest: August 12th
“Is this thing on, is this thing on?” Of course it is, just my little joke to get things started…
Good morning. My name is Nigel Litteygayte, and I’m somewhat surprised to find myself contributing to the ramblings of Comrade Chuckles, but nevertheless ‘Welcome’ to the one sane voice on Talking ‘so-called’ Naturally. Welcome to the Cuckoo in the Nest.
I’ve been inspired to write this column (note ‘column’, not ‘blog post’ which sounds like something one’s ancestors would have tied a recalcitrant servant to before delivering a bit of ‘corrective advice’: I’m sticking with the former despite the risk of thereby gilding this turd of a website) by the outrageous attack on the Glorious Twelfth by someone who has clearly never spent time with a group of chums in the magnificent surroundings of an English moorland.
In several thousand words Chuckles revealed rather a lot more about himself than he did about a sport that has been enjoyed by hundreds of chaps since the mid 1800s – from the aristocracy right down to members of the lowers (which is my shorthand for the renting classes rather than a dig at the green benches in case any of my ‘honourable’ friends discover this pearl I’ll be casting over the next few paragraphs). The man is clearly an idiot. Where do I start to explain why?
I feel rather like a terrier circling the den, such is my eagerness to get stuck in and start biting this particular mangy fox, but how about I start with ‘empathy’? Empathy for a grouse? What is the comrade on about, I ask you? A grouse is a bird. We have always shot birds, and we always will. Beautiful or not, one doesn’t empathise with a grouse. Young Charles will be asking us to cuddle the damn things next. One cuddles young children, labradors, and occasionally the chappess if I’m still awake after a spot of ‘parking the tractor in the barn’, but one does not cuddle grouse, pheasants, or any other game (unless drizzling them in a rather nice red wine jus can be construed in any way as cuddling).
It is simply ridiculous to ascribe feelings or emotions to either grouse or shooter. The bird doesn’t feel, it simply reacts, and the sportsmen is trained from a young age to ignore any ‘feelings’. This is sport dammit – and not the sort where some shirtless clod is haranguing an overpaid foreigner from the terraces. It calls for skill, and focus, and perfect delivery of shot to bird. There is no room for emotion (at least not on the moor, things can get a little passionate back at the hotel late evening if you get my meaning). Anything else can cloud the judgement, and is a weakness. Someone who only shops in the veg aisle might like to imagine they would have ‘emotion’ and ‘empathy’ in the same situation (I’ll bet Chuckles doesn’t worry about all those carrots him and his brothers and sisters like to chomp on, eh?), but the rest of us real men don’t need it thank you very much.
And what’s all this nonsense about Hen Harriers. Chuckles would like to persuade us that harriers belong on the moorland, but he seems not yet to have realised that harriers kill grouse. That’s right, Charles, they kill grouse. Lots of them. If that’s not a reason to persuade them ‘to move along’ then what is? Frankly, supporting harriers (and owls and stoats and foxes) is just supporting cruelty. Cold-blooded killers that are quite merciless. I’ll bet you’d not given much thought to that fact while you’ve been asking us to ‘embrace our inner raptor’ eh?
Hen Harriers are not very nice at all in fact. Laws protecting them are laws that condemn a raft of less aggressive species to an early grave. Besides which, as has been conclusively proved through data gathered over the last few months, harriers are rare on grouse moors because it’s so damn cold. Eggs, chicks, even adults are simply succumbing to the dread mist and dropping dead. What would they give for an Asprey hipflask and a snort or two of Speyside’s finest to keep the chill out, eh? I can’t say I’m entirely displeased of course, but it does make far more sense than to imagine ‘old Ted’ or his cloth-capped kin are bumping the buggers off and trying to lay the blame elsewhere. They’ve enough to do ensuring the Red and Blacks are in good health for the guns.
In reality, the truth is that the world outside of the internet is rather harsh. Things live and things die. There is no point crying about it, and a whole lot of point (as chums who’ve been in the desert for the past few years are fond of saying) in being the ‘right end of the rifle’. That’s the way of the world and no bleating will ever change it.
You know, on another day I might feel some sort of sympathy for the ventriloquist’s dummy that is normally helped to write the nonsense on this wretched website (his own views my arse, we all know who pays this particular piper). Knocking off the ‘arguments’ presented by the comrade and his bunch of t-shirt wearing brothers and sisters is not much more difficult than clubbing Brock with the front end of a Land Rover – both just tend to stand there and gawp as the lights rush towards them – but it needed to be done. The countryside is not a playground for grouse-cuddlers or Fotherington-Thomases skipping along counting butterflies. It’s a place of work, managed by Man for Man (and as a place of ‘work’ probably not best suited to the benefits claimants that roam the place every weekend chuntering on about vanishing Turtle Doves or the lack of bloody bees).
I’m straying off topic so I think that’s probably enough for this week (I’m not entirely without mercy!). Besides I have other things to do – like organising a weekend of r&r on the nearest hectare of heather for my club.
I suppose out of courtesy I should thank Chuckles for bowing to common sense and allowing me to put the record straight, and I look forward to seeing how much of this parvulum opus remains after the censor’s pencil has been at work.