Social media, shooting and Covid-19

Will Pocklington

Will Pocklington

Will Pocklington is BASC’s Head of Publications. He is a passionate countryman with a strong interest in wildlife conservation, deer stalking, game shooting and working dogs.

As October approaches we can count ourselves lucky that game shooting is able to continue, albeit in a manner we are not accustomed to.

Over the past few months, the shooting community has demonstrated its adaptability and its willingness to do everything it can to help beat coronavirus, while carrying on with an activity that supports tens of thousands of jobs and props up many a rural community.

As restrictions have changed, BASC has worked tirelessly. The uptake and delivery of Covid-19 advisory visits by our regional teams has been hugely positive. Meanwhile, by lobbying ministers and publishing Covid-safe guidelines, BASC has helped to secure shooting’s place on the list of 30 or so exempt sporting activities which include football, rugby and even ultimate frisbee.

We saw, with a familiar sense of disappointment, the line taken by tabloids and the mainstream press in mid-September when the list of exemptions was published by government. Shooting and ‘hunting’ were singled out and used as a political football, and references to class and privilege were rife.

Fickle journalists with column inches to fill are no doubt now chomping at the bit for the follow-on story. The natural next step for them is to find a shoot that appears not to be following the guidelines. Wouldn’t it be a great shame if thoughtless or naïve conduct online from within our ranks provided them with their raw material?

We already know the lengths shooting’s detractors will go to as they twist the truth and fabricate misleading stories. An example from the past few days which relates to hunting and Covid-19 regulations can be found on the Huffington Post website.

“Stay safe, shoot straight,
and think before you post online”

Focal points and camera angles are often deceiving and may give the wrong impression. It would be a real own goal to portray a situation as being non-compliant, having gone to the effort of updating risk assessments and implementing various new measures to stay safe and within the law. The last thing we want is for a well-intentioned picture – or comment, for that matter – to rub up the wrong way those members of the public who have no real axe to grind with fieldsports.

Simply put, so many people have sacrificed so much during the course of this pandemic; a little sensitivity wouldn’t go amiss when we take to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter et al to celebrate our day outdoors in the fresh air. Never has it been more important to consider the mood of the nation. Just as we followed the Prime Minister’s message to “stay at home, protect our NHS, and save lives” back in March, perhaps the mantra “Stay safe, shoot straight, and think before you post online” is fitting as we enter a pheasant shooting season we’re likely never to forget.