The history of game shooting since the Second World War might be seen as an enigma. In spite of unprecedented changes to the countryside resulting from the intensification of farming which contributed to a rapid decline in the partridge population, the size of the national game bag increased due to the enhanced popularity of the pheasant as a sporting quarry. This article evaluates the reasons for the expansion of the sport in this period, focusing on the management of the countryside, the evolution of game keeping, the growth of artificial game rearing, and the increasing popularity of game shooting.
1. In upland areas, where heather moors have predominated, red grouse were the most important game bird. Changes in the upland habitat resulting from agricultural intensification and forestation in these areas have contributed to the long term decline in population numbers of these birds. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, by 2005 the number of grouse shot each year was in the region of 200,000. It has not been possible to supplement indigenous populations by artificially rearing the birds in large number in the same way as with pheasants and partridges. Given these fundamental differences in the history of game shooting between the two areas, the history of game bird shooting in the uplands merits a separate study. For a more detailed analysis see ADAS, The UK Game Bird Industry: A Short Study (Epsom, 2005).
2. McKelvie, Colin, A Future for Game? (London, 1985), p. 31.
3. During the Second World War, the state prohibited the artificial reaving of game birds. See 97/7RFS MAF, The National Archives. For a detailed analysis of its impact see Martin, J., ‘British Game Shooting in Transition, 1900–1945’, Agricultural History, 85:2 (2011), 204–25.
4. ADAS, The UK Game Bird Industry, p. 6. The red legged partridge (alectoris rufa) commonly known as the French partridge, is a different species to the grey or English partridge (perdix perdix).
5. Holt, R., Sport and the British: A Modern History (Oxford, 1980), pp. 54–5.
6. Hoyle, Richard, ed., Our Hunting Fathers: Field Sports in England after 1850 (Lancaster, 2007), pp. xiv–xv.
7. Ibid. p. 7.
8. Agricultural Statistics in England and Wales 1939–44, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, London (1947).
9. Farmer's Right Association, The New Morality (1945), p. 4.
10. Murray, K. A. H., Agriculture (London, 1954), p. 254.
11. A number of revisionist studies have challenged the conventional view of the success of the wartime food production campaign. See Martin, John, The Development of Modern Agriculture (Basingstoke, 2000), pp. 47–66; Brassley, Paul, ‘Wartime Productivity and Innovation, 1939–45’ in Short, Brian, Watkins, Charles and Martin, John, eds, The Frontline of Freedom: British Farming in the Second World War (British Agricultural History Society, 2007), pp. 36–54.
12. Martin, Development of Modern Agriculture, pp. 69–72; Browne, G. S., ‘Some Economic Implications of the Agriculture Act 1947’, Journal of Proceedings of the Agricultural Economics Society, 9:1 (1950), 19–33, pp. 22–3.
13. United States Department of Economic Affairs, Salient Features of the World Economic Situation 1945–47 (New York, 1948) cited in Milward, A. S., War Economy and Society (London, 1977), p. 271.
14. For a review of the wartime sanctions and the dispossession process see Martin, Development of Modern Agriculture, pp. 60–6; Short, Brian, ‘The Dispossession of Farmers in England and Wales during and after the Second World War’, in Short, Watkins and Martin, , eds, Frontline of Freedom, pp. 158–78.
15. T. H. Blank and J. S. Ash, A Population of Partridges (Perdix perdix and Alectororis rufa) on a Hampshire Estate, Proceedings of the 11th International Ornithological Congress, Basel, pp. 424–7.
16. Bowers, J. K. and Cheshire, P., Agriculture, the Countryside and Land Use (London, 1983), p. 19.
17. Baird, W. W., and Tarrant, J. R., Hedgerow Destruction in Norfolk, 1946–1970 (Norwich, 1973), p.10. For a more detailed analysis see Shoard, Marion, The Theft of the Countryside (London, 1970), pp. 34–42.
18. McKelvie, A Future for Game? p. 37.
19. Bowers and Cheshire, Agriculture, the Countryside and Land Use, p. 19.
20. Potts, G. R., ‘Recent Changes to the Farmland Fauna with Special Reference to the Decline of the Grey Partridge’, Bird Study, 17 (1970), pp. 145–6.
21. Ibid. p. 60.
22. Game and the Farmer, Advisory Booklet (1980), p. 10.
23. For a detailed analysis of the history of silage making see Brassley, P., ‘Silage in Britain: The Delayed Adoption of an Innovation’, Agricultural History Review, 44 (1996), 63–87.
24. Potts, ‘Recent Changes’, p. 146.
25. G. R. Potts, ’Population Dynamics of the Grey Partridge: Overall Effects of Herbicides and Pesticides on Chick Survival Rates’, Proceedings of the International Congress of Game Biologists (1977), 13, 203–11.
26. Aebischer, N. J. and Baines, D., ‘Monitoring Gamebird Abundance and Productivity in the UK; The GWCT Long-term Datasets’, Revista Catalana d'Ornithologia, 24 (2008), pp. 30–43.
27. Barber, Derek, ed., Farming and Wildlife: A Study in Compromise (Sandy, 1970), p. 10.
28. Shoard, Theft of the Countryside, pp. 229–30.
29. Martin, Development of Modern Agriculture, p. 153.
30. Body, Richard, Agriculture: The Triumph and the Shame (London, 1982), pp. 124–5.
31. Newby, Howard, Bell, Colin and Rose, Damaris, ‘Farmers’ Attitudes to Conservation’, Countryside Recreation Review, 2 (1977), pp. 23–30.
32. G. W. Montague, ‘Who's Game for a Pheasant Farm?’ Farmer and Stockbreeder, 20th August 1968, p. 45.
33. Martin, Development of Modern Agriculture, pp. 157–66.
34. Ilbery, B. and Boler, I. ‘From Agricultural Productivism to Post-Productivism’, in Ibery, B., ed., The Geography of Rural Change (London, 1998), pp. 57–84.
35. See, for example, Eley Game Advisory Services, Game Management in Action 8, ‘How Cover and Keeping Brought Pheasants to Open Downland’, Shooting Times and Country Magazine, 16th March 1968, 348; Game Management in Action 10, ‘Better Shooting and Efficient Farming Go Hand in Hand’, 25th May 1968, 732; T. H. Blank, Member of the Eley Game Advisory Service, ‘Game Bird Diseases’, Shooting Times and Country Magazine, 12th October 1968.
36. Cobham Resource Consultants, Countryside Sports their Economic Significance (The Standing Committee on Countryside Sports, Reading, 1983) p. 30.
37. Fuller, R. J. and Warren, M. S., Coppiced Woodlands: Their Management for Wildlife (Peterborough, 1990), p. 10; Warren, M. S. and Fuller, R. J., Woodland Rides and Glades: Their Management for Wildlife (Peterborough, 1990), p. 20.
38. British Crops for Wintering Birds (Game Cover Crops), British Trust for Ornithology, www.bto.org/survey/complete/gcc/htm accessed 28th January 2010.
39. McKelvie, A Future for Game? p. 43.
40. Aebischer, N. J., ‘The GWCT Grey Partridge Recovery Programme, a Species Action Plan in Action’ in Cedarbaum, S. B., Faircloth, B. C., Terhune, T. M., Thompson, J. J. and Carroll, J. P., eds, Gamebird 2006: Quail VI and Perdix XII (2009), pp. 291–301.
41. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, The Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting (Cambridge, 2006), p. 56.
42. Tapper, Stephen, Game Heritage: An Ecological Review From Shooting and Game Keeping Records (Fordingbridge, 1992), p. 16.
43. O'Connor, R. J. and Shrubb, M., Farming and Birds (Cambridge, 1986), p. 232.
44. Martin, J., ‘British Game Shooting in Transition, 1900–45’, Agricultural History, 85:2 (2011), 205.
45. www.nationalgamekeepersorganisation.org.uk-about-gamekeeeping accessed 28th January 2009.
46. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 108.
47. Lovegrove, R., ‘The History and Scale of Vermin Killing’, Rural History Today, 6 (2006), 4.
48. Brown, Leslie, British Birds of Prey: A Study of Britain's 24 Diurnal Raptors (London, 1976), p. 30; Langley, P. J. W. and Yalden, D. W., ‘The Decline of the Rarer Carnivores in Great Britain during the Nineteenth Century’, Mammal Review, 7 (1977), 95–116.
49. J. S. Ash, ‘A Brief Summary of some of the Investigations Carried out by the Game Research Association on the Mortality of Game and other Wildlife Associated with the use of Toxic Seed Dressing in the Spring of 1961’, Report to the Ministry of Agriculture Research Study Group on Toxic Chemicals in Agriculture (1961). The research into toxic seed dressings undertaken by Moore, Norman and his colleagues prior to 1980 is described in Moore's autobiography, Moore, N. W., The Bird of Time (Cambridge, 1987). pp. 149–51.
50. Picozzi, N. and Weir, D., ‘Dispersal and Causes of Death in Buzzards’, British Birds, 69 (1976), 193–201.
51. Red Kites: A Comparison of Regional Productivity, at www.redkites.org.uk.
52. Red Kite Decline in Europe (Welsh Red Kite Trust) accessed 28th January 2009.
53. Clements, R., ‘The Common Buzzard in Britain: A New Population Estimate’, British Birds, 95 (2002), 377–83.
54. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 74.
55. Ibid. p. 74.
56. McDonald, R. A. and Harris, S., ‘Population Ecology of Stoats Mustela ermine and Weasels, Mustela ruralis in Game Estates in Great Britain’, Journal of Applied Ecology, 39 (2002), 793–805.
57. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 82.
58. Lever, R. J. A. W., ‘The Diet of the Fox since Myxomatosis’, Journal of Animal Ecology, 28 (1959), 359–75.
59. Aebischer, N. J., Baker, S. E., Johnson, P. J., Macdonald, D.W. and Reynolds, J. C., ‘Hunting and Fox Numbers in the United Kingdom’, Nature, 423 (2003), 400.
60. Reynolds, J. C., Fox Control in the Countryside: A Special Report by the Game Conservancy (Fordingbridge, 2000).
61. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, pp. 24–5.
62. Personal Correspondence with R. Lillywhite, wartime owner of ‘The Wilts’ Game Farm, Andover, Hampshire.
63. Hartham, A. J., The Birds of Worcestershire (Worcester, 1946), p. 50.
64. Parr, Donald, ed., Birds in Surrey, 1900–1970 (London, 1972), p. 60; Hickling, Ronald, Birds in Leicestershire and Rutland (Leicester, 1978), p. 70; Frost, R. A., Birds of Derbyshire (Buxton, 1978), p. 80.
65. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 88; Cadbury, Silent Death, p. 60.
66. The Game Conservancy, Cage Trap Method, The Shooting Times, 18th January 1990, p. 10.
67. Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Game Rearing: Responsible Pest Control, Gamekeepers leaflet 4727 (1980), p. 1.
68. The Game Conservancy Annual Review, 1991.
69. Marchant, J. H., Hudson, R., Carter, S. P. and Whittington, P. H., Population Trends in Breeding Birds (Thetford, 1990), p. 20.
70. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 60.
71. Marchant, Population Trends in Breeding Birds, p. 20.
72. NTA MAF 79/7 RHS 373.
73. R. Lillywhite, pers. com.
74. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 42.
75. Tapper, Question of Balance, p. 70.
77. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, p. 9.
78. Ibid., p. 22.
79. Game and Farmer Advisory Bulletin (1980), p. 19.
80. R. Lillywhite, pers. com.
81. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Pheasant Incubation, Leaflet 604, (1964 reprinted in 1981), p. 2.
82. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, p. 66.
83. McGill, R., Pheasant Rearing Techniques, France and the USA in Particular Focusing on Methods of Controlling Cannibalism (Uckfield, 1999).
84. British Association for Shooting and Conservation, draft letter to Phil Alder, A Consultation on the Draft Code of Practice on the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes in England, www.basc, accessed 21st January 2010.
85. The Field, 7th August 1924, p. 214.
86. Tapper, Game Heritage, p. 40.
88. McKelvie, A Future for Game, p. 53.
89. Aebischer and Baines, ‘Monitoring Gamebird Abundance and Productivity’, 30–43.
90. Watson, M., Aebischer, N. J., Potts, G. R. and Ewald, J. A., ‘The Relative Effects of Raptor Predation and Shooting of Grey Partridges in the United Kingdom’, Journal of Applied Ecology, 44 (2007), 972–82.
92. Farm Animal Welfare Council, Report on the Welfare of Laying Hens (2007), p. 16.
93. McGill, Pheasant Rearing Techniques, pp. 1–30.
94. Representatives of the shooting industry, headed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, agreed with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the Code for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes (2010).
95. The Shooting Times and Countryman originally covered a wide range of field sports, but increasingly focused on shooting, as indicated by the dropping of ‘and Countryman’ from the title.
96. British Association for Shooting and Conservation website http://www.basc.org.uk accessed 6th July 2010.
97. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, p. 96.
98. Ibid., p. 28.
99. The use of the term estate follows the Public and Corporate Economic Consultants’ definition
100. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, p. 12.
101. Ibid., p. 21.
102. Ibid., p. 19.
103. Interview with Mr Stanley Nott, Cultivation Officer, Essex War Agricultural Committee 1940–46, Haverhill, West Sussex, 27th February 1988.
104. Turner, T. W., Memoirs of Gamekeeper Elveden 1865–1953 (London, 1954), p. 80.
105. T. Shakesheff, ‘For Profit and Pleasure: Poaching in Post War Herefordshire’, paper presented to the Social History Conference, Belfast (2003), p. 6.
106. H. N. Southern, ‘A Britain without Rabbits’, Discovery (1955), pp. 186–7. For a detailed account of the disease see Bartripp, P.W. J., Myxomatosis: A History of Pest Control and the Rabbit (London, 2008).
107. McGill, Pheasant Rearing Techniques, p. 6.
108. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, p. 28.
109. British Association for Shooting and Conservation, ‘Respect for Quarry’, http://www.basc.org.ukrespectforquarry accessed 6th July 2011.
110. Daily Mail, 17th January 2004, p. 10.
111. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, p. 34.
112. Cobham Resource Consultants, Countryside Sports: Their Economic Significance (Reading, 1983), p. 30.
113. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting.
114. Public and Corporate Economic Consultants, Economic and Environmental Impact of Sporting Shooting, Summary Report (2006), p. 1.
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