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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
Shooting 'worth' 1.5bn to the UK
By Sarah Mukherjee
BBC environment correspondent

Grouse shooting
The report suggests more than 480,000 people participate in shooting

An economic assessment of shooting in the UK, leaked to the BBC, suggests it contributes more 1.5bn to the economy, and provides the equivalent of 70,000 jobs.

The report produced by the economic consultants PACEC was commissioned by the Countryside Alliance, the Country Land and Business Association, and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

It suggests the shooting industry also plays a vital role in conservation.

The three organisations that have paid for the report make no secret of their support for the shooting industry.

But they are at pains to stress the independence of the research, which, they say, proves shooting provides an economic and social fabric in some of the most remote rural areas of the country.

Wildlife management

Shooting enthusiasts, the report's authors say, spend money on everything from clothes to hotels, enriching countryside communities.

They fill up their cars at local petrol stations, eat in local restaurants, and do this in areas where there is often very little other employment.

Once in a while things will go wrong, but the benefits of shooting are really quite breathtaking
Simon Hart, Countryside Alliance

The report estimates that 480,000 people in the UK participate in live quarry shooting to some degree.

The vast majority are male and more than 40-years-old, although the report says shooting groups insist that more women are taking part.

They add the shooting industry in the UK spends an estimated 250m a year on habitat and wildlife management; four times the annual income of the RSPB.

New target

Anti-hunting groups are not impressed.

The League Against Cruel Sports point to several cases where gamekeepers have allegedly poisoned birds of prey to prevent them attacking game birds.

We feel there should be a debate about whether this should be going on in the countryside
League Against Cruel Sports

It says reducing the numbers of predators on game birds amounts to an undeclared war on wildlife, waged to maximise profits.

Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "This (wildlife) is a national asset - by what right do people start harvesting this for profit?

"We also have a concern about the aspects of cruelty involved in this activity, and we feel there should be a debate about whether this should be going on in the countryside."

But the Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, Simon Hart, said: "This is an industry that employs more people than the steel industry.

"Once in a while things will go wrong, but the benefits of shooting are really quite breathtaking."

There is little doubt that, now hunting with dogs has been banned, shooting supporters are worried that they are now in the sights of animal rights campaigners.

This report is part of making the case to decision makers that shooting should not also be consigned to the history books.

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