Fieldsports News review of 2021

By Ben O’Rourke

It was always going to be a tough year, hampered by lockdowns and animal rightsists pushing their lunatic agendas. However, there were some wins Fieldsports News might have had something to do with.

Anglers in Sevenoaks, Kent, were threatened with eviction from a Wildlife Trusts reserve until we stepped in. The story was picked up by ITV and Kent Wildlife Trust, which wants to hold weddings, parties and anything else at the reserve, quickly changed its mind and allowed the anglers to continue.

The same didn’t happen in Dover, where politician Nigel Farage grew up fishing on a pier threatened with a ban on angling.

“It’s always been an absolute Mecca for sea anglers,” Farage told Fieldsports News. “In particular the Admiralty pier… the huge mackerel shoals come in every summer and… 40 years ago or more, I was down there as a youngster catching mackerel. One of my first experiences as a sea angler, something I’ve taken up as a big hobby. And what we’ve seen over the years is Dover Harbour Board restricting angling.”

Saul Page in front of Dover pier

Former world number one beach competition angler Saul Page says the ban would be particularly devastating for the country, as the Admiralty pier is one of the few in the country with disabled facilities.

“There’s a lot of anglers, we have around 4,000 members and 35-40% are local to this area and the surrounding towns and villages and they use the pier week in, week out,” he says. “It’s a great benefit to the local town, because it brings trade to the town. We have people who come from all over the country to fish the pier and there’s very few piers now that are accessible around the country.”

More recently, anglers drew attention to water companies pumping raw sewage into England’s rivers, something Parliament approved. Days later, the same day we ran our film, PM Boris Johnson told his party to vote against it, in a dramatic u-bend.

Angling Trust ambassador Martin Salter said his organisation has been complaining about river pollution for a long time: “We as anglers have been banging this drum for years and fish legal have been taking polluters to court for years but the problem is sewage discharges are allowed under the weak permitting system the government got the Environment Agency to introduce. A lot of the pollution is illegal but an awful lot is legal.”


Testing water quality in the River Windrush

Up on the moors, Fieldsports News regular John Cavana and I found just how grousemoor management is helping some of Britain’s rarest birds. At Bolton Castle’s curlew safari, we saw dozens of them, along with ring ouzels, oyster catchers and others.

John and I also visited Geltsdale in Cumbria for a series of films showing the sad state of affairs at RSPB reserves. Fieldsports News also visited Lake Vyrnwy in Wales, where the charity has spent millions in taxpayer money trying to save curlews and failed miserably. That hasn’t stopped it asking for more money. We also went to Orkney, where RSPB reserves are breeding grounds for invasive geese that are polluting the local water supply.

Instead of trying to control the geese, the RSPB is obsessed with stoats, which it claims is a bigger problem.

“It’s not just about getting numbers down to a low enough number to get breeding of key species, we want to remove every single animal,” Sarah Sankey of the Orkney Natural Wildlife Project told Fieldsports Britain at the 2019 Bird Fair. “There is gonna be huge amount of skill in actually making sure you’ve got rid of every single animal so we’re going to have to do a lot of monitoring for stoats.”

Conservationist Ian Coghill picks out the many flaws in the RSPB’s anti-stoat measures: “Many years ago – 2010 – I had a conversation with some senior RSPB people about the fact that stoats just turned up on Orkney and I suggested that it would be a good idea to ask the SGA, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who is the best gamekeeper out of a job, approach him or her and say we’ll give you a cottage on Orkney, we’ll give you a vehicle, all the kit you could possibly want and a great big bonus when you catch the last stoat. And they said, ‘No, you don’t understand, we’re going to live trap them and put them back on the mainland’.

“I did point out then you might as well kill them because if you release them where there’s already a stoat population, the resident stoats will kill them. If you release them where there isn’t a stoat population, they’re not going to live because if stoats could live there, they’d already be there. So you might just as well kill them, but they said I didn’t understand because they constantly say I don’t understand.”

Incredibly, a week or two after we ran that story, Nature.Scot decided to pull the plug on funding much-needed Greylag goose culls.


Orcadians are complaining about water quality due to goose excrement

We also highlighted the perils of rewilding, which can be summed up in Scotland with lawmakers approving beaver culls just a decade after they were reintroduced. Our definitive film on pine martens in north Wales though, proved they may not be such a threat to animals like red squirrels or grouse and pheasants as many believe.

Our biggest loss of the year was the death of Prince Philip, a diehard conservationist, shooter and a man who truly understood the role people play in managing wildlife. Naturally, that made him a target of the ‘woke’ press.

Shooters were also targeted by hackers, with the leak of Guntrader website user details threatening thousands of people. Authorities too cracked down on law-abiding shooters after a shotgun owner killed some people in Portsmouth. Gun-related businesses were also hit hard by banks and other financial companies as ‘wokeness’ spread.

Buddhists showed how intolerant they can be by shutting down a shooting range’s plans to change the status of a shack with the local council. They claimed the 2K range disturbed worshippers at a nearby temple. Owner Marc Gardner paid for sound tests that proved the claim was complete nonsense, but the council denied his request regardless of the evidence.


Mark Gardner on his range

Elsewhere, celebrities and politicians decided trophy hunters are scumbags, regardless of the massive amount of money they pour into the pockets of impoverished Africans. We highlighted the lies spread about hunting tourism in a series of films showing the real threats to African wildlife.

“As long as the market is there, they will be poaching,” Herman Els of South Africa’s National Hunting and Shooting Association told us. “And what is happening now already is, is that guys hunt these rhino with high-calibre guns, but they are now starting to poison with ‘two step’, which is deadly. The ‘two step’ name comes from if a dog gets in as much as a match head of that poison, it takes two steps and dies. So now they poison water holes and animals die there.”

Finally, in a sign police don’t care about shooters, farmers, pest controllers or anyone else who owns a gun as a hobby or to protect the country’s food supply, it’s been more than a year since we submitted evidence to them revealing the people behind a magazine that calls for violence and theft against shooters and farmers and nothing has been done.

African big game is under threat from Boris Johnson's proposed trophy imports ban

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