UK readers will be aware that there has been a bit of a fuss recently related to the start of the grouse shooting season on the 12th August – glorious to some, inglorious to others – and a heavily supported petition to parliament. If you read an earlier post of mine on shooting snipe, you’ll have no doubt where I stand on the issue.
In his Guardian article, George Monbiot clearly summarises the political issues, and in particular the great lengths the vested interests are going to protect their business.
It is of interest to consider why people shoot grouse, and why they defend their pursuit so vigorously. Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a useful model to do this.
At the lowest level are basic needs necessary for physical survival. Here grouse would be shot for food. Today, only possibly the odd poacher would be operating at this level.
At the next level are needs for safety and security. Financial security comes at this level, so this is a significant factor in today’s grouse business – the gamekeeper protecting his salary by sometimes nefarious means, the moor owner protecting his business eg by attacking environmental organisations.
3. Social – Belonging, Love
We can perhaps categorise three major social groups that are into grouse shooting – the traditional landed aristocracy, led by the royals; the ‘sportsmen’ who actually see this as a skilled sport; and the newly moneyed who do it because they can, and it differentiates them from ‘ordinary people’.
The same groups gain recognition and appreciation of their fellow shooters, so are also at this level.
This is the highest of Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential. I suggest that few people at this level would be interested in shooting birds, except perhaps for balance of nature reasons.
6. Self transcendence
In his later work Maslow realised there is an additional, spiritual, level where the concerns of the individual ego are transcended, leading to altruism and concern with the general good. This includes being an integrated part of the natural world, so forget shooting birds.
Taking this perspective, and seeing that humanity and societies generally are moving in a direction up the hierarchy (but not without the odd step backwards), we can take comfort in the fact that grouse shooting will eventually be banned in the UK, just as have many other abuses of the animal world over recent centuries.
If living in the UK, maybe you should sign the petition.
Featured image of a shooting party in Wrest Park 1929