I have followed with interest the recent e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting organised by Mark Avery and supported by TV presenters Chris Packham and Bill Oddie. Under government rules they must consider for debate any topic reaching 100,000 signatures through such petitions.

Mr Avery launched a near-identical e-petition in 2014 and received support from just over 33,000 people. This time, after considerable effort, he has obtained more than 100,000 signatures, ensuring the issue will be considered for debate by government (a good thing too).

Quite why they have singled out grouse shooting is not clear to me but what is clear is that these people, and the League Against Cruel Sports, wish to nibble away at the shooting fraternity — as was always going to happen.

The saying goes “hunting, shooting and fishing”, so beware anglers — you too are odds-on to suffer at the hands of a future e-petition organised by a professional blogger like Mr Avery. Don’t forget those wishing to see hunting banned started by creating similar small debates back in the early 1980s.

I am pleased to say that any such debate brought about by an e-petition is unable to change the law directly, although the results of last week’s trial of huntsman Mark Doggrell — where the victim’s right to review meant the Crown Prosecution Service’s original decision not to prosecute was overturned, resulting in a three-day trial — was also a reminder of the power of the e-petition. Thankfully the jury saw sense and Mr Doggrell was acquitted.

Unbroken will and passion

At the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent (OSB&WK) we have attempted to adapt since the hunting ban by simulating a day’s hunting as closely as possible while remaining within the law.

We lay a fox-based scent over fields, through woodland and in hedgerows and ditches for our huntsman and hounds to find and follow.

We have an obligation to our subscribers, members and supporters to do so. We are invited by landowners and farmers to cross their country and our hunting community continues in much the same way as it always has.

We are a broad church and all are welcome. The will and passion of those involved in hunting was never going to be broken by a few bigoted individuals who did not understand our way of life, and we now know that unjust and bad law forced upon largely law-abiding citizens cannot flourish in our country. Thank goodness for that.

Hunting enjoys widespread support and it is no coincidence that at every agricultural show I’ve attended this year I’ve witnessed a packed main arena whenever a pack of foxhounds appear — be it parading, in a cavalcade or as a celebration of hunting. The same cannot be said for many of those who inhabit the same arena at other times of the day, often including the main attraction.

The OSB&WK have had our first few mornings’ autumn hunting and I found myself waking up at 2am, 3am and 4am just as I had some 45 seasons ago. We continue to respect the past and live in the present, but above all embrace the future.

I suspect Mr Avery and his supporters are singling out grouse shooting because they believe hunting is finished and it is time for them to focus on shooting. Hunting is thriving, not finished, and hunting, shooting and fishing must more than ever before stand shoulder to shoulder and support each other. After all, simulating a day’s shooting is just not possible.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 29 September 2016