George Monbiot: 'Media Tart'

Anti Shooting Rhetoric at its Most Delusional.

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Issues & Events|October 2023

One has to wonder when the Stowe-educated son of a Conservative activist and wealthy businessman, who graduated from Oxford before securing a nice job at the BBC, begins an article crying ‘class politics’ and railing against the very culture that enabled him to ascend to his nicely-paid, somewhat ironic, status, as class-warrior-in chief at a national newspaper.

George Monbiot was once, at least trying to be, a serious investigative journalist, but that was long, long ago. Even then, in the late 1980s he was dubbed a ’media tart’ by his fellow protestors against road building.

As a hyperbolic and hysterical purveyor of poorly written, inaccurate and aggressive diatribes against any practice to which he takes personal exception, he has made that slur into a job description and has found a natural home as columnist at The Guardian.

George styles himself as an environmental and wildlife activist but wraps his activism in a cloak of pseudo-science, on the strength of his degree in zoology.

Scratch very slightly at the surface, however and whet you get from George is nothing more than populist rhetoric fuelling a personal agenda.

Serious journalists do not use terms like ‘bronze plague’...

His Guardian piece railing against game shooting on October 6th was a classic example, no doubt lapped-up by the ‘largely affluent but liberal-minded’ readers, of which 84% own their own home, spend 14% more than the average person on TVs and electric consumables and take four holidays a year (according to Hurst Media).

As working class as George they may be, but they do appear to enjoy affecting working class sensibilities, or at least what they imagine those to be. Read George’s past articles on ‘trophy hunting’ and country sports if you want confirmation of this.

Serious journalists do not use terms like ‘bronze plague’ (pheasants), ‘bird blasters’ (sportsmen), ‘armed maniacs’ (anyone shooting anything), ‘pre-slaughter’ (vermin control).

These slurs are, of course, George’s stock in-trade and they, doubtless, got those outrage juices flowing nicely when imbibed with a cafe latte and slice of tarte-tatin in countless north London cafes this morning.

However, like much of what George manages to get past any editor lazy enough to publish him, his latest column of drivel is big on insults and accusations without any basis in fact, and without bothering to cite a single reputable source for any of his outlandish claims.

First he claims shooting requires ‘no physical exertion and a limited skillset’. That being the case George, I’ll pay £10,000 to the charity of your choice should you take a short trip to the West London Shooting School and equal the ‘kills’ achieved on the high pheasant tower as Rachel Carrie (since George claims ‘almost all’ shooters are men. Should be easy money eh?

he claims shooting requires ‘no physical exertion and a limited skillset’.

He claims ‘one estimate suggests that between 30% and 40% of… pheasants shot… are wounded and not recovered’. Of course, he does not cite any source for this ‘estimate’ but goes on to make a big deal of it.

Anybody with a passing acquaintance of the sport knows this to be arrant nonsense, with an army of pickers-up and dogs combing behind the line to retrieve what, after all, is upwards of £50 for each retrieved bird on a commercial shoot.

Now, we must not overlook the fact that most misinformation has its foot in reality. It is the distortion that makes it so insidious. George observes that pheasants and partridges ‘hoover up everything from flower seeds… to baby snakes’.

The kernel of truth is that on grossly over-populated shoots the game birds over-graze and befoul the land to the detriment of everything else. That is bad practice and true sportsmen do not support it, both un-officially (talk to people in the shoot room) and officially (BASC policy).

He believes, or writes anyway, that game birds are ‘heavily dosed with antibiotics’, when the reality is that medication is very limited and strictly controlled. Furthermore, his claim that game birds are a risk in instigating avian flu epidemics ignores the fact that no diseased birds are ever released, so the only way for a game bird to get avian flu is from a wild bird after release; the exact opposite of what George is claiming.

George (I’m sure he thinks) cleverly applies the worst excesses of the shooting industry as if it were reflective of all shoots everywhere, which is far from the truth. It is an effective tactic that appeals to the casual reader and is unlikely to be researched or questioned by his audience.

recent studies have shown raptors doing very well on several managed grouse moors

He claims grouse moors are ‘black holes for golden eagles and hen harriers’, when recent studies have shown raptors doing very well on several managed grouse moors and very poorly on those ‘managed’ by anti-shooting organisations, like the RSPB.

He paints a grotesque picture, a caricature of countryside management, in which wholesale, gratuitous ’slaughter’ is bestowed upon every living creature by bloodthirsty gamekeepers, when the reality is that the rats, corvids and stoats that he would let have free reign in his laissez faire rural utopia cause havoc to the fortunes of species that need our support in order to survive at all.

As George’s article trundles to its feeble conclusion, he likens country sports participants to what he claims is their origin: ‘the 1850s, coincided with the mass laughter of humans’ and colonial wars ‘in which the British laid waste to other civilisations, the mindset (of bird shooters and war mongers) was much the same’; thereby getting-in a little, fashionable British history-bashing, which will gain him kudos in all his preferred circles and equating a much-loved and healthy recreation with wars of conquest. Nice try George but a bit of a stretch!

What George actually hates is people participating (on their own property) in a time-honoured and sustainable recreation that has preserved the British countryside as a diverse and wildlife-hospitable environment for generations; in the face of industrial farming, the pressures of poaching and pollution from wider society and for daring to enjoy the pursuit and harvesting of wild animals for food, while taking pride in executing the necessary skills to do it with some style and sportsmanship.

Now, back to that shooting challenge: George, shall I let Rachel know you are coming and get my cheque book out?


To read Monbiot's Guardian article - see link below:


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Issues & Events|October 2023

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