In late August, the radical UK-based animal rights group, Animal Aid, launched a campaign to force British bookstores and newsstands to relegate hunting and shooting publications to the top shelf of magazine racks and prohibit their sale to anyone under the age of 18. In a press release, Animal Aid argued that such publications are "front-line propagandists for 'sport shooting'" and contain "lurid, pro-violence content [that] could have a corrosive, long-lasting effect on young minds." The campaign and report came out three weeks before the start of Animal Aid's annual National Anti-Shooting Week. Other campaigns by the group target horse racing, lifesaving medical research testing and all forms of livestock farming.
Accompanying the announcement was an Animal Aid report titled "Gunning for Children: How the gun lobby recruits young blood." The report consists mainly of excerpts from the British publications Shooting Times, Sporting Gun and Sporting Shooter, showing reader-submitted photos of proud young hunters with game they have taken, in an attempt to shock those unfamiliar with the sport. Other portions are devoted to smearing pro-hunting organizations in the UK, like the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and Countryside Alliance.
Despite the report's repeated assertion that exposure to hunting magazines damages young people, the study is short of any evidence for the claim. The group's closest attempt at credible corroboration comes in quoting Professor Peter Squires of the University of Brighton, who offers no evidence for his anti-shooting pronouncements but compares sporting magazines to pornography, stating, "it seems imperative that shooting magazines celebrating the very same 'casual cruelty' of shooting wild animals--a kind of 'shooting porn'--should not be on sale to children and young people."
Unfortunately, UK retailer WH Smith partially caved to the extremists' demands when it announced this week that is will ban the sale of sporting magazines to those under the age of 14 in its 1200 stores. WH Smith has justified the age limit by incorrectly claiming 14 as the age at which a person can obtain a firearm. The BASC has been quick to correct this notion, explaining in a press release that those under 14 can shoot when supervised; and that there is no minimum age for obtaining a shotgun certificate.
The increasing ignorance of some in the UK towards the shooting sports is in direct contrast to what appears to be occurring in the U.S. The New York Times recently reported that many who consider themselves environmentally and ethically conscious are embracing hunting as the most ethical means of acquiring animal protein--something the traditional hunting community has long-known.
To counter the radicals, the BASC has devoted a portion of its website to advising shooters on how they can register their disgust with WH Smith's decision. Perhaps with enough encouragement from the UK shooting community, WH Smith will stand up to the bullying of a few extremists. Considering the absurdity of Animal Aid's anti-shooting campaign and wider mission, what publications might these zealots target next? Culinary magazines? Cat Fancy?