New study highlights the social and health benefits of shooting
The decision to exclude shooting from the “rule of 6” caused uproar in various circles, with some accusing the government of creating rules simply to appease their “rich”, grouse-shooting friends. But as we all know, and many were quick to point out, shooting, firstly, lends itself to social distancing perfectly, so the Covid risk is very small. Secondly, and hugely importantly: for many in rural areas, shooting is a major part of their livelihood, social life, and community. This is something that has just been reinforced by new research from the University of Northampton, in the form of a PHD on the social impact of participation in driven game shooting in the UK.
Dr Tracey Latham-Green had never previously been involved in any form of game shooting, field sports or activities opposed to these pastimes when she embarked on the study, which received no external funding from any organisations. The results of her research – which was conducted between 2017 and 2020 – gave her some hugely interesting evidence from a comprehensive dataset.
Her study is the first research study to consider the social impacts of DGS in full, filling a gap in the research base relating to driven game shooting (DGS) and its social impact.
Results showed that driven game shooting had a positive impact on participant’s mental health and well-being compared to national data. This positive impact is strengthened by social support networks created within the shooting communities. Regular participation in physical activity, time spent outdoors, a sense of purpose and reduced loneliness appear to be contributing factors to this positive impact.
These support networks within rural communities are particularly important in times of need, for example after a bereavement, or in times of worry such as during the Covid-19 pandemic. A very strong and clear ‘rural identity’ amongst almost all participants further strengthened the social networks – 91% of survey participants indicated a rural identity, a connection to the countryside and rural life influenced their participation.
The impact that taking part in driven game shooting had on a person’s loneliness was particularly important in those over 55 – and with the elderly particularly vulnerable to loneliness, the particularly positive impact it can have on ageing, rural populations’ mental health and well-being is a vital factor.
As one interviewee said, “I do think if you live to some extent on your own, as you get older and become very introspective there can be a degree of "How do I feel today?", and that’s bad for anyone. You know, when you have a couple of kids you don’t have time to invest in yourself and how you’re feeling and I think that is a possible pitfall if you don’t have enough to do as you get older.”
The physical benefits of taking part in driven game shooting were also highlighted in Latham-Green's study, with her research showing that on average, participants walked 8km on a day's shooting, rising to a median of 9km for beaters and picker-uppers. Driven game shooting encouraged individuals of all ages to go out and participate in walking long distances year in all weathers – again, particularly relevant for older individuals. A beater interviewed said: "I don’t rate getting up at six o’clock in the morning to go out beating a great idea this time of the year.... when it’s snowing it’s even worse. But I never say no...my wife...she says come on you gotta go, you can’t sit around doing nothing.”
The study confirms that the financial value of these social impacts is potentially significant, as savings to the taxpayer in avoiding poor mental health and maintaining physical health can be very high.
An interesting point highlighted in the study was that individuals felt their lack of social media expertise hindered their ability to challenge misconceptions regarding their hobby on social media platforms. As C4PMC and many other organisations have shown time and time again, the number of active anti-shooting campaigners is small in total, but they are skilled in using social media, and mobilising their followers to make their voices heard. As well as giving solid proof of the many benefits that shooting brings to its participants, this study should also provide some food for thought.