Tuesday 5 April 2005

UK Government bans stealth.

The ever-informative This is True has alerted me to our beloved government's latest nastiness:

The Government has ruled that it is now illegal to shoot a crow, rook or pigeon for the pot without scaring it first. The legislation says shooters must attempt to frighten off the birds before pulling the trigger.

Only when the birds fail to respond can he or she shoot it for dinner. The same rule applies to farmers who have shooting days blasting woodpigeons and rooks to protect their crops or gamebirds.

... Failure to comply can result in a fine of up to £5,000 or a maximum six months in prison.

Much as I'd love to say that this is yet another example of the Government's insane levels of stupidity, I think it's a rather shrewd bit of maneouvring. The subjects of this law are the last civilians left in the UK who can use guns legally. This, I reckon, is the first move in criminalising them.

A sure sign that this is deliberate and sneaky is the Government's use of their popular "New law? What new law?" trick:

There was uproar from country organisations but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs denied that there was any change of law and issued a clarification.

That's a new one.

This has only added to the confusion, for it underlines that scaring must always be a precursor to shooting and that records of scaring may be required.

See? It can't be a new law, because this clarification of the old law makes it clear that the new law, which isn't new, is exactly the same as the old law, which is still current. The fact that you and your ancestors have been hunting for centuries without shouting "Duck!" at your prey is pure coincidence, or possibly amnesia.

And what about that alarming phrase, "records of scaring"?

Defra said: “It is not a requirement that detailed records of non-lethal methods are kept, although this may be helpful under some circumstances. Users must however be able to explain why they believe that such methods are either ineffective or impracticable.”

"Under some circumstances." Right. "When we arrest you," is what they mean by that. In other words, not only do you have to scare a pigeon before you're allowed to shoot it, but, if you want to avoid prosecution, you'd better get the pigeon to sign a sworn statement that it felt startled. Anyone who shoots a pigeon or pheasant can now be prosecuted, and the onus will be on them to prove their innocence, to prove that they made a loud noise and waved their arms before pulling the trigger. Most hunters work alone or with other hunters (who, in court, would be co-defendants and therefore useless as witnesses), so almost no-one is ever going to be able to prove that.

Furthermore, they have effectively banned the shooting of pigeons and other game birds for food. That stuff about non-lethal methods is the key: what's a non-lethal method of eating a pigeon? The law is based on the assumption that the only allowable reason to shoot at a bird is to stop it being a pest. With that principle established, your eating the bird you've shot will itself be evidence against you.

And, if the only point in shooting at a bird is to make it stop whatever it's doing and go away... well, what sort of crazy bird is going to sit tight if you run at it screaming? Shooting birds is now illegal. But only implicitly illegal, so lots of people will ignore the new law, and some of those people will end up in jail.

At some point in the next Parliament, the government — which will be Labour — will announce that this scaring method isn't working and that stiffer measures are required. Or, more likely, they'll enact stiffer measures without bothering to announce it. They intend to ban shotguns. And, once they've done that, there will be no more gun crime in Britain. Can't wait.

I'd hold out some hope for jury nullification, but the bastards are trying to get rid of juries too.

Incidentally, the government spends lots of money on exterminating thousands of pigeons every year, because they're disease-carrying vermin.

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