It has been an overwhelmingly busy year, and while we will never be complacent, the Campaign for Shooting has many reasons to be happy this festive season.
This year we have shown the strength in Parliament we can call upon when required. An unprecedented 74 MPs from across parties signed the amendment to withdraw the .50 calibre ban, whilst at the highest level the British Game Alliance received public backing from the Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove and met Defra Minister Therese Coffey thanks to Alliance support. Our members sent 3000 letters to 500 MPs calling for reform to firearms licensing, and 2000 letters to Natural Resources Wales challenging their pheasant shooting ban.
The Campaign for Shooting is but one part of a rich matrix of Countryside Alliance campaigns. The strength of the Alliance is that most of our work actually transcends easy definition, but goes straight to the heart of defending the whole rural way of life. Our work to highlight the online bullying of the countryside community defends those who love shooting just as it defends those who hunt, fish or farm. Those of you who post your love of the countryside on social media will know how serious this issue is, and the Alliance is here for you.
Similarly, our work combatting animal rights extremism is to the benefit of the whole rural community, but is of enormous benefit to game shooters. The Alliance has experience from decades of supporting hunting, and is now deploying this experience to protect shoots targeted by saboteurs. In Parliament our Labour Country report showed the Labour Party there are messages it can promote in the countryside without defaulting to attacks on game shooting. Many of the complaints we pursue with the BBC relate to game shooting, and our pursuit of a BBC that is neutral on rural issues has taken us to the highest levels of Ofcom as we seek improvements to the way BBC Editorial Guidelines are implemented and presenters held to account.
Even when campaigning on shooting issues, we work for the whole rural community. Our relentless campaigning for grouse shooting is not only, or even principally, focussed on those who pull the trigger. It focuses on defending the benefits shooting delivers to the local community and economy, and promoting its positive environmental impact. The hours we spent working to change the Offensive Weapons Bill were not just for the minority that take part in .50 calibre shooting sports, but were to prevent a dangerous precedent. If the Government needlessly banned .50 calibres rifles, what would be next?
On the ground we continue to see shooting grow in strength and numbers. This year has seen the largest number of firearms holders in over 30 year while the Countryside Alliance has welcomed thousands of new members. Our support and our grassroots have never been more proactive and engaged.
This boost in numbers and engagement will be vital as we move into 2019, as there remain as many challenges as ever. But these challenges are drawing our community ever closer together, as those who shoot, hunt, fish, farm or make their living in the countryside increasingly stand together. The Countryside Alliance is the epitome of this unity, and will continue to both protect and promote shooting and the rural way of life, in 2019 and beyond.
Follow our Campaign for Shooting on Twitter @CA_Shooting