A FIELD sports pressure group has come under fire after advising its members to join parent teacher associations to combat what it sees as anti-shooting views in schools.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation recommends "getting to know teachers and making sure that casual conversation includes your interest in shooting".
Hunting and fishing enthusiasts should also consider becoming school governors, arranging fundraising clay-pigeon shoots or selling dressed pheasant or venison burgers at school fetes.
This, says the guidance, would help ensure that hunters are not seen as "having two heads".
The advice is outlined against a backdrop of what the association feels is prejudice against recreational shooting among teachers, fuelled in part by widespread media coverage of gun crime.
The guidance was published only a week after the Virginia Tech shootings in the United States, when 32 students died.
The association has highlighted teaching resources from its opponents at the League Against Cruel Sports, which it said were far less even-handed in attempting to mould young opinions. These carry the tagline "killing animals for kicks is sick".
However, the pro-hunting association was criticised for seeking to influence pupils. Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "I'm not sure we would approve of parent teacher associations being used for this purpose. We welcome all parents into them, but not for the ulterior motive of promoting hunting, shooting and fishing."
She said, however, that teachers should not be forcing anti-field sports views on pupils.
John Bangs, the head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said he thought the plan could backfire. "Parent teacher associations will not be happy if they feel they are being infiltrated," he said.
Under the heading "Educating the Educators: how to challenge anti-shooting prejudice in schools", the guidance offers three anonymous case studies.
In the first, a six-year-old is quoted as returning home upset after her classmates reacted with horror when she told them her father had shot six pheasant at the weekend and eaten one of them.
Her teacher, she said, had told her this was "disgusting" and asked her not to discuss it in class.
Second, a 13-year-old boy is quoted whose teacher had reportedly told him not to use shooting as a subject for a class discussion because talking about guns was not appropriate.
The third story has another boy starting a panic in his rural secondary after an empty shooting cartridge fell out of his pocket as he was sorting through his possessions.
Parents in the three cases are told to find out what happened and complain to the head.
The guidance says most teachers are not prejudiced. They simply knew nothing about field sports beyond what they learned in the media, which tended to be anti.
Richard Thorne, the director of shooting standards at the association, said 10 parents had written to complain in the past eight months about their children being upset by anti-shooting views. Half of these cited complaints about teachers. He added: "We are challenging ignorance and prejudice. We are not trying to force pupils into thinking shooting is good."
But Chris Allen, the education officer for the League of Cruel Sports and a secondary headteacher, said the publication of the advice within days of the Virginia shootings was "very insensitive".
"I do not think teachers are prejudiced against shooting," he said. "But sensible teachers know that guns and teenagers do not mix."
IS HUNTING A LEGITIMATE WAY OF PROVIDING FOOD?
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation's classroom resource includes a list of arguments for and against shooting, which it questions.
"To hunt and kill a wild animal is cruel (but isn't hunting the natural act of a predator?)"
"Hunting wild animals is a legitimate way of providing foods (but is it necessary any more?)"
"Sporting shooting is part of an outdated class system (but can't people of all classes take part?)"
The League Against Cruel Sports's classroom resource includes quotations to illustrate the "illusion" and "reality" of commercial shooting.
Reality: "I realised I had a kind of bloodlust and was maniacally shooting things and trying to kill as many birds as possible." (Madonna) Illusion: "Shooting is not just about killing things I its appeal lies in a cocktail of experience and emotion; the thrill of an exciting sport."
(British Association for Shooting and Conservation)"