Hunting down the seasons
The Balance of Nature resource pack aims to inform children, specifically in the 12-16 age range, about the impact of country sports on the countryside and its environment. In particular the materials are targeted at children living in urban areas, who have limited knowledge and restricted experience of the rural way of life.
The pack, and here's the rub, is produced by the British Field Sports Society, a pressure group with one of the most unenviable tasks in the PR business. It is their job to promote sports in which animals are chased until they are exhausted, hunted for fun and food as they migrate to this country. To do this job for adults is hard . . . to do it for children must be virtually impossible.
Theirs is a very difficult task indeed, but the British Field Sports Society sticks to its brief. With a season-by-season approach, the materials describe the changing nature of the countryside and the range of sports that accompany the different times of the year. In photographs and text, posters and video, the authors explain how farming, jobs, recreation and environment are linked in a traditional pattern.
The posters are colourful, the video easy to follow and the teacher's notes helpful. Put together, however, the whole pack appears inconsequential. Which is a pity, because support them or not, there are points that need answering.
Children will soon spot platitudes about pest control; they will want hard facts about the effectiveness of one form of control over another. They will not want to know simply that duck and wild geese are shot, they will ask why. A caption that reads "Very few (hares) are caught but if a dog succeeds in outrunning a hare he will break the hare's neck within seconds with his powerful jaws" will not be left without comments. Children will ask difficult questions, which this resource fails to answer.
This apparent weakness, of course, might be the pack's strength. There's no harm in letting children learn a little about the seasons from the video, posters and book. They are unlikely to be influenced or affected by the lobbying. As one child who watched the video commented: "it's all right, but who wants to watch a programme about killing animals?" Who indeed?