Title ruffles feathers with prize for killing birds

By Alyson Fixter

A shooting magazine has raised a media storm by offering a £500
prize to the reader who kills the most magpies in the next five months.

Sporting Shooter , published by Archant, announces the award in this
month’s issue, in which contributing editor Charlie Jacoby claims the
species is a pest and a threat to songbirds.

Readers are being
urged to shoot, trap or otherwise destroy as many magpies as possible
between now and July, and bring the right wingtips in for counting.

The
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), has described
Jacoby’s views as “bonkers”, while claiming the magazine is encouraging
readers to push the law to its limits.

Members of the public also
reacted with outrage after the story was picked up by the national
press, including the BBC and The Sunday Telegraph.

But Jacoby,
who in 2003 challenged readers to prove the existence of Britain’s
legendary feral big cats by bringing him the carcass of one, insisted
the competition was perfectly legal and part of the magazine’s edgy
style of sporting journalism.

He said: “Traditionally a shooting
mag does quite dull stuff about gun bores and how many pellets you
should put in a cartridge. But we bring an FHM, lads’ mag edge to it.

“Our
readers don’t like it if we’re rude and base, but they do like us
putting in things like top trump cards about different types of hunting
dog.”

He said he hoped the stakes would be increased by other people putting prizes forward for the biggest cull.

Jacoby
added: “The word ‘cruelty’ is a bit up for grabs at the moment and
being at a shooting mag puts you in the firing line anyway, so we get a
lot of hate mail.

“With everything that’s going on about guns and
wildlife, it’s not surprising that every time we write an article the
media picks up on it, and this one has been picked up on in a very big
way.

“In fact, quite a surprising market has suddenly opened up
as a result of this competition. Urban ladies have been calling us and
saying: ‘I’ve got a magpie on my roof, what should I do?’ – ‘well, get
a shotgun, madam’.”

He admitted that disappearing habitats,
rather than magpies, were probably the greatest threat to Britain’s
declining songbird population, but claimed: “Magpies are not as
disastrous to songbirds as building too many houses, but killing them
would make a difference, although I’m not confident we’ll make a
significant hole in the population.”

Jacoby said the
20,000-circulation magazine was a proponent of the ideal that
everything should be legal unless society specifically prohibited it.

“This is our idea of what a free country should look like,” he added.

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