A Northern Ireland MP has dismissed Tory attempts to curb his love of country sports, insisting: “I’ll always be a shooter.”
Democratic Unionist Jim Shannon told the Commons he was a country sports enthusiast, joking it was perhaps not a surprise for someone from Northern Ireland to have an interest in shooting.
The Strangford MP said there are economic and conservation benefits to shooting, noting he also considered himself to be a “dedicated conservationist”.
He further noted his love for eating pigeon, adding to laughs: “That’s my favourite bird, two-legged one that is – with wings.”
But Conservative Tania Mathias suggested he may change his ways by reading the autobiography of Sir Peter Scott, one of the founder members of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Speaking during the summer adjournment debate, the Twickenham MP told Mr Shannon: “He was a shooter and he put down the rifle to become one of, I think, the world’s top conservationists.
“I just feel reading, you might change your mind. Who knows?”
Mr Shannon said he was well aware of Sir Peter, adding: “I don’t think I’ll be Sir Peter Scott – a shooter and a conservationist – I’ll always be a shooter.”
Ms Mathias replied: “I will loan you my copy of the book if you can’t find it as Sir Peter Scott does talk about the thrill of conservation being equivalent to the thrill he had achieved while shooting and that’s persuaded him to literally put down the gun.
“So you can always change and I’ll loan you my copy of the book.”
Earlier in his speech, Mr Shannon outlined his shooting background.
He joked: “I suppose it’s no shock to anyone here that someone from Northern Ireland should be interested in shooting – but I have to say it’s legitimate shooting, it’s legalised shooting and I have a licence to prove it.
“For me this is a way to relax although with commitments I don’t find myself available to pursue it as much as I’d like. In fact some of the members in here will remember my maiden speech in June 2005.
“I said at that time that the ducks and the pheasants of my constituency would be relieved to hear that there will be two or three days a week without worrying about me chasing them because I’d be in this House.”
Reminiscing about his love of pigeon, the DUP MP said: “The reason I have a good appetite for pigeons, when I was a wee boy in Ballywalter my cousin who shot up in west Tyrone in the 60s and 70s used to send – genuinely this is a true story – pigeons by post down to Ballywalter. That’s from the west of the province to the east of the Province.
“Sometimes they arrived at Ballywalter maybe not in the best of conditions but we cooked them anyway and I have a love of pigeons and I still have it today.
“So that’s my favourite bird, two-legged one that is – with wings.”