The Environmental Effects of Blood Sports in Lowland England since 1750 Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThis paper considers the effects of blood sports on the landscape, wildlife and farming, and assesses the implications of the topic for some matters of historical interpretation. Histories of individual sports written by practitioners are rarely candid about the environmental costs and even descriptions by professional historians tend to neglect the dynamic ecological consequences. Ritualised foxhunting supplanted more effective control and encouraged pests. Any benign consequences were incidental. Thanks to commercial money, shooting intensities held up well even during agricultural depressions. Game preservation, notably of pheasants, meant heavy pressure on birds of prey and other wild species; planting woodland was the main benign effect, although this simultaneously fostered so-called pests. Killing species that competed with game eliminated some wildlife but often proved self-defeating in the long term. Angling had mixed implications for waterside wildlife, although riverine habitats were lastingly modified when sport-fishing replaced fishing for food. Hunting and shooting meant some withdrawal of land from farming and interference with rotations: these activities reduced productivity. That the national economy could ‘afford’ to divert so many resources to elite sports contradicts the dominant view that England came up against a resources barrier.

publication date

  • April 2009

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