Mark Smith’s powerful article setting out the moral, commercial and environmental case for a ban on the killing of birds for "sport" will no doubt enrage the gun lobby’s official apologists ("Compelling case for ban on shooting of all birds", The Herald, September 22). Their defence turns on a series of grossly inflated figures as to what shooting is supposed to be worth to the economy.

Even less credibly, those apologists claim that the publicly subsidised environmental vandalism and wildlife slaughter intrinsic to grouse moor "management" (the burning and draining of peat bogs, the killing of vast numbers of indigenous species such as stoats, weasels, foxes, corvids and raptors) enriches the landscape.

On the moors, grouse are the target of the shooters. Elsewhere, it is pheasants and partridges. Some 50 million are mass-produced and released each year in Britain to serve as feathered targets. The Dutch banned the production of birds for "sport shooting" in 2002. This was mainly because of the environmental damage the activity causes. Perversely, successive Westminster governments have swallowed and regurgitated the gun lobbyists’ claim that shooting is good for the environment.

Ultimately, every human activity, if it’s to achieve societal support, must pass a basic ethical test. The hobby killing of birds, with all the attendant predator persecution and environmental damage, comprehensively fails that test.

Andrew Tyler,

Director, Animal Aid,

The Old Chapel, Bradford Street,

Tonbridge, Kent.

I have never read such utter bilge as the article by Mark Smith.

Shooters and gamekeepers are true countrymen who take great pride in the diversity of wildlife present within their estates and recent surveys have confirmed that shoots and estates do more for conservation than all the charities combined.

Without the management of moorland, red grouse would be much more endangered. I have walked moors which are left uncared for and they are barren and devoid of our wildlife.

Shooting an available surplus of birds annually is at its most basic a form of farming and the description of their rearing as being in "unpleasant little cages and pens" is so wide of the mark. Pheasants are purpose-bred as are all farming stock but the fact is they are very quickly released into the wild and provide a truly organic source of food. Shooting also provides a substantial income in rural areas where other sources of income are limited.

David Stubley,

22 Templeton Crescent,