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WDC does not often make comments on bird protection, though a lot of our collegaues and volunteers also care pastionately about our feathered friends.

But in the UK we have just signed on to a letter with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and various other groups, to the Guardian newspaper.

The UK Government has granted licences to destroy buzzard nests to protect economic resources of non-native game birds, used in sport shooting.

The story of the Buzzard in the UK appears to be a success story, with pairs recolonising their former haunts – especially in eastern England – and once again becoming a widespread and celebrated fixture of our skies.

Unfortunately the Government is setting an unfortunate precedent that a protected species should be reduced in parts of the the countryside to protect a non-native gamebird

What does this mean for marine mammals? Our concerns are that this creates a principle that could be applied to our ocean cousins.

How many seals can be killed because they potentially affect fisheries? When will someone point to the issue of the Buzzard and say that whales and dolphins should also be ‘culled’ to protect future commercial fish stocks? Its a spurious argument that the whalers have used before, but its a small step for someone in Europe to start to call for in these economically strained times.

In this case, the UK Government appears a little quick to revert to addressesing the wildlife issues as the easier option. Lets hope that they reconsider their position and lets just hope that they keep these ideas away from our oceans.

Our thanks to the RSPB and a correspondent into the office, who pointed out some things that have improved the blog,  specifically the line,  ‘The UK Government has granted licences to destroy buzzard nests…’ and the fact that whilst Buzzards are a protected species, they are not endangered.

Our thanks to both.

This was the media release


Following the revelation that Natural England – the Government’s conservation advisor – has issued licences for the destruction of buzzard nests and the killing or capturing of adult birds, a coalition of wildlife and countryside organisations has written to Owen Paterson MP – the Environment Secretary – for a reassurance that no further licences will be issued for the removal or destruction of birds of prey or their nests for the protection of gamebirds.

Historical persecution had reduced this previously widespread species to only a few thousand pairs.  Only in recent years have buzzards recolonised their former haunts – especially in eastern England – and once again become a widespread and celebrated fixture of our skies.

There was a widespread public reaction last year when the Government announced a tender for a research proposal which would have allowed the removal of buzzards to try to protect game shoots. In the wake of this, the Government committed to working collaboratively with interested parties to find a new way forward.  Yet an official request for information lodged with Natural England has now revealed that licences for the removal of buzzards have been issued, including around release pens on a pheasant shooting estate.

The group of 17 organisations have expressed their outrage that protected species should be removed from the countryside to protect a commercial non native gamebird and stated that it is vital that the Minister now issues a clear statement that licences will not be issued to kill a native bird of prey to protect commercial gamebirds.

Gwyn Williams, of the RSPB, said: “We believe it is wrong that these licences have been issued, it is wrong that there has been no public scrutiny of these decisions and it is wrong that we only heard of these decisions after the nests have been destroyed.”

Paul Irving, of the Northern England Raptor Forum, added: “We have fundamental concerns with the idea of licensing the killing of a native bird of prey or the destruction of its eggs to protect an alien gamebird. These specific cases seem to show a scandalous disregard for Natural England’s own guidance. It’s clear there is a huge range of non-lethal alternatives which have clearly not been exhausted.”

Nigel Middleton, from the Hawk and Owl Trust, commented: “This is a step backwards. We’re in the 21st century and shooting estates must look hard at their management practices to ensure there is no negative effect on native biodiversity. They must move on from a Victorian mentality and find ways of managing their sport that does not require the destruction of birds of prey.”

The organisations involved in the coalition are: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; The Wildlife Trusts; Friends of the Earth; Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust; Amphibian and Reptile Conservation; Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; Hawk and Owl Trust; Northern England Raptor Forum; Humane Society International/UK; Environmental Investigation Agency; International Fund for Animal Welfare; World Society for the Protection of Animals (UK); People’s Trust for Endangered Species ; Barn Owl Trust; Badger Trust; Whale and Dolphin Conservation; Ramblers.


Editors notes:

1. In 2000, the Government convened UK Raptor Working Group (a panel of stakeholders, including representatives of both shooting and conservation bodies) found buzzards account for less than 5% of pheasant deaths across the UK, with most estates experiencing losses of less than 1%. A subsequent study carried out by ADAS found that losses to all birds of prey (including buzzards) generally totalled around 1-2%; a tiny figure compared to other sources of loss. This study (in 2002) used these figures to calculate that the average loss of pheasants to birds of prey (1%) to the average pheasant shoot (releasing 1,000 pheasant poults), would give a total cost of around only £30.