I’ve been left stunned by yesterday’s news that the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to spend £400,000 taking buzzards into captivity and destroying their nests in order to remove them from shooting estates.
According to the RSPB, the move by Defra followed lobbying by the pheasant shooting industry. Game shooting is a billion pound industry and is now one of Britain's fastest growing participation ‘sports’. (It is also the subject of an upcoming film produced by the League. Watch this space!)
The UK pheasant population is estimated at between 35 and 40 million and about half of these are shot every year. The rest die from a variety of causes and research conducted for the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (pro-shoot) shows that only 1-2% of pheasant poults are taken by birds of prey. That’s all birds of prey too, not just buzzards.
Buzzards are a protected species, and are only just recovering from decades of persecution. Given they are unlikely to have any real impact on pheasant numbers, why then are Defra so keen to dance to the shooting lobby’s tune?
George Monbiot argues that this is state-sponsored persecution of a protected species to please some of the richest people in the country, pursuing a cruel, destructive and pointless activity. I hope he is wrong.
Whilst we wait to find out why not write to your MP and ask them to pass on your concerns to the Rt Hon Richard Beynon MP Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Fisheries. Make sure to explain that predation by buzzards is a relatively small cause of loss of pheasants and that buzzards are a native and recovering species, while pheasants are a non-native gamebird.
And, if you're really interested, why not come to our symposium on the shooting industry and firearm licensing: Gunning For Change.