Reader letter: Wrong to say we persecute birds

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The RSPB’s Birdcrime Report 2013 makes sweeping allegations against the shooting community and grouse shooting in particular.

An examination of the report shows that these accusations cannot be sustained on the evidence provided. There is nothing in the report which justifies the statement that: “The RSPB believes it is the shooting industry as a whole, not individual gamekeepers, that is primarily responsible for raptor persecution in the UK”.

The alliance does not condone wildlife crime in any way. However, the number of reported incidents is significantly higher than those actually confirmed, making the headline figures extremely misleading.

As it happens, populations of almost all our birds of prey are at their highest levels since records began, and only the hen harrier and the white-tailed eagle are red listed as species of conservation concern. Yet the Defra-led plan to help the hen harrier is being blocked by none other than the RSPB.

The number of incidents reported to the RSPB, is down 24 per cent from 2013 and down 56 per cent on 2009. Of the 32 wild bird-related prosecutions given for 2013 in the report, only six involved gamekeepers, of which one was found not guilty and only two involved birds of prey. None involved hen harriers Therefore, only six per cent of those 32 cases involved keepers where birds (buzzards) had been killed.

Only one of the keepers prosecuted in 2013 was connected to grouse shooting and the offence did not involve the death of any bird.Areas managed for grouse shooting account for just one fifth of the total uplands of England and Wales and the breeding success of hen harriers has been no better elsewhere, including on RSPB land. The evidence just does not support the RSPB’s attack on shooting. It is clear that the RSPB is promoting an anti-shooting agenda which has less to do with concern about birds and more about ideology and politics. The RSPB should be working with the shooting community and not alienating it.

-Adrian Blackmore

Director of Shooting

Countryside Alliance