Following on from Monday’s story about DEFRA’s plan to fund a buzzard ‘management’ trial on pheasant-shooting estates in Northumberland (see here), the RSPB has published a response statement.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director said:
“We are shocked by Defra’s plans to destroy buzzard nests and to take buzzards into captivity to protect a non-native game bird released in its millions. Buzzards play a minor role in pheasant losses, compared with other factors like collisions with vehicles.
Common pheasants are not native to the UK. Around 40 million birds are released every year for shooting. The impacts of this practice on wildlife have been poorly documented, but serious questions have been raised about the impact such a large injection of captive-reared birds might have on the predator-prey balance in our countryside.
Buzzards will take young pheasants from rearing pens, given the opportunity, but the RSPB believes the issue can be managed without destroying nests or moving buzzards. Measures include providing more cover for young pheasants in release pens, visual deterrents to discourage birds of prey and providing alternative food sources.
There are options for addressing the relatively small number of pheasant poults lost to buzzards. Destroying nests is completely unjustified and catching and removing buzzards is unlikely to reduce predation levels, as another buzzard will quickly take its place. Both techniques would be illegal under current wildlife laws, and I think most people will agree with us that reaching for primitive measures, such as imprisoning buzzards or destroying their nests, when wildlife and economic interests collide is totally unacceptable.
At a time when funding for vital conservation work is so tight, and with another bird of prey, the hen harrier, facing extinction as a breeding bird in England, I can think of better ways of spending £400,000 of public funds. This money could work harder for wildlife, and I hope the Government will therefore put a stop to this project.”
Full statement can be read on British Birds here
So what can you do? You can email DEFRA Minister Richard Benyon MP (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell him what you think about this illegal, scientifically-illiterate and unethical trial. You might want to ask him what scientific evidence was used to justify the proposal and ask him whether there was any consultation on the issue, and if there was, which organisations were consulted?
Go for it. There has been so much interest in this story and so many people expressing their outrage – let’s put it to good use and make sure Mr Benyon knows the strength of feeling on this.
UPDATE: Message sent to RPS readers from Nigel Middleton, Conservation Officer (Eastern Region) for the Hawk and Owl Trust:
“Please Everybody , just to let you know the RSPB, Hawk and Owl Trust and Northern England Raptor Study Groups are aware of what is going on hence the press statement [today], all the groups are totally against the proposals and have representatives on the commitee that is fighting the cause of the buzzard, even if i have to chain myself to richard benyons office! i hope you will all back me. Please send as many letters expressing your disgust at such a move not just to him but also your local MPs. They will not win on this one.”
UPDATE (24 May) – see here for national media response to this ‘management’ proposal.