RSPB response to DEFRA’s proposed (illegal) buzzard trial

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 ( 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.

13 thoughts on “RSPB response to DEFRA’s proposed (illegal) buzzard trial”

  1. From the front page of Songbird-Survivals Winter 2012 Newsletter;

    Meeting with Richard Benyon MP,
    Minister for Environment, Food and
    Rural Affairs
    9 November 2011
    It was encouraging when the Minister opened the meeting saying, “This is a subject close to my heart.”
    Three Trustees of SongBird Survival made a short presentation to Mr Benyon and his team from Defra outlining the aims and activities of the Charity and describing our research projects. One of the suggestions made to the
    Minister was that a small fraction of the £500 million cost of agri-environmental schemes should be spent on
    research and that the inclusion of predator control should also be considered to enhance effectiveness. The Minster and his colleagues were presented with copies of the review of predation research published by the University of Reading in 2010. In the opinion of the Trustees this study casts grave doubts on the quality of
    much of the research on which Defra policy is based.

  2. As public anger grows, so does the media interest: RSPB will be on BBC Breakfast tomorrow.

    DEFRA under siege from twitter and email and their responses have been as weak as their science: “This is a research project in very early stages”. In other words, ‘Please don’t ask us to justify this nonsense because we’re unable to’.

    Keep piling on the pressure everyone…blog, twitter, facebook, email…we are having an effect! The only thing neccessary for evil to flourish is for good men [and women!] to do nothing.

  3. Letter sent to MP also, if we all stick together and make a noise, this decision will be reversed.. Fight the fight!!!

  4. Disgusting but not suprising. The hunting & shooting lobby is very vocal. Here in Crete it is a joy to watch honey buzzards soaring on the thermals. Keep the protest going !

  5. Letter sent to my local MP who is labour, hope this gives him some more Ammo to persecute the Hunting shooting Tory MPs.

  6. Last autumn, the “beaters” at a pheasant shoot at Whitfield, near Allendale in Northumberland actually closed the road to Alston so pheasants could be blasted by “hooray Henries” in their Range Rovers. I counted 50 dead pheasants killed by vehicles in ONE mile. Don’t get rid of the buzzards: get rid of vehicles on country roads instead, so more hand reared birds cn be blasted to death by “sportsmen”!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Got a reply from my MP. He is writing to Mr Benyon and will send me his reply. Hope Benyon gets snowed under with letters.

    1. Hi
      My name is Colin Sutherland see our charity link
      Quite honestly we are fed up of having to pick up the pieces of birds which have been shot, poisoned, nests destroyed and so on, by ignorant keepers, not landowners as some keepers still think they are above the law, when the landowner try to help, the keepers just ignore the landowners, we have a great relationship with all our landowners and the good keepers. As for the minister Richard Benyon, well he has not got a clue and is not fit for purpose. Here is a man who employs game keepers on his estate in Reading, then calls a university professors to give him advice on land management, even the demist person would know that a good keeper is the best person to ask, mind you they are government cronies anyway.
      The bad keepers l call Pheasant rearers give many good keepers a bad name, good keepers understand the land, its wildlife and so on. Bad keeper just show that they do not know their job.
      We have just had one of our captive bred Falcons shot by bad keepers in Berkshire, they just shot the bird as it rested on a post and walked up to her and shot her out of plain down right nastiness, who could do such a thing, l have found barns owls with their head blown off by shot guns. Buzzards poll trapped with no feet, we have had break ins at our centre and birds poisoned, Tawny owl boxes smashed and Red kite nests pulled down, l weep tears for these birds and even as l write this comment l find it very emotional, l cried myself to sleep because of what they did to our Falcon and have been very ill.
      If most of the clients who shoot on pheasant shoots knew what went on, they would not pay to go shooting, so what we are now doing is informing the clients when we can get the information. people like Sheik Mohamed and HRH Prince Faisal would not shoot at these shoots if they found out that birds of prey were being shot,. l can be contacted on 07845 504167 if anyone wants to put together a pressure action group.
      Kind regards
      Colin Sutherland
      Trustee Wings of Freedom

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