Natural England issues licence to kill buzzards to protect pheasants

BZ front coverNatural England has just issued a licence for someone to kill up to ten buzzards “to prevent serious damage to young pheasants”.

Here is their statement:

29 July 2016

Natural England issued a licence last night permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.

The licence is time-limited with stringent conditions and is based on the law, policy and best available evidence. It follows rigorous assessment after other methods had been tried unsuccessfully over a 5-year period.

It is stipulated that the licence must be used in combination with non-lethal measures and only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds. These conditions are designed to make the licensed activity both proportionate and effective and we will continue to work with the applicant to assess this.

Killing wild birds without a licence from Natural England is illegal.


We’ve been here before (in 2012, see here) when Natural England/DEFRA proposed a ‘trial’ to ‘control’ buzzards to protect pheasants but then Natural England/DEFRA did a u-turn after a huge public outcry (see here).

We’ve also been here before in 2013 (see here) when Natural England/DEFRA issued a licence to destroy buzzard eggs and nests to protect pheasants.

We’ve also been here before in 2014 (see here) when Natural England/DEFRA refused to issue a licence to kill buzzards to protect pheasants.

This time, Natural England/DEFRA have decided to issue a licence to kill buzzards, presumably based on the findings of last year’s Judicial Review which ruled that Natural England’s/DEFRA’s decision to refuse a buzzard-killing licence the previous year was unlawful (see here).

Natural England’s statement about this year’s buzzard-killing licence lacks transparency and detail. We assume (but it is only an assumption at this stage) that this licence has been issued to the same gamekeeper in Northumberland who has been applying for licences since 2012, with the support of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (see links above). We, and probably others, will be pressing Natural England for more detail in the coming days.

In the meantime, we urge you to voice your opposition by emailing Natural England and DEFRA (because Natural England is operating under guidance from DEFRA).

We know, according to 2011 figures, that over 50 MILLION non-native gamebirds (pheasants, red-legged partridge) are released into the countryside EVERY YEAR, so that those in the game-shooting industry can shoot them for fun. We also know that the buzzard is a native, protected species, still recovering (in some areas) from decades of illegal persecution. We also know that the game-shooting industry relies on criminality (the illegal killing of raptors) in order to provide for excessively large numbers of gamebirds to be shot. For fun.

Emails to Natural England:

Emails to Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment:


198 thoughts on “Natural England issues licence to kill buzzards to protect pheasants”

  1. In the mid 60’s when I was a lad walking in the Bowland area sights like the above were quite common. The gamekeeper’s lodge very often had dozens of birds hanging on lines, to please their bosses and no doubt, themselves.

    1. Doug – good point. Interesting how much has changed. Also worth remembering the turning point in buzzard breeding success – the 1966 ban of the pesticides dielrin and aldrin in sheep-dips.

        1. Another point Andrew, I’m afraid your knowledge of ornithology is lacking somewhat. The turning point in Buzzard success was not until the 1980s, twenty years after the dieldrin (not dielrin) ban. It happened despite ongoing persecution by gamekeepers, and coincided with a series of exceptionally widespread vole plagues in Scotland, which led to colonisation of large parts of England following dispersal. Studies in southwest and central Scotland have indicated a sharp decline of up to 67% within the past decade, partly due to depressed prey populations, but almost certainly contributed to by increased persecution. The game shooting community has had 70 years to get its house in order regarding protected raptors, but has failed miserably. I see no other option than putting an end to the whole business. Killing wildlife for pleasure has had its day, and is an insult to a civilised society.

      1. After ten years living in Scotland’s central belt then five years in Gloucestershire I saw my first buzzard at the age of 15 – in Germany on a suburban housing estate. Was both delighted and amazed – hadn’t realised that buzzards could live in urban areas, which goes to show how used we are to our wildlife being rare due to persecution. That was in 1982 so I am with Jack re timing and causes of buzzard range expansion. A buzzard was killed near me in Grangemouth in 2014, a reported persecution incident. I may have heard one being shot at the same year and there’s a rumour a dead one was found in the wood I do practical conservation in, also 2014. If true and the bird was killed illegally probably done by a ned with an airgun – general vandalism and rabid pigeon fanciers are not unknown here. A dead buzzard has been found less than half a mile from me in a proposed local nature reserve. The body was badly decomposed so unable to determine cause of death, but plenty of shotgun pellets found in the area. I have no doubt substantial illegal persecution is still occurring and it’s widespread. The come back has been no thanks what so ever to the game keeping/shooting fraternity – and it’s all too clear they want it reversed.

  2. So … Natural England is hoping to find someone to kill buzzards – a native species, to protect pheasants – a non-native species. It beggars belief; wtf is logical about that?

    1. Apparently justice ouseley ordered natural england to issue the licence, same bloke that OKed the badger culls

  3. Of course they have. Run by rich landowners and Tory government. They are paid by the rich to protect the rich.

    1. No the ball is in everyones court. Write to your MP. write to Natural England, wriote to DEFRA. newspapers. It is a duty of all of us, not ,us the RSPB.

  4. How come releasing 35-50 million non native birds into the British countryside every year is allowed in the first place?

    1. I think the answer to that is obvious.
      On the other hand if you legally breed barn owls and want to release the young into the wild you need a licence.

  5. My email to Natural England DEFRA and my MP:

    I am disgusted that Natural England is issuing licences to kill raptors on shooting estates. It is unnecessary and just highlights the Victorian attitude of the gamekeepers and estate owners, that raptors are still classed as VERMIN. Who despite releasing about 50 million non-native gamebirds to be killed for fun and rarely used for their meat, cannot accept the small losses due to natural predators.

    The gamebirds are raised and subsidised as though they are farm stock, then released to be shot as though they are wild birds, those still alive after this are then reinstated as farm stock for further subsidies. Pigeon trap shooting was made illegal in 1922 because of the cruelty involved, I see no difference between the pigeon trap shooting and driven gamebird shooting. Why is this being tolerated in modern society?

    With raptor persecution continuing on a large scale and almost making the Hen Harrier extinct in England, it is time that meaningful prosecutions took place and raptors given the full benefit of the lawful protection they are supposed to have.

    When I challenged Richard Benyon MP while he was a DEFRA minister about this matter and the use of banned poisons to kill raptors. His answer was that, the use of banned poisons did not need to be made illegal because banning was sufficient. It clearly is not. I suspected a vested interest???

    It is time that the poisons were made illegal and the full force of the law imposed on those that hold such poisons. The spring traps, made illegal in 1906, are still in use illegally. The most recent case of a gamekeeper caught setting pole traps on moorland, he only received a police caution. This is ridiculous! Gamekeepers just seem to get away with their crimes even when caught. Is this down to corruption of justice by the rich and famous landowners?

    It is also time to include vicarious liability in English law to match the same law in Scotland. The estates should be responsible for the acts of their employees. The estates are heavily subsided out the Public purse, all just to entertain the sick minded very rich killers. How, in the austerity measures we the ordinary folk of this nation suffer, does the rich estates continue to get subsidised for their fun?


    I will report back when and if I get any answers.


    1. A standard reply?????

      Thank you for your email to: Species Management Wildlife Licensing, Technical Services, Natural England.

      If you have submitted an application form please accept this email as an acknowledgment of receipt.

      For any enquiries please telephone us on 0300 060 3900 (local rate) or email the relevant mailbox highlighting the urgency of your application in the subject header.

      If you have applied on-line via the CWM system, please send an email to the relevant mailbox to notify them of your application submission. [Birds, badgers, deer, falconry, seals, non-native species and sales licensing] [Science, education and conservation licensing] [European protected species mitigation licensing]

      If you are trying to make a request for a copy of your personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998, or a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environmental Information Regulations 2004, please contact the Enquiry Service on 0300 060 3900 or email

      We will keep our customers updated with latest news via our website:

      Thank you.


      Perhaps we should apply for non-lethal control of gamekeepers and estate owners?


      1. In other words: “we didn’t actually read your email as we’re not really interested in anything you have to say”

    2. Very well said, I love to see Buzards , for many years they were shot and thankfully that was made illegal, they are making a return to the countryside and I and others love to see them, pheasant chicks can be protected by wire fencing so Farmers/gamekeepers protect your chicks and NOT shoot rapters,
      If this licence goes ahead it will give all gamekeepers permission to kill at will, stop it now !!

    3. I today received the answer below from anon at Natural England. The lack of information is incredible.

      Good afternoon

      In response to your enquiry on the issuing of a licence to control up to 10 buzzards, we are providing further clarification on the decision. For security and data protection reasons, we cannot give any details about the licence holder.

      Wildlife licences are required from Natural England for activities that will disturb or remove wildlife or damage habitats and can be granted to prevent damage to agriculture, livestock, fisheries, property or archaeology.

      So far this year, we have received over 5500 wildlife licence applications covering a variety of species. In deciding whether a licence should be granted, all applications have to be assessed in the same way against the relevant policy and within the legal framework of the the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA).

      We discharge this role as a wildlife licensing authority alongside the range of our statutory responsibilities as government’s adviser on nature conservation.

      In assessing the buzzard licence application we took into account the legislative tests and policy guidance, the evidence received from the applicant, industry guidance and scientific literature. The application was rigorously assessed with input from specialists across our organisation.

      The High Court has recently considered the issues surrounding the granting of a licence to kill buzzards in order to protect livestock and given clear direction on the decision making process. This includes the need to balance the protection of wild birds against the requirement to prevent serious damage to livestock and the need to adopt a consistent approach to the interpretation of policy which applies across a number of species. Natural England has taken account of the court’s findings in reaching this decision.

      The licence to control buzzards was issued to protect against serious damage to livestock. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 defines livestock as any animal which is ‘kept for the provision or improvement of shooting or fishing’.

      Our guidance says that where birds are either in pens or are significantly dependent on people they are classed as livestock. For example, where a bird remains in close proximity to a release pen and will often return to it for shelter or to roost at night, and is dependent of food put out by the gamekeeper then we usually consider it to still be livestock even if it is free-living. As pheasants are released at a relatively young age, they will be dependent on the gamekeeper for several weeks at least. Natural England revised this guidance to take account of the High Court ruling, having consulted our stakeholders.

      As a public body, Natural England has to balance the public interest with the security of the individuals who apply for licences. In the interests of transparency, Natural England will shortly be making documents associated with the assessment and granting of this licence publicly available. These also include details about control methods, assessment and criteria under which the licence has been granted. Any disclosed documents will be released in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and therefore some details, such as personal information, may be redacted.

      We would not consider licensing any activity which would adversely affect the conservation status of a species. Buzzards have increased dramatically in recent decades and are now common and widespread, with over sixty thousand pairs in the UK (British Trust for Ornithology). The loss of small numbers of birds in a small area will have no impact on conservation status.

      It is illegal to kill wild birds without a licence from Natural England and anyone who suspects a wildlife crime should report details to the police.

      Links –

      Government webpage on wildlife licences

      Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

      British Ornithology Trust information on buzzards

      From the letter I gather that the only proof required is from within this sentence “In assessing the buzzard licence application we took into account the legislative tests and policy guidance, the evidence received from the applicant, industry guidance and scientific literature.” It seems the only part of that sentence they use is, ” the evidence received from the applicant,” There seems to a great lack of industry guidance and scientific literature. The links provided do not give any useful information.

      I have now asked NE to provide further information.

      My email below.
      Thank you for your reply to my enquiry regarding NE issuing licences to kill Buzzards. Your email does not provide the relevant information about how livestock production is damaged by Buzzards. I believe that the shooting estates have an irrational hate of raptors and therefore want rid of them at any cost. I have found no reliable information regarding damage to livestock. The only evidence is the statement of gamekeepers and no scientific information to back this up.

      If there is scientific evidence regarding livestock loss to Buzzards, then please show this. I cannot see why NE can accept the words of gamekeepers and their bosses as being evidence. When, one considers the production of pheasants, for example, being in the order of 40 million per year and Buzzards being mainly carrion feeders, I fail to see any need to allow these archaic killing estates to be given permission to kill Buzzards.

      Some years ago Richard Benyon, then minister for DEFRA wanted to investigate the culling of Buzzards because he said that his gamekeeper informed him that buzzards take 50,000 young pheasants per year. This is rather far fetched.

      Why do you issue licences to kill raptors when the livestock numbers and the management of them is probably the major cause of mortality, not to mention the mass injuring and killing of the livestock by shooting.

      It is time to stamp down on the killing estates and their destruction of our countryside, introducing non-native species in huge number just to be shot at to entertain a rich clientele. Driven game shooting was used to good effect to feed prehistoric man but today there is no need for such archaic practices.


      1. Well done, Doug Malpus. The initial reply from Natural England is very worrying, and if this legal precedent remains unchallenged, opens a veritable floodgate which seriously threatens not only Buzzards but most raptor species. Some elements within the shooting community will see it as a significant step towards lethal control of Hen Harriers, at least on the more ‘profitable’ grouse moors. I foresee this happening when the brood management and reintroduction to lowland habitat parts of the Defra Inaction Plan end in complete failure. The logic applied by Natural England is playing right into the hands of these people, and if upheld as a precedent will undoubtedly lead to most of the UK’s shooting estates submitting applications for licences to kill. Add to that continued illegal killing, licence limits being exceeded, and that is a hell of a lot of dead Buzzards, putting the species under considerable pressure again. Is any organisation (e.g. RSPB?) bringing forward a legal challenge to this judge’s decision?

  6. Don’t expect much interest from Loathsome a fox hunting aficionado and Countryside Alliance supporter. Nor in fact the new PM May she’s another fox hunting fan.
    Owen Paterson must be lurking in there to somewhere.

  7. Just emailed Unnatural England expressing my disgust at this corruption. I’m not expecting a reply, having waited about four months for one on a different matter. The Badger cull was just the start, boys and girls. If we don’t mobilise now, the threat to our natural heritage will only increase, and who knows what atrocities will be “legally” committed!

    1. I once spoke to a policeman who lived in rural Stirlingshire. When he met the local laird and told him where he lived he was told ‘Ah so you’re one of those people who run over my pheasants!’ Oh those bloody serfs.

  8. protect pheasants so that the local gentry can blow them apart with shotguns instead, cant have mother nature spoiling the upper classes “sport” can we ?

  9. This licence doesn’t make sense. Are the birds still in their pens? If so the pens should have lids on and that will solve the problem, If they are not in their pens they are officially “wild birds” therefore as I understand it, they can’t issue a licence. Is it possible to clarify this?

    1. Gerard, we’ve been through all of this in previous years (it’s worth reading the previous years’ blogs to get a hold on how ridiculous the whole situation is, and how much lies has been told in the past), but to answer your question, the shooting industry refuse to cover their pens, and this is, in my opinion, a deliberate ploy to create conflict.

      1. It’s noticeable how many prominent keepers, ex keepers and vociferous shooters have pigeons as well, seems a bit strange unless it’s about hoping their birds get attacked by sparrowhawks or other BOPs so they can make a song and dance about it. As well as raptor/predator hatred isn’t there a lot of ‘conservationist baiting’ going on? Football hooligans in tweed.

      1. You make the pens smaller, then fashion a roof to cover them, thereby preventing aerial predators from gaining access. You do realise that the entire wood is not being used as a pen?

  10. It beggars belief that we still have the power of what lives and dies on the British landscape, in the hands of an anachronistic dictatorship whose stranglehold has held back the British Isles from becoming a true model of applied and realistic conservation of plant and animal species; one that would set a model for any industrialised and progressive society. No, we still have the Bridgehead Revisited toffs and their lackeys making sure that they have sympathetic appointees ensconced in the requisite Government Departments, prosecution services and law courts, ready to oblige in being limply punitive to those employed (gamekeepers) to slaughter our wonderful Birds of Prey, and other creatures (Mountain Hares), that may indirectly threaten their perversion of having to industrially kill game birds, or chase foxes, and have them torn to pieces, to protect chickens, so they oftimes claim!

    Why should such people have fiefdom rights over such a large area of the UK? Why has the Labour Party, when in power, never really tackled this anomaly, when it has such a gathering of humane politicians who have loyally supported all sorts of animal welfare and conservation campaigns? The Beast of Bolsover, Dennis Skinner, is one who has not been afraid to state his revulsion of blood sports. Now, we do not have a proper opposition with Labour in disarray, and we are facing a Conservative Party which has always been a supporter anything to do with hunting, circuses and abusive training of wild animals, with David Cameron having reneged on his 2012 pledge to rid England and Wales of such acts. We also have the determined and scientifically unjustified culling of Badgers. However, there is some hope, with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, explorer and Countryside Alliance supporter, now pleading that Teresa May does not reintroduce hunting with hounds to the English countryside, as he thinks that those days should be over in a modern Britain, and there is a group within the Tory Party that is working hard to change the whole ethos away from blood sports, and so gain more support from those of us who may vote for them. When I emailed my SNP MP about banning driven game bird shooting, it was passed to the relevant person, and his reply was that the SNP would never ban such an activity, as it contributes so much to the Scottish economy in the form of job creation in areas of high unemployment, and in the revenue it generates helping to maintain our rural economy. Obviously SNP is scrabbling around for anything that will bring in any contribution to National Income, and not be concerned about the ethics of such sources. Thus, Scotland could face more of the same litany of illegal killing of our Birds of Prey, and lack of support to clean up some other areas where the abuse of animals and the marine and terrestrial environments, are crying out for some support to improve conditions, e.g. fish farms, slaughter houses, laboratories, pet ownership, snaring which is cruel and long lingering for wild and domestic animals caught in them.

    It is now time for the gloves to come off, and for all groups, conservation and animal welfare, to come together and put up a massive front to confront those in our Scottish Parliament and in the House of Commons, and state that the British public no longer wishes to suffer the insult to their humane concerns for animals and the natural environment, by an inhumane and pretentious class of people who bleat that they must be allowed to massacre game birds, hunt wildlife, disfigure and damage the fabric of the landscape, and who employ people to poison, snare, shoot and trap innocent creatures that have a right to live, and witness the law being made a fool of when criminals are brought to court, and get minor punishments.

    The task now is for a countryside policy of regeneration to be made by all conservation and animal welfare group, that will provide an alternative way of running the rural economy; one that will destroy the insulting to the intelligence and ethics excuses given by Governments to allow the continuation of blood sports that use excessive methods to maximise the profits of shooting estates. The door would also be open to rational estates to participate in such a dialogue, to prove that the killing of Buzzards and other creatures is unnecessary.

    Perhaps it is time for those in Scotland who have put all their egges in one political basket, and who care for wildlife and the humane treatment of animals, that they took the scale from off their eyes, and become more critical of, and forceful in their dialogue, when dealing with their political idols. I would rather live with moderate means than live in a country whose politicians allow scoundrels to claim that their activities are essential for the economy, and that does not just apply to game bird shooting, as there are other badly monitored activities that are doing harm, and causing gross offence. The SNH, Natural England and DEFRA are made to look like stooges when they are ragdolled into complying with some regulation that allow the culling of some species, just to please people who should have more important things to do with their time and money.

    1. Excellent comment – the first paragraph says it all. Incidentally some groups have never worn any gloves and while some mainstream groups would (wrongly) consider them to be extremists they are without doubt having an effect.

      Incidentally the license has been granted to the xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

      Perhaps we should mobilise the many wildlife loving walkers in the UK to go for a stroll when they are shooting next. Hitting them in the pocket is probably the only language they’ll understand.

      1. i notice the edit regarding the license request. Apparently it’s common knowledge in shooting circles, I’m told they are openly bragging about it.

    1. Well said, Mr. Hart. Lets hope this letter stimulates those who have the skills to organise and campaign directly to the public to get organised.

  11. Releasing millions of gamebirds, especially pheasants, into the British Countryside also has a devastating effect on our native reptile populations, and other small wildife, through predation.

    1. Correct, but you won’t hear the shooting industry complaining about this, or of BBC’s Countryfile or Landward highlighting this massive problem.

    2. Aye but it’s ok for unnatural numbers of birds of prey to have a negative effect on all moorland species of birds due to predation…………..?,….!!

      1. How did arrive at the conclusion that there are “unnatural number of birds of prey”, and exactly what negative effects are they having on “all moorland species”?

    3. Some time ago when this site was still RP Scotland a commentator made what was to me an original and clever observation – pheasants are quite large and therefore likely to have a negative affect on waders through territorial aggression. Highly credible – massive pheasant population certainly isn’t going to help waders. And who has provided evidence of this…Mr Bert Burnett. Recently on his facebook he posted a video of a pheasant having a go at a lapwing, if he had seen or remembered the original comment doubt he would have been so keen to put up such a good example of a non native species conflicting with a threatened native one.

  12. The Common Buzzard is “Natural England” at its best soaring high over the hills , wildlife should never be controlled just for money making Reasons . Who is making these non natural decision ?

  13. My Letter
    Dear Ms Leadsom

    I am outraged that Natural England will be issuing licences to kill buzzards on shooting estates. It is unnecessary and highlights the Victorian attitudes of gamekeepers and their masters, that raptors are still classified as vermin. These people cannot accept the negligible losses due to predation as a consequence of them releasing 50 million non-native game birds into the environment annually to be killed for fun.

    The gamebirds are raised and subsidised as though they were “farm stock,” released to be shot as “wild birds,” and those left alive are then reinstated as farm stock for further subsidy. Therefore a large part of the total costs I am paying for, either directly or indirectly through my taxes.

    My question is this……Are the licences issued to protect the gamebirds whilst they receive subsidy as farm stock, or are they issued to protect the gamebirds whilst they are technically wild birds? This is important because if the birds are still in pens then it can not be true that every avenue to protect them has been taken, for example why haven’t the gamekeepers put lids on the pens or some other physical barrier to prevent the buzzards and gamebirds coming into contact. If the birds have been released then why are licences being issued to protect wild birds? This is a freedom of information request about all the details of these licences, because it seems to me that their issue can not possibly be justified.

    Yours sincerely

    Dr Gerard Hobley

  14. Natural England?what’s natural about shooting to kill with gun?Hateful wankers! all they care about is money.hope they all choke on it .buzzards are rare and beautiful….following their instincts..pheasants are bred by evil minded shits for bastards to shoot .pure evil is ruling our countryside .it must be stopped ..

  15. Is it ‘now’ the time for all Natural England staff to walk out in protest? Not one of them can now justify their wages as the job is now impossible. Remember we pay their wages!

    1. Unfortunately John, NE is a shadow of what it was 6 years ago. NE, EA and FC are now very much under the thumb of DEFRA. I’d suggest you look to DEFRA for answers. NE may issue the licence, but they won’t be making the final decision. From what I know, most of the people in NE care passionately, many are now struggling to put aside there core believes. Most of the old EN staff have left or are leaving.

  16. Emails sent but given Loathsom Leadsoms views on wildlife being ‘vermin’, I think we can expect more of this.Un natural England are a waste of space as I have crossed sword with them before on badger cull licenses. The fight goes on.

  17. IF, very, very big If obviously there are any genuinely conscientious shooters, estates and even keepers out there who don’t think that recreational shooting should compromise conservation, rural economies and public welfare (increased water treatment charges from muirburn, grossly inflated red deer numbers increasing serious/fatal road accidents – FFS!) must break away and disassociate themselves from what’s coming out of the NGO, CA, Moorland Association, SGA, Scottish Land and Estates, BASC, GWCT – because that is in no way compatible with being a rational, decent human being. We need a new campaigning organisation with a specific remit to fight against the bad practices and the misinformation, smearing from the fieldsports sector. I’ve heard that a million hectares of Scotland are grouse moor, another 850,000 acres in northern England, then there are the open hill stalking estates with no trees and undernourished deer, all the pheasant and partridge shooting supported by intensive farming at home and abroad for feed. Water pollution and flooding from muirburn, soil erosion and loss of native forest to overgrazing, obstacles to ecological restoration and ecotourism impacting on rural jobs, the cruelty of ‘legal’ snares and killing, illegal persecution, carbon emissions. On any account animal welfare, environmental harm, ecological impoverishment there must be enough here for Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace to add their voice against what’s happening at the very, very least. Thay are still trying to get fox hunting back (it never really went away) and now with this killing raptors is effectively legal again.

  18. Natural England my a…e whats natural about breeding birds to shoot and killing birds that kill them duh…… only kill to eat. ..wish I could eat a big fat huntsman

  19. This is disgusting and proves without a shadow of a doubt that Natural England is not fit for purpose, it totally defeats the object of providing legal protection for a scarce wild species of bird and then issuing licences to kill it. None of our legally protected wildlife is safe when the laws protecting them can so easily be circumvented by people who have control over our so-called natural environment protection agencies NE, SNH, NT, DEFRA etc. It makes a mockery of the whole wildlife protection laws when shooting interests can override them just so that well heeled gunslingers can go out and shoot tame domestic Pheasants that have been artificially reared in their millions.

    It’s time that the barbaric outdated Victorian era so-called “SPORT” of game shooting was either fully licensed or banned totally throughout the UK, personally I think it should be banned totally and the sooner the better for the sake of our wildlife and countryside.

  20. Am I alone in thinking that the stipulation that “the licence must be used …… only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds” is totally unenforceable nonsense? Further, one must question what measures are in place to ensure the limit of “up to ten birds” will be observed. I doubt that the regulating authority as the manpower or finances to do so and as we don’t know further details nobody else is in a position to do so.

    1. There won’t be any measures John. The landowner would have to be monitored 24/7. I have written to them asking about this and it will be interesting to see what comes back, if anything. I have also asked them how will they KNOW a buzzard was not shot whilst flying over! I have also put it to them they have knowingly issued this licence in the knowledge that it is likely to be abused. I know from experience that when these kinds of licences are issued, the persons responsible for enacting them suddenly forget their maths and have the utmost difficulty remembering what number comes after five, to the extent that they have to go back to the beginning! NE employees are public servants and must be made accountable. Buzzards – or any otheer species – don’t belong to them alone.

    2. “Am I alone in thinking that the stipulation that “the licence must be used …… only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds” is totally unenforceable nonsense”

      No. I’m quite sure that 10 random Buzzards will be killed by this gamekeeper, yet he will claim that his poults were still being attacked and killed, leading to a request for an increase on next year’s application.

      1. Having seen a poisoning incident in South Scotland which involved a final tally of 30 buzzards and goshawks..I can confirm that in the present day, if you kill 10 buzzards they will simply be replaced [the same happens with the insane fox control policies of many shooting estates]…leading to a never ending cycle of killing. Anyone with half a brain would produce pheasants in step with levels of local predation…sadly these killers dont seem to have the required half a brain though…Tradition and greed, the same old deadly combination in our countryside.

  21. To Natural England and Andrea Leadsom MP (Secretary of State for the Environment),

    I read today with dismay that a decision has been taken to permit the killing of a protected bird of prey in order to further the economic interests of a landowner, and the recreational interests of the (largely wealthy) individuals who wish to kill (non-native) pheasants for fun.

    Please respond to the following questions:

    1. Under Schedule 9 of the WCA, it is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild, or allow one to escape. This means if you trap one, you are obliged to humanely dispatch it. Why then is it legal for over 50 million non-native gamebirds to be released into the countryside every year?

    2. On what basis, legal or otherwise, was the decision taken to grant a licence to kill a protected bird of prey, counter to the wider interests of society and counter to the conservation interests of this species (still recovering, in many areas, from decades of illegal persecution)?

    3. What measures for resolving the landowner’s concerns have been trialled and dismissed as ineffective? Has s/he tried covering the release pens? Why has lethal control been deemed to be a legitimate and necessary approach?

    4. What evidence are you drawing on which indicates that lethal control of up to 10 Buzzards will be an effective strategy for resolving the issue which this landowner indicates that s/he has?

    5. Will a licence to kill up to 10 Buzzards be issued in future years in order to control the Buzzards which will (inevitably) move into vacant territories and present the same problem in future years?

    6. For how many years will such licences be issued and what is the total number of Buzzards that will be killed by this one landowner, in furtherance of his economic and ‘sporting’ interests, during this period?

    7. How many similar licences do you anticipate issuing to other landowners and what will be the total number of Buzzards killed as a result?

    8. What will be the population-level impact on Buzzards as the result of this licenced killing?

    9. Will you be releasing similar licences to further the interests of the Grouse Shooting industry, with respect to Buzzard control?

    10. Will you be releasing similar licences to further the interests of the recreational shooting industry with respect to the control of other species? Specifically, will you be issuing licences to control Schedule 1 species such as Goshawk, Golden Eagle and Peregrine?

    11. With regard to the Buzzard licence which you have issued, what monitoring will you be putting in place to ascertain that the culling quota is adhered to? What will be the cost of this monitoring?

    12. With regard to the Buzzard licence which you have issued, what monitoring will you be putting in place to ascertain the efficacy of the strategy in achieving the aims (presumably reduced predation of poults) for which the licence was granted? What will be the cost of this monitoring?

    13. With regard to the Buzzard licence which you have issued, what monitoring will you be putting in place to ensure that the Buzzards are dispatched humanely, and without suffering? What will be the cost of this monitoring?

    I look forward to hearing from you at the earliest opportunity

  22. Depressing times as expected given the political situation and as several have said for quite some time, it is now that the wildlife NGOs and all of us look for creative ways to fight back. We may need to be original in our thinking to get the subject into the public’s conscience. We are a little handicapped as we abide by the law, but that should not stop us thinking of ways to cause massive problems. Time for a brainstorming of ideas-or else we give in to these people.

  23. As to be expected, unnatural England are a bunch of ‘arseholes’, but then we knew that in the first place, they are not fit for purpose and the countryside alliance will be crowing now.

  24. I think something needs to be done to control buzzard numbers, although I do love to see them. When I was young (1970s) they were a rare sight, but I don’t remember anyone shooting them. They now thrive in a man-made environment without predators and there are too many of them. In my area kestrels were very common till there was a massive resurgence in the buzzard population, now you rarely see one but can often see several pairs of buzzards in the air at one time. It’s good to have buzzards back, but the numbers should be optimum, not maximum. Let’s not get hysterical.

    1. We’re not talking about buzzards v kestrels here we are talking about buzzards v non native pheasants kept
      by morons to be shot by morons. We have lost a few osprey chicks to buzzards this year but that is no reason to cull them.

    2. 1 what, if anything, would normally suppress buzzard numbers in a balanced eco system?

      2. why is that component missing?

      3. could we help to reinstate that component?

    3. I feel duty bound to ask a few questions about your post.

      1. Too many buzzards for what purpose? A statement such as that without qualification is meaningless. 2. Do you have any evidence for your assertion that the reduction in the numbers of kestrels is related to an increase in buzzard numbers.
      3. If you were to start to kill buzzards how many would you kill?

    4. Sorry, why should we control them? Left to their own devices the population will reach a naturally sustaining level based on prey. What predators would a buzzard have anyway? It’s an apex predator, an abundance of buzzards means an abundance of prey species (and they tend to be as much scavengers as hunters) Their resurgence is down to much stricter action on pesticides and persecution.

      1. ‘What predators would a buzzard have anyway?’

        I would guess eagles, goshawk and peregrine, in the right conditions. But it’s not just a matter of direct predation, it’s also displacement and out competing them for food. I suspect that buzzards probably have this effect on kestrels too.

    5. The phrase “something needs to be done” has probably done more damage than any other five words in the language. There are people out there “doing something” about buzzards all the time, with snares, pole traps, carbofuran, shotguns, and in some cases Larsen traps wherein buzzards and anything else unfortunate enough to be caught there are then beaten to death with a fence post and stamped on to make sure. That is why this blog is so important. Just as with Brexit and hate crime, this will give encouragement to the perpetrators of these vile acts and lead to an all-out onslaught on buzzards and more.

      But Nirofo is wrong on one thing. NE is perfectly fit for purpose. That of the Tories.

    6. Well, flanker7, buzzards were rarely seen on the Isle of Wight when I moved there in 1995, but we had lots of red squirrels and kestrels. Now, we have buzzards everywhere – and lots of kestrels, red squirrels, several pairs of peregrines, hobbies…….. billions of pheasants, most squashed on the roads, and no red kites yet to clean up the corpses.

    7. >> In my area kestrels were very common till there was a massive resurgence in the buzzard population

      Anecdotal ad hoc reports like this prove nothing, there are a whole host of factors that have been cited as reasons for Kestrel decline and conflict with Buzzard is not coming out as a significant issue, e.g. preliminary conclusions of RSPB study are that main issues are changes in agricultural practices and increased use of rodenticides. Modern politicians seem to have done away with evidence based policy and seem to prefer to listen to their friends in lobby groups, but this is no reason for further misinformation…

      1. There would have to have been many millions of pounds spent on rodenticides to effect the huge decline in Field Voles from such huge areas of Scotland, as happened from 2005 onwards. This is the obvious and far simpler explanation for the massive decline in the Kestrel population, in conjunction with three hard winters during the decade. The same phenomenon reversed the Buzzard increase, quite massively throughout central and western Scotland at least.

    8. the 10 buzzards will be shot in north Northumberland where they are still classed as uncommon status!

  25. Soon it will be more licenses for Buzzards, then Red Kites, Eagles, Goshawks, Tawny Owls, Sparrowhawks…
    I’ve always thought that Mark Avery’s petition was too narrow in it’s scope. I’m afraid that sooner or later we are going to have to take on the wider shooting industry and make all forms of killing things for fun unfashionable among the wider public, if we want to keep any predatory species in this country.
    Petition to stop the release of factory-farmed, non-native gamebirds, anybody?

  26. Natural England should change their name to ‘Murdering England’.This is absolutely disgusting

  27. Do we start killing buzzards so animal murderers can have there sport, if so its not right in my opinion and I am happy to lobby any M P.

  28. Just sent my emails this is totally disgusting whoever made this decision should hang their heads in shame

    1. Martin makes a very important point “The fact that these commercial interests remain private and confidential is the second troubling point. Where is the transparency in this decision? As an issue of public interest why must it remain confidential?” That point, I think, should be one of our first demands.

      1. Playing devils advocate, I’d say for public order and safety reasons, both for the applicant and also to prevent conflict with potential protesters

  29. Who’s stupid idea was this, you don’t think they are going to stop at ten, is this so the hunting fraternity have more poor pheasants to shoot.

  30. I don’t think there is any need to kill buzzards or any bird off pray there is plenty birds of pray killed everry year with out a licence to kill them in sorry but it’s just natural for birds ov pray to eat they don’t kill that meny phesants and pArtridge I think it’s a disgrace to let people kill buzzards we should get a licence to kill them that’ kill buzzarfs

  31. I have seen about 5 buzzards, I cannot relive natural England, again are allowing destruction of England. Buzzard are beautiful birds. They are already being killed illegally, same as other prey birds. So now we give idiots a licence to kill as many birds and when every they like, cause no one can be there to police them, to protect a critter that is running all over the show for some idiots to shoot and waste their bodies. Dear me has anyone got any care for our wildlife now. Lets kill all the protect species, cause that is what we are doing, and us common folk have not voice in the matter. :-(

    1. We certainly do have a voice in the matter Lisa; you’ve commented for everyone to see (including those who are prepared to carry out the Buzzard killing) and you can email Natural England and the Secretary of State for Environment. It’s important blogs such as this one that will bring about change in the future. Spread the word to all your friends.

  32. Just because one incompetent gamekeeper can’t mend his wire fence keeping his pheasants in, 10 buzzards have to be shot or poisoned..

    Give him lessons on how to use a pair of wire clippers. Far cheaper and 10 lives are saved.

  33. This is horrendous, yet again they are persecuting native birds to protect their ‘bloodlust’ sport!
    Is there a petition going to make them review it?

  34. To quote a response to an earlier blog – keep supplying the nails and we’ll hammer them into the coffin.

    Letters to the papers needed too.

  35. My email: Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Environment

    Dear Ms Leadsom

    I am appalled that Natural England has issued a licence for a gamekeeper to kill up to 10 buzzards on a single pheasant shooting estate. I am also angry at the lack of transparency, in that details of the location and the applicant have been withheld from the public.

    The buzzard is a native protected species which is still recovering from the effects of many decades of persecution by gamekeepers and landowners. It is a magnificent wild bird which gives great pleasure to those who see it and has a financial value of its own to the economy, as bird and wildlife watching generates income for communities throughout the country by way of hotels and local services used by birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Pheasants are non-native and their release into the countryside contributes nothing to Britain’s ecology (and may have a negative impact on native wildlife such as the grey partridge); additionally, their lack of road sense probably contributes to a high number of road traffic collisions each year, causing injury and possibly death to humans.

    More than FIFTY MILLION game birds are bred and released into the wild each year for the sole purpose of shooting interests. The buzzard population is minute by comparison and cannot make a significant impact on these numbers; indeed, collisions with cars cause the death of many thousands of these birds, far more than any number of buzzards can cause.

    I am also concerned that this decision is the thin-end of the wedge. Having granted one person permission to kill 10 of these birds, how can Natural England refuse to grant similar permission to other gamekeepers throughout the country? If every gamekeeper killed this many the buzzard would probably become extinct in the UK within 5 years. And then, what next? Pigeon fanciers applying for licences to “control” peregrines? Licences might be issued to gamekeepers to kill much rarer species such as hen harriers, goshawks and golden eagles. River bailiffs would then expect the same privilege and obtain licences to kill otters… the possibilities for annihilation of our scarcest wildlife are endless.

    I beg you to please get this decision reversed and to have the provision for such licencing removed from the legislation, so that Britain can lead the way in wildlife conservancy and hold its head up in the international community. We cannot criticise the rhino horn and ivory trade, or the persecution of tigers if we cannot manage our own native wildlife with pride and care.

  36. What happens when, next year, these idiots decide to breed and release 90 million pheasants – licences to kill Golden Eagles ? After all, if they are getting CAP payouts for ‘farming’ them, and then money from psychologically challenged people, who get off on torturing and killing animals and birds, why stop at 45 million?

    They are simply seeking to legitimise the current criminal slaughter of our raptors, aided by a despotic government.

    When are we going to hear about the police investigation into 20 tory MP’s election overspending expenses ?

  37. I can’t believe what I am seeing this is a complete and utter disgrace. Unbelievable!! We should be doing something drastic about pheasant numbers in the uk not targeting birds of prey. I am saddened and very angry with this news.

  38. What this is really about is the bloodthirsty rich oiks want to save as many pheasants as they can, so they can shoot them for what they call ‘sport’.

  39. Words here from David North (copied from the RSPB Community page (see RSPB reaction post by Secret Squirrel above).

    Buzzard Looks Down

    Buzzard looks down

    On the men from the Estate

    Come with permits from DEFRA

    To destroy his nest.

    Buzzard looks down

    On these men

    Who will never know

    What it is to soar

    On wings lifted by sun-warmed air

    Buzzard looks down on men

    Who will never know

    What it is to ride thermals

    He plays with clouds

    And renders the works of men

    Cars, roads, houses, whole villages

    To mere toys,

    Buzzard’s play things

    Buzzard looks down

    They say this is their wood

    But buzzard knows different

    He owns what he sees

    And he sees much

    With patient sure eyes

    He has watched seasons change

    Green brown, bare

    Sat high in these oaks and watched stars turn

    While winds howled and trees creaked

    Has felt the hammer lash of hail

    The soft coldness of snow

    Buzzard has sat here in this wood they say they own

    As countless nights brightened to dawn

    Seen a thousand sunrises

    Sat here through winter nights that dressed every branch white with frost

    Buzzard looks down

    On their pheasants

    Holds them in the contempt of talons

    These birds that know nothing of soaring

    That struggle to fly higher than tree tops

    And feed on grain

    Buzzard looks down

    He knows this wood as they never will

    He owns skies

    He possesses clouds

    He needs no permits

    David North

  40. Oh my god! Murdering gorgeous birds, who only take a few pheasants, by toffy nosed, gun toting idiots because they reduce the numbers that they want to slaughter! Typical upper crust toffs!

  41. my email to Naturally England:
    I am utterly speechless and mortified that your solution is shooting A PROTECTED species in order to protect birds that will be shot in the name.of sport …. and that will pointlessly rot or burn on a bonfire.

    You should be utterly ashamed of yourselves and I do not believe the decision makers are worthy of being part of an organization called “NATURAL” .England.

    What on earth are you thinking?!!!!!!!

    Please reverse your decision and do your job .. PROTECT England’s nature! .. pheasants are not English but are bred to be shot by the people who are so obviously pulling your strings.

    Disgusted of Thaxted

    Sent from my Honor Mobile

  42. Pheasant Shooting is nowadays more of a big money spinner for big privately owned estates than a country pursuit. Most big pheasant shoots are massively overstocked and have to try and cull as many of their pheasants at the end of the season as possible, not just cock birds, as was once the case to try and prevent resultant disease.
    During the course of the shooting season, many birds are shot and wounded (pricked in shooting parlance) especially on “big days” when rich but poor shots blast away at anything that flies.
    Buzzards are much more likely to take these birds than fit healthy birds. Any one with half the intelligence of a brussel sprout or with the slightest understanding of wildlife or country sports would know this.
    So where is the RSPB and its million + members? where are the Wildlife Trusts.
    Our Badgers are being slaughtered because of poor bio security and pressure on farmers to produce milk for the supermarkets at a loss.
    And now our birds of prey are being shot with no scientific justification. Before you pay your subscription to any conservation charity ask what they are actually doing to conserve our massively unprotected wildlife and environment! Does the money go on protecting wildlife or paying carreer conservationists who tick boxes and are unwilling to rock the boat!

  43. Terrible choice by humans to do this. A no brainer to secure the pens better and save our natural species. The pheasants are only going to be released to be hunted anyway. Should we be concentrating on protecting
    our native species rather than more persecution?It is tough for them to survive with humans taking over more of their habitat. Who came up with the idea of killing rather than securing the pens better???

  44. Certain facts need to be asserted, to provide an accurate picture regarding Buzzard populations and their alleged impact on Kestrels. Studies appear to reach somewhat differing conclusions, with several hypotheses being promoted to explain recent changes. However, based on quantitative data gathered by myself and a few other amateur ornithologists in SW and Central Scotland, extending northwards into mid Argyll (mainland), the following observations can be made with confidence:

    1. Buzzards increased greatly during the period 1988 to 2008, particularly during the 1990s, mainly by recolonisation of parts of their range which had been unoccupied for at least 100 years. This included urban fringes, especially along trunk road verges which had become unmaintained, or cut once a year where formerly they had been mown frequently throughout the summer. During the same period there was a considerable reduction in cutting of verges along minor country roads.

    2. There is a general assumption that this recovery in the Buzzard population was “a conservation success story,” reflecting the more effective protection against persecution generally afforded. Readers of RPUK and the more active naturalists and birdwatchers among us can be excused for finding this explanation difficult to swallow. Although undoubtedly a factor, I would suggest that a more natural rise in productivity was responsible for the increase and expansion of range.

    3. My assessment is that the improved productivity was a result of increased small mammal numbers, particularly field voles, in a countryside which provided enhanced habitat availability and added nutrition due to several factors, all resulting in a greatly increased biomass of grass: (i) the significant reduction in beef consumption following the onset of ‘mad cow disease’ (BSE) in the mid 1980s; (ii) EU milk quotas significantly reducing dairy herd sizes in 1984; and (iii) the outbreak of foot & mouth disease in 2001, which apart from resulting in the cull of 10 million sheep and cattle, led to a further decline in beef consumption. The overall result was particularly noticeable on beef rearing farms in Scotland, where millions of hectares of former rough pastures were left ungrazed for the greater part of the year (this also seriously depleted breeding wader numbers).

    4. It was less reported upon at the time, but during that period it is important to note that Kestrels also increased quite dramatically, quite possibly for the same or similar reasons. This seems counter to several suggestions that “too many Buzzards” have caused the recent decline of Kestrels.

    5. Since around 2004, the regional population of both Kestrels and Buzzards have declined quite dramatically. Casual observers and birders appear to have noticed a recent shortage of Kestrels, and our data show a widespread reduction in annual Kestrel sightings of a staggering 92% between 2004 and 2013. This was almost certainly due to a near-universal (within my recording area) crash in the field vole population after 2004, since when average numbers have remained depressed (a phenomenon also recently recorded throughout western Europe). Everyone has noticed the steady rise in Buzzard numbers which occurred between 1988 and 2007 (approximately 25-fold in my extended study area), but in my experience few seem to have noticed the decline which has occurred widely since then. In my area this decline has amounted to a highly significant 67% in seven years! This was based upon a total of 1,709 systematic observations, and annual breeding surveys in a study area extending to 100 square kilometres.

    So the killing of Buzzards to protect young pheasants is certainly not justified on the basis of the Buzzard having staged a remarkable comeback. Its population appears to be threatened still by variability in its prey availability, and even more so by human persecution. This act by Natural England is an extremely dangerous precedent, because if it applies to one pheasant rearing operation, on the basis that all other methods of protecting the young pheasants have failed, how could it be argued that licence to kill Buzzards should not be allowed on all shooting estates? In any case, we all know that the predation of pheasant chicks by Buzzards is well below any reasonable definition of unacceptable levels. The law is indeed an ass on this occasion, apparently with a very poor concept of statistics.

    1. As a matter of interest, do you happen to know:

      What percentage of a buzzard’s diet is worms?

      Do changing weather patterns (aka climate change) affect the amount and seasonal availability of worms?

      Would this affect the number of buzzards?

      1. Worms are a poor substitute for small mammals reptiles etc in a buzzards diet, resulting in the avian version of rickets if too many are fed to their young.

  45. As always some very good points, Jack.

    Persecution over decades must have been one of the major factors in the depressed population prior to the recovery. Would the pesticide issues which hampered other bird of prey species have also been a factor in their recovery, since buzzard as well as sparrow hawk and peregrine were also down during this period in my youth?

    What always amazes me is the lack of awareness of the predator/prey relationship, even by bird and wildlife enthusiasts, as well as the ‘countryside guardians’. That a buzzard does not have to have a predator to keep it’s numbers in check, that it is largely available food which controls numbers and hence their population density is simply not understood by many.

    With N.E. granting a license to cull the resulting gap created will only allow other buzzards to move in especially when young birds will be dispersing. The concern over controlling the limit of ten birds is therefore both naive and very real. I recall a case back in the 1970’s, which embedded this in my mind, of a Scottish keeper killing buzzards in just this scenario. I believe the number of buzzards concerned was 178 which gives a basis for the concern shared by so many of us. It is therefore a complete folly for N.E. to grant this license without any control and to do so either exposes their ignorance or their motive!

  46. I can not believe this that they have issued a licence to kill up to ten buzzards, when pheasants are predominantly a common bird ….who issued this licence in the first place, they must do shooting of pheasants at the weekend that’s all I can say as I don’t see buzzards every day like I do pheasants..!!!!!!
    We need our birds of prey. WAKE UP.

  47. Two further points come to mind. First I suspect very few gamekeepers are sufficiently competent to distinguish between Buzzard and other raptors especially Honey Buzzard. This may not be a problem at the moment but see my second point. Second I’m sure that the shooting industry is watching this case very closely and emboldened by its success we will see many more applications which might have an impact on rarer species.

    1. Another point was made to me by an ex-police WCO at the time of the previous licence issues. It’s already extremely difficult to get a prosecution even in the most blatant cases of raptor persecution. If and when a certain level of raptor killing is legally sanctioned, it becomes essentially impossible, and what little police enthusiasm currently exists for investigating possible crimes will fall to zero. It’s then pretty much open season on all raptor species. And some of the shooters are well aware of this.

      1. Exactly, AlanTwo.

        Notice the last line of NE’s press release – they remind us it is illegal to kill birds without a licence (I don’t have that verbatim, sorry.)

        So it seems to me that they know very well it is likely criminal elements will want to kill birds – or any creatures perceived to be in the way.

        We’re discussing these issues rationally, on the whole, asking DEFRA pertinent questions, but I don’t think they care one bit – whether it’s a buzzard or a honey buzzard is irrelevant.

        Who cares? Just get rid of these pests or vermin.

        Perhaps DEFRA will be satisfied when there aren’t any creatures left except those whom landowners and their employees want to kill. And then chuck away.

  48. I’ve just emailed the following to the links provided in the article. I hope everyone commenting has also emailed! If you haven’t feel free to copy & paste some or all of my email. Maybe we can get this licence revoked.

    Email sent 30th July 2016 –

    Dear Sir or Madam

    Further to your statement copied below:

    Natural England issued a licence last night permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.
    The licence is time-limited with stringent conditions and is based on the law, policy and best available evidence. It follows rigorous assessment after other methods had been tried unsuccessfully over a 5-year period.
    It is stipulated that the licence must be used in combination with non-lethal measures and only on buzzards in and immediately around the animal pens – not on passing birds. These conditions are designed to make the licensed activity both proportionate and effective and we will continue to work with the applicant to assess this. Killing wild birds without a licence from Natural England is illegal.

    I find it appalling that you have issued this licence in order to protect a non native bird that is being breed in order to be shot. 

    Surely the person/gamekeeper that has been granted this licence could ensure the pens where the pheasants are being reared are buzzard proof in the same way they must make them fox proof. Why can they not net the area where the young pheasants are being raised in order to protect them from the buzzards?  

    Once the pheasants are released then they must be considered fair game for the buzzards; the same as they are considered fair game for the people wanting to shoot them.  Don’t forget the buzzards won’t have the benefit of beaters and dogs to help them hunt! 

    What evidence have you been provided with in order to substantiate that the buzzards are actually killing the pheasants?

    What is the number of pheasants being reared?

    What is the number of pheasants being killed by the buzzards?

    How will the person/gamekeeper be able to distinguish whether or not it is a passing buzzard?

    What methods have been tried unsuccessfully over the last 5 years? 

    Why have these methods been unsuccessful? 

    I believe the licence you have issued should be revoked in order to protect the buzzards. 

    I look forward to your response. 

    Louise Robinson 

  49. Now here is an interesting plan of action from a group of folk, totally legal when pheasants are released into the wild.

    ‘Buzzard culling under licence to ‘protect’ Pheasants is not going to work. This is because me, my family and friends have pledged to cull 50 pheasant for every Buzzard, egg or nest that is ‘controlled’. The meat will be made available to local food banks’.

    It sort of fights fire with fire and sends a message to the shooting fraternity in a language they might understand, even if they will not appreciate it. Radical yes, but these are desperate times and of course every legal means to fight these perpetrators of wildlife crimes is valid.

  50. Our birds of Prey need our protection not a helping hand toward extinction. Natural england should be ashamed of this decision.

  51. Natural england should be ashamed of this decision. Our raptors need our protection not a helping hand toward extinction.

  52. Hunters income protection that is what this is all about.
    By the way Pheasants are brought in by Romans so in fact they are an invasive bird.
    Why does ‘ “Natural” England’ not change their name into something they really stand for?

    1. They are not categorised as ‘invasive’ – they have become naturalised and they had found a niche until some greedy shooters decided to breed them just so that they had more of them to shoot for fun.

  53. My emails to Natural England and Andrea Leadsom;

    Dear Natural England
    I will be one of many people who are opposed, nay appalled by your decision to issue a licence to kill “up to ten Buzzards” in order to protect young pheasants.
    Your email address has in it the words ‘wildlife’ and ‘natural’ so please explain to me how you could even contemplate allowing the destruction of a totally wild, natural Buzzard in the name of protecting a non-native, introduced, reared bird such the pheasant is, and all so that during the autumn those pheasants can be shot out of the sky for pleasure.
    Buzzards will be destroyed so that pheasants can be destroyed; any sense in that?
    I am sure that your decision wasn’t taken lightly, and that it was probably taken due to the law.
    Maybe you are frightened of the shooting lobby; an outfit that appears to have a heavy backing by the present government, law makers and magistrates of the Country?
    You must have known that once the public were informed of your decision to issue this licence then there would be a backlash against you?
    Or perhaps you are just doing what this Conservative government wishes you to do; protect rural jobs at all costs, even at the expense of our native wildlife?
    What you should be doing is supporting the vast majority of people who want to see our natural heritage protected.
    You should not be supporting an industry that wishes to destroy our natural heritage.
    I ask you to revoke the licence and do everything possible to prevent such licences ever being issued in the future.
    Please, Natural England, help to protect our NATURAL HERITAGE.
    Same letter as above but with some ammendments:

    Dear Andrea Leadsom
    I will be one of many people who are opposed, nay appalled by Natural England’s recent decision to issue a licence to kill “up to ten Buzzards” in order to protect young pheasants.
    It does not make sense to me that Natural England could even contemplate allowing the destruction of a totally wild, natural Buzzard in the name of protecting a non-native, introduced, reared bird such the pheasant is, and all so that during the autumn those pheasants can be shot out of the sky for pleasure.
    Buzzards will be destroyed so that pheasants can be destroyed; where is the sense in that?
    I am sure that NE’s decision wasn’t taken lightly, and that it was probably taken due to the law.
    Maybe NE are frightened of the shooting lobby; an outfit that appears to have a heavy backing by the present government, law makers and magistrates of the Country?
    NE must have known that once the public were informed of their decision to issue this licence then there would be a backlash against them?
    Or perhaps NE are just doing what this Conservative government wishes them to do; protect rural jobs at all costs, even at the expense of our native wildlife?
    What NE, and yourself, should be doing is supporting the vast majority of people who want to see our natural heritage protected.
    You should not be supporting an industry that wishes to destroy our natural heritage.
    I ask you to revoke the licence and do everything possible to prevent such licences ever being issued in the future.
    Please, Miss Leadsom, help to protect our NATURAL HERITAGE.

    photo of dead Buzzard attached (credited to Peter Cairns

    ps.. this situation may well be just a fly in the ointment for some but please look at the attached image and ask yourself “Is it right for our natural heritage to be destroyed for the sake of a minority of people who enjoy shooting pheasants?”

    1. Righteous indignation, anger and sarcasm are well justified but they will be easily ignored by the people who issued the licence and the politicians who told them to do it.
      To get this wrong corrected we need more information. We need to look behind the facile press release and get some details that can be challenged.

      What background information do they have about the particular circumstances? The verified losses endured by the poor wee keeper? The steps that they have taken to protect the farm animals and the effectiveness etc etc. We need all the back ground info. While NE will no doubt be keen to keep this confidential however, we can be certain that every criminal in the country will have this info and be trying to make it fit to their patch.

  54. [Ed: Thanks for your comment, Peter. We’re unable to publish it as it would be a breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act]

  55. Hopefully the devolved powers in Scotland will ensure that Scotland does not follow suit with such a ludicrous and selfish decision.

    The distancing from the rest of Europe and the European court will have a negative for conservation in the UK.

    How does killing buzzards for the protection of a non native species sit with the European Birds Directive?

    Once again the influence of the minority (in this case wealthy and privileged ) is taken above the majority.

    Doft your caps and get on with it……….who do you think you are?

  56. All resident birds of Prey are supposed to be protected by law. How can Natural England authorise the culling of Buzzards an indiginous species to protect non native species such as pheasant poults. Gamekeepers and landowners should be made to provide extra poults to cater for the loss to birds of prey after all they can make up the cost of the poults by charging the shooters an extra £5 per day. Not by this outrageous killing of our natural predatory species. The common buzzard is an apex predator and hunts mainly rodents, squirrels and rabbits these are all considered pests. of course they will take poults and other fledgelings in the spring but nature has a way of making up for the losses, parent birds will recycle and have a second clutch if the first fails. The issuing of a licence to wipe out apex predators is ludicrous when the reason given is to protect young non native pheasant poults. Revoke the license now before it is too late.

  57. The buzzard is a protected species there are thousands of pheasants and they are bred all the time you have no right to shoot this protected wild magnificent bird.

  58. This decision is also going to have an impact in the rare cases where offenders are prosecuted and found guilty.
    The mitigation will be that buzzards are a pest species that can be legally killed under licence to protect game birds and therefore the incident will be portrayed as a licencing issue at at the lower end of the scale.

    Police, CPS and courts are very likely have their attitudes influenced by this decision.

    This does not send out the correct message.

  59. I strongly suspecrt that this decision is thoroughly unacceptable to the majority of British prople who have a keen interest in, and concern for, the welfare of wildlife in the UK.
    I am formally registering my objection to Natural England granting this licence.
    I suggest that shooting wild birds to enable a supply of non native species of birds, which have been bred purely so that for a few people may derive pleasure from shooting them for entertainment is shameful.

  60. I’m sure more pheasant are killed on road than by buzzard which is bird of prey and wouldnt have to rely on farmed pheasant if the natural habitat had not been infested by human traffic

    1. Lucie, I think it’s important to emphasise that the Buzzard does not rely on pheasants, farmed or otherwise. Remove pheasants from the ecosystem and the Buzzard will thrive quite happily on its natural diet. Even better, remove the gamekeepers and ban all killing for sport, and our countryside would be much richer as a result, and more welcoming towards the general population. When game laws were first introduced in the 14th Century, their main objective was to prevent ‘common people’ (on an annual income of less than £40) from poaching the masters’ game stocks. However civilisation has allegedly moved on since then, but the pressure on wildlife is currently growing, due partly to the exponential growth of the super-rich with their vast wealth and unlimited leisure time, but also a general obsession with guns and killing for the sheer hell of it. Go into any newsagent and look at the magazine racks. There are far more magazines promoting hunting and shooting than there are encouraging a benign interest in nature.

  61. The pheasant has been in this country probably since Roman times, though the first written records of pheasants date back to the 11th Century and King Harold, so to call them non-native is a bit of a stretch as they’ve been around nearly 1000 years.
    In the West buzzards are very common indeed. They tend to be lazy birds that go for carrion anyway.

    1. Anything that didn’t get here of its own accord at the end of the last ice age is classed as non native. Pheasants certainly fall within that category.

    2. P Baker, what is the point of your comment? The Common Pheasant is undoubtedly a non-native species in the UK, just like the Brown Hare. However the difference between these two species is that the Brown Hare is self-sustaining throughout its range, which has become naturalised over centuries. On the other hand the Pheasant population requires augmentation to the tune of some 35 million individuals annually. The further north one goes in Britain, the less self-sustaining are the Pheasants. If there was no shooting interest, we would be calling for a cull due to the impact that number of Pheasants is having on native wildlife. Instead we have now arrived at a sad moment in the history of British nature conservation when the reverse is being applied. The irony is overwhelming.

      You say that “in the West buzzards are very common indeed.” Apart from the fact that you do not define where “in the west” is from your standpoint, this is clearly a deliberate put down in order to convey the impression that a few dead Buzzards doesn’t matter. You ignore the fact that there has been a recent steep decline in Buzzard numbers across some parts of the country (including “in the west” of Scotland). You then go all anthropomorphic on us and describe the species as tending to be “lazy birds that go for carrion anyway.” Well, I certainly hope your English history is more accurate than your Buzzard biology. The Buzzard concentrates on feeding upon live prey, overwhelmingly small mammals up to the size of a rabbit, along with some birds and even invertebrates like beetles and worms. They will readily take carrion if it is available, but it does not figure heavily in their diet. The number of pheasants taken by Buzzards is tiny compared to the numbers being released for shooting each year, far lower for example than the number killed by motor vehicles. The economic plan of a shooting estate should take that into account, and there would be absolutely no need to kill any Buzzards.

      Gamekeepers are simply obsessed with killing any species of wildlife which they misconstrue as posing a threat to their livelihood. They share a common meme which drives their belief, in the way that religion can produce extremism. This approach is almost always unnecessarily excessive, and ecologically harmful. We need to enter into greater harmony with nature, and respect wildlife, not abuse it.

  62. I fear that we will hear more of this kind of news with the hunting a shooting lobby in the top places in the cabinet.
    We will just have to shout our disapproval louder…
    Btw Red kite over the River Waveney today..rare sight but becoming more common..

  63. What and whose purpose does killing these beautiful buzzards serve. It is no different from dog fighting or fox hunting. As usual money talks because that’s what it is about at the end of the day it’s one thing killing animals for food but quite another when it is done to sustain the pheasant population in the name of sport;appalling.

    1. As I’m sure you know John, that would require a change in the legislation. It does seem ludicrous that you or I could be prosecuted for releasing a Grey Squirrel which became trapped in our loft, yet the pheasant shooting industry can release 35 million pheasants annually without fear or prejudice.

  64. Absolutely appalling- when our own native birds are struggling. 50million more mouths to take the sparce resources they need.

  65. These birds are natural predators. Leave them alone. All of our beautiful wildlife needs nuturing NOT destroying

  66. Totally wrong Natural England helping to support a form of Cann hunting yet killing our own wild life to do it. If this was in Africa there would be world out cry against it. Buzzards are a beautiful bird. Also the pheasants are often left to rot as more get shot then needed. Just for the sport.

  67. Are you kidding me you people make me so angry they kill to survive YOU kill for blood sport get over yourselves you are nothing … 😡😡

  68. I don’t agree with this. When is Man going to stop destroying nature and its natural habitats? Its Man that wants vast pheasant farms for his own greedy gains nothing more cruel than that breeding pheasants only for the dinner table. As for nature it looks after itself. At this rate there will be hardly any wild birds, insects etc left as Man is vehemently setting out to destroy anything in its greedy path.

  69. Killing native birds, so people can shoot no-native birds for sport!!! (so called sport) this is wrong. They should have to work around the native birds. Money talks again.

  70. Its not just pheasants they’re trying to protect, what about the massive decline in songbirds? Crows and magpies cant take all the blame.

      1. Stuart, are you seriously suggesting that the keeper in question is going to reverse the songbird decline by killing ten Buzzards? Or that he even cares about songbird populations? He’s more likely to want rid of them because they attract ‘vermin’ like Sparrowhawks, and god forbid even the odd Goshawk! Buzzards incorporate very few songbirds into their diet, and feed primarily on small rodents, which are often construed as pests by foresters and others. Songbirds which have declined (a few species have actually increased recently), have done so because of loss of habitat and a reduction in their natural food supply, caused primarily by the excessive use of herbicides in modern agriculture.

  71. Up to ten Buzzards are to be killed on this shooting estate “to prevent serious damage to young pheasants.” My question might seem flippant, but it is serious: how is it possible to determine whether or not an individual Buzzard in the vicinity of the rearing pens poses any threat of harm, never mind SERIOUS damage? What is the definition of “serious damage”? And what happens to any Buzzards which fill the territories vacated by removing (i.e.killing) ten Buzzards? Is Buzzard number 11 then allowed to wreak havoc? How would the limit be policed? This must surely prove that English Nature is not fit for purpose, if it can’t explain the flaws in the licencing procedure to a court. It seems particularly ironic that we have reached a stage in the history of UK nature conservation that we are prepared to allow the cull of a native species to ‘protect’ a non-native introduction, one which causes untold ecological harm to the natural heritage of our countryside (over 30 million released each year). If English Nature or RSPB cannot successfully challenge this ruling, the precedent is open to all pheasant shooting estates to apply for a similar licence. That would only be fair, wouldn’t it? And the grouse shooting mob are backing a Defra Hen Harrier “recovery plan” which involves Hen Harrier “brood management,” a cover plan for thinning them out to way below the natural population level. The RSPB have wakened up to this con and have now pulled out of the partnership, only to be accused by the game shooting lobby about not caring for the future of the Hen Harrier. Supreme irony.

  72. Get emailing and let them know your feelings!
    These replies on the post here mean diddly squat, email the one at the bottom of the article and spread the word, we won’t accept this behaviour against one of our native species of wild bird, those who have complained about the pheasants being hunted by buzzards are the ones that need shooting, not the buzzards!!

  73. How selfish and biggoted can a law be. Kill the birds who rely on the pheasants to survive so ignorant selfish idiots can kill the pheasants for sick sport and make themselves feel like big hard hunters. Very very sad that you think this is justified – shame on you.

  74. As usual all about money . Not welfare of our natural wildlife. Just in case a pheasant gets killed which means loss of revenue. Persecution just dressed up again.Tossers.

  75. Killing the Buzzards for fun!! Quoting “We also know that the game-shooting industry relies on criminality (the illegal killing of raptors) in order to provide for excessively large numbers of gamebirds to be shot. For fun”

  76. Let me get this straight… They are going to kill these buzzards who’s natural prey are the pheasants, just so humans can enjoy pheasant hunting season and slaughter far far more than buzzards would kill to survive? Humans are SICK!

  77. there are escaped eagle owls up on the moors (doing well despite the persecution that non native species attract ), examination of their pellets show that a favoured prey species are—–buzzards. So they do have “enemies”. Was watching a kestrel repeatedly dive bomb a buzzard the other day, buzzard didn’t attack it.
    Disgusting that a native bird can be culled just so theres a few more birds for the toffs to shoot. How many do they lose? Why cant they be recompensed for the birds they lose instead of shooting the buzzards. Why dosnt the RSPB with all its money just breed a load of pheasants and release them — no complaints then.

    and the only pheasants I have seen a buzzard eating are the squashed ones on the road, no doubt a few poults get eaten as well—but how many?

  78. This is a Disgrace,as though there isn’t enough Poisoning,Trapping,Shooting of Buzzards as already shown,this gives License for a Free for All,defra/n England are really nailing there true colours to the mast.ive emailed both.

  79. I am completely against this decision, to kill such a lovely magnificent creature just for pleasure,money and you have the audacity to call yourselves Natural England… is a farce. I do not therefore feel that you are fit for purpose and have given way to pressure and/or other reasons from a privileged few as a so called sport. You are obviously not aware of what these birds live on? just in case you are not, they consume many other types of food IE mice Rabbits rats voles etc etc these are natural to our countryside unlike pheasants that are BRED and kept in cages. l Live close to a regular shoot of Pheasants which lives alongside Buzzards and other wild life.

    Stop this barbaric totally unnecessary act of cruelty at once.

  80. This is an absolute disgrace, these wonderful birds are just getting back to decent numbers and Defra/Natural England want to cull them again, pity Defra don’t see cormorants the same way as these are pests that are decimating our inland fish stocks and they would only issue a license to kill 4 a year to one Angling Society when all over that Clubs waters there are flocks of them. This absolutely stinks!

    1. Nick, it’s not quite true to imply that Buzzards are increasing just now; in fact there has been a steady decline (in most of Scotland at least – see my earlier comments) over the past decade. However I can’t agree with your sentiments regarding Cormorants, and have to say I find it typical of those anglers who are so obsessed that they think everything in nature should be tailored to meet the needs of their hobby. Fortunately, in my experience, anglers who are less than sympathetic to fish-eating predators appear to be in a minority. However those who shout loudest appear to be successful in obtaining licence to kill.

      In my area (Clyde including Glasgow), Cormorants have been severely persecuted recently and the regional population, which we census through monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts, has declined by approximately 75% in the past ten years. This dramatic decline is almost certainly due to angling groups and individuals exceeding their quota to be shot under licence (if they even have one), which is one of the reasons why it is a dangerous precedent for Natural England to be dishing out licences to kill Buzzards. Goosanders have recently been colonising the area as a breeding bird, but no sooner had they arrived than Scottish Natural Heritage was giving out licences to shoot them! Such a knee-jerk reaction to the first hint of a complaint from the angling fraternity is unacceptable, especially when the science shows that their predation does not affect numbers of returning salmon.

      1. Again, you are right, Jack Snipe .

        I see no difference myself between those who kill buzzards and other raptors and those who kill cormorants – with or without licences.

        None of these people can tolerate the presence of other species. They’re just in the way, aren’t they?

  81. Why not take this mainstream and have an AVAAZ campaign – or aim for the 100,000 signatures for a petition to parliament?

  82. Shame on you Natural England you have just given a licence to mass persecution (as well you know) to protect the interests of those who want to kill for pleasure.

  83. I believe the pheasant breeders, hunters and gamekeepers should accept that some of the pheasants will fall prey to bird and animal hunters and live with it. I’m not opposed to pheasant hunting for food, but killing these raptors isn’t justified.
    I disagree with the language of saying pheasant hunting is for fun. Maybe so, but also for food.

    1. Pheasants chicks are factory farmed and sold on to estates for shooting purposes. If they were only required for food, would it not make more sense to sell them directly to poultry outlets for sale as food? That would have the added advantage of the product being lead free and safer for consumption. It would also be a more economical way of producing pheasant for the table. So if it’s not for fun, why not miss out the middle men, and get rid of the animal welfare and wildlife crime problems at the same time.

  84. I wrote to natural england, got the response below. Suggest you sign this petition – help get it up to 10,000 signatures. It’s currently at 6379

    Thank you for taking the time to contact Natural England, we have noted your comments.

    We recognise that issuing a licence for the control of buzzards to protect livestock may provoke strong feelings and we appreciate your feedback on this matter.

    Natural England Enquiries Team – Technical Services
    Natural England
    County Hall
    Spetchley Road
    WR5 2NP

  85. I have today received another reply from Natural England and they now say they are, “still working out the story line to tell folk like me!” That’s my reading between the lines bit!!
    The NE email:
    Thank you for your email. Natural England will shortly be making documents associated with the assessment and granting of this licence publicly available. These documents should provide the information that you have requested.
    Thank you for taking the time to contact Natural England. We recognise that issuing a licence for the control of buzzards to protect livestock may provoke strong feelings and we appreciate your feedback on this matter.




    1. Mmm? Indeed. Exactly what are we supposed to learn from that email? It said absolutely nothing, or am I missing something?

  86. I don’t think I can put my true feelings on this matter here in print. I mean honestly? if you saw a blood-thirsty tw@t hanging a buzzard on a fence, like some sort of trophy, could you hold back your true feelings? *censored*

  87. How can an organisation called Natural England issue a licence to allow the the slaughter of Buzzards, it’s hardly natural is it . It’s just the same old story, hunting ban etc. I live in North Yorkshire in a small village and know that gamekeepers have never stopped shooting birds of prey, and the local hunts still chase foxes, so this is just another excuse for these sad people to kill wildlife just for there twisted enjoyment.

  88. Just another excuse to slaughter
    wildlife. I live in North Yorkshire and know game keepers on several estates have never stopped killing birds of prey, just as the local hunts still hunt foxes . They are a law unto themselves

  89. So thousands of pheasants are bred so people can shoot them for ‘sport’ then buzzards are culled/killed because they kill the pheasants that are going to be killed anyway. That’s a sport is it?

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