RSPB announces policy review on gamebird shooting

[Photo by Getty]

At the RSPB’s AGM yesterday, the Chair of RSPB Council made the following announcement (also published on Martin Harper’s blog):

Announcement of review of RSPB policy on gamebird shooting

There is growing concern about the environmental impact (including for carbon, water and biodiversity) of intensive forms of game bird shooting and associated land management practices.  This includes both driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native red grouse) and largescale release of non-native game birds, primarily pheasants and red-legged partridges, now in excess of 40 million birds annually.

Environmental concerns include the ongoing and systematic illegal persecution of birds of prey such as hen harriers on some sporting estates; the ecological impact of high numbers of game birds released into the countryside increasing the density of generalist predators; the mass culling of mountain hares in some parts of our uplands; the use of lead ammunition; the impact of burning peatlands and medicating wild animals for sport shooting.

In response to the evidence about the scale of the environmental impact and growing public concern, including from our membership, the RSPB’s Council has agreed to review our policy on game bird shooting and associated land management. 

This is an emotive and sometimes controversial subject but we want to use our scientific rigour to develop a set of conservation tests for management practices associated with game bird shooting.  We will use these to guide the RSPB’s conservation policy, practice and communications, consistent with the ongoing climate and ecological emergency, respectful of our charitable objectives and maintaining the confidence and support of our members.

We intend to do this, informed by the views of members and other stakeholders many of whom we have engaged with on these issues for decades. 

The exact process we shall follow to conduct this review will be communicated as soon as possible.  The intention is to complete this work as soon as is practically possible but in order to engage people in the right way and ensure we have the best available evidence it might take until the next AGM, though we hope that it will be completed sooner than that.

And to avoid doubt, we shall in this period, while the review is being conducted, continue to call for the introduction of licensing of driven grouse shooting.”


This news is really encouraging, not least for many RSPB staff who we know have felt for a long time as though they’ve been fighting this battle with both hands tied behind their backs, unsupported by official RSPB policy.

Mark Avery has an interesting view on this policy review (here).

11 thoughts on “RSPB announces policy review on gamebird shooting”

  1. It will be interesting to see if RSPB actually live up to its name. Certainly, the UK needs to address rewilding, and the game shoot business just doesn’t equate with ‘rewilding.’

    1. This looks like a genuine change in their stance towards shooting, but I’ve noticed like several other wildlife charities they are somewhat embarrassed by the ‘r’ word. A couple like plantlife and buglife even try to curry favour with some by running down the principle of large scale eco restoration. What’s happening in Wales is disgusting with the farming community effectively knobbling the ‘Summit to Sea’ project and in fact general conservation being accused of taking too much attention away from farming!! So at a time when we throw away a third of our food public subsidy is being pumped into marginal farming to keep our hills wildlife free, our towns and good farms flooded, while the NHS and other social services are starved of funds. But of course it’s those who receive the money that are the victims that nobody ever listens too and ignores, as we keep hearing so we have to keep shelling out. Hopefully the RSPB is now giving the V sign to a vocal minority who’ve been taking the piss, but they’re not the only one there’s a couple more that need to be stood up to too. Rewilding to replace subsidy ranching will be a hard fight.

  2. Time for an end to all shooting…

  3. This is good news. However isn’t it extraordinary that a “Society for the Protection of Birds” gives every conceivable reason to oppose shooting birds for fun, apart from the obvious reason of wanting to Protect the Birds which are being shot. We’re encouraged to care about the lives of raptors, hares, “ecology” in general, but the preference of the grouse and pheasants (which should not have been brought into existence by the shooting industry) to continue living is not mentioned.

    After this breakthrough on grouse and pheasants, I look forward to the day when it might suddenly occur to the RSPB that chickens are also birds…

  4. The RSPB has long been in a bit of a cleft stick with regard to the shooting of birds. For an organisation whose name clearly implies that it’s raison d’être is the protection of birds then not to oppose all shooting would appear to be counter productive.
    At one time there may well have some kudos to be obtained from having “Royal” in the title. I don’t see that word adding significant value in today’s climate. The way things are unfolding the word “Royal” could prove to be a liability.
    If opposing shooting results in the loss of royal patronage then so what.
    Being blunt, when the current monarch is no longer with us I cannot imagine that the status of the royal family improve.

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