Last night BBC Look Northwest had an excellent feature on the continued killing of birds of prey in the UK. It included interviews with Howard Jones from the RSPB Investigations Team, and everyone’s favourite persecution denier, Duncan Thomas from BASC.
The clip can be viewed here (starts 18.10 mins) but is only available until 7pm this evening (Thurs 4 June 2020). We’ve reproduced the transcript below:
BBC studio presenter: “The RSPB says it’s been overrun with reports that birds of prey have been illegally killed since lockdown began. It’s thought the quieter countryside has made it easier for criminals to target them. A recent case involved a buzzard which had been shot near Saddleworth. Here’s our environment correspondent Judy Hobson.”
Judy Hobson: “A buzzard, found in the Peak District three weeks ago. This x-ray shows it had been shot. It was found here on Saddleworth Moor. The RSPB say since lockdown began there’s been a 400% increase in the illegal killing of birds of prey”.
[The shot buzzard and its x-ray. Photo by Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]
Howard Jones, RSPB: “Lochdown has kind of emboldened the criminals out there who want to kill birds of prey so they think with the restrictions that have been imposed there’ll be less people out in the countryside and there’s less chance of being caught”.
Judy Hobson: “Two birds were found dead in Cumbria last month, other birds targeted include hen harriers, peregrine falcons and red kites. It’s an issue that’s plagued the countryside for years and the RSPB has consistently pointed the finger at gamekeepers protecting young grouse”.
Howard Jones: “In two thirds of the prosecutions that have ended up in court for bird of prey persecution since 1990, two thirds of those have been gamekeepers”.
Judy Hobson: “The charity says the number of birds found dead since lockdown began equates to a bird being killed every single day”.
Duncan Thomas, BASC: “I really dispute these figures. I would love to have a proper investigation in to exactly where they’re coming from. The RSPB are using birds of prey as a cash cow. It’s not proportionate, effective investigation, we must let the police get on with their job. We will expel anybody who is convicted of a wildlife crime of this nature”.
Judy Hobson: “The RSPB says it stands by its figures and says the police are investigating every single incident. Campaign groups such as Wild Justice also believe more birds have been targeted since lockdown. But a row over figures perhaps distracts from an inherent problem which shows no sign of going away”.
Howard Jones: “These are majestic birds of prey and creatures that people come out in to the countryside to see and despite 65 years of legal protection they are still being targeted”.
UPDATE: Comment posted on blog 4/6/20 by Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations: ‘Whilst there has been 56 confirmed/potential raptor persecution offences during lockdown – RSPB did not make or recognise the 400% comment made by the presenter in this piece. We have sought clarification from the BBC‘.