RSPB update on its policy review of gamebird shooting

Last October the RSPB announced at its AGM that it was to undertake a policy review of gamebird shooting (see here).

It launched a consultation earlier this year, taking views from RSPB members, conservation partners and the shooting industry (e.g. see here, here and here).

[Dead pheasants, Getty photo]

This morning Martin Harper has published a blog providing an update on the consultation (read his blog here) and giving us some ‘headline findings’, as follows:

  • RSPB members, staff and volunteers are broadly aligned in their views, specifically: the majority are knowledgeable about the issues associated with intensive gamebird shooting, the majority support the conservation principles; any opposition to the approach proposed is more likely to come from the shooting (1%) or landowning (5%) part of the membership; a minimum of 14% support some sort of ban on shooting (intensive or otherwise).
  • Given the size of the samples, we have high confidence in concluding the views we received provide a good reflection of the whole membership, staff and volunteers
  • The views expressed by the other organisations (conservation, animal welfare and shooting groups) and individuals reflected different values, motivations and long held positions. At one end of the spectrum were respondents who valued shooting as an activity with social, environmental and economic benefits. Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum were responses with animal welfare interests who expressed little value of shooting, considering it unnecessary and harmful.  Other responses ranged in between, from seeking sustainable shooting and highlighting concerns over environmental impacts of current practices, to supporting a total or partial ban.
  • The confidential interviews provided a few additional insights, specifically: the pride in conservation associated with shooting; the observed increased interest in the environmental impacts of the industry, particularly more intensive forms; and dismay at the state of the relationship between the shooting community and the RSPB

Martin also published three documents summarising the main findings:

Gamebird shooting review_RSPB Members Infographic

Gamebird shooting review_ External Consultation – Exec summary

Gamebird shooting review_shooting community (confidential interviews) – Exec Summary

These are well worth a read. You’ll probably not learn anything new about the shooting industry’s views (‘it’s not as bad as you all make out, we’re great at self-regulation, don’t tell us what to do, we’ll do as we please, you risk damaging partnerships if you continue to challenge us, let’s all sit around a table together and sip coffee, eat soft biscuits and have a lovely chat’) but the views of the RSPB members were quite revealing, as demonstrated in these two infographics:

Clearly some messages are getting through but there needs to be a lot more work (by all of us) to improve the general understanding of what goes on and why these issues are of concern.

Martin’s blog closed by giving an explanation of what will happen next during the policy review and that the revised policy is expected to be announced at the AGM in October.

Here’s a link to Martin’s blog again (here).

22 thoughts on “RSPB update on its policy review of gamebird shooting”

  1. This weekend BASC have launched a seven figure (up to £9,000,000+??) fund to fight legal battles to secure the future of shooting! Could they be worried? See Mark Avery’s blog today.

  2. Why am I not surprised that the Really Selective Protection of Birds is least concerned about fox and other wildlife slaughter in the interests of the Game Industry, given it’s track record of killing Foxes ,Corvids and Seabirds.
    Love Nature is the RSPB slogan. Well, some of it…..

    1. Another ignorant and deliberately misleading attack on the RSPB. The infographic is nothing to do with the RSPB’s past, current or future practices but the responses to its consultation. Unlike the shooting industry, the RSPB use of lethal control as a last resort: they actually conform to the law, trying all non-lethal methods first and documenting exactly what they have killed – unlike almost the entire shooting industry,

      There will always be fluffy-bunny sentimentalists who object to any lethal control: presumably happy to see species go extinct rather than prevent them being eaten into extinction, but anyone actively involved in conservation knows it is the harsh reality of the current state of the country. Hard choices sometimes have to be made.

          1. So what is arrogant about it? I have pointed out that he has misrepresented the infographic, which he has. He has criticised the RSPB for carrying out predator control / killing as a last resort: something that all conservation groups understand the need for. In my book: yours is the arrogant piffle: you don’t address the points I have made and don’t justify your assertions at all. That is the height of arrogance.

            Presumably you are a fluffy-bunny sentimentalist and that’s what has rattled your (not very clever) cage.

            1. I may be what some see as a “fluffy-bunny sentimentalist” in that I’m opposed to all abuse of non- humans, and have passed up job opportunities because I wasn’t prepared to undertake lethal control of certain species. However, while I’m far from comfortable with the idea of killing any animal, I’m not so daft as to deny that, in certain conservation circumstances, there are strong, evidence-based arguments for doing so.
              So, fluffy bunnies aside (We’re all driven by sentiment to varying degrees, otherwise we’d be incapable of appreciating the beauty of nature the way we do, and of empathising with an abused, suffering individual), I agree completely with Simon’s comment. Difficult choices do indeed sometimes have to be made, and no real conservationist does so lightly.

              1. “I’m opposed to all abuse of non- humans”

                Sorry, Ill-chosen words, open to misrepresentation. Better to say I’m opposed to all abuse of any species, our own included of course!

      1. Species only end up extinct with mans help,The RSPB should not be using any form of lethal control and as for the consultation why not ask all members!

        1. Sorry Tony, but I don’t believe that’s accurate.

          Exinction is, and always has been a natural process, and countless species have come and gone well before Humans evolved.
          That said, while most declines/extinctions in modern times are undoubtedly driven by anthropogenic factors, should we not reverse mistakes such as the deliberate/accidental introduction of an organism into an ecosystem that can’t support it, or should we simply stand by and shrug our shoulders, while that ecosystem is degraded, sometimes beyond repair?
          Should we ingnore the detrimental effects to woodland habitats of unregulated deer populations, while those species which rely on the health of those habitats continue to decline, or should we intervene by way of targeted shooting, or the reintroduction of associated predators? Either way, the deer will inevitably be lethally controlled, if not by shooting or predation, then starvation, or the effects of parasites and pathogens. Death is death, after all.
          Or maybe we should abrogate all responsibility entirely, and simply view our species as just another evolutionary driver? If that’s the case, we should let the criminals who butcher our raptors and pollute our countryside just get on with it!

    2. As Simon says the RSPB only does lethal control as a very last resort and in fact could show the huntin, fishin, shootin set a thing or two re their rabid, wholesale slaughter of anything with claws, talons, sharp teeth and even in the case of the mountain hare none of these. This work is excellent and should be read and digested before anyone rushes off on their ill informed RSPB kneejerk attacks

  3. More should be done about the legal killing of predators to emphasize it’s overall role in the ecology and the open door it leaves the shooting industry and the Government to conceal it’s true extent. It appears that the shooting have been successful in changing the focus, and the reality, from the main cause, the lack of suitable habitat, nesting areas and available.
    It is obvious that the same can be said in regards to the amount of game birds introduced annually as they have a severely negative affect on the food available to our wild indigenous and over wintering species. making the public in general, and RSPB members in particular, aware of this should be a priority.

  4. I am reading a book at the moment: ‘The Vanishing Wildlife of Britain’ by Brian Vesey-FitzGerald; in it he details the contents of the crops of two pheasants that were examined after they were shot:

    702 leather jackets in one bird and 1083 in the crop of another one. Multiple that by 57 million and look at the amount of food that is taken away from native species on a daily basis. Disgraceful that such ecological carnage is allowed at a time of dwindling numbers of wildlife in the UK.

    1. I wonder when that book was published. I remember Vezey Fitzgerald as a contribotor to BBC Natural History programmes c. 70yrs ago! Crop content now more likely medicated grain from hoppers?

      1. The book was published in 1969, but it will still be relevant as the pheasants move away from the medicated hoppers and are widely distributed around the release areas. In the areas I know where pheasant are abundant, there is no feed placed anywhere for them, so they are taking food that would otherwise be available to native wildlife.

        1. Agreed, certainly the case post the shooting season. I think that released birds should be designated as livestock and the feeding and care post shooting remain the responsibility of the landowner.

    2. I once forced myself to sit through an entire episode on the Fieldsport Channel where the brave hunter went to shoot a few jackdaws that were somehow threatening crops. He dispatched a couple and I wondered why they didn’t take the opportunity to open up their crops to see what they’d actually been eating, I have a feeling the results would have been rather embarrassing to the FC. Also isn’t it a shame that roadkill pheasant can’t be collected so their crop, gizzard and stomach contents can be examined there would definitely be useful data and probably a few unpleasant surprises?

      1. I wish I had the stomach to undertake that exercise as there are hundreds if not thousands killed on the roads across this region every year. Perhaps someone like Iolo Williams who lives in an area awash with pheasants would be an ideal person to undertake that research? Has anyone ever asked him or someone similar to undertake research like that?

        1. I’m not qualified to examine the birds etc, but who knows this could be a kind of citizen science project even where they can be sent in (properly packaged of course). The pheasants doing the most damage might be deeper into woodland and therefore less likely to become roadkill, none the less still good data. The way DNA research is going these days they might be able to identify what was eaten even from pretty well digested stomach contents. If something like adder crops up frequently then clearly pheasants must be having a really bad impact on their national population. I’ll push this idea to the RSPB etc, worth a try, who could legitimately object to a study of what road killed pheasant have been eating? We must also be getting close to the day when it’s possible to fit pheasants with mini cameras to give us an idea of their activities from fighting with ground nesting waders to eating sand lizards. I can’t see that growing knowledge is going to be good news for the status quo.

  5. “Many of the comments made on the subject of game shooting, along with its current
    state and future directions, reflected the differing underlying values of respondents. At one
    end of the spectrum were respondents who valued shooting as an activity with social,
    environmental and economic benefits. Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum were
    responses with animal welfare interests who expressed little value of shooting, considering it
    unnecessary and harmful. Other responses ranged in between, from seeking sustainable
    shooting and highlighting concerns over environmental impacts of current practices, to
    supporting a total or partial ban.” – From the aforementioned report’s Executive Summary.

    NO SHIT! I truly despair when I read such dithering, pointless claptrap. This shite could have been written 20 years ago… WTF does the RSPB stand for? Oh, I forgot, it wants to license driven grouse shooting. So that’s all right then. FFS!…

  6. If medication is a serious enough issue to warrant attention in this debate – and I certainly believe it is – then there’s no way that both the land and resources used to produce feed for raising gamebirds, and the past and continuing loss of natural habitat to the spread of non native invasive plants used for game cover shouldn’t be up there too. According to Mark Cocker in ‘Our Place’ 236,000 tons of cereal are used to raise pheasant etc that will primarily not be consumed by people. Soymeal is also used so does that mean UK shooting is contributing to rainforest loss? Throughout the country millions of pounds are being spent and thousands of volunteers are giving up their time to cut back plants like rhododendron that are choking out the native flora and fauna out of our woods especially. In very many cases these infestations originated from plantings to provide shelter for game. This would be of some historical interest, but not necessarily relevant to modern shooting as we now know far more about the role of non native species and can expect that this practice has ended……except that it hasn’t and the shooting community is STILL introducing invasive plants like cherry laurel and snowberry into our countryside while dedicated volunteers and public money are clearing them elsewhere! Progress is definitely being made raising awareness about the many ills associated with modern shooting, but there’s still a long way to go, but that means there’s loads of ammunition we haven’t started using yet.

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