RSPB announces its ‘new’ policy on gamebird shooting

At this morning’s AGM, the RSPB announced the findings of its year-long policy review on gamebird shooting.

The full statement can be read here.

The main thrust of it is that the RSPB sees two separate approaches, one for driven grouse shooting in the uplands and one for lowland pheasant/partridge shoots, although there is a general principle for both, as follows:

First, we believe that new laws backed up by tougher enforcement will be needed to end the illegal killing of birds of prey, to end the use of lead ammunition and to end vegetation burning on peatlands.  These practices are entirely incompatible with the imperative to address the climate and ecological emergency and there are perfectly practical alternatives.  

Second, we believe that all intensive gamebird shooting should be regulated to reduce the negative environmental impacts‘.

There’s nothing stunningly novel about this, nor controversial. It’s just common sense and it shouldn’t have taken a year-long review to reach such a conclusion.

Here’s what the new policy says about driven grouse shooting:

For “driven” grouse shooting, where beaters drive the birds towards the guns, we believe that the intensification of land management practices over the last two decades is unsustainable and damaging.  Between 2004 and 2016 there was a 62 per cent increase in the number of grouse shot.  We have concluded that reform leading to an improvement in the environmental condition of our uplands will most effectively be achieved through the introduction of licences for “driven” grouse shoots.  These would set minimum environmental standards which, if breached, would result in losing the right to shoot.  The RSPB has today set out the principles for how this system could operate. 

Our focus is not on “walked up” grouse shooting, but we will re-double our efforts to secure effective licensing for “driven” grouse shooting, and we will learn from the developments anticipated soon on this issue in Scotland.  We will provide an annual assessment of progress and review our position within five years.  Failure to deliver effective reform will result in the RSPB calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting

To be perfectly honest, this announcement is a bit underwhelming. Perhaps it needs some time to sink in. They haven’t explained why they’ve decided to wait for five years before calling for a ban, when all the evidence to support an immediate ban is overwhelming, and much of that evidence has been collected by RSPB’s own staff!

It’s not clear what measures will be used to assess what the RSPB describes as annual ‘progress’ or ‘effective reform’. These details need to be made available.

Here’s what the new policy says about pheasant and partridge shooting:

For the release of non-native pheasants and red-legged partridges, we propose a different approach.  From the data available, the number of birds released annually is estimated to have grown to at least 57 million.  Our evidence review shows that habitats created by land managed for these birds can provide benefits for wildlife.  Nevertheless, it also shows that there are substantial negative environmental consequences from the industrialised form of this shooting, including the direct and indirect impacts that released birds can have on other wildlife.  This situation is recognised by some in the shooting community.  A recent review of evidence published by Natural England and the shooting organisation, BASC, reached similar conclusions. 

We are keen to work with public bodies and the shooting sector to help address the issues with urgency.  Important first steps would be to ensure a reduction in the number of gamebirds being released and full compliance with existing reporting rules. Ultimately, we believe that further regulation will be necessary to drive up environmental standards. We will call for this within 18 months if significant progress is not secured‘.

Errm….well, waiting for 18 months is better than waiting for five years, but again, more detail is needed to understand what the RSPB judges to be ‘significant progress’.

Perhaps I’m being unfair. This morning’s announcement was simply an overview statement given during a ten minute slot during the AGM and knowing the RSPB there’s bound to be a stack of supporting evidence on which they’ve based their new policy and probably a much more in-depth description of the markers they’ll use to assess progress.

But yeah, still mostly underwhelmed at the moment.

90 thoughts on “RSPB announces its ‘new’ policy on gamebird shooting”

  1. I realise the RSPB may depend upon support from people who are not against the slaughter of birds and wildlife but surely the time comes when if you dont want to risk appearing hypocritical (royal society for the protection of birds ?), when you just have to openly stand against shooting, poisoning and trapping them and harming their habitat. Those who would then remove their support may well be replaced by many more who despair at the continuing cruelty by and apparent power of those who do these despicable things…..just an idea.

    1. The RSPB carried out a survey of their membership on these issues: every member was invited to file their opinions (I called for, first, a total ban on all shooting for ethical reasons, but failing that, suggested licensing schemes which would result in no environmental degradation – with the emphasis not on licences dependent upon the success or otherwise of criminal prosecutions, but on ecological surveys of land managed for shooting).

      So I presume(!) that this new policy reflects some consensus of the opinions of those members who bothered to respond.

      1. Did I read their figures correctly: were there only a random 5,265 members consulted, and a mere 663 others who bothered to provide comments!!? Can there really be so few RSPB members sufficiently motivated to put their comments forward?

        Rather depressing…. But, maybe, just maybe, a tiny glimmer of encouragement in the point made that it should be easier to get a licence withdrawn than it is at present to gather enough evidence to secure a prosecution or conviction?

          1. “I’m a RSPB member and was not consulted at all. This is hardly democratic!!!”

            Yes, you were. The survey was even publicised here, and via various RSPB and related blogs All members had the right to offer their opinions on what they wanted to happen, which is what I did. I went to the web site, looked for their survey pages and offered my opinions…

            “What principles do you think should guide the RSPB’s thinking about gamebird shooting?”

            “Do you think gamebird shooting should be better regulated, and if so, how?”


            I offered pages of researched advice with copious references to support my arguments.

    2. To protect Key species, various methods are employed by all so called protectors of our environment. Poisons are used by not only wildlife trusts, water companies, mobile phone companies etc and their agents , but traps and netting . Then we have councils and planning experts, followed by the green experts all changing the environment with expert advice from themselves with no scrutiny from anyone and especially no recourse when it is shown to be wrong.
      An example of expertise could easily be shown , the hedgehog for example. They expect money to figure out what is happening to an animal we all saw in the 60s/70s , that breeds easily and who’s natural predators are killed at every turn. Birds of prey live in the same toxic stew, eat from the same table, The fact they survive on the grouse moors and nowhere else is what troubles me . None on golf courses or farm land in the rest of the Uk.

      1. “Birds of prey live in the same toxic stew, eat from the same table, The fact they survive on the grouse moors and nowhere else is what troubles me . None on golf courses or farm land in the rest of the Uk”

        What a weird, fictitious world you appear to live in.

      2. I’m surprised to learn that I live on or in close proximity to a grouse moor in Leicestershire but as I regularly see kites, buzzards, kestrels, sparrow hawks, owls and the occasional peregrine and hobby it must be a grouse moor. Can someone describe these grouse to aid in my ornithological knowledge as I don’t seem able to see them?

  2. I agree Ruth – utterly underwhelmed here. The shooting lobby will be shitting their collective tweed britches, NOT. At least the RSPB has uttered the word ‘ban’, er, in 5 bloody years. WTF? How will a future ban be achieved if any (Scottish) Government that has licensed DGS at the RSPB’s request is then asked to ban DGS? That Government will see the DGS issue as ‘sorted’, tell the RSPB to ‘piss off we’ve done what you asked’ and a ban will be further away than ever. Just when we need courage we get yet more mealy-mouthed shite. Depressing.

    1. They would have my support and many others I know, were they to take an unambiguous stance in this regard. This though feels almost like pandering to me…..

  3. I think you might be being a bit unfair actually.
    I’m no fan of the Really Selective Protection of Birds but…..this is grist to the mill in support for licencing this poxy pastime and the destructive consequences for wildlife and the environment.
    Why just licence driven shooting? Why not all recreational shooting?
    I can see the so called CA pondering the details long in to the night…..

  4. Well, one thing’s for sure; at that rate I’ve no chance of seeing any improvement in my lifetime! IF licensing ever became law, then how many years and years would it take to decide it wasn’t working? Then how many more years for another Review? Then how many more years before agreeing to a ban? Many iconic raptors would be long extinct in the UK. I’ve never been an RSPB member due to their ‘sit-on-the-fence’ policies, and that’s not likely to change now.

    1. The reason why only driven grouse shooting (and driven bird shooting in general, e.g partridge and pheasant) is that other recreational shooting does not require the extermination of competitor species to get bags of worth shooting, four to five times the number of grouse in a natural system and release of around fifty seven million game birds every year. Most wildfowlers have accepted that they must use lead free shot, but not grouse or pheasant hunters. I believe the total end to hunting is a step too far but these extremes must end.

  5. Go all out for a ban, because even that would not be the end of it.
    Look at how far the objective of banning hunting with dogs has progressed, other than just on the surface.

  6. Wait for more information? Afternoon session and the new RSPB webpage may give you more detail. RPUK you do great work but the RSPB on the ground see into the barrel of the gun. Work together.

  7. I agree with Mairi L – this is a recipe for years and years of obstruction and delay, while the shooters carry on exactly as before.
    I wish I could say that I was disappointed with the RSPB, but this is exactly what I expected from them. ‘We are keen to work with… the shooting sector…’ Has the RSPB learned nothing over the last 15 years? ‘Working closely with’ has achieved nothing except lots more grouse shot, peatlands burned and raptors killed.

  8. RSPB I don’t think so. They should remove the “P”. More like a Response Simple Puerile Bland.
    They proudly advertise that they represent over one million members. Well these are not my views and I am willing to bet they are not the views of the majority.
    A little off piste. Has anyone noticed that the rspB write all bird names with the first letter in lower case. Why would the Society representing BIRDS not consider them to be important enough to have a capital letter??? Don’t they consider them Proper Nouns??? I have emailed them but had no reply.

  9. The RSPB has a very longstanding problem that it has avoided addressing in the hope that it will disappear. It has not disappeared and will not disappear whilst there are people killing birds, endless criminality related to raptors and environmental damage associated with the rearing/management of gamebirds.

    The RSPB is a society that whose principle is to protect birds. That is absolutely fine. What is most certainly not fine is for any society with such a principle to adopt a stance that puts it a position where is does not unequivocally oppose and condemn all shooting and related activities.

    The RSPB has a clear conflict of interests. That is an unethical position which cannot be resolved whilst serving two masters.

  10. This has given the shooting industry one last chance and if they do not get there house in order in at MOST 5 years the gloves will have to come off and regardless of falling out with the countryside gentry licencing will have to come in.

    1. “if they do not get there house in order in at MOST 5 years the gloves will have to come off and regardless of falling out with the countryside gentry licencing will have to come in.”

      That is NOT what is being proposed at all! The RSPB call is for immediate licensing for Driven Grouse Shooting where any “Failure to deliver effective reform will result in the RSPB calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting” within five years.

      And – for lowland shooting – to immediately reduce the numbers of so-called game-birds released into the countryside, and to seek greater regulation “within 18 months if significant progress is not secured”.

      It was Prof Werritty who wanted to wait five years before trying licensing.

  11. Let’s be honest – however much we want a ban there is no hope of it happening under the current English government.
    From what was said at the AGM today one of the main advantages of licencing would be that if licenced any crime could be looked at with civil actions rather than legal as now which could perhaps mean a few more results against the shooters. I can only hope that this – along with the accumulating satellite tagging data might eventually give a different government enough ammunition to action a ban. And it’s a bit of a split hair but the RSPB did say “within” 5 years.
    (And, just for the record, as an RSPB member I’m pretty sure I never received a request to vote on the whole debate – unless it was buried deep in a newsletter somewhere!)

    1. “Let’s be honest – however much we want a ban there is no hope of it happening under the current English government.” That is true Lesley, but the same could be said of licensing – the Tories will do nothing at all.

      There are too many ‘ifs’ and ‘coulds’ that you outline which would all rely on effective enforcement under a licensing system and surely there is more than enough ‘satellite tagging data’ already – how much more is required? You are basically saying that more (satellite tagged = many more not tagged) raptors need to be illegally (i.e. laws that are not being enforced now) slaughtered before a ban could/would be considered. How about shifting to an ‘enough is enough’ position and call for a ban NOW and shout loudly at the RSPB top brass to do the same. Tell them how crap they are and threaten them with withdrawal of your membership fees. What have you got to lose? It took the RSPB a year to come up with such guff as: “We are keen to work with public bodies and the shooting sector to help address the issues with urgency.” Really?

      It is interesting to note that the RSPB did not ask for your views as a member. Do you – or anyone else – know exactly how many RSPB members were canvased?

      1. As you say – the Tories are unlikely to do anything to curtail a “sport” run by them, for them. So what is the point of taking out our frustrations on the RSPB? The fact that they are not solving this issue (and probably can’t solve this issue, whatever they do) does not negate all the other work they do. Maybe if we get a Labour government that government will take enough interest in the environment for it to be worth their shouting. Until then maybe there is a case to be made for spending our money on fights they have a chance of winning – the natural world is certainly facing enough problems for there to be plenty of choice.

        We really need shouting from inside grouse moor areas – more people in those local areas to become disenchanted with it (and not just birders and raptor workers) otherwise there is still a feeling of outsiders dictating change. I grew up in a very rural area and the status quo is rarely questioned and so it continues. The effects of fire and flooding are beginning to make people think. We need real change for this to work, not just head on conflict, otherwise we will end up with something like the paper ban we have on hunting where regardless of the law it is just business as normal!

        But how we get there…

        With regard to the numbers used by RSPB, RPUK will probably have noted the details better than me but I think they said a random sample of 5000 or so members were directly canvased. There was mentioned that other members had been invited to comment I think? As I said, I could have missed this if it was deep in a newsletter somewhere.

        1. You would not be taking your frustration out on the RSPB Lesley. Outside of climate change, the DGS issue is, arguably, THE most important issue regarding our uplands (circa 15% of Scotland’s area is grouse moor) at the moment. The RSPB are – whether we like it or not – the biggest hitters in this arena and so it really matters when they are so wrong. Therefore, It would be more of a case of you – and other members – saying that their muddle-headed thinking regarding DGS is such a big issue that it trumps all their good work. The louder the call for a ban (from all campaigners) the more likely that Joe Public will listen, just like the ban on fox-hunting; although I accept your point about flagrant law breaking in that regard. However, to counter that point slightly, DGS is definitely more ‘visible’ and a ban would be simpler to enforce, particularly with drone technology deployed by moorland monitors, hunt sabs etc.

          Incidentally under the 2019 EU CAP payments the RSPB received the following:
          £4,631,144.73 in Scotland and £3,918013.91 in England making a cool total of £8,549,158.60. Now, might a cynic say that with the UK coming out of Europe next year do the RSPB top brass have an eye on where their next £8.5 million is coming from? And, just perhaps, they do not want to piss a Tory Government off too much so they resort to their trademark fudging on DGS. Just sayin’…

          I agree largely with most of your other points but am rather alarmed that they only canvassed 5000 out of over a million members i.e. that at circa 99.5% of members NOT having a say is not a membership survey at all. According to the RSPB’s own figures they typically get over £100 million income (2018 Trustees Report) ‘available for charitable purposes’. So, I humbly suggest that they could at least sort out a proper survey of their members!

          1. It would have been nice had they canvased all members. And I admit I was expecting a little more yesterday, especially as it was made quite a big deal of that they were announcing their revised policy, when, as you say, there was very little in it that was different.

            I don’t know the politics of it all in terms of money or ‘keeping in’ with the government but I do think we need organisations who have a seat at the political/diplomatic table as much as we need ones that will shout the house down about particular issues and I’m not sure it is possible to do both? I’m willing to stick with the RSPB for now – though my money also goes to the Greenpeaces and Wild Justices of the world.

            The thing that depresses me is that the Joe Public supporting change is still often not the one that is directly affected by it – there is still a lot of support for hunting and badger culling (and doubtless gamekeeping and shooting) in the rural areas. That’s the long game we need to win as well as legislative change.

            1. Not only ‘nice’ Lesley but credible and meaningful. What do you think ALL members would have said if offered the opportunity to campaign for a DGS ban?

              I take your point, but it is not the case of ‘shouting the house down’ more a case of it being reasonable to expect such a powerful and wealthy organisation as the RSPB – knowing that they know just how bad DGS is – to be much less equivocal/pandering/mealy-mouthed. They have tried this for decades and where has that got us? The establishment power that sits behind DGS needs a powerful critic and with £100 million p.a. sloshing about in RSPB coffers surely they are a match? Who else can summon that kind of muscle and take the DGS lobby on? Good on you for donating to WJ though, i do the same and have much respect for them.

              Admittedly Joe Public is fickle but when asked how they stand on fox hunting, for example, it is always about 85% against. Whilst it seems logical that support for hunting would be principally rural based I think there is also the myth that the majority of ‘rural people’ always back blood sports. I’ve lived rurally most of my life and have known many people who hate hunting, shooting etc. and, if I’m honest, they hate the people that do it too as they are often rolled up in other issues such as land reform, but that is for another day.

              Other than a getting a DGS ban I think we do not (much) need legislative change. What we need is rigorous enforcement of what we have and this is why I’m so worried about a complex DGS licensing system that simply will not be enforced.

  12. Err, just because the RSPB is calling for something, doesn’t mean it will happen. So long as the current shower is in power we can expect little or no change.

    1. Yes. Brexit will not go well; it simply can not in an age of globalised deals and market power. The key is to follow the subsidy money. This problem would simply not occur without vast amounts of public subsidy. The work has to go and ensure that a new Government with Labour at its heart transforms public subsidy in this area towards mosaics of habitat, including a measure of predator control, and extensive areas of natural forest. Focus must be surely to ensure that the nature conservation quangos with their career mortgaged professionals with half an eye on the wellbeing of their own estates bare down on the subsidy levels and provide coherent costed alternatives that dividend the climate and biodiversity and end monoculture heather.

      1. Agreed Peter. The vast amounts of public money shoveled at landowners needs to stop and I would argue that this issue is not shouted loudly enough by the DGS campaigners. For me it is a real biggy that would sway public opinion if the public knew about it.

        The Tories with all their ‘public money for public good crap’ will continue to shovel vast amounts of UK taxpayers money to farmers and landowners. They will not do badly out of Brexit that;s for sure.

  13. A) your we’ll documented record of criminal activity to enable grouse shooting to continue seems to indicate that the business of grouse shooting is inextricably entwined with individuals who are unlikely to comply with ANY regulation as they show such unfettered disdain for the law of the land.
    B) the practice of maintaining a monoculture over vast swathes if countryside industrialised it and runs counter to any efforts to promote biodiversity and the natural equilibria of a healthy habitat.
    C) IF there is the demand for pheasant, grouse and partridges for food, they could be reared, farmed and killed much more humanely.
    D) the sheer biomass of non native species released is a blight in our ecology
    E) the “collateral damage” to non target species is shameless and hugely destructive to our ecology
    F) I abhor the use of the term “game birds” as if they are on the planet for the entertainment of the few!

    As a member of RSPB I was surprised and disappointed with the determination to maintain a stance of impartiality re shooting wildlife, however it is better than BTO policy (of which I am also a member) which is one of absolute refusal to campaign at all, on the grounds that they “don’t want to compromise scientific integrity and impartiality”. I feel my views align more closely with Hunt Saboteurs and the League against Cruel Sports, and yes I am a scientist and don’t feel that drawing valid conclusions from the evidence and campaigning strongly as a result would in any way compromise scientific integrity.

    I am beginning to feel homeless in the birding world, but thank you SO much for keeping the message coming out regarding Raptor persecution!!!

    1. Well said David, science and campaigning are not mutually exclusive and the BTO position is a cop out. Threaten the RSPB/BTO with your membership fees, it is your most potent weapon to make then think. Perhaps donate them to LACS or the hunt sabs instead?

  14. Like most bodies which can and do affect the interests of the Establishment they appear to be compromised at least at upper management … the Movers and the Shakers. It is no surprise to me that when it comes to representing the interests of the majority which clash with the needs of the minority they always head for the long grass. This is how this country is governed be it economic, political, environmental or whatever. Each and every Institution, public or private, now acts in the interests of finance and policians are now simply spin doctors as the numerous problems we experience attempting to get them to act effectively against wild life crime illustrates.
    These conservation organisations, both public and private, from the RSPB to Natural Scotland generally have a majority of their workers on the ground who oppose the actions and decisions of the management, who, in turn, have their own pressures to deal with with regards to funding and thus satisfying the respective sources of it.
    When an organisation receives finance from booth public and private sources then the struggle becomes asymmetrical with Government always winning.
    Though I agree and support the RSPB in most all things they embark on I am not unaware of their weakness as an ally when the chips are down and adjust my expectations accordingly.

  15. Let’s be clear here that Raptor Persecution including Packham Avery and Tingay are Purley perusing a left wing socialist political agenda not an agenda to save raptors wildlife etc. This is just a cover to further the left wing agenda.
    Interesting to note that Rspb have furlong staff with govt. Payments yet have cash reserves of over 200million. This is the same organisation that does everything it can to stop the recovery of hen harriers in the UK.
    To sum up it is a cess pit of an organisation.


    1. Looks like Mike the Parrot’s been on the booze again; fuelling His usual mix of Daily Express style political nonsense and downright lies. What knobs the wildlife abusers are!

    2. If I am not mistaken raptors have both a left wing, and a right wing.
      A bird with only a left wing would simply spiral downwards.

      Would you not agree that those who expose the injustice faced by so much of our wildlife seem to be flying in an upward current, as more and more of the public start to agree with them, and want preserve what little we have left of nature and the environment?
      Hardly the actions of a bird with only a left wing.

      I can also think of a few organisations that promote the use of stink pits, but you have failed to mention even one of them in your contribution.
      Perhaps then, you are mistaken, and it is those “stink pit” organisations which have a one winged agenda, and true to form have spiraled out of the sky to land in their own mire ?

      There are always those that when given a platform will fall off it!

    3. As I noted above a little humility would be amiss for the tax payer funding that is supposed to deliver agreed targets that includes “biodiversity”; without it the uplands are entirely uneconomic. The raw stupidity and gullibility of huge swathes of the rural community in voting for Brexit which is the principle lamb market for many was of course just one facet of the raw arrogance of an entitled community that considered it could escape EU environment law and still reap its “benefits”…..It is a fact that this subsidy is focused on the larger Brexit estates/ aristocratic landowners of which rather gin addled Exmoor is just one example. The smaller family farms are now extremely vulnerable to amalgamation in possibly the largest shift in landownership since the Enclosures; largely paid for by the tax payer and organised by Ian Duncan Smith who had a letter in The Times immediately after Art 50 was implemented ensuring that the 80% of public subsidy of 3.3 billion that goes to perhaps 2000 large estates (such as his wife’s) was immediately and completely transfered to the substantiallyurban tax payer.

  16. More scaremongering from the rspb. Publish the facts and scientific evidence. Thought not you haven’t any.

  17. I note the RSPB in their new position on gamebird shooting are suggesting new laws with tougher penalties.
    Do we really need new laws, or do we need amendments to the existing laws to allow the police and other investigative bodies greater investigative powers in order to gather evidence?
    It should also be noted that simply adding new laws with tougher penalties to the statute books will not solve the problem of the enforcement agencies, such as the Police or Natural England actually having sufficient resources to conduct thorough and robust investigations, or conduct proactive work to stop wildlife crimes taking place.

    If I am reading the RSPB proposals correctly, then are they suggesting that when a wildlife crime is reported; are they calling for the burden of proof to be that of civil law, ie “on the balance of probabilities” , rather than criminal law, where the burden of proof is “beyond all reasonable doubt”, in regard to the proof as to who was responsible for the crime, so that sanctions can be imposed against the shoot licence holder?

    Lets be totally honest – most raptor crimes go unreported. Even when a crime is reported and deceased bird of prey found and handed to the authorities, at best there is usually only circumstantial evidence to link the crime with whoever owns and manages the land.
    It is doubtful even with a lowered burden of proof that the evidence uncovered in an investigation will get anywhere near what would be required to pursue a civil case.
    There also doesn’t appear to be any mention how this will actually work in practice, and whether the police will still take the lead on wildlife crimes, or whether the licensing authority who issue the shoot licences will become responsible for these investigations, where there is no realistic probability of a criminal court case?

    I note the RSPB are also calling for a statutory code of practice in relation to the standards required for sustainable land management, game bird populations, protected areas, public access etc. But there doesn’t appear to be any attempt to define what would those standards would actually be? Who will define these standards? There will be so many differing “expert opinions” on what these standards should be, that this could develop into an unsolvable legal argument as to what a statutory code of practice should be; as those with competing claims all try and back their position with so called scientific evidence from a continually evolving field of conservation science.

    I may be being very unfair, but the RSPB statements appear to contain a lot of words, but not a lot of real substance. Is this because they don’t want to upset the “moderates” in the shooting community?
    The RSPB are one of the most recognizable conservation organisations in the UK. There is no doubt they do an awful lot of excellent conservation work., and I gladly support them.
    But when it comes to the slaughter of wildlife and the production of an abundance of game birds, so that some individuals can enjoy a pastime many people find abhorrent, can the RSPB simply sit on the fence and claim to adopt a neutral ethical position in regard to shooting, as stated in their policy ?
    Can managing the land to produce game birds to be shot really be compatible with the wider conservation principles of enhancing all of nature and the environment?

    Every decision we as individuals make has an underlying ethical position. The same is true for corporate decisions.
    Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, surely the RSPB’s position on conservation principles must have an underlying ethical value?
    Law and legislation starts from a societies ethical position and moral code.
    So surely the RSPBs proposed licensing regulations on game bird shooting must have an underlying ethical principle?

    With all the evidence now coming into the public debate about human activity and the detrimental effect this is having on nature and the planet, maybe now is the time to nail ones colours firmly to the mast, and where you believe something is wrong – say it!!
    Killing wildlife for fun, or simply to benefit human activity is wrong!!..and this is an ethical position I am proud to proclaim!!

    1. “Do we really need new laws”

      Yes, we do because the current laws do not place a statutory duty on current land owners for sustainable land management, does not define ‘sustainability’ and does not frame the licensing authority.

      “It should also be noted that simply adding new laws with tougher penalties to the statute books will not solve the problem of the enforcement agencies, such as the Police or Natural England actually having sufficient resources to conduct thorough and robust investigations, or conduct proactive work to stop wildlife crimes taking place.”

      The proposal is more than just tougher penalties. And neither does it rely (solely) on the successful prosecution of wildlife crimes, which are envisaged to operate separately and in parallel. It is a requirement for Government to draw up, by law, the “setting out (of) the standards required to deliver the public interest in the sustainable management of land; of gamebird populations; of protected areas; and other protected species (of all taxa); of other natural resources including peatlands; and of responsible access rights”

      “The licensing system should be cost neutral to the public purse and levied licensing fees
      should cover the cost of administration.” and ” Licensing should include a requirement for reasonable access for monitoring purposes.” deals with resources.

      1. Keith

        The new laws the RSPB are calling for ,appear to be related to the illegal killing of raptors, the use of lead shot and the burning of peat.

        We already know of the problems relating to investigation and prosecution of criminals for existing wildlife crimes.
        There has already been a voluntary ban on peat burning. During this period did Natural England have the resources to actually go out on the ground and monitor who was adhering to this ban? Can NE provide evidence to parliament as to the success or failure of this voluntary ban? Or did monitoring fall to those NGO’s with an interest in undermining the shooting industry?
        As regards lead shot- there seems to be some movement even within some circles of the shooting industry to stop the use of lead shot- and even if banned by statute, how will this ban be enforced? Who is going to check each shooter and the ammunition they use?
        New laws may create “new laws”- but they may not actually stop existing practices unless there is proper enforcement- something that is not even being achieved with current legislation. So the introduction of new laws also requires a detailed analysis of how those laws will be implemented and enforced.

        I am also not sure from reading the RSPB communiques what these proposals for new legislation will be a regards “sustainable land management”?

        What is sustainable land management?

        Have the RSPB provided a definition of what they deem to be sustainable land management?

        The shooting industry will claim that the current way they manage the land for shooting is sustainable. From a pure conservation point of view others would disagree. Is it all about peat regeneration and rewilding?
        From an economical perspective it could be argued our uplands would provide ideal locations for wind farms in order to provide a sustainable energy source for the UK. So is this what is meant by sustainable land management?
        Or the uplands could be reforested with millions of trees for carbon capture, and then carbon credits used to offset industry and help reach emissions targets?
        If economic activity is considered as an aspect of sustainability then a further approach could be to manage the land for tourism – with enhanced access and revenue generating tourist activities.
        Do we manage our uplands as “safari parks” with both state subsidies and entrance fees?

        Would any of these definitions actually be good for nature and wildlife?

        What does the much used but ambiguous term “payment for public good” actually mean?
        Some would argue this should include using the land to provide affordable housing which would be good for those priced out of the rural housing market. But is this what the public really mean by sustainable land management?

        So, what will be the definition of “sustainable land management”? ….and who will decide?
        Would you trust politicians and the government with providing this definition?
        What influence will vested interests have in shaping this definition?

        The RSPB don’t appear to offer a definition of what they deem to be “sustainable land management” in their proposals.

        It gets even more more complicated once the term public interest is introduced.
        The public interest can be extremely diverse.
        So if a definition of “public interest in the sustainable management of land” is to be reached- which sectors of the public interest do we consider?
        The rural economies who benefit from the employment working on shooting estates generate?
        The wider public who want more freedom to access the countryside and to enjoy nature in its wilderness?
        Does it include the public interest in providing cheaper sustainable “green energy” generated by a proliferation of wind and solar farms?
        Or maybe we consider the public interest in ensuring a strong and robust economy, or preventing flooding of lowland areas; and so should we build more reservoirs to capture water and prevent flash flooding, which could then be sold, on what will most probably become a world market if widespread drought becomes a feature of global warming?
        The “public interest” is a very wide term.
        Have the RSPB defined what they deem to be public interest, or are they only representing those sections of the public who support their activities?

        We already have a statutory duties placed on land owners in how they mange land which is designated SSSI, or falls within other designations such as a National Park or AONB.

        If the RSPB position, is that they support sustainable shooting, and the conservation which goes with this. Then the question which perhaps needs more fully addressing is how do we eradicate the criminality which is embedded within the game shooting industry? Criminality which is responsible for wildlife crime and the persecution of raptors.

        And for that I am not convinced we need more legislation, but greater investigative powers and a more proactive approach to enforce existing laws.

        1. Well said John. Enforcement, or to be more accurate the appalling lack of it, is the key and if DGS is licensed any chance of a ban will be gone for generations whilst the fun killers carry on in more or less the same manner just with a bit more paperwork.

        2. Well said John. A clear lookv into a very murky world where all is never as it appears. The words used by organisations .. many of which I view as compromised at the top level … are specially chosen to leave a myriad of interpretations. This is their current “holding position.”

        3. “The new laws the RSPB are calling for ,appear to be related to the illegal killing of raptors, the use of lead shot and the burning of peat”

          Clearly not true. That is a wilful misreading of what the RSPB propose. Go back and read it again.

          “What is sustainable land management?”

          That is for (any) Government to propose, and for the public and the RSPB to support or not. That is how democracy works and how laws are changed. The Government may chose to consult its own advisory body and/or other interest groups in doing so. It may then offer the results of any such consultation to Parliament for consideration, whereupon the public and the interest groups will again offer their opinions.

          “The “public interest” is a very wide term.”

          It is, and it is decided by the usual democratic processes.

          “Have the RSPB defined what they deem to be public interest, or are they only representing those sections of the public who support their activities?”

          The RSPB represent the interests of their charter and the members who support them.

  18. Perhaps it is my age but I am rarely surprised these days. It is what it is. What we most need now is details of the monitoring to be undertaken over the next 5 years (or 18 months). If the RSPB take that properly seriously (including public presentation) it could make a difference. Meanwhile those of us of wanting more, faster, will press on feeling just slightly buoyed by the tanker behind us emitting a litle puff of smoke to indicate a minor change of pace.

  19. What we need is for the general public to see so called occupations like game keeping and trophy hunting as unacceptable as drink/drug driving, drug taking and child molestation, these so called people should be classed as VERMIN

  20. At last! Something being done regarding grouse shooting etc.
    The people that take part in this awful ‘sport’ are surely a bit more clever to realise that having birds chased towards them isn’t fair game and if this is their choice of what they call sport, well………. perhaps they should hang their heads in shame.
    I live close to an estate that partakes in this and weeks before the event, the birds are let loose and find themselves running on country roads etc, it takes a patient driver to avoid them, and I always think when I watch one make the other side of the road safely, please keep going….

    This news had cheered my year up.

  21. Shouldn’t the RSPB be wholly opposed to live target shooting of birds for fun? Add in the biodiversity deterioration on grouse shooting estates, raptor persecution and predator killings, plus ‘factory farming’ of millions of imported birds – why not call for a full ban?

  22. Why is this dragging on? We need immediate action. I am very disappointed in the R S P B and I’m left disillusioned since I’m paying this charity a hefty sum over every year.

    1. Exactly Patricia. Were you one of the paltry 5000 or so members that were consulted? As you say you are paying a hefty sum, so why not lean on the RSPB and threaten to cancel your membership? If enough members did that then it would definitely make them think and hopefully act.

      I’m sure that if a proper survey i.e. more than 0.5% of members regarding shooting birds had been carried out the overwhelming number of grassroots RSPB members would have called for a ban and not the mealy-mouthed establishment-pleasing crap that has been delivered.

      1. I cancelled my RSPB membership years ago due to their complacency in relation to release of non-native birds and grouse management. I’ll rejoin if they support native wildlife by taking a stand against the shooting industry. This isn’t it.

        1. So did I Winn. The RSP of some B is a travesty in this regard. I’d rejoin in a heartbeat too if they really took a brave, principled stand. Guess I’ll be £60 a year better off for quite a while yet…

    2. “I am very disappointed in the R S P B and I’m left disillusioned since I’m paying this charity a hefty sum over every year.”

      Did you inform the RSPB of your opinions on the matter, as members were invited to do? I note that some of the nay-sayers here are non-members, and therefore ruled themselves out of having any say in the matter, yet still complain.

      ‘Why is this dragging on? ” Because it is the current law, and it takes time and effort to change laws, especially when a Government has just been elected with a large majority without any mandate to change those laws.

      What do you think will force the Government to change its mind any quicker? You must have some idea of a foolproof way, otherwise you wouldn’t be criticising the RSPB?

      1. “I note that some of the nay-sayers here are non-members, and therefore ruled themselves out of having any say in the matter, yet still complain.” Utter bollocks. When the RSP of some B get over £8.5 million of taxpayers money p.a. I think it is more than reasonable that non members can have a say Keith. That is how democracy works, as you are so fond of telling people.

        The RSP of some B had a chance to take a very different stance and they shat it, plain and simple. From what others have said on here (unless you have evidence to the contrary) it is also clear that nowhere near all members were consulted: circa 5000 or <0.5% meaning that 99.5% were not consulted. If these figure are correct how bloody democratic is that?

        Whether we like it or not they are the biggest hitters in this arena so what stance they take matters and so if they'd gone all out for a ban then perhaps, just perhaps, they may have had a chance to "force the Government to change its mind any quicker" in Scotland at any rate.

        1. “When the RSP of some B get over £8.5 million of taxpayers money p.a. I think it is more than reasonable that non members can have a say Keith”

          More sophistry. Some statutory bodies buy the services provided by the RSPB and certain funds are made available by the elected Government (and other Governments and agencies) to support other services provided by the RSPB. If you don’t like it you are welcome to campaign against conservation charities carrying out any such grant-funded work. You get your vote on that only at the ballot box.

          But if you want to criticise the consensus of what the membership of the RSPB have said, whilst simultaneously refusing to partake in that discussion, then your whinging about the result is highly likely to be ignored.

          “it is also clear that nowhere near all members were consulted” All members were invited to supply their thoughts and ideas on the subject, but even some RSPB subscribers to Raptor Persecution couldn’t be bothered to go to the web site and find the form to complete. The RSPB also wrote directly to a randomised sample of thousands of their membership for responses, but not all of those responded. They also consulted all their staff and volunteers. And they consulted many other relevant organisations and individuals. It was a lot of material to read through and analyse. Nothing undemocratic about that.

          Refusing to take part, and then throwing your ‘toys out of the pram’ at the result… Tut tut tut?

          1. “More sophistry” – I know you like your big words (it’s not clever BTW) Keith but I do hope you are not calling me a liar? If so perhaps you would like to meet after school?

            So, to follow your ‘logic’: you are saying that to criticise a charity you MUST be a member? Really? Are you really saying that if I want to knock the GWCT then I must join first? Really? Your blind allegiance to a busted flush – when it comes to killing birds for fun – that is the RSP of some B means that you’ve obviously lost the plot. To also suggest that democracy stops at the ballot box is absurd. Maybe in Russia, but in the UK I hope that democracy is a continuum and anyone who receives public money/benefits is fair game (pun intended). Once again, you are talking out of the wrong hole Keith.

            Lets’s get one thing straight or you’ll be the one accused of mendacity or blatant sophistry: the RSPB membership WAS NOT consulted in a way that any sane person would call a proper consultation. 5000-odd directly consulted out of >1 million? North Korea would be proud of that ‘result’. Which subscribers to RPUK are you referring to?

            My toys are firmly in my pram Keith and it seems more likely that your pram is toy free zone.

            1. “So, to follow your ‘logic’: you are saying that to criticise a charity you MUST be a member?”

              You can criticise all you like, but you voluntarily removed yourself from the process of helping to decide what the policy should be, so your criticism is likely to be ignored by those who did not.

              All RSPB members were invited to offer their opinions on shooting…

              1. As usual a lot of unanswered question there Keith…

                “All RSPB members were invited to offer their opinions on shooting…” Weasel words Keith. They were not DIRECTLY canvassed so it was not a proper full survey at all.

                1. You can whinge all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that every member was invited to offer their opinions on the future of ‘game’ bird shooting. The web page presented references to all the RSPB research on the topic… and those who were interested, and had ideas and opinion, presented them.

                  A random survey was also carried out. All members of staff and all volunteers were consulted. Other interested parties, organisations and individuals were also consulted.

                  Why didn’t you participate?

                  1. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

                    xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx I did not participate because I’m no longer a member of a charity that refuses to condemn killing birds for fun. Simple really. If you’re happy that a tiny fraction of RSP of some B members were DIRECTLY consulted then whatever floats your boat but to most folk on here that is shoddy form a charity that is awash with cash.

                    [Ed: Stephen, if you can refrain from the personal abuse that’d be appreciated, thanks]

  23. The way I see it is the shooters must be pretty poor they can’t use a supermarket for food like every normal, sane person.

  24. Yes totally underwhelming. Anything said about the appalling conditions these ‘bred to be killed’ birds are kept?

    How many more raptors will be killed over the next 5 years? 1 is too many and there will be many more.

    57 million birds released is truly shocking. But we are up against the people with the money who seem to also have the power.

    I want action now, not in 5 years.

      1. Campaign for a ban and keep campaigning and never, never, never give up Keith. It’s pretty simple really you should try it.

            1. But ‘campaigning’ is what the RSPB are doing, yet Sue complains about that and wants ‘action now, not in 5 years’. So is ‘campaigning’ different from ‘action’, then?

                1. YOU chose to butt into my question to Sue. So what is the difference between ‘action’ and ‘campaign’? You don’t appear to know, or do you?

  25. As one of the 5,000 ‘chosen ones’ to respond to the consultation I have copied my summary below which covers many of the issues raised here by other correspondents.


    This consultation plays straight into the shooting industry’s hands. Right from the outset in the introductory text the RSPB is validating the legitimacy of shooting and all the harms the consultation then goes on to identify. The consultation forces the RSPB into a narrow strip of potential action, conceding all those harms to the ‘vague possibility’ of some kind of (as yet undefined) regulation whilst also conceding that the charity has no power to act. The shooting industry has effectively won the debate before it has even started.

    It seems like the RSPB is simply examining the entrails of the many disturbing and destructive issues around shooting on which it already has settled opinions, whilst giving little scope for effective action in the future. It feels like a window dressing exercise, an elaborate adumbration of the ‘do nothing option’. Is it really this and if not then how might it be a prelude to some meaningful change?

    On a practical level, the time required just to put together the research before any direct action could be taken could be years. It is not clear even then what the ultimate purpose of this exercise is? Were the RSPB to adopt these principles, what then? How will they influence the proceedings of the charity or, more importantly, affect the real world of birds and habitats and ‘ecosystems services’?

    The RSPB’s position seems to be based entirely on self-imposed and specifically selected ‘notional constructs’, which is to say conservation science, economics, legal definitions and EU charters. This dependence on rationalism allows it to avoid confronting any ethical issues. The charity seems to have paralysed itself from taking part in the necessarily larger debates that surround its core reason to exist.

    Like so many in recent times, the RSPB seems to regard ethics as irrational. This is especially odd given that shooting itself is not a rational, scientific endeavour designed to improve the lot of nature or mankind but an entirely destructive, emotionally selfish desire propped up by tradition, sociocultural elitism and money.

    It seems to me that the RSPB has been running scared of the shooting industry for its entire life. Having had several conversations with its senior management I really sense that the charity is terrified of having to become ‘something else’, like an ‘animal welfare’ or ‘protest’ group. The organisation seems to be spending more mental energy defining what it isn’t than what it is, or at least what it ought to be.

    The RSPB clearly feels safer not confronting anybody or any difficult issues by confining itself to the pragmatic rationalism of conservation science and legal definitions. Equally it feels hamstrung by the thought that it has no direct power to enforce its principles onto the wider world. I suspect, however, that the RSPB has simply failed to understand where its real power lies.

    In the modern idiom the RSPB is an ‘influencer’. It has considerable power to influence those that really do hold the keys to effective change i.e. the electorate and therefore the politicians. It is far more respected than the government or the EU. It has 1.2 million members – more than double the membership of the largest political party in Europe. It is highly respected as an authority on nature and conservation around the world.

    The RSPB should be using its considerable influence and respected reputation to firstly counter the false assertions and insidious (and often preposterous) claims of the game shooting industry about freedom, choice, the economy, conservation, tradition etc. It should then be turning its attention to building a consensus among the public that, despite tradition and culture and international conventions and declarations, shooting is a wholly destructive and unnecessary activity that is contributing to the diminution of our lives and the natural world around us.

    The honest conclusion of any thorough examination of the shooting industry is that it shouldn’t exist at all. There are no real-world benefits to it, only the dubious satisfactions of those that take part in it. Killing anything ‘for fun’ is not conservation. The fact that some habitat is preserved and some species are spared in the process still does not make it conservation. The RSPB should be using its power and influence to drive the recreational killing industry right out of the field of nature conservation.

    The RSPB needs to get over its fear of taking a stand. It needs to re-embrace the ethical confidence and vigour that created it in the first place. The very qualities that attracted people like Miss Juliet Andrews to devote so much of her time and energy to it all those years ago.

    To do this the RSPB needs to go a lot further than this consultation. It needs to face up to and finally address the broad ethical question of the killing of game birds, which is proscribed by the infamous Section 4 (last para.) of its own charter. That paragraph is not inscribed in stone. It is not a command from the Gods. It is there by choice and it can be removed by the same choice. It is, however, an instrument of self-defence, a shield-wall from moral and ethical scrutiny. It is the perfect excuse for doing nothing.

    The longer the RSPB fails to address this the longer the pointless destruction of our wildlife habitats and ecosystems goes on. The charity’s failure to act is eating away at its own corporate soul. It is entirely appropriate for charities to have firm positions (in the form of published principles) on difficult moral and ethical issues such as the killing of birds for pleasure. As the former Chairman of another national wildlife NGO I can say without equivocation that the risk of taking a stand is far less damaging than the consequences of not doing so.

    I will repeat again; the RSPB does not exist in a moral or ethical vacuum. It is wasting its true potential to effect real change by clinging to this appalling paragraph in its charter. As stated above, with this consultation the RSPB has actually (perhaps inadvertently) taken part in ‘the question of the shooting of game birds’, in contravention of its own charter. By outlining a formal opinion that the killing is ‘acceptable’ on the grounds that it is legal and follows various international conventions and declarations, the RSPB has effectively condoned it and appears quite happy to coexist with the ritual slaughter of birds ‘for fun’.

    I seriously doubt that this is what the charity intends. At least I hope not? It makes no sense to identify and object to so much of the harm game shooting does but to then simply shrug one’s shoulders and say, ‘it is what it is’.

    As a lifelong member this situation grieves me. This consultation doesn’t get anywhere near what is needed for the RSPB to keep up with the direction of public opinion or the increasingly desperate needs of nature and the environment. The charity needs to find some courage, some moral backbone.

    The RSPB doesn’t need to change what it is, just what it stands for.

    1. Bravo sir! Utterly nailed it – brought a tear to my eye. I humbly suggest you threaten to withdraw your membership based on what you have said as I fear that that is the only language the that the RSPB top brass now understand.

    2. And yet, despite all these ‘brave words’ (hot air) you haven’t got the backbone to put your name to your opinions.

      It seems that the membership do not entirely agree with you, doesn’t it?

      1. Oh dear, Keith… One of the reasons I use an online ID is precisely because people like you think attacking the person rather than addressing the arguments is a legitimate form of debate. Another is that I have a fairly common name so how would it help you to know who I actually am or what my experience is? I mean, who is Keith Dancey? There are seven listed on Facebook. Or are you the ‘Senior Business Analyst’ pictured on Linked-In with the big ears, buzz cut and cliche ‘white shirt-and-tie’, who’s had five jobs in eight years? Who knows and, frankly, who cares?

        So to the points you raised:

        1. You don’t know what the membership thinks because less than 5% replied to the consultation. It doesn’t matter whether they ‘couldn’t be bothered’ or didn’t see the invitation to respond, they still have their opinions and you have no right (or rational reason) to assume you know what they think.

        2. Which of my statements is ‘hot air’? Go on, flesh out your reasons for saying so and please provide evidence. You shouldn’t find that hard if you actually are a ‘Senior Business Analyst’ but please try to do so even if you’re not.

        3. The statement put out by the RSPB is based on the opinions of their Management and Council informed in part by responses to their consultation. That’s how consultations work. They are responsible for all aspects of the running of the charity and they do not have to ‘mirror’ the views of the membership. The RSPB does not in fact have an adequate procedure for allowing members to create binding resolutions on the Council. This is something I have raised with them and they are looking into it.

        So far your remarks posted in the discussion above seem to all be rather aggressive and self serving rather than engaging in true debate. It seems you want to establish your ‘authority’ by diminishing the character of other contributors. This is what people like Donald Trump do as they lack the intellect to articulate a meaningful argument.

        What I posted above was part of my response to the RSPB, which makes it my opinion albeit based on a lot of experience in the field of wildlife NGOs and talking to them directly at senior level. I just thought I’d share it with people in this discussion. I don’t expect everyone to agree but I do expect something a bit more informative and less self-serving that ‘it’s all hot air’. Who cares what you think if you don’t have the backbone to explain why you think that?

        1. Annonymous attacks, especially on the RSPB, are cowardly.

          “One of the reasons I use an online ID is precisely because people like you think attacking the person rather than addressing the arguments is a legitimate form of debate”

          Followed by a personal attack on me!

          “I mean, who is Keith Dancey? There are seven listed on Facebook. Or are you the ‘Senior Business Analyst’ pictured on Linked-In with the big ears, buzz cut and cliche ‘white shirt-and-tie’, who’s had five jobs in eight years? Who knows and, frankly, who cares?”

          As if I care about what an anonymous person writes about me.

            1. “The RSPB are perfectly well aware of who I am and so are many of the people on here.”

              Then all the more reason to stop hiding behind a pseudonym, then.

          1. Why ‘especially on the RSPB’ Keith? Oldlongdog nailed it and you know it. I notice you did not want to take on the substance of his well written critique, but that, of course, is your trademark on here.

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