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.