Last week, amid widespread concerns about gamebird-shooting during the current avian flu epidemic, the RSPB called for a moratorium on gamebird releases to help limit the catastrophic spread of this highly contagious virus (see here).
In a typical year, approximately 61 million non-native gamebirds (pheasants and red-legged partridges) are released into the UK countryside to be shot. This year the number has been reduced considerably due to an import ban on gamebird eggs from France, where many of the UK shooting industry’s gamebirds are sourced (see here), although birds sourced from UK game farms are unaffected by the ban and have already been released. How many, and where, is anyone’s guess.
In the run up to the RSPB’s call for a moratorium on gamebird releases, Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell had lodged a number of written questions on the subject.
These have now been answered by Environment Minister Mairi McAllan but her responses are contradictory and the claims made seem highly unlikely.
Apparently, the Government is ‘closely monitoring’ the potential spread of avian flu from gamebirds to wild birds, but there isn’t any detail on what that ‘close monitoring’ entails:
And if you look at the Minister’s next response, that ‘close monitoring’ looks even more unlikely given that the Government is not considering, nor does it intend to consider, a full registration scheme of all non-native gamebird releases:
Mark Ruskell also asked under what circumstances a moratorium on gamebird releases would be considered by the Scottish Government. The answer? ‘Where it would be in the public interest’. That hasn’t been defined either:
It’s hard to have any confidence in the Government’s commitment to this issue, given its complete indifference to the spread of another contagious disease, Crypotosporidiosis, and the known threat it poses to wild birds caused by the overstocking of gamebirds (here).