RSPB calls for further regulation of gamebird shooting & better enforcement of existing rules

The RSPB has announced it is to call for further regulation of gamebird shooting and wants better enforcement of existing rules.

The announcement was made at its AGM on 15th October 2022 and follows on from an internal review process first initiated in October 2019 (e.g. see here, here, here and here).

The ‘announcement’ itself has all been a bit strange. A few days prior to the AGM, Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, sent emails to a wide number of ‘stakeholders’ in both the conservation and shooting sectors, giving them a heads-up about the imminent announcement. Here’s what she said:

I just wanted to bring you up to speed on an announcement we will be making at our AGM later this week.

As you know, in 2020 the RSPB set out that in the current nature crisis, it is imperative to reduce the negative impacts of the release of non-native gamebirds . And, given the urgency of the crisis, we said we would call for stronger regulation if there was no significant progress, initially within 18 months, and latterly by October 2022.

Having now completed this assessment, we have seen little progress (albeit that gamebird numbers released this year have gone down due to avian flu and resultant problems importing birds from France).  There is a high degree of agreement between shooting and conservation organisations on what would constitute sustainable practices, but overall, there is a lack of evidence to show that this guidance is being followed and hence a lack of evidence for a reduction in negative impacts from gamebird releases. 

Our concern is about large-scale shoots, and not small-scale farm shoots, where there is often a net benefit for native wildlife.

Given this lack of progress towards a more sustainable gamebird shooting industry over decades and minimal signs of positive change for the future,we have concluded that further regulation and better enforcement of existing rules will be required to deliver the changes necessary in the face of a nature and climate crisis. 

This view is reinforced by evidence from other sectors on the widespread failure of voluntary approaches to deliver positive environmental change and is in line with the recommendations of a recent UN report, which recommended enhanced powers for authorities to use revokable licences for gamebird shooting where raptor persecution occurs. While there is still work to do on the detail of how additional regulation and enforcement can be used most effectively to deliver the changes we need to see, the direction of travel is clear. 

This change in our policy will be announced at our 2022 AGM this Saturday, but we wanted to ensure you had advance sight of the announcement.

With all good wishes,

Beccy

‘Someone’ from the shooting industry leaked the content of this email prior to the AGM, resulting in the publication of a vicious misrepresentation of the RSPB’s position on a number of pro-shooting websites.

The rest of us waited for the announcement at the AGM and then anticipated that the RSPB would issue a formal public statement on which we could base our commentary.

However, that statement hasn’t been issued. Don’t ask me why – I don’t understand why such a big position change by the RSPB has been handled in such a low key way, especially as this is a subject on which the RSPB has been criticised in the past, with many in the conservation sector frustrated at what has been widely perceived as a lack of RSPB backbone.

Anyway, the mystery of the RSPB’s publicity machine aside, I’m delighted to see the RSPB finally reach a decision on this issue and look forward to hearing further details, i.e. what new regulations it thinks are needed (it has alluded in the past to licensing) and what measures it thinks will be effective to increase the enforcement of current regulations.

Predictably, the gamebird shooting industry has over-reacted to the RSPB’s new position and two organisations (BASC here and the National Gamekeepers Organisation here) have called it an ‘attack’ on shooting and gamekeeping, with BASC even laughingly claiming the RSPB’s three-year review ‘is not based on evidence’.

On the contrary, it’s based on very carefully (and cautiously) assessed evidence, as you’d expect from the RSPB.

Blog readers are encouraged to watch this video from Jeff Knott (in his new position of RSPB Director of Policy and Advocacy), annoyingly tucked away on an obscure YouTube channel instead of being given some serious prominence by the RSPB’s PR machine.

Jeff’s commentary is measured, well-balanced and provides a coherent explanation about why the RSPB has beefed up its position on the regulation of gamebird shooting:

14 thoughts on “RSPB calls for further regulation of gamebird shooting & better enforcement of existing rules”

  1. Bred to be SHOT, Their bodies Dumped as waste !
    Wat sort of Human does this ????????????????????????????????????

  2. NGA states that they manage land of over 200 million ha in the UK if you follow the link. That’s a significant effort, well done. Especially as the UK is only 24.361 million ha

  3. I’d strongly disagree about the damage caused by small farm (pheasant) shoots. I had the misfortune to have one start up close to me a few years back. A pair of buzzard who nested their fruitfully annually went missing … as did our local sparrowhawk .. and we haven’t had a raptor nest there since. The same shoot was evicted from a Scotland Forestry site for poaching red deer out of season. Although caught red handed no prosecution resultes and no firearms licences were reswcinded. Badgers have also been harrassed and dead lambs are being tied onto whim bushes each spring with a shooting hide placed in a nearbye tree, presumably to lure foxes in order to shoot them — though I guess the odd raptor would also find them tasty.
    To add insult to injury they are building a new holding pen after the last one was buried under tons of trees which blew down in the spring gales and a notice has been put up by these deer poachers with a sign up warning of prosecution should anyone damage this pen. As far as I am aware of no damage has been done to their pen or anyhting else over the period they have been active.
    This is the measure of the men and a damned good example of why any negotiations with these people must be with a view to changing the law — andf having it more forcefully applied when any of them are caught behaving in a criminal fashion — with their firearms licence the first to go.

  4. Geoff Knott’s video is “…annoyingly tucked away on an obscure YouTube channel…”, and according to the counter on YouTube, it has attracted the grand total of 80 views so far. I suppose that’s not a bad total for a charity with over 1 million members.
    While I was at it, I checked on the RSPB video showing the alleged shooting of a Hen Harrier by a gamekeeper in 2017, which at the time was regarded as an absolute bombshell of a piece of evidence of raptor persecution. The total views for this video over 5 years is now about 25,000. For comparison, the shooting video “George Digweed shoots crows in Sussex” has clocked up 2.6 million views.
    Is the RSPB really trying its hardest to influence public opinion?

    1. I think a lot of RSPB members and a lot of the birdwatching / bird-loving community probably take steps to avoid watching videos with footage or photos of persecution. I bet a lot of people with vast knowledge and deep passion for birds struggle to look at this blog. It is a cruel reality for a lot of gentle people to face, and no doubt truly depressing to many. The same reason so many birders who know fully what is happening on the grouse moors choose to stay away. When the RSPB really gets serious it needs to make a clarion call to get members and supporters out consistently at all times of day in numbers spread about on the moors (and in the hard to access lowland estates) – in other words all the places they are not wanted. Something which says “we are not acccepting this shit anymore” like the Ramblers Association did re. Kinder Scout

  5. This is the uneducated bleating of the usual suspects and they should note the RSPB have said regulation not what many of us might otherwise advocate a complete ban on all damaging practices in shooting including the release of millions of alien birds annually. Perhaps the problem GWCT, BASC, NGO and the rest have is that in their heart of hearts they know that is the only solution to the ecological damage their behaviour engenders.

  6. Ruth, many thanks for the link to the video, but yes, it’s a great shame more is not being made of it. Good signs are certainly there from the RSPB, the latest mag contains a good article on persecution that will no doubt be news to very many members. However, it does seem like they are just dipping a toe in the water to gage reaction. It really is time that the RSPB started to be much more vocal, time to trust their membership with the truth.

  7. Why is the RSPB so relentlessly wishy-washy? Its founders were (like Ruth) robust, brave, tenacious and persistent. Nowadays, it tip-toes round issues. It just goes through the motions. I’m very disappointed with the leadership.

  8. I disagree that small scale shoots are useful for wildlife
    Living in the countryside where there are shoots if all sizes it is difficult to see reptiles or amphibians
    Also small scale shoots are run largely by those who have little iiS skills . They tend to shoot and look afterwards hence shot barn owls

  9. Why did Beccy Speight tip off the shooting industry? Does she think they have a say in RSPB policy making?

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