Buzzards free to nest in peace as minister drops shooting plans
Protected birds earn reprieve after sudden U-turn
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Thursday 31 May 2012
Controversial plans to blast the nests of buzzards to help out pheasant shooters were abruptly dropped by the Government yesterday, 24 hours after they were extensively highlighted and criticised in The Independent.
Richard Benyon, the Wildlife Minister, who had brought in the plans and was labelled the "Bird-Brained Minister" by this newspaper as a result, abandoned them "in the light of public concern". The U-turn was as complete, as sudden and as humiliating as the scrapping of the plan to sell off the national forests last year.
A millionaire landowner and keen member of the shooting community, Mr Benyon had sanctioned a research project to investigate the alleged predation of young pheasants by buzzards on shooting estates. It involved destroying buzzard nests by blasting them with shotguns and removing the birds to other unspecified locations – and it produced outrage amongst conservationists.
But Mr Benyon's agreeing to the destruction of the nests of fully protected birds of prey was incompatible with his official position as the defender of British wildlife; it gave off the sort of image – of out-of-touch Tory toffs – that David Cameron has been at pains to excise from the modern Conservative Party.
It also became clear, as The Independent highlighted, that Mr Cameron himself might be dragged into the dispute, as the Prime Minister is also a keen shot – something he has been careful not to publicise.
The climbdown from Mr Benyon's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday bore all the hallmarks of having been ordered from above – just as Defra's abandoning of its forests sell-off policy was similarly directed by Downing Street when it began to produce ridicule for Mr Cameron's claim to be running the greenest Government ever.
In a statement, Mr Benyon said: "In the light of the public concerns expressed in recent days, I have decided to look at developing new research proposals on buzzards. The success of conservation measures has seen large increases in the numbers of buzzards and other birds of prey over the last two decades. As Minister for Wildlife I celebrate that, and since 2010 we have championed many new measures to benefit wildlife across England.
"At the same time, it is right that we make decisions on the basis of sound evidence and we do need to understand better the whole relationship between raptors, game birds and other livestock."
The U-turn, which caused surprise in its suddenness and completeness, was widely and warmly welcomed.
"I am delighted that this out-of-touch Government has dropped its ill-thought-through plans to use taxpayers' money to destroy our native buzzards' nests to 'protect' pheasants," Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow Environment Secretary, said.
"This was the latest environmental blunder from a Government that has long forgotten its pre-election green promises with the forests sell-off and badger cull."
Martin Harper, conservation director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said:"We believe the public's support has been pivotal to this, and the extensive coverage of the issue in The Independent has driven a flurry of activity that has convinced the minister of the depth of public feeling, and has encouraged him to take the right decision and drop the proposal.
"It is clear they don't want their taxes being spent on removing buzzards."
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
The birds and the subsidies: What is the right balance?
The good news: there has been a dramatic increase in Arctic sea ice. The bad news: it's still half the level is was in the 1980s
The 10 best folding bikes
‘Hell for animals’: Egypt's Giza Zoo beset by tear gas, bear ‘riots’ and giraffe ‘suicide’
10 best hiking boots
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: QA .NET Agile UNIX LIN...
£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: C# ASP.NET SQL Develop...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET SQL Developer (Software Developer, Softw...
£500 - £650 per day: Harrington Starr: Excellent opportunity for Murex Subject...