What the shooting lobby says
We interviewed a number of organisations which represent the shooting lobby on the issue of bird of prey persecution. Here is what they said...
Sunday 07 October 2007
Morag Walker, spokesperson for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)
"The hen harrier is more an issue with grouse moors; it's an incredibly complex problem and its gone on for a long time now. In the lowlands there are problems with sparrowhawks. I think that probably gamekeepers in the lowlands areas are much more relaxed about these things than they used to be. The issue is really more with birds of prey in the uplands – gamekeepers are aware of this but there's not that much they can do about it, apart from getting the right sort of cover and habitat.
"Grouse moor management is terribly important for the uplands. There has to be a balance somewhere between managing your grouse moor for grouse and also looking after hen harriers but making sure you don't lose your grouse.
"Birds of prey can have an effect on game birds but we cannot approve of illegal killing of birds of prey and that's all there is to it really. We need to make sure that gamekeepers are aware of things they can do to protect their game birds without breaking the law.
"Generally speaking gamekeepers are a force for good in the countryside. A lot of the time they are custodians of the countryside. There are an awful lot of old fashioned views about what gamekeepers do."
Martin Gillibrand, secretary of the Moorlands Association
"There has been one prosecution of one keeper in Derbyshire in the last five years and probably longer. All the rest is supposition and innuendo. If one was a cynic, one could say that the RSPB stays in business by stirring its members and everyone else up.
"A lot of RSPB members and others have grown up with a long history of gamekeeping where it was the custom to eliminate anything that moved and although gamekeepers have moved on there is still the assumption that we live in the Dark Ages and there may well be some gamekeepers who still do live in the Dark Ages.
"The way it is put is that there isn't the number of raptors that one would expect on moorland areas but there may well be a lot of other reasons for this: hostile climate, a lack of suitable habitat and so forth."
Tim Baines, moorlands director, Countryside Alliance
"You do have to take some of the things the RSPB say with a pinch of salt. They will admit privately that this is meat and drink for them, it plays very well with their membership and it's a pot they like to keep bubbling.
"I'm not saying there's nothing for them to be campaigning about, obviously wildlife crime does happen. There are nutters out there who do go round putting poison out and birds do get killed. It is something that we are unequivocal about, illegal use of poison is probably the worst of the wildlife crimes, it is indiscriminate.
"But we all use poisons extensively when controlling rodents; the idea of putting out poison to kill certain creatures is not something that one can get too precious about because we're all doing it all the time. Nearly all of us have some poison stuck away in the garden shed that is now illegal.
"No birds of prey are facing anything like extinction. What we're seeing now is that all the birds of prey are thriving again. The RSPB has been very successful in bringing back the red kite to the extent that red kites are now seen almost queuing up above the M40 for road kill. We are starting to get some problems of too many birds of prey, the pendulum is swinging a bit and we need to rebalance our approach.
"Birds of prey have a scared status in British wildlife now, which says you can do nothing to control them. Whereas it's been very important to safeguard them, when you get tensions with other species inevitably you have to look again at birds of prey and say: 'is it sensible that we manage these species?'.
"The desire for a balanced approach to birds of prey does in no way condones illegal activity but one has to look at the wider picture. We need a calm logical debate which is not about 'cops and robbers'. We need to have the flexibility to be able to sustainably manage birds of prey where they are causing a problem and managing them does not necessarily mean killing them at all."
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