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Conservation Groups Seek Ministerial Reassurance

…About Birds of Prey Protection

Following the revelation that Natural England – the Government’s conservation advisor – has issued licences for the destruction of buzzard nests and the killing or capturing of adult birds, a coalition of wildlife and countryside organisations has written to Owen Paterson MP – the Environment Secretary – for a reassurance that no further licences will be issued for the removal or destruction of birds of prey or their nests for the protection of gamebirds.

Historical persecution had reduced this previously widespread species to only a few thousand pairs. Only in recent years have buzzards recolonised their former haunts – especially in eastern England - and once again become a widespread and celebrated fixture of our skies.

There was a widespread public reaction last year when the Government announced a tender for a research proposal which would have allowed the removal of buzzards to try to protect game shoots. In the wake of this, the Government committed to working collaboratively with interested parties to find a new way forward. Yet an official request for information lodged with Natural England has now revealed that licences for the removal of buzzards have been issued, including around release pens on a pheasant shooting estate.

The group of 17 organisations have expressed their outrage that protected species should be removed from the countryside to protect a commercial non native gamebird and stated that it is vital that the Minister now issues a clear statement that licences will not be issued to kill a native bird of prey to protect commercial gamebirds.Gwyn Williams, of the RSPB, said: “We believe it is wrong that these licences have been issued, it is wrong that there has been no public scrutiny of these decisions and it is wrong that we only heard of these decisions after the nests have been destroyed.”

Paul Irving, of the Northern England Raptor Forum, added: “We have fundamental concerns with the idea of licensing the killing of a native bird of prey or the destruction of its eggs to protect an alien gamebird. These specific cases seem to show a scandalous disregard for Natural England’s own guidance. It’s clear there is a huge range of non-lethal alternatives which have clearly not been exhausted.”

Nigel Middleton, from the Hawk and Owl Trust, commented: “This is a step backwards. We’re in the 21st century and shooting estates must look hard at their management practices to ensure there is no negative effect on native biodiversity. They must move on from a Victorian mentality and find ways of managing their sport that does not require the destruction of birds of prey.”

The organisations involved in the coalition are: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; The Wildlife Trusts; Friends of the Earth; Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust; Amphibian and Reptile Conservation; Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; Hawk and Owl Trust; Northern England Raptor Forum; Humane Society International/UK; Environmental Investigation Agency; International Fund for Animal Welfare; World Society for the Protection of Animals (UK); People's Trust for Endangered Species ; Barn Owl Trust; Badger Trust; Whale and Dolphin Conservation; Ramblers.

4th July 2014