Opinion Former Article

BASC corrects the RSPB

Richard Ali, Chief Executive of BASC said: While BASC and all fieldsports organisations welcome the RSPB’s presence at the CLA Game Fair, they should get their facts correct before criticising active conservationists in the shooting community.

We are surprised that Dr Mike Clarke should use a League Against Cruel Sports extrapolation to give a false figure for the number of game birds released. It is fewer than 50 million and Dr Clarke should study the Value of Shooting report for the correct numbers.

If he is speaking about absolute numbers then he should be aware that the weight of game birds released across the UK is less than ¾s of 1% of the biomass of cattle and sheep in the British countryside. If he is speaking about place of release he should be aware that shooting has well established codes specifying the number of birds that can be released per hectare of woodland. This is half the recommended stocking rate for organic free range chickens. In both cases his arguments are spurious and are not based on scientific evidence.

We fully agree that our uplands are iconic landscapes and one of the reasons for this is because Britain has 75% of all the world’s heather moorland which is rarer than rain forest. This is because of moorland managed for grouse. Burning heather for regenerative reasons is regulated by the law and codes of practice.

Moorland managers work closely with statutory conservation agencies to improve practice. The RSPB itself has a burning programme. How strange that Dr Clarke mentions burning of peat (in fact moorland managers take great care to burn heather – not peat) without mentioning climate change which is a major cause of the loss of peat bogs.

The continued failure of hen harriers to breed in the English uplands is both deeply distressing and frustrating. Distressing because country people want to see this iconic bird in our iconic countryside and frustrating because the RSPB simply refuses to countenance using the tried and tested techniques of nest management and translocation to protect, rear and reintroduce hen harriers across our great nation.

It is ironic that Dr Clarke should choose Harewood House as the place to make his speech when a shooting estate such as this has been chosen for the successful translocation and introduction of red kites.

The recent Natural England report on climate change identified the hen harrier as under significant threat from climate change and recognised that management practices employed on shooting estates such as predator control have a part to play in protecting species under threat.

The fact that the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner received more emails during his election campaign about wildlife crime than child abuse is unsurprising given the vociferous and well organised lobby that puts animals before people. He would have done better to speak to shooting organisations who are members of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime and who play a major role in combatting it in the countryside.

We look forward to further discussions with the RSPB at the Game Fair.

ENDS

More Articles by British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) ...

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