23/05/2013
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Buzzards secretly controlled on shooting estate

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The attempt to cull a native species, Common Buzzard, to delusionally favour the hunting of an introduced species, Pheasant, continues. Photo: Ulrich Prokop (commons.wikimedia.org).
The attempt to cull a native species, Common Buzzard, to delusionally favour the hunting of an introduced species, Pheasant, continues. Photo: Ulrich Prokop (commons.wikimedia.org).
Despite a public outcry about the proposed culling of Common Buzzards, Natural England has secretly enabled a shooting estate to destroy their eggs this spring.

Last year, an unscientific and unpopular attempt by DEFRA to allow Common Buzzard to be culled by destroying the species' eggs and nests at taxpayers' expense was thwarted by a public outcry partly led by Birdwatch. However, it has been revealed, via a Freedom of Information Request by the RSPB, that the National Gamekeepers Organisation approached Natural England (NE) for a licence to carry out such egg destruction on an unnamed Pheasant shooting estate, and that this has covertly gone ahead.

NE granted the licence but kept the application and permission secret, and the egg and nest destruction was apparently performed earlier this spring. It appears that NE gave in under threat of a judicial review and quietly granted the licences, a move unprecedented since raptor protection was introduced in law some decades ago. The legality of the licensing is currently in question and certainly not in the spirit of the law, but a DEFRA spokesperson claimed, in support of NE, that: "after a thorough assessment, Natural England granted a licence for the removal of a small number of buzzard nests. Buzzard populations are thriving in the UK and this licensed action had no effect on their population."

The RSPB, which has been attempting to work in a collaborative way with all parties concerned after promises by wildlife minister Richard Benyon that there would be "new proposals", is understandably peeved and will be looking into legal methods of redress. As no more than 2 per cent of Pheasant poults are lost to birds of prey (compared to the roughly 30 per cent killed by road traffic), a cull of buzzards would seem pointless and even belligerent.

NE themselves have admitted that investigations into non-lethal methods of keeping buzzards away from Pheasants have been "employed inconsistently", and that the efficacy of egg and nest destruction was also untested.

With this new development, and the inability of NE to prevent the ecologically destructive burning of peat on grouse moors recently, the growing public perception of the government as acting in favour of shooting estates and being environmentally unsound can only be further increased.

To see the full documents received by the RSPB from their Freedom of Informatrion request, see Martin Harper's blog.
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