David Taylor, Shooting Campaign Manager for the Countryside Alliance, said:
“The Countryside Alliance welcomes DEFRA’s decision to commission this study, mainly because it indicates that the Government is taking the issue of predation by raptors seriously. It is however disappointing that the situation has got to the point where such a study is required.
“Since the early 1980s, successive Governments have had the ability to issue licences for buzzard control, but have been reluctant to do so because of their fear of coming under pressure from groups who have a narrow interest in birds of prey, often to the detriment of other species in Britain.
“While we welcome the study, it is a shame the Government have had to commission this expensive exercise simply to appease a group of people who believe that raptors have a greater significance than any other bird. Such a mentality is dangerous for conservation and scarcely justifies the large cost to the taxpayer.”
Facts and figures on buzzards:
· The Breeding Bird Survey 2010 results for breeding buzzards in England shows an increase in the breeding population of 146% between 1995 and 2009 though this increase may have levelled off between 2009 and 2010 as a zero change is recorded.
· Buzzards, like all wild birds, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in England, which applies the requirements of the EU Wild Birds Directive at a national level. This protection can be derogated through licences issued by Natural England (NB licensing is devolved). Licences can be issued for a range of specified purposes, including preventing serious damage to livestock (which includes poultry and in certain circumstances, game birds) and to conserve wild birds. For all licenses under Section 16 of the 1981 Act, there is a general presumption against lethal control of wild birds unless there is no satisfactory alternative.
· Natural England has recently received requests to undertake licensed lethal control of buzzards, to prevent serious damage at pheasant release pens. At present, the extent of the problem on a national scale is unclear. However, evidence suggests that it can be significant at the local site level. In one case, it is claimed that 25-30% of pheasant poults were lost to buzzards.
Licences are reviewed and granted by Natural England on a case by case basis, none have been issued for buzzards. However, licences are issued for the destruction of cormorants for commercial fisheries, for example.