Once again the RSPB has used its Birdcrime Report 2013 to make sweeping allegations against the shooting community and grouse shooting in particular. An examination of the report shows that the scale of the accusations cannot be sustained on the evidence contained in the report. There is nothing in the report, as in previous years, which can justify the statement that: “The RSPB believes it is the shooting industry as a whole, not individual gamekeepers, that is primarily responsible for raptor persecution in the UK”. Rumour, accusation and innuendo are not substitutes for evidence and fact.
The shooting and poisoning of birds of prey is against the law and the Alliance does not condone it in any way. It is also important to note that the number of reported incidents is significantly higher than those actually confirmed. The headline figures are therefore extremely misleading.
It should also be noted that populations of almost all our birds of prey are at their highest levels since records began. There is a Defra-led plan to improve the hen harrier’s conservation status, which we fully support, but sadly its publication is being hampered by the very organisation that is accusing everyone else of not doing enough, the RSPB.
Despite the report’s predominant focus on the shooting community and gamekeepers, the number of incidents reported to the RSPB, which includes unconfirmed and probable incidents not just confirmed incidents, is down 24% from 2013 and down 56% on 2009. Of the 32 wild bird-related prosecutions given for 2013 in the report only six involved gamekeepers, of which one was found not guilty and only two involved birds of prey. Therefore, of those prosecuted only 16% were gamekeepers and only 6% of those 32 cases involved keepers where birds (buzzards) had been killed. Only one of the keepers prosecuted in 2013 was employed by an estate with grouse shooting interests and the offence did not involve the death of any bird. None involved hen harriers.
Significantly, areas managed for grouse shooting account for just one fifth of the total uplands of England and Wales and the breeding success of hen harriers on the remaining four fifths, which includes large areas of land managed by the RSPB, has been no better than on grouse moors. The evidence and statistics simply do not support the RSPB’s report and accompanying press release which focusses almost exclusively on attacking shooting and grouse moors.
It is clear that the RSPB is promoting an anti-shooting agenda which has less to do with concern about birds and more about ideology and a political agenda. The 2013 Birdcrime Report is as deliberately misleading as in previous years. The RSPB should be working with the shooting community and not alienating it.
Director of Shooting