The RSPB has recently published its Birdcrime Report for 2015, which provides a summary of the offences against wild bird legislation that were reported to the RSPB. While we are grateful for the work the RSPB do in the detection of bird crime, it is regrettable that the presentation of these statistics once again seems driven by a desire to create a narrative which supports an agenda, including the introduction of an offence of vicarious liability and the licensing of grouse moors, which the evidence simply does not support.
The press release circulated by the RSPB to mark the release of the report states that “196 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey and 50 reports of wildlife poisoning and pesticide related offences across the UK in 2015”. These figures refer to the total number of incidents relating to birds of prey reported to the RSPB. Less than half of these reported incidents go on to be confirmed, even fewer lead to a successful conviction. Even so, the total number of such reported incidents is in decline. The figures quoted from the RSPB press release represent a 33% decline since 2010. This is especially pleasing given the enormous increase in many raptor populations and the improvements in raptor crime detection made by the RSPB and others during this time
There is, however, a regrettable tendency for the RSPB’s press releases around their Birdcrime Reports to be needlessly divisive and to ignore both the progress that has been made and the valuable relationships that have been built with farmers, gamekeepers and others. Nowhere is this divisiveness clearer than in the conclusion to the report. The report concerns 2015, yet the conclusions are headlined by a large pie-chart highlighting a high number of gamekeepers convicted of raptor crimes over the previous 25 years, implying that this remains a serious problem. Yet the RSPB’s reports for 2006 – 2015 show that gamekeepers were convicted of just 5% of the 1,550 individual charges brought during that 10 year period. The RSPB’s focus on the game keeping community is totally disproportionate, and extremely damaging to its relationship with those they should be actively seeking to work in partnership.
Even one illegal killing is too many, and the Countryside Alliance wishes to see wildlife crime stamped out completely, but this will be only be achieved by government, farmers, landowners, gamekeepers and conservation charities working together, a collaborative effort that is threatened by the RSPB’s misleading presentation of the facts and its intemperate and unnecessary calls for new legislation.