NEWS AND OPINION: The bird shooting community i.e. those people who like to shoot pheasants and grouse on the estates of toffs, includes people (gamekeepers normally) who shoot birds illegally. In short, there are criminals within the bird shooting community and nobody is doing anything about it. The shooters have been accused of failing to control the “criminals in their ranks” – so states a report by the RSPB into bird crime.
Buzzards are the most targeted bird of prey to fall victim to these people; 32 of them were targeted. Twenty-one red kites, seven peregrines, six sparrowhawks, four goshawks, three barn owls and two hen harriers were also targeted. In all there were 85 attempts to kill birds of prey in 2019 which is a slight drop from the 89 birds targeted in 2018. Only one person was convicted and as it happens it was for the second year running. He is a gamekeeper on a Scottish estate and he pleaded guilty to shooting and trapping goshawks and buzzards. He also killed badgers and otters and admitted to possessing a banned poison and installing snares.
Yorkshire is the place where it happens the most. The RSPB published a report today which is the start of the moorland burning season. The estates burn heather which promotes new growth which in turn feeds the grouse which in turn means there are more of them so there are more birds to shoot dead by people who enjoy shooting birds. It’s a strange world.
Mark Thomas, the RSPB’s head of investigations said:
The shooting community has had decades to get its house in order, but it is clear that they cannot control the criminals within their ranks. Legislation has failed to protect our birds of prey.
There should be zero tolerance for the prosecution of birds of prey and shooting organisations such as the Countryside Alliance, MoorLand Association and National Gamekeepers’ Organisation signed a statement in January declaring this. The agreement is being ignored by gamekeepers. They believe they can get away with it and the lockdown assisted them because of a lower risk of detection. The Countryside Alliance defended themselves by saying that “The shooting community is committed to eradicating raptor persecution”. They refer to the small reduction in cases to support their argument that they are doing something about it. The Moorland Association argue that heather burning helped to reduce the risk of wildfires and was an act of conservation because this year is the best for hen harrier breeding in England since 2002.