In the contest over buzzard licensing, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) has prevailed over the mighty RSPB (News, 29 May). This makes David and Goliath look like a sideshow.
But now is the time for cool heads and calm voices to prevail. In persuading Natural England to uphold the law of the land in a consistent manner, the NGO has achieved something remarkable. And the RSPB is incandescent. So be it. But the shooting community now needs to reassure the wider public that there will be no open season on raptors. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In truth, now that it has been proved that it is possible to get a raptor control licence in certain circumstances, what possible excuse is left for any continuing illegal persecution? None. And anybody in England (where the decision applies) who continues to break the law should be left in no doubt that their last leg of defence has been kicked away from under them.
Obtaining a buzzard licence is very difficult — and rightly so, many folk would say. A licence will only be granted as a last resort, where all sorts of non-lethal methods of reducing predation have been attempted and failed or are demonstrably impractical. There will never be many licences issued. By definition they cannot ever be issued to the point of having an adverse impact on the conservation status of the species in question.
At the time of writing, there has not been too much of a furore in the left-wing media. This may be due to a number of factors. First, the RSPB screamed and stamped and bellowed last year, when the topic arose, so people are less likely to be motivated by the same sort of scaremongering this time round.
Second, the news coincided with mass media coverage of the latest terrorist outrage. Not only did the usual suspects in the media have fewer pages to devote to the story, but news editors rightly judged that a few buzzard eggs being broken is nothing compared with the ghastly murder of a British soldier. To devote more than a few sentences to pro-raptor hysteria at such a time would have been unseemly.
Third, by sheer coincidence, a farmer also applied for a licence, for the protection of his poultry. That helped widen the context. Yet do not underestimate the genuine dismay felt by some elements of the raptor lobby. Emotion is a very human attribute and we should be wary of its power. Lobbyists depend on emotion and they are expert at manipulating it for their own ends. No doubt the dirty tricks department is being briefed as I write.
The RSPB is a vast organisation. It has many mouths to feed. It needs a lot of money to keep it in the manner to which it is accustomed. Its most potent cash generators are those magnifi cent flying fund-raisers known as raptors. The RSPB has been waxing fat on the proceeds of raptor persecution for decades. The best way to keep cash flowing to the RSPB is to continue with illegal persecution.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act has come riding to the rescue of the relatively few people who have serious problems with a local over-abundance of buzzards. They can now apply for licences for legal control. The delicious irony, of course, is that this comes just weeks after a senior RSPB spokesman said publicly that the current licensing system was “robust”. That was when he still thought his organisation had scared Natural England off issuing any buzzard licences. Talk about egg on his face.
But let’s not gloat. The important thing to reiterate is that there is no longer any excuse for the illegal persecution of raptors.
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