Landowners may no longer be penalised through the controversial withdrawal of farm subsidies if banned pesticides used to poison birds of prey are found on their land. In a drive to simplify its rules, the European Commission wants to sever the link between money paid to landowners under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and laws to protect wildlife from poisoning and trapping.

At present, landowners and farmers must comply with Article 8 of the EU’s Birds Directive, which bans the use of “non-selective methods of capture or killing of birds”, including poisons, in order to be eligible for EU farm funds.

The move comes after John Dodd, owner of the Glenogil estate, in Angus, recently had a record £107,650 in CAP payments withheld by the Scottish Government after police found poisoned baits and illegal pesticides on his estate in 2006. Such penalties have been fiercely criticised, however, as subsidies have been withdrawn in some cases without criminal involvement of the landowner being proven in law.

The Scottish Government is concerned by the proposals, which will affect all of the UK, and is calling on MEPs to retain the punitive removal of subsidies. Alyn Smith MEP said: “Scotland does have a particular problem with wildlife crime, and any means at our disposal must be an option. The new Government has made great strides in tackling this thorny issue and to lose a key weapon in the armoury would be a real step backwards.”

BASC’s Dr Colin Shedden told Shooting Times that simply scrapping the current arrangement is not the solution: “BASC recognises that crosscompliance can be a useful tool in the fight against wildlife crime — the withdrawal of part of a farm or estate’s Single Farm Payment could be a most effective deterrent or penalty. However, the other side of the coin is that a farmer or landowner could be harshly punished for the illegal actions of those who were tenants or occupiers. BASC is opposed to all aspects of wildlife crime and would support the continuation of this cross-compliance requirement as long as the penalty was imposed on those convicted of the crime.”

The rest of this article appears in 20 November issue of Shooting Times.

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