The National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) has told a committee of MPs that gamekeepers play a vital role in combatting rural crime, and are ?overwhelmingly a force for good in the countryside?.

In evidence to Parliament?s Environmental Audit Select Committee, currently undertaking an enquiry into wildlife crime, the organisation said that gamekeepers were the eyes and ears of the countryside, often outnumbering rural police by more than 10 to one.

Poaching remains the biggest wildlife crime by far, with thousands of reported incidents each year. The NGO said its members? role was of vital importance as police budget cuts threatened a resurgence of poaching in some areas.

The NGO also responded robustly to comments from the RSPB and others that gamekeepers are themselves to blame for wildlife crimes.