Last week the charity launched its latest campaign to boost numbers of raptors in the UK and attributed their persecution to the shooting community, claiming that “killings” are happening in the North Pennines, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors and the Peak District.

The RSPB’s Dr Mark Avery wrote: ‘Though the populations of many birds of prey are rising in some parts of the UK, particularly in the lowlands, in black holes – especially in the uplands – keepers and shooting estates are systematically wiping out these iconic species. For decades, we have worked to improve the situation, but in large areas of upland Britain progress has stalled and in some areas is worsening. The intransigence of some estates has led to a stalemate, with birds of prey paying the ultimate price.’

Naturally, the move has enraged gamekeepers – who insist they are being victimised. A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) commented that the press release included highly emotive language which will ultimately damage the reputation of the profession: “It was a combination of lazy journalism and cynical fundraising.”

Just days before the RSPB’s press campaign, its members had been sent a fundraising mailshot asking for their help in saving birds of prey. In reality, of the UK’s 15 species of raptors, most are at or near their highest populations in living memory. Only one, the kestrel, has shown a decline and this is due to changes in lowland agriculture.”

Alasdair Mitchell said that the birds of prey the RSPB used as examples are: “simply flying fundraisers – it is a money-making exercise and nothing more.”

The rest of this article appears in 1 May issue of Shooting Times.

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