The RSPB’s proposal for shoots to be regulated by the government has been branded pointless and unworkable.
In its annual Bird Crime 2008 report, which was published on 26 August, the RSPB renewed its demand for the government to consider updating the way game shoots are regulated, with those found guilty of persecuting birds of prey banned from shooting for a fixed period.
Other demands include more funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit and more full-time wildlife crime officers.
“Illegal killing continues to impact significantly on populations of birds such as hen harriers and golden eagles,” an RSPB spokesman told Shooting Times magazine.
He added: “While we support the shooting sector in its efforts to tackle those responsible, and promote the wider testing of techniques, such as diversionary feeding of harriers, we believe regulation also has a part to play. Following the withdrawal of game licences in England and Wales, and proposals to do similar in Scotland, we want government to have the means to withdraw a person’s right to shoot game for a fixed period, if found guilty of bird of prey persecution or other environmental crimes.”
The spokesman argued this would provide a deterrent to anyone considering breaking the law, without imposing a burden on the law-abiding majority.
“Licensing some game shoots may ultimately become necessary, should other approaches to solving this problem fail,” he said.
Shooting organisations have dismissed the proposals.
The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner said there are already legal systems in place: “Licensing shooting would be absolutely pointless in this context. There is a simple and effective option already open to the police and courts when dealing with anyone convicted of wildlife crime and that is to withdraw their firearms certificate. It is difficult to shoot without a gun. The licensing proposal has got little to do with protecting raptors, but does support the RSPB’s agenda to increase the regulation of legitimate shooting.”
Tom Blades, BASC’s head of game and game keeping, pointed out the role played by the shooting community in the recovery of the vast majority of birds of prey. He also believes that increased regulation is not required: “While the illegal killing of any wildlife is totally unacceptable, BASC believes greater regulation of shooting is unnecessary and unworkable.”
He added: “We will continue to work with the police and other partners to combat wildlife crime. This will produce a far better result than any regulation could provide.”
To download Bird Crime 2008, visit www.rspb.org.uk