In its recently published statement of political aims, entitled Advocacy 2009 – Nature Needs a Voice, the bird charity sets out a series of subjects that it believes should be tackled by the next UK government

Included among measures the charity supports, on topics such as halting biodiversity loss and tackling climate change, the Advocacy 2009 report features a section dedicated to the RSPB?s wildlife crime campaigning.

In the text, the RSPB states:

?Ultimately, if the minority within the shooting community responsible for killing protected birds cannot or will not change their ways, tighter regulation of their industry is needed through licencing. Those shoots that condone illegal acts should be shut down.?

The RSPB, itself the recipient of substantial government subsidies for farming and land management interests, also advocates that the next government should strengthen the penalties available under agricultural cross-compliance legislation so that anyone contravening EU wildlife directives faces having their single farm payment withdrawn.

The Advocacy 2009 report is intended to appeal directly to politicians in the run-up to the next general election and beyond.

Its content differs from a similar report published last year in that the charity is now actively calling for the introduction of a licensing scheme, whereas before it limited itself to a call for better policing and co-operation of key wildlife management interests – including shoots.

A notable omission in the Advocacy 2009 report is any call for co-operation with shooting interests.

The RSPB?s emphasis in this latest report is heavily on punishment, licensing and full application of the law to protect birds.

David Hoccom, head of the species policy unit at the RSPB, said: ?As you will note from the document text, we want the respective country administrations to consider licensing game shoots as a means of achieving compliance with legislation protecting birds of prey and a consequent reduction in illegal killing of birds of prey on land managed for shooting.?

?Given the continued impact of illegal killing on populations of birds such as hen harriers and golden eagles, we see tighter regulation of shoots as an option that merits serious consideration. Of course, we do not expect government to rush to regulate without first reviewing alternative or complimentary means of achieving the outcomes above. Providing incentives to change, such as support for diversionary feeding of hen harriers on driven grouse moors, or allowing the shooting sector the opportunity to demonstrate that it can regulate itself may have a role to play. Both have been attempted, but the benefits to birds of prey are not apparent.?

Tom Blades, head of game keeping and game shooting at BASC, said: ?It must not be forgotten that changes in attitude towards the management of game have contributed hugely to the recovery of the majority of birds of prey species within the UK. BASC stands full-square against illegal activity of any kind, while being equally committed to finding agreed solutions. Licensing of shoots is unjustifiable and not required.?

The RSPB?s policy on field sports states the charity takes a neutral stance on the subject ?except where they adversely affect wildlife conservation?.

The call for a licensing scheme for all shoots, which would extend to those innocent of wildlife crimes, lends further weight to the belief many shooters have that the charity is tacitly anti-shooting.

In a recent interview in The Field, the RSPB?s Dr Mark Avery spoke on the subject of wildfowling: ?The situation is that we are not anti-wildfowling but we don?t want there to be wildfowling on our reserves. We don?t think it is compatible with the other things we do.?

?There are places where wildfowling still happens and we wish it didn?t. If the shooting rights come up for sale, which they do now and then, and we acquire them, shooting will stop on our land.?

Let us know what you think about this!

  • Richard Browne

    In my years of shooting game I have never actually seen anyone shooting raptors or such birds. I’m not for one minute going to say that this dosn’t happen.

    I have however seen buzzards and the like lying in fields and woods having been poisioned by farmers and landowners who say that these birds kill new born lambs.

    I have heard of a shooter finding a sick buzzard in a field and taking it to the local vet. When the farmer heard about this the shooter was told to never set foot on his land again!

    In terms on conservation. Do the RSPB honestly think that they can begin to prepare and maintain woodlands and habitat on the scale that shooters and wildfowlers do voluntarily every year?

    I think the RSPB are a bit single minded in their approach to ‘protecting raptors’. Shooting may be part of the problem but in my experience, we’re not entirely to blame as the RSPB would like everyone to believe.

  • Billy Field

    I think we are being rather naive if we still believe the RSPB has a neutral stance on game shooting.Buying up land where ever they can and then stopping shooting? They may not be as politicised as some other “charities” we could mention but they are moving more that way. No one condones illegal activity but as has already been mentioned what happened to “innocent until proven guilty” The Sandringham Harrier affair proves what a reactionary lot they can be without any evidence.
    I would like to know if the RSPB will be asking for the Austrians to have all their E.U. agricultural subsidies removed, due to their interpretation of the birds directive and their proposed raptor cull?
    In light of their recent position may it not now be a good idea for the Royal family to remove its’ official patronage of said organisation?
    It has to be said however that we in the shooting fraternity seem to be playing catch up all the time. I think we assume that the Conservative party will win the next election and all our problems will disappear, we cannot guarantee either. I know people such as BASC and the NGO have done some sterling work behind the scenes but more needs to be done to ensure a sustainable future not just for ourselves but for generations to come. We need to up our game, very rarely are wars won with one big victory but rather a series of smaller ones.

  • Malcolm Pickering

    Correct me if I am wrong but I always thought that “charities” which involved themselves in “political” activities, forfeited their charitable status and all the perks that go with it. Both the RSPB and the RSPCA have been guilty of this time and again. Why doesn’t the Charities Commission show it’s teeth?

    Both these organisations should either stick to the nuts and bolts of looking after birds and animals, or confess to being political lobbyists and pay their taxes like the rest of us.

  • neil

    Sounds like a good idea

  • Eddie C.

    I think it’s deplorable that the R.S.P.B. can buy up land where wildfowling has been carried out for many decades,then banning it.If wildfowling made a considerable reduction in bird numbers it would be justified,but it doesn’t.Most wildfowling clubs have a rearing programme anyway.They have the cash,so they have the power.

  • Sedge

    Well done the RSPB for having the courage of its convictions! We have waited long enough for the shooting community to use self-regulation on this issue – in vain. Now the law needs to get tough.

    Whilst it is only the minority still flouting the law, the majority still deny it is anyone in ‘their’ community. To say they are being disingenuous is putting it kindly.

    I doubt you will publish this comment because it supports the RSPB on this issue, not your publication.

    From a clay shooter and ex-BASC member.

  • ken burgon

    this is a step to far with the rspb,all funding should be withdrawn from them,they have their heads buried in the sand,and are not impartial,ifthey keep their funding,why not give equal funding to basc,or other bodies concerned with country sports.

  • Roefootageboy

    its time the RSPB stopped preaching to shooters and published IN FULL its own pest control methods including snaring trapping and shooting. the fairytale world they portray of wildlife management to the gullible british public needs disclosing to everyone and its shortfalls once and for all.
    Shooters money, time, patience and co-operation for these people will never be good enough……..who has the real blood lust here? Shooters are more responsible today than they have eber been and accountable. The RSPB it seems is a law unto itself with impeneratrable opiniated walls!

  • mike

    they are two faced..