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.

?There is a perception, encouraged by those hostile to shooting, that gamekeepers are on the wrong side of wildlife law: they are not,? the MPs were told.

?Annual convictions of gamekeepers are in low single figures and amount to fewer than one in a thousand members of the profession.?

MPs also heard how the over-protection and the continuing failure to license the control of certain common predators is illogical and brings the law into disrepute.

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