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Majority of British public support predator control

The controversial new research reveals what the British public really thinks about how birds of prey and other predators should be managed for wildlife.

The Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association and National Gamekeepers? Organisation commissioned Opinion Research Business to conduct a representative survey of 1,004 people in the UK in a bid to discover the public?s attitude towards predator control.

The controversial results showed 80% of the public thinks there should be intervention to help declining bird species rather than ?just leaving it to nature?.

60% think raptors should be controlled if they are damaging wildlife and livelihoods and 84% believe the RSPB should carry out predator control on its nature reserves.

Importantly, 81% also believe gamekeepers, who carry out predator control as part of their job, have a positive impact on the countryside.

Simon Hart, of the Countryside Alliance, noted this research shows many of the assumptions about public opinion that have driven policy and spending on wildlife management are wrong: ?For years everyone from the government to the RSPB has run scared of being open and honest about the need to control some species for the benefit of others.?

?We live in a managed landscape. People understand it is necessary to control predators to protect declining species and maintain a balance.?

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) said the public now clearly understand it?s necessary to keep a balance in the countryside: ?These are good results and the NGO can take a lot of the credit for the change in attitudes seen over the past 10 years. The science in support of predator control has become clearer with every passing year. Now we know that people would accept changes in the law if they were necessary to conserve wildlife.?

The spokesman added it is now time for politicians to engage in a debate about what would be best for Britain?s wildlife: ?The NGO will be pressing for a rational and practical approach to wildlife management.?

Edward Bromet, chairman of the Moorland Association (MA), commented the survey results are particularly important because red and amber listed game and wild birds are coming under increasing pressure from predation: ?It is important that everything is done to protect these populations while maintaining a sustainable balance of all upland wildlife. We are very encouraged by the results of this survey, which clearly support our work. We feel the time is right to reassess whether protected species need to be controlled under licence in some circumstances where wildlife and livelihoods are threatened. We will continue to lobby at the highest levels to ensure conservation legislation for the future mirrors the needs of today.?

Though the RSPB also said it welcomed the results, it queried the way in which some of the survey questions were worded.

Mark Avery, the RSPB?s director of conservation, said: ?Interestingly, the survey did ask whether people agreed with the killing of species such as rats and crows that can currently be legally killed – and most did, even though 22% did not.?

?But it did not ask whether people were against the illegal killing of protected wildlife species such as golden eagles. It does depend on how you ask the question.?

He added: ?This research isn?t actually all that surprising. We agree with people who think it is right to help birds when they are in trouble. It is rare to use lethal control given the numerous other techniques available, but when all the other options have been explored and proven ineffective, it has to be considered. The RSPB does not have any argument with the 8 out of every 10 people who think gamekeepers have a positive impact on the countryside.?

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