The RSPB has denied its funding of a new survey of grouse shooters is designed to fit in with an anti-driven shooting agenda.
The survey, which is being carried out by researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Stirling, asks shooters whether they would prefer to see more availability of driven or walked-up shooting, to help understand the consequences of different shooting management styles for social, economic and ecological factors in the uplands.
Jeff Knott, species policy officer for the RSPB, told Shooting Times the organisation was not against shooting, and that it only had a concern where there was a conservation problem.
He said: ?At the moment there is good evidence for a conservation problem for birds of prey on driven grouse moors. We?re interested in understanding that problem from every different angle possible. Everyone having the best available information can only be a good thing.?
However, some in the shooting community suggest that the survey?s questions fit with pre-conceived views on grouse shooting, and, in particular, the effect of driven shooting on birds of prey.
At one point, the survey says that there is clear evidence that birds of prey are often at much lower densities on driven grouse moors, which may be because of the perceived risk these birds pose for grouse stocks which leads to some of them being killed by moorland managers.
Jeff Knott said: ?We are a conservation organisation ? we are not experts on these kind of things. This is just an information gathering exercise, so we can make our decisions going forward with the best information possible.?
?The RSPB is entirely neutral on legitimate countryside sports. We?re not anti-hunting or anything like that. We do lots of work to understand bird of prey persecution from as many angles as we can, such as our involvement in the Langholm Moor demonstration project.?
The survey can be viewed at http://bit.ly/nICdgn