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RSPB “extraordinarily hypocritical” for culling birds under under licence

Last week it was revealed how many birds the RSPB has killed under licence on its reserves.

The charity?s conservation director, Martin Harper, wrote a blog on predator control ?in the interests of openness?.

According to Mr Harper: ?The bulk of the work we complete under the Wildlife and Countryside Act licences relates to ?disturbance? of wild birds?, listing examples such as erecting temporary fences around Montagu?s harrier nests or placing protection cases over little ringed plover nests, adding that in all of those cases: ?Disturbance is temporary. And all of this work is only done for research, educational or conservation purposes.?

However, he went on to say: ?We also have to control certain bird species under licence.?

The RSPB recently strongly opposed the granting of a licence by Natural England to destroy four buzzards? nests.

Despite this, in his blog Mr Harper admits that ?Killing may sometimes be necessary. It is not an everyday tool, and it must be justified on a case-by-case basis.?

He admitted that 292 crows were culled by the RSPB on its reserves in 2011/2012, as well as 76 gull nests destroyed, and three lesser black-backed gulls shot.

In 2012, 73 greylag goose eggs were oiled, as were 25 Canada goose eggs.

?Also, 195 eggs of introduced barnacle geese have been destroyed on another reserve to reduce the impact of aggressive behaviour towards nesting species of conservation concern. At one site, we also oil Canada goose eggs to prevent hatching, to avoid serious crop damage to a neighbouring landowner.?

The RSPB?s revelations appeared after the Countryside Alliance (CA) made a Freedom of Information request about the licences to Natural England.

The CA told Shooting Times that further to the numbers of birds culled and eggs destroyed, the RSPB admits it also obtained a licence in 2011 to destroy the eggs of black swans.

The CA?s director of campaigns, Tim Bonner, said: ?In recent weeks the RSPB has been highly critical of licences issued by Natural England to destroy the nests of buzzards and to cull gulls.?

?They used highly emotive language to decry these activities, but now we find out that they have been carrying out exactly the same sort of actions.?

He added that though the RSPB?s use of the licence system was perfectly legitimate and justified, ?It looks extraordinarily hypocritical in light of its recent comments.?

The CA?s Freedom of Information request also showed that many hundreds of birds had failed to breed successfully on RSPB reserves, which in the majority of cases was due to predation by corvids and foxes, though other reasons given were other predators and even birdwatchers causing disturbance.

The CA?s shooting campaigns manager, David Taylor, said of the figures: ?It must be noted that the examples recorded in the Freedom of Information request are just those that were included as returns for specific licences, which were usually given for other reasons, such as disturbance whilst performing other unrelated activities. They therefore only represent the tip of the iceberg. Across all reserves, wildlife must be suffering at the hands of those who claim to be preserving it.?

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RSPB “extraordinarily hypocritical” for culling birds under under licence