The RSPB has published first-stage consultation results of its review on gamebird shooting policy.

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Last year the RSPB announced that it was reviewing its policy on gamebird shooting and would be investigating moorland management for driven grouse shooting and non-native gamebird release.

As part of the process it consulted with members, volunteers, staff and stakeholders.

The charity has now published its first-stage findings, which you can read in full here. 

62% of RSPB respondents are urban dwellers

The RSPB discovered:

  • Members greatly underestimate the number of non-native gamebirds released into the wild.
  • Over 90% of members are very concerned about many aspects of gamebird shooting
  • Respondents were largely city and town dwellers, with 62% living in urban areas and just 38% in rural areas.
  • Just 5% of respondents were landowners.
  • Only 1% of respondents participated in gamebird shooting.

The RSPB also appointed independent and impartial researchers to talk to members of shooting community confidentially. In these findings some respondents acknowledged the difficulty people might have in reconciling care for birds and the wider environment with the activity of shooting, but many felt “that the majority of those currently involved in gamebird shooting see conservation as integral to the industry, and are keen to contribute to habitats and ecosystems that are diverse and sustainable.”

Martin Harper, RSPB Global Conservation Director advised: “We plan to announce the results of this review of our policy at the AGM in October. And to avoid any doubt, while this review is being conducted we shall continue to call for the introduction of a system of licensing for driven grouse shooting, a ban on burning on peatlands and an end to the illegal killing of birds of prey.”

Responses from the GWCT and NGO

Andrew Gilruth of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) commented: “It’s fascinating to hear members’ views but offering them a say over policy can prove problematic. As a charity, the RSPB, just like the GWCT, can only act in the public interest. If our members want us to adopt a position that’s not in the public interest, we can’t. The National Trust found itself in this position when its members voted against the badger cull – its chairman then reversed the outcome. Some have been suggesting the ‘ecological emergency’ and shooting are linked. However, the recent State of Nature report, authored by the RSPB, makes no mention of shooting being part of the problem. It’s unlikely to change that view and its new Chief Executive, Beccy Speight, made it perfectly clear to the BBC recently that shooting was not driving wildlife declines. This statement has prompted others to question why the RSPB decided to review shooting at all.”

Liam Bell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) , commented: ‘’The RSPB makes out that its review is some sort of independent consultation. When it is in fact overwhelmingly a referendum of its own membership, shown here to be urban based and uninvolved in land management. Feed such a group leading questions such as these, and they will unsurprisingly give the answers for which the RSPB hierarchy no doubt hoped.  

 “I would like to see the memberships response if options were given for respondents to show support for the elements of land management carried out by gamekeepers, and because of game shooting, that benefits some of our rarest and most precious species of bird?  

 “Doubtless ‘stage two’ of the review will confirm the RSPB’s hostility to most aspects of game management and shooting. At least that will clarify what has been apparent for many years; that this is an anti-shooting organisation and must henceforth be treated as such, with all pretence at neutrality now abandoned.”

Richard Negus, Shooting Times contributor advised: “I was contacted by the RSPB’s researchers for my input to their review of gamebird shooting and associated land management. I was struck at the time by the overtly negative framing and tone of these questions towards shooting and conservation. This failure has been noted in the RSPB’s Executive Summary, appearing to be a common concern amongst the 60 respondents who were asked to represent shooting’s stakeholders. This casts significant doubt in my mind as to the value of this research, the questions for which were seemingly based upon little more than implicature and presupposition.”