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Bob Bushell's Wildlife Photography

Bob Bushell's Wildlife Photography
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Friday, 24 May 2013

Government licensed secret buzzard egg destruction, documents reveal


Eggs and nests of protected raptors destroyed to protect pheasant shoot, according to FoI documents. A government agency has licensed the secret destruction of the eggs and nests of buzzards to protect a pheasant shoot, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Raptors gained legal protection decades ago. This is the first time since that action has been licensed against any bird of prey to protect game shoots. Photograph: Ben Hall/RSPB
The action sets a historic precedent, being the first time such action has been licensed against any bird of prey to protect game shoots since raptors gained legal protection decades ago. Buzzards are recovering from near extinction and now number 40,000 breeding pairs, while 35m pheasants are bred each year for shoots.
It is also less than a year after the  minister, Richard Benyon, abandoned related plans citing “public concerns”. Benyon, whose family estate in Berkshire runs shoots, cancelled plans to spend £375,000 on testing control measures for buzzards around pheasant shoots after a public outcry in May 2012. “I will collaborate with all the organisations that have an interest in this issue and will bring forward new proposals,” he said at the time.
The destruction of the nests, which took place in the last few weeks, was only revealed after the event through a freedom of information request by the RSPB.
A man holds a dead pheasant shot during a pheasant hunt in Lewknor, England. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters 
“We were proceeding collaboratively and that is why we are so angry now,” said Martin Harper, the RSPB’s  director. “Most people would prefer to see buzzards soaring in the sky. They are big, majestic creatures in the wild and we don’t have many of them in the UK: they are England’s eagle. The fact the licence process takes place without public scrutiny is wrong.”
The licences were issued by the government’s licensing body, Natural England (NE) and permitted destruction of up to four nests and the eggs they held. “The law allows action to be taken against protected species to protect livestock, which includes any animal kept for the provision or improvement of shooting,” said a spokesman for NE. “We rigorously assessed the application [and] were satisfied the case met the criteria.”
The locations of the destroyed nests were not made public. NE stated the issue was “emotive and sensitive” and cited “public safety”. NE issued the licences despite its own expert reviewer stating: “There is no body of published evidence demonstrating that the presence of buzzards is likely to result in serious damage to a game shoot.” A related application to kill sparrowhawks was rejected.
The National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) was closely involved in winning the licences and had threatened NE with judicial review if they were not granted. “We believe the long-standing licensing process was correctly used in this case,” said a spokesman. “A few buzzards had been consistently killing a large number of pheasants. Most  of prey are now at or near record levels in the UK, so conflicts with game management and farming are bound to occur from time to time.”
Pheasants are not native to the UK and were introduced to stock shoots, but the biomass of the population makes it now the single biggest bird species in the countryside. The growing popularity of shoots in the Victorian era saw buzzards poisoned, shot and trapped until just 1,000 pairs were left, but protection in recent decades has led to a partial recovery.
Jeff Knott, the RSPB’s bird of prey expert, said: “The buzzard has full legal protection, so why are we undermining this when all the available evidence shows they are not a significant source of loss of pheasant chicks.” An independent study commissioned by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation found that, on average, 1-2% of pheasant poults released were taken by all birds of prey, Knott said, adding that a third of all pheasants are killed on the roads. The NGO spokesman said the buzzard control project was cancelled last year after the RSPB’s campaign would have provided evidence of predation: “They can’t have it both ways.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of , Food and , said: “After a thorough assessment, Natural England granted a licence for the removal of a small number of buzzard nests. Buzzard populations are thriving in the UK and this licensed action had no effect on their population.”
Labour’s environment secretary, Mary Creagh, said buzzards had recovered under the previous government: “This latest revelation blasts a hole in ministers’ empty words about protecting Britain’s iconic native species. It is astounding the government has granted licences after ministers were forced to U-turn last year.” She also criticised Benyon: “Who exactly do ministers think they are there to serve? ”
A key criteria for the granting of the licences was that all non-lethal control methods, such as creating places for pheasants to hide and diverting buzzards away by leaving food out, had been unsuccessfully tried. But the NE expert who reviewed the application reported: “Overall, there is a pattern of [non-lethal] methods being employed inconsistently.” The reviewer also noted that “the efficacy of [nest and egg destruction] is untested”. Harper said the RSPB was considering its legal options.
The government has previously been criticised for favouring grouse shooting in the Pennines, after NE abandoned plans to ban the burning of peat land on a grouse moor and withdrew from a related legal action against the Walshaw Moor estate.
This article was written by Damian Carrington for  UK.

27 comments:

  1. I've been reading all about this today.

    Lying underhand shites one and all are this government. Someone should have tipped them out of their cribs years ago. Spawn of the devil they are.

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    1. Keep on ranting Adrian, it's the truth.

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    2. Okay Bob. The RSPB are culpable. Natural England can't be as they are a Government agency, one that has proved itself unfit for purpose but then that goes with government in this country. Even HM Revenue and Customs seems incapable of collecting tax from the big fish.

      I'm not a member of the RSPB. If only because they don't allow dogs on their reserves. The odd time I've paid and gone in dogless. I've had endless grief from the weirdest selection of society that one is likely to find outside of a pedo prison.

      I suggest that you that do belong tell them to stop spending your money on the odd fox that is killed and start concentrating their efforts on prosecuting those that killed the Buzzard. Just e-mail them on mass cancel your direct debits. Refuse to go anywhere near their shops, cafes.....Let their bird food rot on the shelves.

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  2. I understand that because man has meddled with nature for so long man now must manage nature. However, this is not management, this is murder. Very sad. On the rbight side we have a large number of Buzzards and Kites near us and I hope it stays that way.

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  3. Amazing how the voice that is heard is that of the 'sportsman' So sad, but the fact that it has been exposed may reduced the likelihood of a repeat.

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  4. Keep going about your photography style. I like it

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  5. Once again this is a case of man's selfishness over nature. Hopefully as this has now been highlighted, it will not happen again. Let us enjoy these magnificent birds, not kill them before they are even born! Margaret

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  6. Natural England and DEFRA, are two government departments that masquerade under the pretex of caring for wildlife and the environment. Both are liars of the first degree, along with this government, and the sooner they are out of power, the better. It seems the shooting estates can do no wrong in the eyes of the government. Richard Benyon MP, the appointed Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, also has an interest in shooting on his estate. Says it all really.

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    1. I totally agree with you. Cheers Keith.

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    2. Bang on Keith....He is a tosser and should be flogged. Dicky Banjo would at least give his views street cred. Though we have not seen Dithery hugging Hoodies for a long while now. They are out in less than two years. He knows it so is pushing fast to complete his agenda. These are dangerous times.

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  7. Sad to read this post Bob.. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Yes it is sad, Nilu, but we should do something about it. Like kick the Government out of office.

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  8. Bob, I had a rant in my last blog post about the morons damaging the Bluebells in my local woods. I now know where they get that mentality from!...if the morons that supposedly govern this country can show a total disregard for the beauty of nature and sanction it's destruction, it's okay for them to do likewise!

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    1. I will help you to rant, especially one like this Trevor.

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  9. Disgraceful! Shame on these people who are pretending to protect waht shout be protected. They must be kicked out asap.

    Sad post :-(

    Marianne

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  10. The stats are there in black and white by the very organisation that wishes to shoot birds from the sky....more pheasants are "road kill" then snatched (alive) by buzzards, so surely with this latest action the next step would be to cull humans who drive cars! Absolutely pathetic, I knew something was in the pipework when Channel 4 news the other week did a special on the UK's nature for a week and some twat from the Scottish Gamekeeper Association (whilst everyone was talking about how to protect birds) said "a lifting of the ban on protected birds of prey should be lifted, this would ensure the survival of both songbirds and waders", so if we're talking about the survival of waders maybe the shooters should put a temporary ban on the shooting of snipe,woodcock,jack snipe and golden plovers....but it's all "kill, kill" with these tossers.

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    1. Thanks for your genuine comment Douglas.

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  11. dit is toch niet te geloven en dat in 2013.

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  12. that's on sad...shame on these people!

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  13. I feel so sad Bob!What a shame for those beautiful birds.
    Dimi..

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    1. Yes indeed, why should anyone want to hurt any birds!

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  14. I read this article and it made me ill. I can not see killing off native birds or animals so that imported game animals survive to be killed.

    Granting a license for this was hogwash.

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