Ireland’s Golden Eagle Trust encouraging destruction of foxes and birds

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) has called on the Golden Eagle Trust to stop presenting foxes as pests and encouraging farmers to shoot them. The group has also been criticised for suggesting the use of cruel Larsen traps for capturing foxes and magpies.

On its website, the Golden Eagle Trust perpetuates the myth that foxes pose a threat to sheep farming. In a section headed “Eagle Friendly Farming”, they warn farmers that the use of poison (which has caused eagle deaths) is now illegal and that instead of poisoning foxes, farmers should shoot them instead.

They state: “We would appeal to landowners to consider the following methods…Shooting – this is the safest and best means of controlling foxes as only problem animals are killed. Local guns club may offer a fox control service to farmers.”

The Trust has also been criticised for suggesting the use of Larsen Traps – cage traps that have been condemned by the RSPCA as “inherently cruel”.

In an appeal to Golden Eagle project manager, Lorcan O’Toole, ICABS urged the Trust to stop encouraging the destruction of foxes and the use of cruel traps.  “The fox does not pose a major threat to agricultural interests,” we stated. “Statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that all forms of predation account for a miniscule percentage of sheep deaths. It is inappropriate for the Golden Eagle Trust to magnify this, perpetuate the myth that foxes are a threat and encourage sheep farmers to engage in fox destruction. You should remember that many farmers consider the fox a friend, as it keeps down the numbers of rabbits and rodents.” “While we welcome your efforts to discourage illegal poisoning – which threatens animals, birds and humans – we find it saddening that you are encouraging the killing of our native wildlife by other methods.”  “We find it ironic that a Golden Eagle group is encouraging farmers to turn to gun clubs, especially given the fact that the Golden Eagle was driven to extinction by hunting,” we added.

In our submission, we drew attention to a statement from the National Parks & Wildlife Service who have said that “No matter what people think, foxes seldom kill and eat lambs.”

Objecting to the Trust’s suggestion that Larsen cage traps be used to kill crows and magpies, we pointed out that captured birds are brutally strangled to death. “Before being killed the birds are overcome with the fear and stress of confinement,” we stated. “Some will suffer thirst, hunger and starvation while others will sustain broken beaks and cut heads from futile attempts to smash their way to freedom. When magpie and crow parents are caught, their orphaned chicks will starve to death in nests.” Also criticised was the suggestion that foxes be captured in cages.

Eagle group’s claims fly in face of the facts

In its efforts to re-introduce an extinct species, the Golden Eagle Trust is sadly advocating the killing of existing species. The trust’s website discourages farmers from threatening eagles by illegally poisoning foxes and suggests that they instead shoot them.

This flies in the face of the facts which show that foxes do not actually pose a threat to sheep farming. In An Irish Beast Book, zoologist Professor James Fairley affirms that “many allegations of lamb killing are based on insufficient or even non-existent evidence.” This is backed up by the National Parks & Wildlife Service who confirm that “foxes seldom kill and eat young lambs”.

Also objectionable is the trust’s suggestion that farmers use Larsen traps to control crows and magpies. These cage traps have been condemned as “inherently cruel” by the RSPCA and are illegal in Denmark from where they originated in the 1950s. Birds caught in Larsen traps desperately bash against the sides in futile bids for freedom. Many suffer broken beaks and cut heads before they are pulled out and strangled.

Crows and magpies may not glide as gracefully as eagles, and foxes may not move as majestically, but they are all equally deserving of life, nonetheless.

Philip Kiernan
Irish Council Against Blood Sports
Mullingar, Co Westmeath

See also: The facts about sheep mortality on Irish Farms

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