Anyone who took the opportunity last night to watch Countryfile featuring buzzards and peregrine would have been disappointed by what they heard and saw. Much of the rhetoric was pretty much the same standard propaganda highlighting the shooting fraternity’s historic stand on birds of prey and the alleged damage these birds caused to pheasants. There was also a short interview with two Scottish pigeon fanciers who claimed to have experienced first hand the damage and stress peregrines attacks had caused to their birds.
The problem was many of the claims being made, in particular by Alex Hogg, Chairman of the Scottish Game Keepers Association, were not backed up by Science. It was also very clear that Alex was not too good either when it came to simple mathematics. In an off camera interview with Tom Heap Alex had stated he was about to release 700 pheasant poults into his wood. When by asked on camera by Tom Heap how many of these poults he expected to lose to buzzards, he relied “we’re probably losing, getting on for over 1000 pheasants in a year to buzzards.” Is it possible the buzzard population on Alex’s property are on a daily dose of steroids, a 1000 pheasant poults predated, that’s truly astonishing especially when he only released 700 birds to begin with?
On a more serious point we were pleased to see that the RSPB’s Duncan Orr-Ewing together with Dr. Steve Redpath brought some common sense to the programme. Duncan Orr-Ewing made a particularly valid point when asked by Tom Heap: “look, in the future we are just going to have just birds of prey and corvids, crows, magpies, seagulls, that’s the future for our birds. Don’t you think that’s a possible scenario?” Duncan Orr-Ewing replied: “I could’t disagree more, go to anywhere on the continent of Europe where you have natural bird of prey populations . The simple fact is we are not used to seeing large birds of prey in our landscape, because they were removed and now they are coming back, people see these changes, they are obvious, the birds, so they see there is a problem and of course, they try and make a link between raptors and songbirds, which may not be there, of course.”
Professor Steve Redpath cast doubt on the whole buzzard pheasant prey relationship by saying the problem is we do not have any independent evidence with which to asses their impact and reach any sensible management decisions.
Professor Redpath also pointed to the fact that not all raptor populations were increasing, using the current demise of the hen harrier, which he said had now been virtually eliminated from England.
It seems almost beyond belief that here in Britain where bird of prey persecution has been a consistent but illegal way of life for some people within our society throughout both the 20th and 21st century, these individuals with Victorian attitudes are now attempting to get their way by attempting to reverse wildlife legislation by using propaganda with no scientific justification. Changing important wildlife laws which would allow Britain’s wildlife heritage to be slaughtered in support of a minority blood sporting activity can simply not be justified under any circumstances. We urge everyone to sign the E-PETION for the law of Vicarious Liability before the deadline expires on 17th November 2012.
For those who do not understand the implication of Vicarious Liability, we have enclosed a simple explanation below.
Vicarious Liability. Explanation.
If the law of Vicarious Liability is passed by the English Parliament, bringing English legislation into line with Scotland, employers will become liable for the illegal actions of their employees. For example where a gamekeeper is successfully prosecuted for illegally killing protected birds of prey, where there is enough evidence, the gamekeeper’s employer could then also face prosecution by the courts. In the past, sporting estate owners have been able to say they had no knowledge of the illegal activities of their staff working on their behalf. If Vicarious Liability ever became law in England, this excuse would not hold any water.