Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Two decades of bird persecution in the UK
Published on 02 November 2010 by Roger in News and comment
According to the RSPB’s 20th annual Birdcrime report, 2009 was another shocking year for the persecution of birds of prey in the UK, with incidents of shooting, trapping and poisoning. With 384 reported persecution incidents involving raptors (224 in England, 123 in Scotland, 17 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland and 9 unassigned), 2009 was the second-worst year for these crimes in the last decade. Only 2007, with 389 cases, was worse.
Twenty years of reporting in Birdcrime has revealed that several police-force areas suffer higher levels of bird-of-prey persecution. In England, top of the league is North Yorkshire (with 64 confirmed incidents since 1990), followed by West Mercia (61), Northumbria (58), Devon & Cornwall (57) and Cumbria (47). Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: ‘Wildlife crimes are an abhorrent feature of our countryside. Over time, egg-collecting has diminished, but the killing of birds of prey is as big a threat today as it was two decades ago. Earlier this year, the former Wildlife Minister – Huw Irranca-Davies – was one of more than 210,000 people to sign a pledge to protect birds of prey. This is a powerful voice and we will not rest until their cries have been heard by Government.’
In 2009, the Labour Government announced that bird-of-prey persecution was one of the top wildlife crime priorities. In the light of the current spending review by the coalition government, the RSPB is concerned that resources to tackle wildlife crime will be seen as a soft option. The RSPB wants to see a commitment from the present Government to tackling these crimes, as well as long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit and a full wildlife crime review in England.
The conflict with land managed for the shooting of gamebirds remains the main problem for birds of prey, particularly the upland grouse-shooting estates in northern England and Scotland. The RSPB is concerned that the shooting industry appears unable to self-police this problem and the Society believes that new legislation is required to make the managers and employers of those committing these crimes legally accountable. Options such as vicarious liability – that holds these people accountable for crimes committed by their staff – and removing the shooting rights for individuals and errant estates need to be considered. These measures would provide a significant deterrent without imposing a burden on legitimate shooting interests.