Birdwatch News Archive

DEFRA have yet to specifiy how the destruction of Common Buzzard hatchlings and eggs will be avoided during spring nest destruction. Photo: Paul Howell.
DEFRA have yet to specifiy how the destruction of Common Buzzard hatchlings and eggs will be avoided during spring nest destruction. Photo: Paul Howell.Enlarge image

Downloadable buzzard protest letter

Posted on: 25 May 2012

Birdwatch has uploaded a protest letter for readers to print off and send to DEFRA to protest about the proposed control of the endangered Common Buzzard.

The letter can be downloaded here.

Since Birdwatch first broke the story as news last Tuesday, DEFRA's plans to spend up to £375,000 of taxpayers' money to trial buzzard control methods for Pheasant shooting estates has caused outrage among the public and conservationists alike. In fact, everyone except the ministers in charge, it seems.

The vested interests of Richard Benyon MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, have already been under scrutiny recently. Benyon, a shooter himself who owns a £125 million 20,000 acre estate on the Berkshire/Hampshire border, was publicly exposed over his department's attempts to cover up £2 million his estate received in EU subsidies. Now it seems that he is prepared to rubber stamp public funds in support of private shooting estates, and threaten the country's natural heritage in favour of non-native species and a minority interest which many find distasteful.

Many organisations from the RSPB to the BBC and all national newspapers have reported the story, most repeating the facts from DEFRA's own document. Unfortunately, many have also reported statistics believed to originate from the Countryside Alliance which do not stand up to scrutiny.

The BBC quoted 25-30 per cent of young Pheasants being taken by Common Buzzards. According to the shooting industry's own figures, at least 40 million Pheasant poults are released every year mostly during August and September. This would mean up to 12 million Pheasants are being taken annually by our native buzzard population. The BTO quote 38,000 pairs of buzzard by territories held in Britain, meaning that 76,000 buzzards are eating 12 million Pheasants in the space of two months; that is 158 Pheasants per bird, and average of 2.5 Pheasants per day based on the quoted figures. Taking into account that most buzzards don't live near a shooting estate, those that do must be rather full; European Rabbit, Common Buzzard's main prey, can breathe easy, it seems.

More sensible numbers are the 1-2 per cent given by the RSPB as taken by all birds of prey, contrasted with the 45 per cent shot by participants in the sport of shooting, and the 53 per cent or more that escape to either die of disease or be recruited by the introduced population, or be run over by cars and lorries. Clearly, whether the research goes ahead or not, the shooters' bag will not be affected in any way.

Benyon's own Facebook page points visitors in the direction of a "myth busting" page on DEFRA's website, which also appears to have a little disinformation on it. They say "DEFRA is absolutely not proposing to cull buzzards or any other raptors", but no serious reportage has suggested that they are, though the destruction of newly-built nests could well destroy eggs and chicks, a form of culling. They also claim that the research will be scientific, but it has been initiated on anecdotal evidence and no clear protocols or methods have been itemised.

Birdwatch has also submitted a government e-petition which we hope to have active next week. Keep checking our website for updates.

If you have problems downloading the letter of protest, then go to 'Articles' then 'References, lists and checklists' on this website to select the item and print off a copy.

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