We're told that the lobbying by the pheasant shooting "industry" has resulted in DEFRA's recent proposals to control the Buzzard population in England. The accompanying recreational and commercial processes one suspects are largely confined to participants who are staunch Tory Party supporters. By contrast, pleas issued by a more broad based section of the electorate for direct action to be taken to reduce raptor persecution and, in particular, to improve the parlous state of the English Hen Harrier breeding population, have received only a token recognition. Given that the majority of the persecution is linked to upland shooting estates as evidenced by research results by the same Government department, one is left to assume the subject is largely being ignored.
In the current circumstances I simply do not believe the extent of commercial loss is significant or beyond that acknowledged in the study commissioned by BASC in which 1-2% of released birds were predated upon by Buzzards. The cost of this per 1000 birds is apparently £30.20, a sum that, as an expression of stock losses, would be surprising if it was omitted, in some form, from the financial accounts of the enterprise concerned or, indeed, its accompanying tax returns!! I stand to be corrected , of course! Alternatively the figure could be distributed across the calculations for that season upon which the charges are made to clients, a sum that I would guess would hardly be noticed. Even in whisky production the loss from each cask during the period of ageing is attributed to being a "contribution to the angels".
No, folks, at the end of the day this is just an excuse for those with countryside interests to manage things according to their own desires and commercial interests to the detriment of the views and wishes of the wider electorate.
Can we trust them? I very much doubt it!
With the almost inbred intolerance, prejudice and hatred of raptors amongst this fraternity can they, or their agents, be trusted to differentiate between Buzzard, Goshawk, Long-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk or, indeed, anything within the area under their management. This would not be based on mistaken identification, but on the opportunity to control such species being exploited under the guise of convenient misjudgement! Trusted, I don't believe so! Who will really police this delegated responsibility for destruction, or are we to rely on the old chestnut of self regulation? I would go further and suggest that the DEFRA proposals will be viewed as an "open house" invitation to reduce, or even rid areas, of their raptor populations. If accusations of unjustified criticism arise from this, I would simply point to the steady flow of persecution incidents and poisoning incidents in current times, all in contravention of the law, and who were the section of Society who were responsible?
In practical terms, why can't pheasant shoot operators be commissioned to install cover to pens to restrict access by potential predators? Is it that the incidence of these depredations are so low as to make it too costly an exercise! I wonder! Research has shown a series of mitigating measures which might be implemented. Have such been costed, tested or, even, suggested?
Similarly, with the birds destined for captivity, have the operators of such facilities agreed and welcomed this approach? Let's face it, every operator of a pheasant shoot will be claiming they have a problem. Assumption, exaggeration even, and not normally an approach I favour, but I sincerely feel that is how these proposals will be viewed and exploited.
So, in summary, a set of proposals in which I have little confidence as far as their responsible implementation is concerned. I also feel they reflect an arrogant sense of favouritism towards a particular sector and a deliberate disregard for the views of others, a view I shall be communicating to the Minister concerned.