Killing a native bird of prey in order to protect an exotic ‘chicken’

I have heard the news that the government is to allow the shooting of buzzards.

The buzzard is a bird of prey currently with a population that has still not spread to maximum density in all parts of its former range in Britain. The reason it became rare, even extinct in many parts of Britain was almost entirely because of persecution by gamekeepers, so it is bizarre that there is now going to be government sanctioned persecution again.

It is the official wildlife conservation body, Natural England (formerly Nature Conservancy Council), that has issued the licence (but only after being taken to court, and apparently forced to) permitting the shooting of up to 10 buzzards. The reason is that the kill is needed is apparently to protect young pheasants. Somehow I doubt that Natural England would let me kill buzzards because they could predate my chickens. Quite rightly, I would be told to make sure my chickens were kept in a pen where they cannot be attacked by buzzards. So why can’t those rearing pheasants secure their pheasant poults better?

Last week I purchased some chickens (I had lost my previous small flock to a fox – entirely my fault, as they were not being shut in at night).  The breeder I purchase my chickens from actually specialises in breeding pheasants, but there is no way his birds are threatened by buzzards as they are secure in their pens. The pens are very large, but they have nylon netting covering them.

It is bizarre that the Government consider it acceptable to kill a native bird of prey in order to protect an exotic ‘chicken’, especially considering scientific evidence that buzzards are not a major factor affecting pheasant mortality. Some 40 million (or more) captive bred pheasants are released into the countryside every year, carrying who knows what diseases and parasites. These birds are serious predators of a wide range of wildlife, such as slow worms, lizards, small frogs, as well as a wide range of invertebrates. They are released simply to be shot full of a poison: lead, which then travels into the human food chain. How perverse is that?

Presumably, this is just a taster of things to come. Much of the wildlife protection legislation relates to various European agreements. Now that Brexit is underway, the government seems to think it can now ditch conservation, and pander to the powerful shooting lobby.

So bye-bye buzzards, they kill pheasants. Bye-bye hen harriers, they kill grouse. What next? Reintroduce otter hunting – they kill fish. And so it will go on if the body supposed to protect nature is forced to issue licences to protect a business that is based around shooting captive-bred birds. This really is the thin edge of a very dangerous wedge.

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