My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
This morning I reported that Natural England (NE) had issued licences to destroy buzzard nests and kill or capture adult birds.
Setting aside the serious impact of the licences for a moment, the way in which NE and DEFRA have acted is central to our concerns.
I want to offer a comment on the initial responses from DEFRA and NE.
A tweet from DEFRA said ‘NE is charged with determining applications for licences. Ministers did not make any decisions regarding this licence’.
That seems clear. But let’s check this against the information we have received.
In the Environmental Information Request (EIR) documents it clearly states ‘Insofar as a moratorium was in place (following the decision of the department to review its proposed programme of research on buzzard predation in June 2012), there is now no impediment to Natural England assessing applications for bird of prey licences (conversation between [named Defra Deputy Director] and [named NE Director], 26 October 2012). This position has been confirmed in subsequent Ministerial correspondence (e.g. to National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, 21/11/2012).’
That’s clear too – the department (DEFRA) made an active decision to allow NE to continue with the licensing process.
The National Gamekeepers' Organisation was involved in correspondence. This is probably fair enough as they have been an active stakeholder in discussions with DEFRA. Yet, as another active stakeholder in the research programme we were not (and we have met with DEFRA as recently as last week) – and neither was the public. This is, to say the least, an inconsistent way of dealing with stakeholders.
DEFRA has diverted attention to Natural England who have now issued a myth-buster. In it, NE say that non-lethal deterrents didn’t work ‘despite their consistent application’, yet in one of the EIR documents, they say ‘Overall, there is a pattern of methods being employed inconsistently or not quite as recommended by Natural England’. Why the inconsistency and which is correct?
This is a mess.
Buck-passing between DEFRA and Natural England is not serving any of us well. I do not want this to drag on and for details to emerge piecemeal.
It is time for the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, to be clear and to stop this once and for all and issue a clear statement that the Government will not issue licenses to kill a native bird of prey to protect commercial gamebirds. This is a simple step which could easily be taken, but it needs to be done to reassure stakeholders and the public that his department is acting in the public interest and standing up for wildlife.
What a terrible mess. You are absolutely right Martin about the Government needing to issue a clear statement about not killing birds of prey. However for the Governmentr just to be in this situation is a total disgrace and again indicatesthat all they are really concerned about is their own sectional interests. The interests of our wildlife are a long long way behind.
Find it hard to believe how innocent yourself and RSPB are if you think Owen Paterson cares what stakeholders and public think.Maybe the fuss about Badger cull means these measures against Buzzards were kept secret.Unfortunately for Buzzards things coming home to roost spring to mind.
Wouldn't 100,000 plus signatures on e-petition vicarious liability have shown some aggression against B O P persecution and made O P think a bit before sanctioning these actions.How did the RSPB miss the chance to make a point.
Most of the day he elongates a Telephone Pole
With his lighthouse lookout and swivelled nozzle
O Beggared eagle O Down and Out Falcon
Looks like an old granny trying to get her knickers off.
Over a woodland pen with half flightless anti biotic filled pheasant chicks
Lets see them run, scatter in swoop
And try and fill my boots, a just desert after a worm feast.
Paraphrased Ted Hughes
This is quite extra-ordinary; the entire Board of NE really should look to its honour and consider its position.