Shooting groups pledge ‘zero tolerance’ on illegal killing of birds of prey

Groups representing the shooting industry, gamekeepers and landowners have pledged “zero tolerance” on the illegal killing of birds of prey.

A joint declaration from the rural organisations sets out key actions they believe can help tackle the illegal persecution of birds of prey, or raptors, such as hen harriers, buzzards and golden eagles.

The declaration is issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Country Land and Business Association.

Birds of prey can come into conflict with landowners and gamekeepers – with hen harriers particularly vulnerable because they prey on the chicks of red grouse that are quarry for shoots on upland estates.

Ongoing illegal killing of birds of prey, and the disappearance of raptors such as hen harriers tagged by conservationists, have contributed to calls for greater regulation or even the banning of activities such as grouse shooting.

In the joint declaration, the organisations say there is no excuse for the illegal killing of any bird of prey, and they unreservedly condemn all such acts.

They recommend that all shooting leases, contracts and other documents include clauses affirming the laws against the persecution of raptors.

The declaration also outlines the launch of training initiatives and a sector-wide awareness campaign on the laws protecting birds of prey.

A spokesman for the organisations said: “This joint statement and the actions it outlines should be seen as a clear signal of intent by those involved in shooting to end the scourge of raptor persecution.

“There has been significant progress in recent years, but more needs to be done if the illegal killing of raptors is to be eradicated.”

And he said: “Shooting is responsible for amazing conservation work and keeps people in jobs in fragile rural communities, but the continued illegal killing of birds of prey threatens its very future and that would be a disaster for our countryside, its biodiversity and our economy.”

Superintendent Nick Lyall, chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), said: “I have said since my first day as chair of the RPPDG that the only way we would successfully end raptor persecution was through a fully-engaged partnership approach.

“I have worked tirelessly with key shooting and land management partners to develop a strong and trusting relationship and so I am delighted with the strong words being used in this joint statement.”

In addition to growing public pressure over the illegal persecution of birds of prey, there have also been concerns raised about the wider environmental impacts of some types of game shooting.

The Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change recently recommended a ban on burning peatland – a practice on grouse moors to prompt the growth of new heather which the red grouse eat – to cut carbon emissions.

The RSPB’s director of conservation Martin Harper said: “Real change and regulation will speak louder than any words or promises.

“We know that the impacts of unsustainable shooting go far beyond the illegal persecution of birds of prey. Practices such as burning on blanket bogs are contributing to the current climate and nature emergencies, which is why the RSPB has called for the licensing of grouse moors.

“Self-regulation has repeatedly failed, we now need concrete steps to make shooting operate within the law.”