Leading countryside organisations representing the shooting industry, gamekeepers and landowners have pledged a “zero tolerance” stance on the illegal killing of birds of prey.
A joint declaration issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and the Country Land and Business Association, sets out key actions they believe can help tackle this illegal persecution.
Birds of prey, or raptors, such as hen harriers, buzzards and golden eagles, have been targeted and North Yorkshire is one of the worst offenders for illegal raptor deaths.
The county, home to a large number of driven grouse moors, has for the past five years been at the top of the RSPB’s list of raptor persecution blackspots, with the latest report issued in August 2019 again showing the area as having the highest number of confirmed raptor deaths in the UK.
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.
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In its report, the RSPB said North Yorkshire with two national parks and plenty of suitable habitat, should be a stronghold for hen harriers, but the birds rarely nest with success.
The 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 banning of activities such as grouse shooting.
In the joint declaration, the organisations have claimed that 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.”
The spokesman added that shooting was heavily invested in conservation, and 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, the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, 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.”