At today’s AGM, the Chair of RSPB Council, Kevin Cox, made this announcement.

There is growing concern about the environmental impact (including for carbon, water and biodiversity) of intensive forms of game bird shooting and associated land management practices.  This includes both driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native red grouse) and largescale release of non-native game birds, primarily pheasants and red-legged partridges, now in excess of 40 million birds annually.

Environmental concerns include the ongoing and systematic illegal persecution of birds of prey such as hen harriers on some sporting estates; the ecological impact of high numbers of game birds released into the countryside increasing the density of generalist predators; the mass culling of mountain hares in some parts of our uplands; the use of lead ammunition; the impact of burning peatlands and medicating wild animals for sport shooting.

In response to the evidence about the scale of the environmental impact and growing public concern, including from our membership, the RSPB’s Council has agreed to review our policy on game bird shooting and associated land management. 

This is an emotive and sometimes controversial subject but we want to use our scientific rigour to develop a set of conservation tests for management practices associated with game bird shooting.  We will use these to guide the RSPB’s conservation policy, practice and communications, consistent with the ongoing climate and ecological emergency, respectful of our charitable objectives and maintaining the confidence and support of our members.

We intend to do this, informed by the views of members and other stakeholders many of whom we have engaged with on these issues for decades. 

The exact process we shall follow to conduct this review will be communicated as soon as possible.  The intention is to complete this work as soon as is practically possible but in order to engage people in the right way and ensure we have the best available evidence it might take until the next AGM, though we hope that it will be completed sooner than that.

And to avoid doubt, we shall in this period, while the review is being conducted, continue to call for the introduction of licensing of driven grouse shooting.”

I shall say more on this subject in due course.  But if you do have any immediate reaction, please do get in touch as it would be great to hear your views.