I heard two bits of news from Natural England today.
First the good news: Natural England has confirmed that it will protect the West Pennine Moors by making this important upland area a Site of Special Scientific Interest. I am delighted. This is the right decision and Natural England deserve huge credit. Conservation starts with saving the best places for wildlife and it is at the heart of Professor Sir John Lawton's vision for making more space for nature through more, bigger, better, joined protected areas. You can read more about this from my colleague, Tim Melling, who tells the story here.
Second, the bad news: Natural England has issued three further licences for killing of buzzards to protect pheasants for shooting. Their announcement says that these licences were issued for the killing of up to 26 buzzards, with 11 buzzards having been killed.
As I have written previously, the RSPB believes that killing of a recovering bird of prey to protect an introduced gamebird for the benefit of commercial interest is wrong.
The fact these licences have been issued without any public knowledge, let alone scrutiny, only makes things worse. Transparency is vital if the public is to have any confidence in the system. I don't blame Natural England - they are operating within the rules that they have been given. What we need is a public debate about how killing buzzards to protect commercial shooting of a non-native gamebird can ever be acceptable.
In my view, the legal framework is broken and the onus must be on Defra to fix it.
There can be no justification for killing a wild bird, and one that has only just recovered in numbers, to protect an introduced gamebird that in turn will be shot by people who have no understanding of the futility of their actions.
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