Baroness Parminter writes… Protecting buzzards

Many of you will have seen the news yesterday that common buzzards may be at risk following anecdotal evidence from the shooting industry that buzzards, which usually scavenge dead animals, may be eating some of the 40 million young pheasants that are released each year for shooting.

My colleagues on the Lib Dem Defra backbench Committee and I have been very clear that we oppose measures that would harm a protected bird of prey that’s only now recovering after decades of decline, and we’ve been making this case to Defra ministers. We believe the focus should be on tackling the problem identified by shooting estates only where it’s proven that buzzards are the cause, without resorting to capturing buzzards or destroying their nests. In those cases, we’re supportive of the non-lethal methods Defra has identified.

However, thousands of pheasants are killed by traffic every year and our view is that focussing only on the issue of buzzards eating young pheasants which, after all is nature taking its course, is far too narrow. If gamekeepers are suffering financially as pheasant poults are not making it into adulthood, we should take an holistic view of the problem rather than reacting on the basis of anecdotal evidence.

I know that many of you will feel that spending money on a buzzard management programme is not the best use of public money when many other conservation initiatives aren’t being taken forward, and I’d welcome your comments on this in the comments section.

Baroness Kate Parminter is Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on Defra/Decc.

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12 Comments

  • Andreas Christodoulou 24th May '12 - 3:51pm

    How much money and how many buzzards is it estimated that the project will protect and in what timespan?

  • Mike Gardiner 24th May '12 - 5:19pm

    DEFRA shouldn’t be spending the proposed £400k on “controlling” one of beautiful native birds in favour of a bird introduced into the countryside for the pleasure and sport of the landed gentry. That money would have a far more positive impact on nature by supporting the work being done on projects that help reintroduce, reestablish and protect native species currently under threat or during serious decline, Hen Harriers for example.

  • Peter Watson 24th May '12 - 5:36pm

    I love the fact that I see buzzards in so many places these days. I think we should oppose any of the proposed measures to destroy or capture these magnificent wild birds.
    From a political perspective it would be seriously damaging if we were to tarnish our green credentials in order to benefit the hobby of our wealthy land-owning coalition partners.

  • @ Andreas

    This project isn’t to protect buzzards – it’s to control them!

    The whole idea (quoted at £400,000 !!) is nonsense. If the shooting industry wants to research the impact of buzzards on pheasant rearing it should fund the research itself!

  • Strange – when I heard this item of news this morning it seemed to me to have the same potential toxicity for the Tories as lowering the 50% tax rate, but maybe they are not so closely associated in people’s minds with “huntin’ shootin’ and fishing” as they once were.

  • David Rogers 24th May '12 - 10:26pm

    Would have had a word or two about this with Caroline Spellman this afternoon when I was weith her on another matter, had I known then!

  • This is just another ‘farming story’ where a vested interest wants to destroy or cull a species because it is taking advantage of the changesthey have made to the natural environment. Cull badgers because they supposedly transmit TB, allow GM crops so that chemicals can be sprayed and market produce can be perfect, kill foxes so they don’t raid chicken coops,… etc . Simplistic agricultural logic.. so desperatlely sad. We should recognise that nature and its creatures were here first. If we plant a crop or breed some livestock and wildlife helps itself to a free meal, then so be it, that’s life, but to then say lets kill the wildlife is the approach that leads to monoculture, dustbowls, the loss of species, the decline of songbirds.. and a much poorer world as a result.

  • Pheasants take some of the food and occupy some of the nesting sites of our native wildlife so perhaps we should carry out research into how much damage farmed birds like pheasants do to our native wildlife when they are released into the wild.

  • 35 million plus pheasants are released each year. 45% are shot and recovered. 10% escape to pastures green or are not shot. 45% die in the environment for a number of reasons – and road kill is only 10% (of the 53 million).

    They say “shooting puts food on the table”. Funny way to run a farm when you loose 55% of your stock!

  • Peter Watson 30th May '12 - 1:37pm

    Another U-turn perhaps, but thank goodness it looks like the proposals to trap buzzards have been abandoned: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/30/buzzard-trapping-plan-abandoned-uturn

  • kathryn Parmi 30th May '12 - 5:22pm

    Thanks very much for all of your comments on this article.

    Those of you who have been following this issue will have seen that Defra has today dropped the scheme to capture buzzards and destroy their nests, and announced a rethink on the way it deals with the issue of pheasant poults. I think that the Liberal Democrats taking a stand on this issue is a real example of us working to improve policy and of course, the RSPB also deserves credit for highlighting the issue.

    I commend Richard Benyon for taking the brave decision to step back and rethink this policy rather than forging ahead with it.

    Our priority as Liberal Democrats working with Defra ministers will continue to be to highlight the importance of making decisions based on evidence and also to ensure that the decisions made protect and enhance the country’s wildlife rather than putting it at risk.

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